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Dog Food Labels Understanding What They Really Mean

Your dog’s daily food does not have to be outrageously expensive, but it does need to support your dog’s overall health and well-being.

By learning how to accurately read and understand your dog’s food label, you will be better equipped to make the best choice for a high-quality dog food without breaking the bank or putting your dog’s health in danger!

Check out our January promotion at the end of this blog post.

Keep reading to learn about the true meaning behind today’s dog food label.

Reality: By the Numbers

It may be tempting to purchase your dog’s food solely based on the feel-good-advertising of savvy pet food companies. But the reality is that many companies (not all) are primarily in the business of making money, not focusing on caring for your dog as though it were their own beloved family member.

In an industry worth literally billions of dollars, you will always remain the best advocate for your dog and their needs instead of relying on corporations who have an ax to grind and shareholders to please. (According to the APPA (American Pet Products Association), pet food sales in just the U.S. market alone, accounted for $29.07 billion in 2017; and is expected to reach $29.88 billion in 2018.)

Label Ingredients: It’s a Matter of Weight

Just like understanding labeled food products for humans, it’s important to know how to accurately read the labels on your dog’s food (and treats) in order to protect your beloved K9 and feline.

Did you know pet food must list ingredients by weight, from the heaviest to the lightest (just like our own human food labels) including their “inherent water content?” So, if you’re looking for “meat” in your dog’s food, you’ll probably find it as one of the top ingredients. But, that’s not the whole story.

What you may not know is that meat typically contains approximately 75-80% water making it, by default, the heaviest ingredient. Once the water has been removed through processing, the meat ingredient will usually fall much lower on the ingredient list. In contrast, meat “meals” (including chicken, meat and bone) already have the majority of water and fat removed making the overall concentration of protein higher.

Those Ingredients You Can’t Pronounce

Typically these ingredients include:

  • Preservatives, additives and stabilizers (to maximize shelf life);
  • Vitamins, minerals and other nutrients; and
  • Artificial colors.

While many are considered “safe” by the FDA, it’s important for every pet owner to do their own research and decide whether they want to feed a daily diet of these controversial, chemical ingredients (including BHA, BHT, ethoxyquin and artificial food dyes (such as Red #40 and #3, Blue #2 and Yellow #5 and #6)).

Natural, Organic and Holistic

Powerful and emotionally-charged terms, these “buzz words” are designed to address the current demands of the consumer in the marketplace. Often, they are over-used claims which can’t be enforced legally and are often used as marketing hype in motivating sales.

The use of “natural” (according to FDA guidelines), should mean the ingredients have not been chemically altered.

Before accepting these claims at face value, research exactly what is meant by each term and how specifically each claim is addressed – and delivered – in the dog food product you are considering.

Premium, Super Premium, Ultra Premium and Even Gourmet

According to the FDA website, “products labeled as premium or gourmet are not required to contain any different or higher quality ingredients, nor are they held up to any higher nutritional standards than are any other complete and balanced products.” These include pet food products labeled as “premium,” “super premium” and even “ultra premium.” As the saying goes, buyer beware and always do your research!

A Final Thought

Remember, your canine is relying upon you to make the best decisions on his behalf.

To effectively vet a high-quality food for your K9, your due diligence may take you beyond a cursory look at just the label on the bag or can. It’s also important to know:

  1. WHO is actually making the dog food? Many companies use third-party co-packers. In order to know the real safety of the dog food being produced, it’s critical to know the actual manufacturer and their track record.
  2. WHERE the actual ingredients come from. Federal law does not require pet food companies to reveal the country of origin for sourced ingredients. Be warned, “Made in the USA” does not automatically mean “sourced in the USA.” Many ingredients are sourced from outside the USA to keep costs down.
  3. WHAT recalls have been issued on the dog food you’re considering? Occasional recalls can happen, but it’s important to know how the recall handled to protect consumers and their pets.

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