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How to Read a Dog Food Label

Reading nutrition labels is important when choosing dog food. WebMD shows you how.
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5. What is the guaranteed analysis?

All dog food labels must list the minimum amount of protein and fat in the food and the maximum percentage of fiber and moisture.

Some dog food labels also list the percentage of other ingredients, such as calcium and phosphorous.

Low-fat dog foods often contain less fat and more fiber, to fill up a dog without adding calories.

At least 10% of the daily diet, by weight, should be protein, and 5.5% should be fat, according  to the National Research Council, a scientific research unit of the nonprofit National Academies. Dog foods typically contain higher amounts than those, because dogs may not be able to digest all of the nutrients in a food.

6. What do “natural” and “holistic” labels mean?

Legally, not much. Food labeled as natural should contain few, if any, synthetic ingredients. Holistic, along with premium and super-premium, are marketing terms and there is no rule that controls how they’re used. Watch out for marketing terms like “human-grade ingredients” or “made in a USDA-inspected facility,” too.

“It’s difficult to confirm those claims are truly accurate,” says Teresa Crenshaw, interim chair of AAFCO’s pet food committee. Although pet food can be made in a USDA-inspected plant, it may happen when there is no inspector present, Crenshaw says. Meat once considered safe for humans may have spoiled and been diverted to pet food, she says. Neither claim means the food is safe for humans to eat.

7. What is organic pet food?

There is no official definition for it.  But the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Organic Program, which sets rules for using an "organic" label, is reviewing the issue.

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Reviewed on May 01, 2010
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