How to Read Pet Food Labels
There are a number of pet foods on the market, but trying to decode the label and list of ingredients can seem like a daunting task.
To be an educated consumer, one of the most important things to keep in mind is that your pet needs certain "nutrients" in the right amount and proportion.
Nutrients can affect anything from the skin / coat and oral health of your pet to its digestive system and immunity capabilities.
The good ingredients used in today's pet food, how they affect the diet and the
overall health and longevity benefits of your pet are covered below
Note that pet food labeling in the United States is regulated by the
Food and Drug Administration (FDA-CVM), the
United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), and
each State Inspectorate in each Department of Agriculture. The
Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) also provides guidelines.
From the start, you should consider the age, weight, breed and condition of your pet before
selecting a brand and / or choosing a diet. Next, there are five groups of nutrients you should see on the label -
fats, proteins, carbohydrates, , vitamins, minerals and water (moisture content). These are usually given as percentages, but you must also consider the sources. In general, the list of ingredients is given in the order of their weight
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Both animals and plants can be a source of fat that provides energy, essential fatty acids, omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids and gamma linoleic acid. Sources include
animal fat and a variety of oils: vegetables, linseed, salmon, borage (from borage seed), oilseed rape, coconut, corn, primrose and herring oil; Tallow (rendered
fat), poultry fat and lard. Fats are indispensable for dogs and cats for healthy skin and coat and for the transport of essential fat-soluble vitamins.
Fiber constituents are either soluble or insoluble based on their ability to dissolve in water. Fiber helps maintain gastrointestinal function in your pet and also
contributes to the texture and texture of the food. Oat groats, oat bran, oat hulls, apple pomace (cleaned, dried remains of whole apples), carrot pomace, cellulose
and dried sugar beet pulp are all good alternatives. There are peafiber and carrageenan (helps in the separation of canned food) along with flax flour, which is a
rich source of omega-3 fatty acids
Minerals are either added or available in other pet food ingredients. Minerals can be either inorganic or chelated (combined with amino acids). Chelated minerals
assist with mineral availability, absorption of other nutrients and add to the stability of the food. Minerals include:
- Dicalcium phosphate
- Potassium chloride
- Calcium carbonate
- Iron bioplex
- Phosphoric acid (acidifies the diet and contributes to palatability)
- Potassium citrate (helps raise urine pH)
- Salt (improves palatability for dogs but not cats)
- Sodium bicarbonate (contributes to alkaline urine formation)
- Sodium hexametaphosphate (helps prevent the formation of dental calculus or tartar)
- Zinc bioplex
Protein sources are selected based on their amino acid profile (they can not produce animals alone and are essential for bodily functions), their digestibility and
palatability. They are added either as wet ingredients (i.e., chicken) or dry ingredients (i.e., chicken meal). Byproducts of beef provide protein, but also texture
and palatability. Chicken is a good source of protein such as lamb, liver (pork, chicken or beef), poultry by-products (which supply essential fatty acids linoleic
acid and arachidonic acid) and by-products (for minerals), potato protein, soy protein isolate / hydrolyzate and wheat gluten (after starch has been removed from
wheat flour ). Corn gluten meal is a good source of sulfur amino acids. Other protein sources include:
- Duck or duck meal Dried egg Dried whey (excellent source of water-soluble vitamins)
- Herring flour (omega-3 fatty acids) Mackerel (fish oil and omega-3 fatty acids)
- Carbohydrates Grains contain the most carbohydrate ingredients in pet food and are an excellent source of energy for dogs and cats. They also contribute some
protein, fat, fiber, vitamins and minerals and are important for the texture, digestibility and palatability of pet food.
- Look for barley, brewer's eggs, brown rice, corn, oatmeal and rice flour. In addition, potato flour, which is not grain, is an important source of carbohydrates.
Like minerals, vitamins can be found in some of the other ingredients or added to ensure adequate supply and availability. Some vitamins such as vitamin C and E are
used for their antioxidant capability. Antioxidants are added to keep food from oxidizing or spoiling. They can be natural (i.e., tocopherols, rosemary extract,
vitamin E and citric acid) or synthetic (ethoxyquin, butylated hydroxyanisole [BHA] and butylated hydroxytoluene [BHT]). BHA and BHT are considered safe. Brewer’s
yeast is a rich source of B vitamins.
Pet food feeding guidelines are required on packages of pet food, while snacks/treats and veterinary medical foods do not need to have this. Your veterinarian should
give you information with the feeding guidelines for veterinary medical diets. Use this as a starting point as your pet may require more or less food. It depends on
its level of activity, body condition, stress level, reproductive status or environment.
Interpreting the Pet Food Label logos