Giving Your Furry Family Member a Balanced Nutritional Diet

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 or content.

Wag by Amazon


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

All life stages nutrition. This means that it has all the nutrition needed for growing puppies, pregnant or nursing adults and even adult and senior dogs.

Antiocidants. Antiocidants such as zinc, selenium and vitamin E work together to form a powerhouse of free radical fighting nutrition, supporting a healthy immune system and overall well being.
Grain-free. Instead of grains, this recipe contains whole foods like sweet potatoes, peas and potatoes, providing carbohydrates, protein and fiber, as well as vitamins and nutrients that are found only in vegetables

Omega fatty acid nutrition. Salmon meal and ocean fish meal are excellent protein sources and provide omega-3 fatty acids, essential for growing puppies and pregnant or nursing adults

Probiotics. These probiotic strains are unique to the pet food category. They are canine specific and are alive and viable, bringing needed support to your pet's gut health
Pet Nutrition Reviewed by Gene Wright on . Pet Nutrition Rating: 5