Understand what dog food labels mean can reduce the risk of you inadvertently killing your dog. Choosing the right dog food can be a very difficult task as there are many different brands of dog food available today. So called “gourmet” brands that are higher priced are not necessarily better for your dog; the only way to determine if a particular brand of dog food is good or not is to understand how to read the ingredients on the label. In general, steer clear of cheaper brands as they usually contain inferior nutritional value than more expensive brands. They typically contain many filler type ingredients and very little protein.
Understanding the Label
Pet food in most Western countries is supervised by a federal agency to ensure they are appropriate for pet consumption. Any ingredients must be deemed safe or “GRAS” by the governing agencies and no diseased or improperly processed meat is allowed in the food.
Try to look for brands that list meat at the top of the list of ingredients. Since ingredients are listed according to weight, and items are listed by weight at the time of processing, you may find meat may not be listed as the predominant ingredient on dry food or kibble as the meat as lost a lot of its weight during the drying process. Avoid dog foods that include animal or meat-by-products as these ingredients tend to be nutritionally deficient. Try to avoid dog food that contains a lot of grain or wheat as these ingredients are generally used as cheap fillers and don’t provide your dog with any nutritional value.
As you can probably tell by now, the ingredient label may not provide you with the information you need as it won’t tell you how much of the ingredient exists in the food. A better source for this sort of information can be found in the actual analysis description.
The analysis lists the crude protein, fat, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals found in the food. Dogs need on average between 21 to 26% proteins. This percentage depends on the dog’s age, activity level and health and your vet should be able to advise you in your dog’s protein needs. High protein diets can actually harm puppies and senior dogs as their protein requirements aren’t very high. Excessive protein can cause bone growth problems in some puppies and it can be harmful for older dogs with kidney and liver problems.
How much should you feed your dog?
Once you’ve chosen a superior quality premium dog food, you should follow the manufacturer’s feeding recommendations. In general, the higher the quality of the dog food, the less your dog will need. Most dog food manufacturers make recommendations on the amount of food you should feed your dog according to the dog’s weight and growth stage. You should follow these general guidelines to ensure your dog is receiving the correct amount of food.
It’s always a good idea to get your vet’s opinion. Your vet is better equipped to advise you on your dog’s nutritional needs as they can assess the dog’s needs depending on his age, health and size. If your dog has been gaining or losing weight rapidly you should take him to the vet immediately as this is an indication of a serious problem.