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The Importance of Understanding Dog Food Labels

Kajsa Bjoern · Nov 9, 2020

While most of us are well educated about nutrition for humans, it’s not so common that we know exactly what nutrition our dogs and animals need. But it’s extremely important that we’re educated about our pets' nutritional needs.

Many dogs might seem fine on the outside—but, surprisingly more often than we think, we switch food and notice an improvement we didn’t even know was needed. So let's dig into dog food labels to learn more about what our dogs need and don't need in their diet.

Ingredients Your Dog Need

Dogs belong to a group of animals called Carnivora, and they can eat a combination of protein and fats (plants and animal foods); they also need minerals, vitamins, amino acids, and fatty acids. But the source of nutrients is not the most important factor; instead it’s the quality and digestibility. Even though dogs use fats and proteins as their primary source of energy, they can also digest certain carbonates for energy. Carbonates are easily digested if cooked.  

So, Now What?

So, what should you feed your dog? Dog food ingredients can be somewhat tricky to read. They’re measured by weight before they’re put in the batch and then contain a lot of additional water weight, so you often don’t know the true amount of food just by reading.

Also, many ingredients are listed as minimum or maximum value, which means that the actual content can be more or less than what’s listed. Not great newsbut luckily there are some guidelines that can be used to make it a little bit simpler:  

Feeding guidelines

  • Associated of American Federal Control Officials (AAFCO) has developed nutritional guidelines. Make sure your dog’s food meets them.  
  • Choose food with recognizable, real, whole-food ingredients. If multiple ingredients aren’t familiar to you, change food.  
  • Be careful with calorie intake, and try to keep it low. Many adult animals don’t have a high calorie need, and if your food contains a lot of calories, you have to give less which is usually unsatisfying for the dog.  
  • There’s usually no difference between dry or wet food. Wet food can be good if you need to consume more water, though.  
  • Consider your dog’s breed and lifestyle when choosing their food. If your dog is very active (working, hunting, etc.), it will require a different ratio of fat and protein compared to less active dogs. 
  • Ask your veterinarian, who will be able to give you good advice.   

All dogs are unique, and it’s rare that they fall into the average. That makes understanding their nutritional needs more complicatedbut the best advice to follow is to be well educated and aware of what you’re feeding your best friend! After all, it’s your best friend and it will thrive if fed a properly well-balanced diet!