Reading Pet Food Labels

Do you know what you’re feeding your Poulsbo pet? It can be quite overwhelming to try to decipher the list of ingredients on a pet food label, and try to discern from that list which pet food brand is actually best for your furry pal. Pet food labels can be quite confusing to read.

There are some rules and regulations regarding how pet food companies are allowed to present their products. You can actually tell quite a bit about a pet food just by looking at the label. If a product says ‘Beef’, for instance, then the product has to be 95% beef before water and flavorings are added, and 70% beef after water and other ingredients are added. Ingredients must be listed in percentage order according to weight, with the first ingredient comprising the largest percentage, and so forth. Dry ingredients, such as corn meal, will weigh less than meat, so may comprise a larger percentage overall than one would expect.

Once past the basic requirements, however, it can get a bit more confusing. If the main ingredient listed comprises between 25 and 95 percent of a product, the label must include another word, such as ‘dinner’. So, ‘Beef Dinner For Cats’ is not the same as ‘Beef’ cat food. Other terms you may see on labels include ‘Nuggets’, ‘Platter’, ‘Feast’, and ‘Entrée’.

If more than one ingredient is listed on the label, such as Chicken and Fish, then the ingredients combined must make up 25 percent of the product. The second ingredient listed must be at least 3 percent. When the label uses the term ‘flavor’ then there only needs to be a tiny percentage of the actual flavor source in the food.

Many pet foods also contain meat by-products, preservatives, and fillers. You may see corn, wheat, rice, and other ingredients in your dog’s food. Not all of the things used as fillers are necessarily good for Fido. A dog food with rice filler will generally be preferable to one that uses corn or wheat.

You also may want to note that a pet food label that claims to support “all stages of life” may contain excess nutrients. These nutrients are essential for growth in younger animals. The higher levels may be harmful for an older pet.

As a rule of thumb, you’ll want to be sure you can identify all of the ingredients in your pet’s food.

Check with your Poulsbo vet for specific recommendations on what to feed your pet.

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