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Your dog's nutrition is important for a healthy & happy life. petMD experts help you to know what to feed your dog, how much food to feed, and the differences in dog foods, so your dog gets optimum nutrition.
Nutrition Nuggets is the newest offshoot of petMD's Dog Nutrition Center. Each week Dr. Coates will use her expertise and wisdom to blog about the intricacies of dog nutrition.

How to Compare Pet Food Nutrient Profiles: Part 1

January 01, 2016 / (2) comments

Is improving your pet’s health and nutrition part of your New Year’s resolution? If so, you’re eventually going to find yourself comparing pet foods. This is not as easy as you might think. Today, let’s review the essentials of how most veterinarians and owners currently compare one food to another.


First of all, you want to make sure that any foods you are considering are appropriate for your pet’s life stage and health status. Protein may be your primary interest, but you need to make sure that what you are feeding is nutritionally complete and balanced.


Once you have a group of potentially appropriate foods, look at their guaranteed analyses. They should list the minimum crude protein percentage, minimum crude fat percentage, maximum crude fiber percentage, and maximum moisture percentage. Moisture may be omitted if the guaranteed analysis is presented on a dry matter basis (more on this later).


A guaranteed analysis will also sometimes include a maximum value for ash. If it is not present, you can estimate that canned food is around 3% while kibble is around 6% ash. Carbohydrate levels do not have to be provided but are easily calculated since once you add up protein, fat, fiber, moisture, and ash, the only thing left is carbohydrate.


Here’s an example taken from the label of a canned dog food.


Crude Protein (min): 8%

Crude Fat (min): 6%

Crude Fiber (max): 1.5%

Moisture (max): 78%

Ash (estimated): 3%


Therefore, this food’s carb content is 100 – (8 + 6 + 1.5 + 78 + 3) = 3.5%. These calculations aren’t going to be exact since we are dealing with minimums and maximums and sometimes an estimate for ash, but it’ll get you into the ballpark.


But now we run into a problem. Some pet food manufacturers report their guaranteed analyses on an “as fed” basis. This means just as the product comes out of the bag, can, etc. Other companies use a “dry matter” basis, meaning after water has been removed. You can’t directly compare guaranteed analyses that are reported on an “as fed” and “dry matter” basis.


You also can’t directly compare “as fed” guaranteed analyses for foods with very different moisture percentages (e.g., dry versus canned food). To get these products on an equal footing, you’ll need to convert all the guaranteed analyses you are looking at to “dry matter.” Here’s how.


  1. Find the percent moisture and subtract that number from 100. This is the percent dry matter for the food.
  1. Divide each nutrient percentage by the percent dry matter for the food and multiply by 100.
  1. The resulting number is the nutrient percentage on a dry matter basis.


Confused? Don’t worry, next week we’ll be discussing a whole different way to approach pet food comparison over on Nutrition Nuggets for Cats. Hope to see you there.



Dr. Jennifer Coates


Comments  2

Leave Comment
  • Confused
    01/09/2016 01:29am

    Yes, I'm completely confused.

    I've usually had to deal with picky eaters and right now I have a couple that are not food motivated at all.

    While I struggle with reading ingredient lists on cat food and lean heavily toward the foods I hope are good for them, I figure if they're healthy, happy and have a glossy coat, I must be doing something right.

    And who knew there would be a post on New Year's Day?!?

  • Online Pet Store in India
    12/22/2016 05:45am

    online resource to offer pet food, pet toys,treats, accessories , dog clothes, cleaning supplies for dogs, cats, fish and other pets.




Photo of Jennifer

... graduated with honors from the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine in 1999. In the years since, she has practiced veterinary medicine in Virginia, Wyoming, and Colorado. She is the author of several books about veterinary medicine and animal care, including the Dictionary of Veterinary Terms, Vet-Speak Deciphered for the Non-Veterinarian .

Jennifer also writes short stories that focus on the strength and importance of the human-animal bond and freelance articles relating to a variety of animal care and veterinary topics. Dr. Coates lives in Fort Collins, Colorado with her husband, daughter, and pets.