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Regulations require that all dog food containers show the minimum percentages of protein and fat, and the maximum percentage of fiber and moisture contained in the product. Manufacturers may choose to include guarantees for other nutrients on their label. Sometimes ash guarantees are present, an especially important ingredient for cat foods.
It is important to look at moisture content when comparing dog foods. For example, when looking at protein, the dry dog food with the higher moisture content actually will contain less protein in the product, even if it is listed with the same minimum percentage on the ingredient panel.
Complete and Balanced
The AAFCO requires that any dog foods proclaiming that they are complete and balanced meet specific nutritional profiles to ensure complete nutrition. Foods can either be formulated to meet these requirements or be tested in animals according to specific AAFCO-dictated procedures. This statement must describe which life stage the product is meant to be suited for, such as for "growth," "maintenance," etc. It is important to note that not all pet foods that meet the AAFCO standards are necessarily properly balanced.
Another important part of the dog food label is the feeding instructions, which tell the dog's caregiver how much of a particular food should be given to the dog on a daily basis. Owners should modify the amount fed based on the animal’s particular needs and body condition.
Dog foods can vary considerably in calorie content, so a calorie statement can help owners compare products based on the calories provided in a daily meal. The AAFCO does not require a calorie statement on all dog foods, so some manufacturers will voluntarily include a calorie statement on their products. Calorie statements are based on an "as fed" basis, so corrections for moisture content must be made, as with guarantees.
Manufacturer's Name and Contact Information
The manufacturer (or responsible party) for the dog food must by law include their contact information on the product. Most dog food companies will include a toll free phone number for customer service inquiries and/or a website address.
Using the information provided on the label, advice from your veterinarian, and the MyBowl interactive tool, you should be able to find the best possible food for your dog’s best possible nutrition for life.
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