Deconstructing Pet Food Labels


Size-Specific Pet Food Formulas


There are absolute differences between the nutritional needs of small and large breeds, says Dr. Gallagher, citing research conducted by Hill’s. A small breed formula is best for the likes of Chihuahuas and toy dogs, offering tinier pieces of kibble and lower-calorie serving size. Conversely, large breed puppy formulas provide nutrients necessaryfor preventingarthritis down the line.


On the other hand, specific “breed” diets (i.e., a diet made specifically for a Cocker Spaniel, Chihuahua), is not necessarily better than any other small breed specific diet.  Small breeds are small breeds and large breeds are large breeds. When in doubt, ask your veterinarian for their recommendation.


Pet Allergy Concerns


If your pet has an allergy, do a quick scan of the ingredient list and packaging labels to see if the allergen is present. While there is no legal backing to claims such as wheat or gluten-free, “I would trust it,” says Dr. Gallagher. Beef and dairy, she says, are the most common allergies for cats and dogs, with canines more likely to develop wheat allergies and cats likely to have fish allergies. Corn, on the other hand, “is a very useful protein and carb source, as well as one of the least allergenic foods.”


Guaranteed Analysis


This mandatory guarantee means your pet food contains the labeled percentages of crude protein, fat, fiber, and moisture. Be warned, though, that wet and dry pet foods use different standards (8% protein in a wet food isn’t the same as 8% in a dry food). The formula is a bit tricky to memorize, so use a conversion chart online or ask your vet for the low down to be sure your pet is getting the right amounts.


Flavor Ingredients


Some pet foods use ingredients to make smell or taste better for your pet. If possible, opt for foods using less or no flavor ingredients (generally less flavor ingredients mean more actual proteins). As a guide, ingredient-labelingspecifics like “beef flavoring” instead of generic “meat flavoring,” is usually the better pick.


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