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How to read dog food labels

Updated: May 29, 2023

How To Become The Ultimate Dog Food Label Superstar!

Dog with kibble that has been analyzed by its owner

If you're like me, when you take a look at the back of a bag of dog food, you feel like you need a PhD to decipher exactly what the heck is in there!

What exactly are you feeding your dog, and how on earth are you supposed to make an informed decision when the dog food label looks like it's been written in ancient Greek?

I'm going to try and help you out by breaking down each section and hopefully by the end of this article, you'll learn enough Greek to be able to figure out what on earth is in that bag of dog food!

Decipher a bag of kibble

We'll start at the top of the bag and work our way down the label:

1) Brand name and product name

Dog food regulations clearly state that the wording for the product's name has to be based on how many animal-based ingredients are actually in the bag of dog food

  • If it contains 100% meat, it will say All Chicken (or whatever meat it is), or 100% whatever the meat source is.

  • If it contains 95% meat, it will say Turkey dog food or Beef dog food, etc.

  • If it contains 25% meat, it will say Dinner or Recipe or Entrée.

  • If it contains 3% meat, it will say With or Contains followed by the type of meat source.

  • If it only contains meat flavoring, it will clearly state Flavor after the meat source.

2) Nutritional adequacy

Dog food companies are required to show, in one of three ways, that the food is adequate for whatever life stage the dog food is for.

  • Met country's pet food oversight organization's nutrient profile through a feeding trial. Will say Formulated to meet nutritional levels set by...

  • Performed feeding studies, which basically means that they ran successful feeding trials. It will say Animal feeding tests using XX (oversight organization) procedures.

  • They conducted a feeding trial on ONE of their products that has similar ingredients, so it's then assumed that all similar products will work just as well. For this category, there won't be anything listed on the label.

3) Feeding directions

  • This is a good place to start if you're not sure how much to feed your dog. Just be warned that the amounts tend to be a bit on the high side, as the more your dog eats, the faster you use the bag and need to buy more! I recommend starting with about 10-20% less than what's recommended, depending on your dog's metabolism, and then keeping an eye on his body condition. Adjust up or down as needed to keep him in tip-top shape.

  • Remember that the feeding directions are ONLY for the food in the bag. Don't forget to add in calories from treats and any other food you give him, so you don't overfeed!

4) Guaranteed Analysis

  • This will give you an idea of the nutritional adequacy.

  • Remember that this doesn't give you any information on the quality of the food, like where the protein, fat and carbs are coming from, only the amounts. You need to look at the ingredients to get information on the sources.

5) Ingredients

  • The ingredients are listed in descending order by their weight.

  • The top FIVE ingredients contain the most important sources of calories and protein.

  • The first THREE ingredients should be some type of animal protein.

  • Any ingredient listed after SALT makes up less than 1% of the total diet.

Dog about to eat good quality kibble

Well, there you have it, your lesson in Greek dog food labels is complete! Hopefully this will allow you to understand more clearly what you're feeding your dog and how to choose a dog food wisely in the future!

I've created a FREE Pet food ingredient analyzer for you to download, if you want a more in-depth look at which ingredients to include and which to avoid in your search for the ideal dog food for your Rawesome Rover!

Don't hesitate to contact me:


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