What key information is listed on a dog food label?

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The following is a guideline about what a dog food label should include. Please keep in mind that amounts often vary, so if you have any questions at all, or if your dog is ill, you should always discuss these concerns with a veterinarian.

Dog food labels will include:

  • Product display: Company names, product use, net weight
  • Banner statement: Includes specific claims as regulated by AAFCO, the American Association of Feed Control Officials.
  • Guaranteed analysis: Ingredient list, a nutritional adequacy statement, feeding guidelines, and the manufacturer’s contact information.

Ingredient list should include:

  • Minimum levels of protein and fat and the maximum levels of moisture and fiber in the food. Manufacturers are legally obligated to provide this information.
  • Every ingredient in descending order of weight. Ingredients such as chicken, beef or lamb contain more than 50% water. The high water content makes them weigh more than dry ingredients, such as grains, meat/poultry meals, minerals and vitamins, so they are listed first, but could actually be a lesser amount.

“If a company lists “chicken” as the number one ingredient, it is wet when added, so the grains that are number two and three on the list are in a greater dry matter quantity than the “chicken,” said Dr. Joseph Wakslag, DVM, Assistant Professor of Clinical Nutrition at the College of Veterinary Medicine at Cornell University.

In general, a good-quality dog food will have two quality animal protein sources listed in the first few ingredients. Look for a food that also has two different sources of fat in the ingredient list

  • Whole grains, vegetables, and other real-food ingredients on the label.
  • Recommendations regarding food quantities dogs of different sizes.

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