Pet Food Nutrition Labels (What Dog Parents Should Know)

Pet Food Nutrition Labels What Pet Owners Should (but may not) Know

Pet owners can often have a terrible time navigating the pet food aisle with a wide array of pet food products available in the market. Further, due to lack of regulatory objectives and definitions, reading pet food nutrition labels can be quite tricky as most of them can be easily misinterpreted.  

Selecting the right dog or cat food for your pet is a big decision and should be made with the the guidance of your veterinarian. Nonetheless, it’s also important to know what actually the food does which you feed your pets.

The best pet food can be defined to be one that meets the energy needs and the nutritional requirements of your pets at different stages of life and also their health status.

Here are seven things we need to keep in mind while choosing our pet food and reading nutrition labels:

Young woman feeding her kitten life stage appropriate pet food

1. Is The Food Appropriate For Your Pet’s Life Stage?

Like humans, our pets too have different nutritional requirements and energy needs at various stages of their lives. The Nutrition Adequacy Statement issued by the Association of American Feed Control Officials can serve as a good baseline to determine the dietary requirements of your pets. 

However, You'll need to ensure that the food you select meets the dietary requirements of your pet in the present stage of their lives.

Most popular pet food brands have variants of food suitable for different life stages of your pet. Also, you'll need to ensure a timely switch in your pet food according to changes in their health status and life stages.

2. Don’t go too Deep in the Ingredient List

Sometimes it's pointless focusing on the ingredient list of your pet food excessively. As the majority of pet parents struggle to understand the ingredients in their diet. It's best to focus on nutrition, as ingredients are a mere tool to deliver the nutrients. 

Most ingredients are listed in the descending order by its weight and with other minor chemical-sounding ingredients listed in the end. According to most veterinarians, the ingredients contain the essential minerals and vitamins required to maintain and support the health and growth of your pet.

Are by-products bad for your pet

3. By-Products are Not Necessarily Bad

While there might be a lot of debate regarding by-products in our food, it does not imply that secondary by-products are bad. By-products added in pet foods are mostly nutritionally valuable.

For instance, adding organs such as chicken liver and kidneys in your pets meat-based canned pet food helps to make the pet food nutritionally diverse as they contain some essential minerals and vitamins needed for the growth and health of our pets.

4. Not all Preservatives are Bad

While most of us are often paranoid regarding chemical-based preservatives, according to doctors and veterinarians, many forms of these preservatives are entirely safe for consumption, by both humans and our pets.

However, choosing between natural and chemical-based preservatives is ultimately a personal choice as it does not affect or influence the nutritional value of the pet food in any manner.

Woman reading the ingredients on a organic pet food can

5. Be Smart before Believing any Marketing Claims

Many pet food brands can adopt certain clever marketing gimmicks and packaging strategies. Such as, using phrases and words like; human-grade, premium, organic, holistic and a wide array of other adjectives. However, we are often clueless when it comes to these foreign marketing terms.

For instance, all pet food products are human grade and safe for human consumption, though they taste awful on the human taste buds. Adding the term human-grade is a pure marketing trick to adopt premium pricing.

Holistic pet food, really? There is no clear definition to the term holistic food allowing pet food brands to use these terms to charge a bit extra for literally offering your pet the same food.

6. Not all Forms of Proteins are the Same

Protein is a vital nutrient essential for growth, maintaining muscle tissue and good health of our pets. It's understood to assess the quality of proteins consumed by our pets as they need to be easily digestible and absorbed by the body.

Some of the essential protein facts pet owners need to know are:

  • The quantity of protein in a guaranteed analysis is often highly misleading. This is mainly due to the inability of researchers to fairly compare different forms of diets from one another.
  • Higher protein diet might not better than an average protein diet. Our pets protein requirement depends on their growth stage. While our pets might need a higher proportion of protein during their growth stage, the protein requirement can gradually fall as they grow older and stop growing.
  • It can be impossible to determine the actual protein content of our pet’s diet by merely reading the ingredient list.
Cute cat being overfeed

7. Amount of Food to be Fed to Our Pets

Many pet food labels have recommended the quantity of food that you should feed your pet. While these recommendations are based on studies and research, every animal is different and has different dietary requirements and nutritional needs.

It's best advised to consult your veterinarian when deciding how much to feed your pet. Your vet knows your pet’s health and medical history. Therefore, they understand how much food they need to consume.

Based upon the life stage and health status of your pet, your veterinarian will periodically recommend you to alter the amount of food your feed to your pet.

Final Thoughts

The present-day technological advancements and labeling constructions can help us to achieve our pet’s nutritional and dietary goals in multiple ways. Pet food nutrition labels are both a great marketing tool, informative and need to comply with regulatory guidelines.

Extended content labels like fold-outs, booklets, peel-reseal labels, etc. can offer a useful medium to provide a lot of information in minimal space.

Nutritional labels supply consumers with information about the ingredients and the nutritional value of the product. This not only helps in offering pet owners all the information they need but also boost their revenues.

Pet owners are likely to buy a product which provides much more transparent information and in turn recommend the product to other pet owners, either online or word-of-mouth. However, before offering positive feedback, pet-owners should know whether the pet food they feed their pets is really delivering positive results or not.

Author Bio: Adarsh Gupta is a veterinary and has contributed articles based on his research in kittywire.com.

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