UNDERSTANDING DOG FOOD LABELS
Understanding the Dog Food Label
No doubt you read the labels on foods you eat. The labels contain basic information about the item, including its calories, nutrient content, and ingredients. Dog food labels are no different, and you should be able to explain what they mean to your customers.
Pet foods are regulated by the Food and Drug Administration’s Center for Veterinary Medicine and must contain certain information on their labels. Following is a breakdown of that info:
- Feeding instructions: The feeding instructions gives guidelines for how much to feed a dog based on its weight. If it’s a diet is formulated for puppies, it will give feeding instructions based on age, too. Sometimes, it will include information about when and how often the pet owner should feed her dog.
- Guaranteed analysis: The guaranteed analysis breaks down by percentage what nutrients are in the food. It lists minimum levels of crude protein and crude fat, and maximum levels of crude fiber and moisture. It also includes percentages or measurements of additives, vitamins and minerals.
- Ingredients: The ingredients, or what the actual foods are in the formula’s contents, are listed in descending order by amount. Often, a form of protein appears first in line, followed by grains, fats, additives and preservatives.
- Nutritional adequacy statement: The nutritional adequacy statement says whether the food provides complete balanced nutrition for a dog based on nutritional levels established by the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO). The statement also provides a life- stage claim, which states the life stage (puppy, adult, senior growth/lactation, maintenance, or all life stages) for which the food is intended.
- AAFCO has developed two nutrient profiles for dogs: growth/lactation and maintenance. All foods must meet at least one of these profiles. Some labels claim the food is intended for all life stages. Those foods provide enough nutrients for an animal’s growth and reproduction, as well as for maintaining a healthy adult.
- Manufacturer’s contact information: The contact information of the manufacturer, packer or distributor. A name and address of the manufacturer, packer or distributor are required; sometimes manufacturers include a toll-free phone number or Web site address, but these are not mandatory.
If you can help your customers read and understand their dog’s food label, you’ll give them the skills to choose the best diet for their pet. Start a dialogue with your customers. Point out the benefits of a quality diet. The dog owners will appreciate it--and so will their pets.