How To Read A Pet Food Label – Part 2 The Back Of The Bag

How To Read A Pet Food Label – Part 2 The Back Of The Bag

What to look for on the back of the bag:


All ingredients are required to be listed in order of predominance by weight.  The weights of ingredients are determined as they are added in the formulation, including their inherent water content.  The nutritive value of the ingredients cannot be identified in the ingredient statement.

Dry Matter Analysis:

In order to accurately account for how much an ingredient is found in your pet’s food we recommend performing a dry matter analysis.  This is a calculation to determine how much of the ingredient is present without the water content.  Companies are required to include the minimum percentages for crude protein and crude fat and maximum percentages for crude fiber and moisture.  Using the guaranteed analysis complete the following calculation:



100 %   –  Moisture (Max) %  = Dry Matter %

Ex:          100 %   –  10 %  =  90 % Dry Matter

Crude Protein (Min) %     ÷     Dry Matter %     =    Real Ingredient Present

Ex:          21 % ÷ 90% = 23% Protein present (Chicken Meal)


What does this all mean:

Many different combinations of high quality ingredients can work together in a pet food to provide the ideal combination of a dog or cat’s required nutrients.  Majority of the chemical-sounding names are in fact vitamins, minerals and other nutrients.  Other possible ingredients may include artificial colours, stabilizers and preservatives.  All should be either generally recognized as safe or approved food additives for their intended uses.  Most pet foods do not require artificial flavors which are often found in human food.  Artificial colouring is not necessary with pet food except to please the pet owner’s eye.  If used, they must be from approved sources, the same as human foods.  For high-fat dry products, some form of preservative must be used to prevent rancidity.  Natural-source preservatives can be used in place of artificial preservatives but may not be as effective.

  • Ingredients: are the vehicles that provide nutrients, while nutrients are food components that support life and are metabolically useful.
  • Nutrient:  A nutrient is a chemical that an organism needs to live and grow or a substance used in an organism’s metabolism which must be taken in from its environment
  • Meat: is defined as the clean flesh of mammals and is limited to the striate muscle with or without the accompanying and overlying fat and the portions of the skin, tendon, nerve and blood vessels which normally accompany the flesh.
  • Meat Meal: may not be very pleasing to think about eating yourself, but it may contain more minerals then meat.
  • Crude Protein: refers to the specific method of testing the product, not to the quality of the nutrient itself.
  • Ash: consists of all non-combustible materials in the food, usually salt and other minerals.  Although a maximum ash guarantee is not required, many pet food manufactures include one on the labels of their foods.
  • Natural: equivalent to a lack of artificial flavors, artificial colors, or artificial preservatives in the product.
  • Formulation Method: does not require feeding the product to an animal.  This method is less expensive and results are determined more quickly as, actual feeding or digestibility trials are not required.  With there is no guarantee of pet acceptance or nutrient bioavailability when utilizing this method.
  • Feeding Trial Method: this method requires feeding the product to animals.  This method is considered the gold standard for determining nutritional adequacy.  The manufacturer is required to perform an AAFCO protocol feeding trial using the formula being tested as the sole source of nutrition.  This will document how well a pet will perform when fed a specific food.

Since pet food is so complex we trust the companies that take the time to research their products.  This is done with food trials for palatability, monitoring every lot produced to ensure the highest quality, and testing how the food affects animals.   We recommend Royal Canin / Medi-cal, and Hill’s / Science Diet, as they do extensive research and share that information with us for approval.

Comments are closed.