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Understanding dog food labels

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Understanding dog food labels is a tricky business.  It’s not the same as human nutrition labels and, more often than not, words on pet food labels can be misinterpreted and marketing claims misleading. recently conducted a survey to determine where pet owners get stumped the most when decoding or understanding dog food labels. Although an overwhelming 92% of respondents in a survey said that they DO read the ingredients list when buying a new pet food, it can still be overwhelming.

Survey results:

  • Meat when listed and an ingredient on pet food labels is actually normally around 75% water
  • 45% of pet owners said they were more inclined to purchase pet food labeled as “natural”
  • 23% of pet owners said they were more inclined to purchase pet food labeled as “organic”
  • 60% surveyed respond well to the phrases “Premium” or “Gourmet”
  • 40% of pet owners do not follow the feeding directions on their pet food labels
  • 41% of pet owners are less likely to buy pet food if its label does not provide enough information
  • 42% say the biggest factor in choosing a pet food is its label information

The data overwhelmingly indicates that consumers want more detailed and clear information on their pet food products (and we’d have to agree with that statement here at Pooches HQ).  However, there will never be any rule of thumb on determining the right nutrition for your dog because no two dogs are the same! Between their breed, age, reproductive status and lifestyle – nutrition guidelines differ.

It is interesting and beneficial to understand how dogs have evolved and how their physical changes and developments across different breeds also plays a role in determining your dog’s diet and what you should look for on dog food labels.  You can read our article about the evolution of dogs here.

Not only is it important to read the label but also understand what the ingredient really means. For example, meat meals can also contain other animal parts as byproducts such as stomachs, blood, bone, brains, cleaned intestines, hearts, tongues, livers, and udders which, although research says is not harmful to your pooch, some owners may not be aware of and not live up to the promise of the ‘meats’ you may think you are feeding your dog.

Artificial ingredients and preservatives are also typically high fructose corn syrup and benzoyl peroxide which can be harmful to your pooch so look out for them too.

Keep an eye out also for buzzwords like ‘organic, holistic, natural, human grade and gourmet/premium’ as sometimes, as we know with our human food, the words may not be a true reflection of where and how the ingredients are sourced, or what they really are.

When understanding dog food labels, it is important to read over the full list and percentage of each ingredient and the nutritional information on the table of ingredients itself, rather than just reading the marketing buzz words on the front of the pack.  And do your research to understand the balance and ratio of different ingredients, minerals and vitamins that pets need for optimum health.

It’s important to also read the feeding instructions.  They are there for a reason as the nutritional values and benefits indicated on the product are in large part based on the presumption that the pet will be fed according to the recommended directions on the pack.

An extra side note: choosing the right dog treats is just as important and everything you need to look out for on your pet’s main meal packaging is the same for their treats.

A little extra time and research into your pet food brand of choice tonight will go a long way to understanding dog food labels! We want our furry friends to live a long and fulfilled life so look after them as best you can – and the best place to start is with their diet. To find out more about the Big Dog Pet Foods visit their website.

About the Author: Lara Shannon is co-Host of Pooches at Play and has completed a Certificate III in Dog Behaviour & Training with the National Dog Trainers Federation. Lara also runs her own dog walking, dog minding and dog training business in Melbourne’s Bayside area.

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