Read the Label: Pet Food Feeding Guidelines & More

October 5, 2013

On each bag or can of dog or cat food, you will see the statement “Feeding Guidelines.”  These statements are just broad suggestions, because nutritional needs vary according to breed, age, weight, genetics and activity level.  The guidelines do help, though, because many of us tend to overfeed our pets.  An overweight pet needs a veterinarian-approved diet.

Most pet food labels don’t include a calorie count, but this information is available from the manufacturers.

Guaranteed Analysis

Each container of dry pet food lists the guaranteed analysis.  This section tells you the minimum percentage of crude fat and crude protein in the food.  Sometimes, you will find percentage amounts of such nutrients as taurine in cat food.

Is It Food Or a Drug?

According to the Food & Drug Administration, a pet food label cannot claim that an additive to the food can treat, prevent or reduce the risk of disease.  (FDA, 2001).  It also cannot claim that the food will improve an animal’s skin or coat, prevent dry skin, or is hypoallergenic.  It is ok for the label to say that a product promotes healthy skin or a glossy coat.  (Center for Veterinary Medicine)

The label cannot say that a food treats a condition, but it can say that the food does something to “help maintain” health, as long as it has data to support that claim.  (Center for Veterinary Medicine)  They do permit some dental claims on pet food labels, such as saying a food helps reduce tartar or plaque.

It is important for pet owners to read and understand all of the printed material on pet food packaging to ensure that their dogs or cats are receiving the correct food, correct amounts, and all the vitamins and nutrients they need to thrive.

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