Dog Food Basics: What’s In The Bag?

In today’s health conscience world, we are all aware that reading food labels helps us to better understand what we are putting into our bodies. Turns out this wisdom is also useful when choosing what to feed our dogs. Here are a few important things to be on the lookout for during your next trip down the dog food aisle:

AAFCO – The USDA for Our Pets 

As humans, our food is safe guarded by the USDA which establishes and oversees food safety guidelines, such as the nutritional facts found on food packaging. For our dogs, it is the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) that oversees the pet nutrition information found on dog food. When selecting your dog’s favorite food be sure to look at the nutritional adequacy statement provided by AAFCO, which tells you whether the food is “complete and balanced.” If you see those words, “complete and balanced,” you can be confident that using this particular food for your pet’s daily supply is appropriate for your pet’s health because it has been tested and proven to provide adequate nutritional levels. If you see the words for, “supplemental and intermittent use” on dog food it’s like giving your doggie junk food for his meal. These types of foods are not the best pet products, but are more like in-between meal snacks, and should make up less than 10% of your pet’s daily caloric intake. Don’t Let The Wording Fool You

  • Premium/Gourmet
    We all want the best for our dogs but these words are actually meaningless. Products labeled as “premium” are not required to be made from any superior quality ingredients. They are simply marketing tools.
  • Natural
    This word as well has no officially sanctioned definition when used on a pet food label. Usually however it indicates that the product does not contain any artificial flavors, colors or preservatives.
  • Byproducts
    This one may not be as bad as it sounds. Byproducts typically mean animal parts that we as humans don’t normally think of eating such as lungs, heart, and kidneys. While it might not sound appealing to us these byproducts are actually quite nutritious for your dog.
  • Fillers
    While many of us are battling gluten allergies this is an uncommon problem for dogs. Some fillers are better than others and so called, “good fillers” can give your dog carbohydrates which converts to energy. “Good fillers” can also be a beneficial way to maintain your dog’s healthy weight because they usually have fewer calories. It’s best to ask your vet for his or her opinion about what are truly “good fillers.”

Different Stages, Different Food Needs

  • Puppies
    This is a crucial stage when your growing dog must get sufficient quantities of nutrients to develop properly. She is expending lots of energy playing and growing, requiring a higher caloric intake then in her older years.
  • Adults
    At this active stage your dog needs less protein, fat, phosphorous and salt because he has stopped growing.
  • Seniors
    As your maturing dog slows down it is important to reduce her caloric intake. Maintaining a healthy weight will keep her trim, which will help reduce joint stress, arthritis and heart problems.
Stethescope (Desktop) About Dr. Pol


“I like donuts! But they are never a substitute for a good nutritional meal. Same goes for my dogs. Feeding them the wrong food would be like giving them donuts all day – every day. Sure, they’ll love them, but they’ll get overweight, lazy and won’t be much fun. Pay attention to what you’re feeding your dog and you’ll have a happy, healthy companion for life.”

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