Understanding Pet Food Labels

By April 23, 2021 No Comments

Did you know there is very little regulation for what is required for a company to make pet food in Canada?!?!

Determining quality can be tricky as there is no way to determine this by reading the ingredient list or guaranteed analysis. The quality of a food is based on the blend of ingredients that work together to provide the proper nutritional balance for your pet based on his/her age and stage.

Let us help you understand pet food labels so you can feel more confident when choosing the right pet food for your pet.

We’ll start at the beginning with…


Ingredients are the delivery method of nutrients to your pets body and are listed on every bag of pet food but the interesting part of this is they are listed by weight from heaviest ingredient to lightest and this is done prior to processing. What this means is that the protein (let’s say chicken) is weighed when it is still intact with water, bone and fat. This makes this ingredient far heavier than the

rice or corn or wheat that is in the diet. Also, the chicken we talked about has to be processed meaning rendered , dried and ground becoming chicken meal before it is used in pet food so if we weighed it in this state it would be more comparable to the other ingredients.

By-product is a word that carries a connotation that it is an inferior product, however, by –products are common in both the human and pet food. A by-product is simply “something produced in the making of something else” so to give an example of this oils are extracted from seeds making oil a by-product.

Grains are another great ingredient providing our pets with both energy and nutrition. There are a lot of myths surrounding grains, particularly corn. Despite the misconception that it is filler, corn is actually a great source of nutrients. Corn once cooked is highly digestible carbohydrate which provides great energy as well as its protein promotes muscle and tissue growth. It contains essential fatty acids for healthy skin and coats and antioxidants.

Guaranteed Analysis:

The guaranteed analysis (GA) provides nutrient information. It indicates the minimum and maximum levels of nutrients such as protein, fat and fiber. If the diet makes a nutritional claim based on the nutrients (for example a diet to aid in mobility it must then list those nutrients that support that claim in the GA). The GA can be tricky to interpret as it only provides the minimum or maximum NOT the actual amount. For example, a product with a maximum guarantee of 5% may only contain 1% and a product containing a minimum guarantee of 15% could contain 30%.

More information on nutrient and caloric content can be obtained from calling the manufacturer and is advised.

The Nutritional Adequacy Statement:

This is where the pet food indicates that it is balanced for growing animals, pregnant or nursing mother, adults or seniors. Caution if the product indicates it is for “all lifestages” as this indicates the diet is formulated to meet the needs of

the most demanding stage which would be a growing animal and hence could contain excess levels of nutrients for adult and senior pets.

AAFCO Statement:

AAFCO is the Association of American Feed Control Officials and they set the standards for pet foods sold in the United States. Canada recognizes these standards. You should look for an AAFCO statement on the bag. AAFCO does not have any bias and does not speak to the quality of ingredients; however, it does confirm that it is a balance diet. There are two different methods they use to determine the nutritional adequacy

· Feeding Trial Method

On the bag (we’ll say it is a bag of Adult Cat Food) this would read as “Animal feeding tests using AAFCO procedures substantiate that Brand X Adult cat food provides complete and balanced nutrition for maintenance of adult cats.

This means is that the manufacturer of the food performed an AAFCO protocol feeding trial using the food as the sole source of nutrition to determine how the pet will perform on the diet and its nutritional adequacy. This method is the “Gold Standard”.

· Formulation Method

On the bag (we’ll say it is a bag of Adult Cat Food) this would read as “Brand X Cat Formula is formulated to meet the nutritional levels established by the Association of American Feed Control Officials Cat Food Nutrient Profiles for Maintenance.

This method is less expensive as actual feeding trials are not required.

Please feel free to reach out to us for nutritional recommendations!

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