Finding the right dog food can be confusing. Here's how to find the perfect formula:
Look at the dog food labels.
There are strict AAFCO requirements for dog food formulas to carry these labels. Here's what they mean:
Example: Beef, Chicken 'n Liver Dog Food.
What this means: 95% of the food must be made of the named ingredient. If there's more than one ingredient in the name, there has to be more of the first ingredient than the second.
25% or "dinner" rule.
Example: Beef Dinner for Dogs, Chicken formula Dog Food
What this means: 25% of the product must contain the named ingredient. "Platter," "entrée," "nuggets" and "formula" are names that also use this rule. If more than one ingredient is named, then only 3% of each ingredient must be added.
3% or "with" rule.
Example: Dog Food with Beef
What this means: Only 3% of the ingredient must be in the product. This label can be easily confused with the 95% rule label. For example, "Beef Dog Food" will contain at least 95% beef, while "Dog Food with Beef" will possibly contain only 3% beef.
Example: Beef-flavored Dog Food
What this means: There's no specific percentage required under this rule. However, the product must contain an amount sufficient to be detected by animals trained to prefer that flavor. It could have any substance that gives that flavor impression.
Look at the package.
The minimum levels of protein, fiber and fat in the food. Depending on your dog's health and activity levels, these can help you gauge if they are within the range of your pet's needs.
The ingredients list. The order of ingredients as they are listed is based on their percentages in the food, from greatest to least. Protein can come from a variety of sources, including plant matter so make sure the bulk of the protein in your dog's food is derived from meat and poultry products.
Consider your dog's life stage or breed.
Many dog food manufacturers offer age- and breed-specific foods that meet the unique nutritional needs of your dog based on age/stage, size or breed. There are also specialty formulas for sensitive stomach, weight loss, spay and neuter:
Puppy. Formulated to meet the nutritional levels established by the AAFCO Dog Food Nutrient Profile for growth and gestation/lactation.
Adult. Formulated to meet the nutritional levels established by the AAFCO Dog Food Nutrient Profile for adult dogs.
Senior. Formulated to meet the nutritional levels established by the AAFCO Dog Food Nutrient Profile for senior dogs.
Consider brand reputation.
Because nothing on the dog food label can tell you how fresh the ingredients are, trusting the dog food brand is very important. Brands that offer a money-back guarantee or brands recommended by your veterinarian are great places to start.
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