Vet Blog

What You Did Not Know About Your Pets Food

August 11, 2021

How to Read Pet Food Labels

The Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) labels are monitored by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). This is the legal description of the food. Labels and the bag itself must have accurate information. Any other advertising including, websites and commercials are not held to the same standard. Be careful when reading the label to make sure it is the correct food for your pet. AAFCO categorizes "All life stages" as food for puppies and pregnant or nursing moms. AAFCO does not yet recognize senior pet food. When looking for pet food for your senior pet make sure it is lower in phosphorous, and protein.

There Are Two Types of Statements Issues on an AAFCO Label

  • Food is tested through AAFCO feeding trials, for puppies /adult dogs. This is the one that is ideal.
  • Food was formulated by AAFCO formulas. This is based on a formula that was made 28 years ago. This book has not been updated since that time.

Common Terms Frequently Found on Pet Food Labels

  • Holistic - No legal meaning. You could call anything you want holistic, but there is no meaning/legal definition behind it.
  • Organic -refers to the handling and processing of ingredients and products. Pet foods and pet treats must comply with the USDA's National Organic Program (NOP). When there are organic ingredients it will say organic in front of that specific ingredient, for example, organic carrots.
  • Human Grade - This is a legal term, and it is not what you may think. It is a frowned-upon term by the government because this can mean the leftovers of human food. For example, human-grade apples, you would think would be nice, shiny, and freshly picked but those apples could be half-eaten and old.
  • Natural - This is a legal term and it does mean that it is natural. It specifically means that the product has not been chemically altered.
  • Light/Lite - For a product to be considered as a LIGHT/LITE, either one of those words has to be in the title. Healthy weight and other terms do not necessarily mean that there are fewer calories.
  • By-Product - Secondary products produced in addition to the principal product. Take chicken for example by-products include necks, feet, undeveloped eggs, and intestines, exclusive of feathers, except in such amounts as might occur unavoidably in good processing practice. Some companies have just renamed by-products to different things. For example lamb meal, fish meal, salmon meal, vitamin E, chicken liver, chicken meal, chicken by-product meal, whey, beet pulp, chicken fat, rice bran, and tomato pomace, but they mean the same thing.


  • That dogs need to be on a wilderness diet because their ancestors are wolves. Dogs are omnivores not carnivores like their ancestors, they need to be eating a varied diet of meat and plant foods just like we do.
  • If the bag says there is 100% percent beef for example that means that there maybe only 95% beef.

Transitioning to a New Food

Changing foods takes a couple of weeks, to do the transition smoothly with fewer signs of an upset stomach. The rule of thumb here is to add a kibble of new food a day with the old food.

If opposition to the new food you can try feeding the new and old foods in separate bowls side-by-side. Other tricks to get your pet to eat something new is making it more appetizing to them, you can sprinkle oregano on the food, try to warm the food until it is warm to the touch, and mix to eliminate cold spots, or try adding a little low-salt chicken broth.