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Dog Food Label FAQs

Drs. Foster & Smith Educational Staff
Elevated Feeders Overview 
Feeders and Waterers Overview 
Feeder and Waterer FAQs 

What is dry matter basis, and how do I convert it?
Dry matter in a dog food is the amount of dry ingredients included in the food when the water/moisture content is factored out. All pet foods have different levels of moisture - canned foods can have up to 80% and dry foods can have as little as 6%. Because the listings on the label are for the food as it is fed (not as it would be on a dry matter basis), calculating the dry matter in dog food can help you accurately compare crude protein and fat between brands and between canned and dry.

Converting dry matter is not at all complicated. First, determine the dry matter (for example, a dry dog food with 10% moisture will have 90% dry matter). Next, look at the label and find the protein level (20%, for example). Then, divide the protein level by the dry matter (20 divided by 90 is 22%) to determine the amount of protein on a dry matter basis. You can also apply this formula to determine the amount of fat, fiber, etc. in your dog's food on a dry matter basis. This same formula can also be used on canned food.

What is the guaranteed analysis?
The guaranteed analysis on the information panel of the dog food label lists the minimum levels of crude protein and fat and the maximum levels of fiber and water. The protein and fat are listed as crude sources and not as digestible sources. The digestibility of protein and fat can vary widely depending on their sources. The list of ingredients should be examined closely to determine how digestible the sources are. The other factor in determining actual protein and fat percentages is the amount of moisture present in the food.
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AAFCO standards

Why should I be concerned about AAFCO standards?
The Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) has developed two major guidelines/standards for the production, labeling, and sale of animal foods to ensure the health and safety of pet food, pets, and pet owners. A pet food which meets AAFCO's requirements will include one of two statements on its label, demonstrating that its manufacturer has attempted to develop a nutritionally sound, healthy food.

The first standard states that the pet food is "formulated to meet AAFCO's nutrient requirement." This means the food was tested in AAFCO's laboratory and was found to have the recommended amounts of protein, fat, and so on.

The second standard states something similar to "animal-feeding tests using AAFCO's procedures substantiate that this product provides complete and balanced nutrition." A pet food can carry this label only if it - or a member of its related "family" of products - has been tested on a population of animals for six months and has been shown to provide adequate nutrition.
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