Healthy Pups: Tips For Reading a Dog Food Label

Posted by Samantha Bubar

Our dogs are family, and it's important to be smart about what we're feeding them. Here's how to decipher some information on your dog food label.

There are so many brands of dog food on the market, as well as ingredients and opinions about what you should be feeding your dog. There are plenty of positive and negative testimonials to each and every type of food, it's hard to sift through sometimes.

Here are some tips to increase your knowledge and help you pick the best dog food for your four legged family.

Research, research, research!

No matter what brand or type of dog food you're considering- do the research. Look online or ask around; it never hurts to see what others are saying. Read the reviews, both the good and the bad, so you know what experiences others have had with the brand.


Check out Dog Food Advisor. They have most brands broken down by a five-star rating scale and give a detailed break down of what is in each type of food so you know exactly what you're feeding your pooch.

Stay Away From "Supplemental" Foods

Supplemental dog food isn't sufficient for your pup's main nutritional source. Supplemental foods are made to be fed in addition to a main food source.

Dry vs. Wet Dog Food

Know the pros and cons for each type of dog food. What is right for your dog is specific to your dog. Elderly dogs and dogs with dental problems may need or prefer wet food. Dry food is beneficial for oral health and dogs that are well hydrated. Some dogs don't drink enough water and wet food has a higher moisture content, which can help dogs stay hydrated.

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Wet food is also beneficial for some rescue, special needs, and picky eaters as it can be more appealing to their senses than dry food. However, wet food doesn't provide the dental benefits that dry food does. Some dogs benefit from a mixture of wet and dry to ensure that all of their dietary needs are being met.

Check the ingredients on the dog food label...

Ingredients must be listed by weight, starting with the heaviest. It is important that the first handful of ingredients, the majority of the food, is made from quality high-protein materials. Look for dog foods that have meat listed as their first few ingredients.

Stay away from foods with byproducts listed first and meat flavoring. Fresh meat has high water content; chicken and beef meal are sufficient high protein ingredients, and should be first.

Size Specific

Be aware of the size of kibble. There are some brands that carry size specific formulas and others that don't.


Make sure that, if you're not getting a specific size brand, you know how big the pieces of kibble are. Some small dogs may have difficulty chewing or could choke on pieces of food that aren't appropriately sized.



Flavoring shouldn't be one of the top ingredients. It is important that the actual protein source is one of the main ingredients, not just the flavoring.

While the flavoring might help appease your dogs taste buds, it won't fill his belly. Some brands use these flavorings to cover up a grain-heavy food.

Portion Size

The best way to determine portion size is to speak with your vet. If your dog is over or underweight there are specific foods and ways to feed that can help your dog put on weight, or take some off.


Opt Natural

When and if you can opt natural, go for it. According to FDA Guidelines, this means that the ingredients aren't chemically altered.



AAFCO Nutrient Profile

Look for this statement on the bag: The Association of American Feed Control Officials has certain guidelines that must be met.

Know the differences:

  • All Life Stages: This is meant for growing puppies or lactating females, as it is higher in calcium, calories, and phosphorus.
  • Adult Maintenance: This is meant for all other healthy adult dogs.

Before making any changes to your dog food or pets eating habits, check with your vet to make sure that you're making the best, most well-informed choices for your dog.

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Healthy Pups: Tips For Reading a Dog Food Label