Understanding Pet Food at a Glance

Tips for reading, and identifying dog and cat food quality quickly using the ingredient panel and guaranteed analysis.

Ingredient Panels; Understanding Pet Food at a Glance

Choosing the right food for your pet can be difficult, especially since their nutritional needs are so different from our own. To help you out on your next trip to the pet store, we have put together some tips for determining the basic digestibility of a food based on its ingredient panel.

When looking at an ingredient panel, there are a couple basics you should know.

·       Ingredients are listed based on their weight before the cooking process, so the first ingredient makes up the largest portion of any food.

·       Taking a quick look at the first five ingredients on a bag will give you a pretty solid sense of what makes up the majority of the food.

·       If the first five ingredients on two foods seem pretty similar, take a look farther down the label; that’s where you are going to find supplemental nutrients like glucosamine and chondroitin that really set foods apart.

With all of that said, let’s dive in to some simple rules of thumb when selecting a food. Remember, these rules are not universal, and pets with prescription diets, or vet prescribed nutritional requirements, should look for foods within those guidelines.

·       Meat as the 1st Ingredient: Dogs and Cats are carnivores, so the majority of their diet should be meat! If the first ingredient in a food is a filler, like corn gluten meal, or wheat, chances are the food wont provide much nutritional value to your pet.

·       The first five ingredients: We typically recommend that at least three of the first five ingredients in a food are meat, or meat meal. Meats (but not by-products) are the most easily digestible source of nutrients for a dog or cat.

·       Avoid common fillers: Ingredients like corn, wheat, and soy provide very little nutrition for dogs and cats, because dogs and cats are designed to eat meat! These ingredients are generally used in low quality foods to cut costs, and serve as a poor alternative to whole grains such as whole brown rice, or pearled barley.

·       Look for fruits and vegetables: Wild dogs and cats don’t exclusively eat meat, and will forage on plants when prey isn’t available. A truly balanced diet should supplement lots of meat with some fruits and veggies to provide essential vitamins and minerals. Foods that do supplement fruits and veggies are generally referred to as holistic.

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