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Dog Food Labels Demystified

Dog food labels can be very confusing. A lot of owners really don’t know what they are buying when they purchase food for their dog. If you aren’t able to understand dog food labels then you won’t have much of an idea about what exactly you are feeding your dog.

When it comes to dog food, generally the cheaper brands will include much lower quality ingredients. Your dog might love the taste of them, but what are they really eating? If you are finding dog food labels difficult to digest, here are some helpful hints and tips.


Complete vs mixer

You can get either complete dog food or mixer. ‘Complete’ means it contains everything your dog needs to maintain a healthy, balanced diet. A mixer is just for padding out their meals and won’t contain all the nutrition they need. A mixer on its own is not sufficient for your dog. Mixer can also be labelled as ‘complementary’.


‘With’ chicken

If it says ‘with’ chicken (or whatever meat is used) then that means the dog food will only contain 3% chicken. Look for dog foods that simply say ‘chicken’ or ‘beef’ instead of with chicken or beef.


Open vs fixed formula

Open formula is where the specific ingredients are not mentioned. For example, an open formula dog food might say it contains ‘cereals’ rather than stating exactly what type of cereal.


Wet dog food

Just under 80% of wet dog food is made up of water. It may seem better value for money but you get generally get more for your money with dry dog food.


Animal derivatives

This means that a dog food contains animal protein from any animal, and also any part of the animal. The defines animal derivatives as ‘Sourced from animals which have been passed as fit for human consumption and are the parts of the animal which are surplus to the requirements of the human food industry.’


Ingredient quantities

It’s also worth noting that ingredients are listed in order of weight on dog food labels. So the ingredients that are used the most are listed at the start of the label. If you want to feed your dog a high protein diet then some kind of meat or protein should be listed in the first few ingredients.


Inorganic matter/crude ash

This refers to the mineral content found in the product.


Artificial flavourings/colourings and preservatives

This means what it says, the dog food requires artificial flavouring and colouring to make it look and taste desirable. Where possible avoid dog food that contains a lot of artificial flavouring and colouring. Dog food manufacturers will use preservatives to give their food a longer shelf life.

Avoid products that contain chemical preservatives such as E320, E321 and E324 and instead choose a dog food that uses a natural preservative.


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