Regulatory & Scientific Affairs Specialist and Veterinarian @Purina
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Pet food labels contain a lot of information. Knowing how to read them and decipher the information they contain will help you understand what is in your dog’s or cat’s food and why. Pet food labeling falls under EU legislation for animal feed. It doesn’t have its own set of rules nor does it fall under the rules for human food. You should pay special attention to type of pet food (complete vs complementary), composition, additives, analytical constituents and feeding guidelines.
• Type of pet food. When you are choosing food for your cat or dog, first look whether the product you are choosing is complete or complementary pet food. Complete pet food means that the product contains all the nutrients for a daily nutrition while complementary pet food (e.g. treats) means that other food must be added in order to provide nutritional balance. Apart from that, make sure that the food is appropriate for the life stage of your pet.
• Composition. The ingredients on pet food labels are listed in descending order by content weight. If you see chicken listed as the first ingredient, for example, you’ll know your pet’s food has more chicken than any other ingredient on the list. Ingredients can be declared by categories defined by the regulation (e.g. meat and animal derivatives, cereals, minerals etc.) or by individual ingredients (eg: chicken liver, dehydrated carrots).
• Additives. Additives that can be used in pet foods may include vitamins, flavourings, preservatives, antioxidants or colourants, among others. They are classified based on their function. Only additives that have gone through a rigorous safety and efficacy evaluation and approved at EU level can be used in pet food.
• Analytical constituents. This shows nutritional analysis of your cat and dog food in terms of protein, fat, fiber and ash. Products containing more than 14% moisture, will also declare the moisture level.
• Feeding guidelines. Pet food labels have feeding guidelines to help you determine how much and how often to feed your cat or dog each day. You may need to adjust the amount to maintain your pet’s ideal body condition based on age, activity level and size.