Looking at Puppy Food Labels

Read the food labels of your puppy's dog food and remember that each food must meet specific nutritional standards. How each food arrives at those standards is what you need to evaluate. The nutritional standards are monitored by the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO).

To pick the right food for your dog, you need to figure out how to read ingredient labels. You also have to consider your puppy. Formulas that agree with one puppy don’t necessarily agree with another. The following figure illustrates how the ingredient labels differ between lower-quality and high-quality food.

Label-by-label comparison of a commercial versus a holistic brand. [Credit: Illustration by Barbara
Credit: Illustration by Barbara Frake
Label-by-label comparison of a commercial versus a holistic brand.

Take a minute to read the ingredients listed in the figure. Compare the protein sources: The lower-quality food lists soybean meal as the primary source. Soy is an inexpensive, though often poorly digested, protein source. Deboned chicken, listed on the high-quality food label, is a better choice.

Carbohydrate source is another apt comparison. Corn is an inexpensive source, as is wheat flour. Brown rice, a fully digestible carbohydrate, is just better for your puppy hands down. Fat source is another biggy: “Animal fat” is a generic term for a class of inexpensive fats. Chicken fat and sunflower oil are better alternatives. Again, if you’re unsure, ask your vet for advice.

Some people would say that the high-quality foods cost more, but that’s arguable. Consider that you have to feed your puppy more to get the daily requirements, and then take in the health factor, and you may end up saving more money in the long term by feeding your puppy a healthier diet. A healthy diet truly does affect your puppy’s health, saving you loads in the long run as you get to enjoy your life together.

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