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DogsFoodHealthReading a pet food label like a pro

As a pet owner, you may have tried one brand of food for your cat, or dog, or whatever other awesome pet, and they loved it. And then after that, you’ve probably tried to switch it up and experiment with a different brand of the same kind of food. Once again, it was bliss in a can for your pet and they absolutely loved it. Then, you may have decided to compare the ingredients of the two brands because although they are made of the same food, one of them costs way more than the other. You start to wonder to yourself if you’re being ripped off by the more expensive brand, or if you’re paying a higher price for superior quality. So how do you know if you are giving your dog the healthiest and most nutritious option? The answer is often in the pet food label. But there is one problem— sometimes, reading a food label feels like decrypting complex software. It all looks like gibberish.

But, what if there was a way you can learn to speak pet food label gibberish? The good news is that there is.

Welcome to the linguistics class where you will learn how to fluently speak and converse in pet food label gibberish. Here are some things you want to look out for on a pet food label

1. List of Ingredients

Ingredients are a good indicator of how nutritious the food is. In pet food, the ingredients are listed in order, starting with the ingredient that is in the highest proportion in terms of weight. The heaviest ingredients are listed first. The first five ingredients that are listed on the food label are typically considered the most important. However, it’s still good practice to read the entire label so that you can fish out anything that’s of poor quality. The more transparent a brand is with their food labelling the better. It’s the same as watching a chef making your food right in front of you so that you can see everything. You trust it more. Food brands that give a vague description of their ingredients are generally considered poor quality. For instance, if you have a pet label that lists “poultry meal” as an ingredient and another that specifies “chicken” as an ingredient, the better option would be the one with the meat source that is named. The idea here is “tell me what’s in my pet’s food or I walk!”

2. Guaranteed Analysis

Guaranteed analysis. It sounds so technical doesn’t it, but it’s not as technical as it sounds. If you have read pet food labels at all, then you have definitely read a guaranteed analysis before. In simple terms, a guaranteed analysis is that part of the food label that gives you the percentage of nutrients that are found in the food. It tells you the proportions of nutrients such as protein, fat, fibre, and water that are present in the food. The guaranteed analysis does not give you the exact amount of nutrients available in your pet’s food nor does it tell you the quality of the source of the nutrients. However, it does give you a helpful indicator on the nutritional balance of the food from which you can decide if the balance of nutrients is suitable for your pet. It’s usually located at the back, at the bottom, or on the side of the food pouch or can.

3. Nutritional Adequacy statement

This is the fine print in the pet food label universe. The nutritional adequacy statement tells you the life stage that the food is tailored and appropriate for. The food that may be suitable for puppies might not be suitable for a much older dog or a mother dog that’s lactating. If you see food labels with a nutritional adequacy statement which states that the food is for “all life stages”, take your trolley, turn the opposite direction and run for the hills. Food that is made for a specific life stage contains proportions of nutrients that meet the needs of that stage of life. What’s appropriate for one stage of life might be inadequate or too much for a different stage of life.

4. Feeding Directions

This is the part of the label that tells you how to prepare your pet’s meal and what the serving portions are. Whilst it’s great to have this as a guide, it’s important to remember that the serving portion that your pet requires might be influenced by several factors that the food label might not account for. Rather than consulting the food label alone, you must also consult your vet on how much food you should feed your pet and how often you must feed them.

That brings us to the end of our linguistic lesson in speaking and interpreting pet food labels. Do you feel a little more fluent in the language of pet food label gibberish? With this information, you should now consider yourself a pet food connoisseur, sticking your nose up and snubbing low-quality food and picking up only the best for your pet.

If you don’t want the stress of going to the pet store and reading through food labels, your Pet Club membership allows you to order your pet’s food with us online and we’ll have it delivered to your doorstep. Our vets ensure that your pet gets only the most nutritious food. 

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