How to correctly read the label of dog food?

With the help of the experts, one of the leading manufacturers in the industry, we learn a little more about the exact meaning of these labels.

Complete diet or supplementary food

The product label will detail whether it is a complete or supplementary food. This is very important because if it is complete it means that it contains everything our pet needs . It will be a balanced meal that will contain the right amount of protein and minerals to ensure a long life for the dog or cat.

On the contrary, if it is a supplementary feeding, it means that it is only suitable for occasional feeding . These are, for example, appetizers or light steaks without additives. If you feed your pet a lot and long-term on this type of diet, you will notice deficiency symptoms over time.

dog eating food from palm of the owner

What does “rich in …” mean?

Here the exact terminology is very important. A “chicken-flavored” food is not the same as “rich in chicken.” The  European Federation of the Pet Food Industry (FEDIAF) regulates the exact amounts associated with each type of definition

Experts give us the exact percentages, using a pet food with chicken as an example:

  • Chicken flavored: Contains a maximum of 4% chicken.
  • With chicken: At least 4% is chicken.
  • Rich in chicken: At least 14% comes from chicken.
  • Chicken menu: At least 26% of ingredients come from chicken.
“At least” means that more of the same animal can be included. The rest of the product is composed of meat and by-products of other animals such as lamb, beef or duck

What are animal by-products?

It is often the case that meat and animal by-products rank first on the ingredient list and this does not have to be negative. Animal by-products are not of worse quality. They are ingredients from slaughtered animals suitable for human consumption. Included in this list are remains of internal organs such as the liver, kidneys or lungs, which provide important nutrients to our pets.

Some by-products are not only the most palatable for our pets because of their smell and taste but they are also the most easily digestible

The by-products are added to keep the price of these feeds in a moderately affordable range  and also serve to take full advantage of the nutrients that other healthy livestock animals can provide.

corgi sniffing banana

What exactly is on the label?

On the product label we find three sections:

1. Composition

The composition is the listing of the ingredients it contains . The ingredient with the highest representation is at the top of the list, and so on down to the lowest percentage. In a cat and dog food, it will be a good sign that the meat is first on the list.

2. Additives

As the name suggests, they are the substances that are added to the main ingredients. Vitamins like vitamin A or minerals like iron, copper, zinc or manganese are included. Information on taurine is particularly important for cat owners because their diet inevitably depends on this substance.

Manufacturers add these nutritional supplements to ensure that the animal gets all the nutrients it needs . Why is it so necessary? On the one hand, because meat and by-products do not contain the constant amounts of vitamins, minerals and trace elements necessary. And on the other, because the processing of these foods can damage the nutrients, so they would no longer be present in the appropriate amounts.

With additives, manufacturers ensure that pet food contains all essential nutrients for our pets up to the specified date.

Here are some nutrition tips for dogs and in this other link for cats

3. Analytical components

They are the antioxidant or preservative additives that make food last longer. Sensory additives such as dyes improve the appearance and taste of food. They are only added under strict control and in accordance with European laws.

The analytical ingredients provide us with the gross amount of oils, acids, proteins, fats, fibers and ashes  that complete the food in question.

  • Ashes in cat and dog food?

Raw ash is produced by burning the food for analysis and leaving only the minerals it contains. These mineral residues are called ‘raw ash’, ‘inorganic matter’ or ‘ash residue’, depending on the manufacturer.

dog and owner playing


Every animal lover should know how to read the food label to have a clear view of what they are feeding their pet. Transparency is important when choosing one or the other manufacturer, and please banish the idea of ​​adding unknown ingredients or addictive substances to these foods.


Divyesh Patel