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Picking a good dog food is essential for the health of your pup. In order to find a good dog food, you need to understand how to not only read a dog food label but to understand what they mean. Dog food labels have two sections. The first is the ingredients list which simply lists all the ingredients in order of weight. Meaning the first ingredient is the most prevalent ingredient in the dog food. The second is a guaranteed analysis which lists moisture, fiber, crude protein, and crude fat. The guaranteed analysis can be incredibly confusing when trying to understand if you have picked a good dog food. So we have made a simple guide so that you can decode what is on the guaranteed analysis panel.
Why Is There A Guaranteed Analysis Panel?
Dog foods are regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in the United States. They do not require pre-approval before being introduced into the market like some other products. However, the FDA does require both that ingredients in dog food are legal ingredients and there is an accurate listing of ingredients and nutrients in the food. The guaranteed analysis panel is used to provide consumers information about what nutrients are in the dog food, so they can make informed choices between brands and ensure they are buying a product that meets their needs.
What Is Listed On The Guaranteed Analysis Panel
The guaranteed analysis lists the percentages of each of the nutrients of the food. The guaranteed always includes the minimum percentage of the crude protein and the crude fat. Then it lists the maximum percentage of the crude fiber and moisture. The guaranteed analysis panel will also like thinks like vitamins, minerals, and oils. The guaranteed analysis label basically provides the same information as a the nutrition facts label on people food.
What Does “Crude” Mean?
Crude does not refer to the quality or the type of ingredient listed, instead it refers to the specific method of measuring the nutrient. Since each batch will vary in minute percentages based on uncontrollable factors, crude essential means “roughly”. Since fiber and fat are crucial to the health of a dog, the crude protein percentage is the minimum so that it is guaranteed to always have at least that percent and may in fact have a higher percentage from time to time. The same is true on the flip side, since too much moisture or fiber can compromise the value of the product, they are listed as maximums. The food may actually contain less by batch.
Determining Your Dog’s Nutritional Needs
Before we go over how to understand what is on the guaranteed analysis panel, you need to first understand the nutritional needs of your dog. The best thing you can do is talk to your veterinarian. When talking to them about what to look for in a dog food make sure to communicate their routine and activity level. Your veterinarian will use this information along with their breed, age, and health issues to make specific nutritional recommendations for your dog. Armed with this information, you can then begin to decode the guaranteed analysis panel and choose a good dog food for your pet.
Some Standard Nutritional Needs
If your dog is healthy, there are some general rules about what protein and fat percentages they need depending on their life stage and activity level:
- Puppies need 28% protein and 17% fat.
- Adult dogs need 18% protein and 9-15% fat.
- Pregnant and lactating dogs need 28% protein and 17% fat.
- Active and working dogs need 25-35% protein and 20% fat.
- Senior Dogs 21% protein and 13% fat.
Dogs of all ages will also generally need 3-5% fiber to maintain a healthy digestive tract.
The Role Of Moisture Content
The crude percentages are a great starting point to determine if your dog’s food is truly healthy. However, these percentages are slightly misleading because of the presence of moisture. Moisture does not provide any nutritional value and is added to maintain texture. However moisture percentage is listed because it impacts the nutritional value of the food. So when looking at the true content of nutritional value, you need to look at the dry matter. That means you need to calculate the nutritional value without the moisture.
Calculating The True Nutritional Value Of The Dog Food
Figuring out the dry matter content in dog food is a pretty simple process. You will use this equation:
100 – Moisture Content = dry matter
You will use this equation with both wet and dry food. Once your have the dry matter content you can then determine what the true percentage of protein, fat, and fiber content of the dog food.
To calculate the true percentages use this formula:
- Guaranteed Crude Protein ÷ Dry Matter Content x 100 = True Protein Content
- Guaranteed Crude Fat ÷ Dry Matter Content x 100 = True Fat Content
- Guaranteed Crude Fiber ÷ Dry Matter Content x 100 = True Fiber Content
So for example if your dog food has 10% moisture, 25% protein, 14% fat, and 3.5% fiber, you will do the following equations:
- For dry matter: 100 – 10% (moisture content) = 90% (dry matter content)
- For Protein: 25% (crude protein) ÷ 90% (dry matter content) x 100 = 27.7% (true protein content)
- For Fat: 14% (crude fat) ÷ 90% (dry matter content) x 100 = 15.5% (true fat content)
- For Fiber: 3.5% (crude fiber) ÷ 90% (dry matter content) x 100 = 3.8% (true fiber content)
As you can see using this formula shows that this particular food has higher levels of nutritional content than what is actually listed. So armed with this knowledge you can make a better choice for your dog.
The guaranteed analysis can be difficult to understand. In order to use it to pick the best food for your dog, it requires first knowing what your dog’s nutritional requirements are, how the nutritional content is decided, and how to actually decode these percentages into functional knowledge. So talking to your vet, reading the labels, and using these simple formulas can help make sure that you are using the guaranteed analysis panel correctly to find the best food for your dog.