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The Truth About Pet Foods: Are Pet Food Manufacturers Tricking You?


Pet food labels can be deceiving

Most misconceptions and myths about pet foods arise from difficult to understand pet food labels and marketing efforts. There are very few regulations on pet food labeling practices, which makes informed decisions about pet foods even more challenging.  It is important to base decisions about pet foods on scientific research and nutritional expertise and not entertaining websites and buzz words.

What should you look for on a pet food label?

The most important thing you need to look for on a pet food label is the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) statement.

Sometimes referred to as the “Nutritional Adequacy Statement,” the AAFCO statement is required to be published on pet food labels.  The Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) publishes annual reports of nutritional standards for certain species and life stages.

Please confirm that a pet food label has an AAFCO statement and meets the appropriate nutritional profile for the species and life stage of your pet.  If you do not see an AAFCO statement or if the product is intended for intermittent or supplemental feeding only, it is not an appropriate maintenance food for your pet.

If you have any questions about the AAFCO label or pet food labels in general, please contact us.

Manufacturers are potentially misleading you with ingredient lists

Contrary to what most people think, the ingredient list on a pet food label is not very informative when it comes to evaluating the nutritional value of a pet food.

This information void is leveraged by pet food manufacturers.  Pet food ingredients are required to be listed in order of predominance by weight. This is muddied by the fact that all ingredients have water content which can increase an ingredient’s weight. Since meat has a high water content, it will weigh more and appear higher on an ingredient list than a nutritionally equivalent amount of “meat meal,” which is meat from which water and fat have been removed.

Pet food manufacturers will show meat at the top of their food’s ingredient list, but in actuality this means very little if you were to compare ingredients on a dry matter (with water removed) basis.

Many pet food manufacturers also include fruits and vegetables in their ingredient lists to make their product seem healthier.  However, many of the fruits and vegetables are added in such small amounts that they offer little or no nutritional value.  If a fruit or vegetable is listed after a vitamin or mineral supplement, consider it nutritionally insignificant. You should disregard it. 

Still curious about pet food labels?  

Visit the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) website (FDA Animal & Veterinary) to learn more about pet food label regulations (https://www.fda.gov/animal-veterinary/resources-you/animal-health-literacy). We will be posting two more pet food blogs early next year – so stay tuned.

It is our pleasure to serve you and your pets. Please do not hesitate to call our offices (708-383-3606) if you have any questions or concerns. Thank you for allowing us to be a part of your veterinary healthcare team.


Contact Us

Carlson Animal Hospital


414 Lake St. Oak Park, IL 60302

Clinic Hours

Monday-Tuesday: 8 AM-12 PM, 1-6 PM Wednesday: 8 AM-12 PM, 1 PM-4:30 PM, 6-8 PM Thursday-Friday: 8 AM-12 PM, 1-5 PM Saturday: 8 AM-1 PM Sunday: Closed