Pet nutrition is something many pet owners worry about, as they experiment with new brands and research online forums for information about what's best for their companion. If only our pets could talk, we wouldn't have to interpret confusing pet food labels when trying to choose a product.

Fortunately, a portion of these pet food labels contains a well-regulated and helpful guide to a product's nutritional content: the guaranteed analysis. This section of the label tells you the minimum percentage of crude protein and crude fat in a product, as well as the maximum percentage of crude fiber and moisture, the term "crude" referring to the testing method used in the food's evaluation.

For example, a serving of dog treats that has earned a 40 percent crude protein label means it contains at least that much protein. Some labels also include information on moisture content and ash. The percentage of ash is not a requirement for a pet food label; it merely refers to a mineral component. And ash is not a filler product, as some assume.

However, products that aren't claiming to provide adequate protein, fat, or fiber, don't need to include these stipulations in the guaranteed analysis. Products such as vitamin chews are considered nutritional supplements and thus serve a different purpose than daily dog food and don’t contain the same guaranteed analysis and other food products. 

Percentages of protein, fat, fiber, and moisture are the only requirements for most pet food, but the label must provide further detail if the product makes a particular health claim. If the phrase "added vitamin C" appears on the front of a pack of treats, for example, it's required that there be proof of this claim on the nutrition label.

Another helpful tip in evaluating your pet's food is to remember that the items listed under the ingredients label are listed in order of predominance by weight. So, if your dog has a taste for chicken treats, look for treats that list it as the first or second ingredient.

Admittedly, yes, the ingredients of pet food, treats, and supplements are a bit tricky to decipher based on your first glance at the label.  But with the proper tools to understand a food’s contents, you’ll be able to determine the right edible products for your pet with ease.

Please contact Smart Pet Guide for more information on pet food labels and other care tips for your pet.