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Making Head or Tails of Dog Food Labels

Puppy dog food healthy dog food for your puppy

If you’ve ever stared blankly at the back of a dog food label, you should know you’re not alone! Food designed for human consumption can be confusing enough, so when you get into the world of dog food, it can be a real challenge to understand what you’re reading. 

However, when you’re looking for premium dog food that nourishes your dog from the inside out, it’s really helpful to understand exactly what’s going in to each recipe. And it becomes even more important when your dog has allergies or intolerances to cater for. 

The dog food industry has regulated guidelines to follow when it comes to labelling pet food so at least all brands should have some consistency. But how do you read a dog food label and what should you be looking out for? 

Let’s take a look. 

Dog food label


This is your ‘standard’ ingredients list, and will be written with the largest volume items first. Protein is very important in a dog’s diet (we spoke about this in last week’s blog here) so you should look out for recipes with the meat listed right at the top of this list - you can even see the % of freshly prepared meat in McDug recipes (we love the fact we use the highest quality, responsibly-sourced protein possible!)

Analytical Constituents

This is a nutritional analysis of the dog food, and will tell you the values of the presence of macronutrients such as protein, fat and fibre, as well as the moisture levels within the food. 

On McDug labels you’ll also see values for Omega 3 and Omega 6, which is really handy if you’re looking to boost these powerhouse vitamins for your dog. 

This section is most useful to check the calorie value of your dog food - the ‘metabolisable energy’ section will tell you how many calories per 100g and can be helpful if your dog has been advised to go on a calorie-controlled diet by your vet. 

Nutritional Additives

Not all additives are created equal - and while at first you might think additives are a bad thing, they can be really beneficial and necessary in your dog’s diet. 

McDug recipes will have added vitamins (clearly marked here) to boost the health benefits of your dog food. Additionally, this section will also list any other trace additives such as zinc or iron etc. 

‘Complete’ Pet Food Statement

Pet food is categorised in two different ways: it’s either ‘complete’ or ‘complementary’. Complete dog food means it’s nutritionally balanced to meet all the nutrition requirements for your pet when fed as directed. Therefore, that food can be the sole source of nutrition for your pet. 

Complementary dog food is designed to be fed alongside complete food to supplement the dog’s diet - you’ll see this most commonly on treats. 

Feeding Guide

The feeding guide details the average values of what you should feed your dog based on their weight (and sometimes their age, for puppy food). 

It’s important to remember that the guide is there just to give generalised advice - you should always pay close attention to your pet and check they’re maintaining a healthy weight. If they’re putting on weight (or losing it), you may have to adjust how much you’re feeding. (Unexpected weight gain or loss should always be checked with your vet!)

Storage and Shelf Life Information

These instructions will help you to keep your dog food of the very best quality so it’s just as tasty and nutritious as the day it first arrived with you. 

As with human food, you’ll find a Best Before Date on pet food - the condition of pet food will degrade after this date and may cause gastrointestinal issues if still used. 

So there you have it - here at McDug Nutrition, we never want you to feel confused or baffled by any of the ingredients we have in our ranges. If you ever have any questions or want to check something, please contact us here or on Facebook and we’d love to chat with you. 

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