Read this ONE PAGE and you’ll know more than the clerk in the pet store
All pet foods sold in the USA have to have an AAFCO (Association of American Feed Control Officials) statement printed on the package. The statement is usually in very small print under the section listing the Guaranteed Minimum Analysis.
- Has the food been “tested” or is it only “formulated”?
Good food has been tested and carries the statement “animal feeding tests using AAFCO procedures substantiate that (name of product) provides complete and balanced nutrition.”
Foods that have not been tested bear the statement “(Name of product) is formulated to meet the nutritional levels established by the AAFCO Cat/Dog Food Nutrient Profiles.” Formulated diets do not proof digestibility and quality of the ingredients.
The difference could be explained with a car engineered for a certain performance or whether it has been tested. Think of a crash test: Would you like to have an engineered car (like a formulated food), or a car that was actually crash tested?
- For what Life Stage is the food?
AAFCO has two separate nutrient profiles – one for “growth and reproduction” and one for “adult maintenance”. The nutritional adequacy statement would include information on the life stage(s) for which the product is suitable. A product labeled as “for all life stages” must meet the more stringent nutrient profile for “growth and reproduction”. This means pet foods labeled “for all life stages” are overly nutrient dense and inappropriate for most adult and older pets. Pictures of senior pets, the word maintenance etc. on the package do not mean the food is for the older life stage. 
What else you need to look for:
- Dozens of brands enter and exit the market and all of them claim premium or high quality status. Many brands are relabeled products made by one of the few manufacturers in North America.
- Price alone is NOT a proof for quality. It is a marketing strategy that implies
- Sales staff in retail stores giving advice naturally act under conflict of interest. Often store exclusive brands or brands with higher profit margins are promoted.
- Is the brand “Made by…” or “Made for…”? Relabeled products do not disclose the manufacturer.
- Is there a contact information (1-800 number) for the manufacturer?
- “Other information … is of little practical value… [i.e.] unregulated terms such as “organic”, “holistic”, “human grade” or “premium”. 1
Know what your dog needs:
Compare your food to the recommended nutrients. This needs to be compared on a dry matter analysis, not on the “as fed” analysis on the label. Ask for a dry matter analysis.
|Ingredient||Dogs should receive (as per nutrition textbooks)||How does your Brand compare?|
|L-Carnitine||Over 300 mg /kg|
|Vitamin E||Over 400 IU/kg|
|Vitamin C||Over 100 IU/kg|
For further reading you may read: http://www.dogfoodproject.com/index.php?page=labelinfo101 an independent website.