Dog and Cat pet food guidelines

Little Critters Veterinary Hospital

1525 N Gilbert Road Suite #C-101
Gilbert, AZ 85234


What Should I Feed my Dog or Cat?
A Pet Food selection Cheat Sheet
From LittleCrittersVet

Read you Pet Food labels - CHEAT SHEET 

What does the label really mean: 

Nutritional Adequacy statement - should have one of these statements: 

1) formulated to meet AAFCO nutrient 

2)Animal feeding tests using AAFCO procedures (ideal method)

Nutritional Adequacy Statement - AAFCO 

Complete and Balanced diets must be either formulated to meet the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) guidelines or determined to be so based on actual feeding trials. Every diet you feed should have one of these 2 statements. 

Pet Food Front Labels: 

  • "chicken" - means 70% of the diet must contain that protein
  • "with chicken" - means 3% of the diet must contain that protein
  • "chicken flavor" - means chicken recognizable by the pet <3%
  • "in Gravy" - >78% moisture

Determine who is the actual manufacturer - "All pet food labels must include an address to contact the manufacturer or distributor. A telephone number, email address or website address are not required. However, avoid companies that do not include at least one of these methods of contact. These days, it’s unrealistic to get timely information by mail only, and we think these tricky manufacturers do that deliberately" (quote from Tufts site) 

Ingredient Statement: must list ingredients in descending order (most to least by weight of the ingredient) This could falsely elevate meats on the list because they are higher in moisture and will weigh more.

Term Meat or Meat by-product what does it mean? 

  • the term Meat in the ingredient list- excludes feathers, the head, feet, and entrails
  • the term Meat by-products - cannot contain hair, horns, teeth, or hooves. 
  • Some meat by-products have nutritional values such as liver or lungs and some are very poor such as connective tissue
  • So by-product doesn't always mean a poor diet but the type of by-product used might mean this - READ labels.

Pet treats: Does 'Made in USA' mean safe?

ARTICLE on Treats:  Illness linked to Chinese-made jerky spurs label changes

---a good read on Pet Treats -

---take-a-way: jerky treats regardless of source are still questionable 

How do I pick a food for my pet? 

1) No one food will be good for all pets, life stages or medical needs

2) Consult with your veterinarian about your pet's individual needs

3) understand how to read pet food labels

4) understand what AAFCO does and what it means

5) Ignore the marketing

6) Source only from the US if possible

7) Avoid novel diets or very small companies 

8) Always assess how your pet is actually doing on the diet

9) Don't feed a medical needs diet if not needed ie no history of allergies or sensitivity

10) Search for recalls on the diet and determine the type of recall. Was the company being safe/proactive or was there a known danger with the diet. 

11) If you home cook for your pet please utilize a veterinary nutritionist service to ensure the diet is actually balanced. See Tufts below or online visit for free tools 

Raw diets?

***take away: use caution

Grain Free Diets? Are they healthy? Read this first

A broken heart: Risk of heart disease in boutique or grain-free diets and exotic ingredients 

References for this post:

Pet Food Labels - Demystifying the Package

37th Annual OAVT Conference & Trade Show

Kara M. Burns, MS, MEd, LVT, VTS (Nutrition)

Academy of Veterinary Nutrition Technicians, Wamego, KS, USA

Answering Common Owner Questions About Pet Food

OVMA 2016

Lisa M. Freeman, DVM, PhD, DACVN

Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine, Tufts University, North Grafton, MA, USA


Pet Food Recalls: