How to read a pet food bag

If you’ve ever stood in the pet food aisle staring at the wide variety of foods in confusion, then you know how difficult it can be to read a pet food bag. While the front of the bag contains the brand name and the variety of the dog food, the important information is usually on the back of the bag.

Pet food bags aren’t always designed with customer’s readability in mind, because, let’s face it, most people don’t look at the back of the bag and they base their purchase on the appearance of the packaging. Smart pet parents know that dog food and treats are so much more than the picture you see on the front of the bag.

Dog food bags contain important information including ingredients, calories and feeding instructions. With so many places to look on the bag, and lots of confusing information and wording, it’s no wonder that reading a bag of dog food or treats can be overwhelming. Here is a simple guide to reading a pet food bag.

Product Name

The first thing most people see when they look at a pet food bag is the product name. The product name can supply quite a bit of information before you even pick up the bag. The product name should tell you whether it is a dog food or a treat and it also typically lists the main protein source found in the food, such as Beef, Chicken or Turkey.


The ingredients portion of a dog food bag lists out everything used to make the pet food or treat. The ingredients are listed by weight from most to least so the very first ingredient will make up the largest component of the food or treat. Ingredients listed toward the end make up the smallest portion of the pet food. Examine the quality of the ingredients. Are they clean ingredients? Is the very first ingredient a high quality meat or is it a grain or meal? Meat meal, such as lamb or chicken meal, is a common staple ingredient in kibble. Meat meal is rendered, meaning it is a collection of animal parts ground together and then subjected to a cooking process that removes much of the nutritional value. Ingredient nuances are probably one of the most important pieces of information when it comes to choosing the best pet food.

Guaranteed Analysis

The guaranteed analysis on a dog food bag is similar to the nutritional facts listed on the foods we eat, and is intended to list out important nutritional information. In general, the higher the percentage of protein the healthier the food will be for your dog. At a minimum, your pet’s food should be 25% protein. The guaranteed analysis usually includes “crude” protein, fat, fiber and moisture percentages. Crude means the amount found in the pet food product when it is in its raw state, before it is processed. Some pet foods, such as kibble, undergo an extrusion process which may alter the nutritional quality of the ingredients. Nature’s Advantage pet foods are freeze dried, a process designed to keep the food as close to its raw state as possible, which also allows the pet food to retain the vitamins and minerals that are key to a dog’s health.

Calorie Content

The calorie content on the dog food bag lists the calculated amount of calories in the food, using a measure called ME. ME stands for Metabolized Energy which is the amount your dog actually utilizes or absorbs. The calorie content will affect the amount of food you need to feed your pet in order for them to feel full and maintain an ideal weight.

Feeding Guidelines

The feeding guidelines section of a pet food bag typically contains recommendations for the best way to utilize the pet food. Feeding guidelines may include information on how to prepare the food, how to store the food and how to safely handle the food. The feeding guidelines may also list out suggestions on how much food to feed your dog based on their age, weight and other factors.

Other Information On A Dog Food Bag

Quantity - This will tell you the weight of the food in the bag, in ounces or pounds.

Manufacturers Information - The company who made the pet food and their contact information is listed so if you have questions or concerns with the pet food you can contact them.

Nutritional Adequacy Statement - Pet foods that are regulated by the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) will have a nutritional adequacy statement that states what life stage the pet food is approved for.

Gluten Free - Is the dog food gluten free? If so, it should have a certified gluten free symbol somewhere on the bag. Check out our blog for 5 reasons to go gluten free and grain free.

Made In The USA - Pet foods that are 100% USA made will often list this on the bag so that you know you are getting a food with the safest ingredients for your dog.

Health Benefits - Quality pet food companies will often list the health benefits of the food somewhere on the bag.

If you’ve read all of the information in this blog and made it to the bottom: Congratulations!  You’re on your way to being an expert about pet food labeling and how the food you chose will benefit the health of your best pal.  Head on over to the Nature’s Advantage website and use the Quick View tool to examine a bag of food or treats for yourself and put your newly learned pet food bag reading skills to the test! While you’re there, be sure to Meet Sparky and pick up a bag of treats for your own dog. You can also follow Sparky and Nature’s Advantage on Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest to be the first to know about special sales and offers on your pet’s favorite food and treats.

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