Reading Labels

Manufacturers of pet foods are required to include certain information on their product labels. It is very helpful for a dachsie owner to understand how to read these labels and to understand the implications of the information there.

The words “complete and balanced diet” mean that the dog food contains all the nutrition the dog needs to have in its daily diet as recommended by the AAFCO. The proteins, fats, vitamins, amino acids, trace minerals, and other nutrients are provided in the correct proportions for the dog.

The label will indicate whether the food is complete and balanced for “growth and reproduction,” which means it is for puppies and pregnant and lactating females, or “adult maintenance,” which is meant for all other adult dogs. The recommendations of the AAFCO are the minimum requirements, however, and many premium pet food manufacturers have invested millions of dollars into research specifically to determine the correct balance of food components for additional conditions.

For example, there are premium dog foods for large-breed puppies, active adults, seniors, and even “prescription” diets for canines with specific health problems, such as renal disease, weight control, allergies, fat intolerance, and others.

Proteins and Grains

The ingredients of the pet food are listed by weight in descending order. You want to make sure that the main protein source is listed first or very near the top, and you want the protein source to be listed as chicken, beef, or lamb (as in real meat), and not lesser proteins, such as chicken offal, beef by-products, or lamb meal. Another ingredient that will be listed near the top of the ingredient list will be a grain; highly digestible grains include corn, wheat, and rice.

Dogs have been known to have food allergies to wheat, corn, or soy. Rice tends to be a grain that doesn't cause allergic reactions. It is often teamed up with lamb to produce a healthful alternative for dogs with food allergies.

Finally, make sure that the preservative used in your dog's food is natural, such as vitamin C or E. Avoid foods using ethoxyquin, a controversial and potentially carcinogenic chemical preservative.

The Guaranteed Analysis

The label will also contain a guaranteed analysis stating the percentage of protein, fat, fiber, and moisture as either a minimum amount or a maximum amount. This information is difficult to use unless you have the assistance of a veterinarian. As long as the food meets the AAFCO recommendations, has undergone feeding trials, and is labeled “complete and balanced” for your dachsie's age group, it is fairly safe to assume that the food will meet your dog's nutritional needs.

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