Reading Pet food Labels

Most processed pet food is one of three types: moist (canned), dry or semi-moist.

Moist canned dog food contains 68% to 80% moisture, with common ingredients being meats and meat byproducts, cereals and vegetables. It comes in a wide variety of flavors and textures ranging from meatloaf-like to stews.

Dry dog food contains 6% to 10% moisture, with common ingredients being meat, chicken, soy (all providing protein) and byproducts, fish meal, corn and meat meal. Dry foods come in kibble form, and in a variety of flavors.

Semi-moist dog food contains 23% to 40% moisture, with common ingredients similar to dry. It's available in individual portions or bulk and is moist and chewy in texture.

But pet food labels don't stop there. You'll also need to know how pet food manufacturers identify both content and quality.

Quality descriptions on labels include such terms as 'premium', 'balanced', 'complete' and 'standard'.

Terms used to describe content include various phrases such as Beef Dinner or Beef Flavored Dinner or All Natural Beefy Flavor. In addition, there are special diet labels geared to age, activity levels, medical conditions and even breeds.

A consumer is faced with layers of information, all claiming to be the best for your particular pet. How do you choose?

All other considerations aside, choosing dry over canned seems to come down to a preference for texture, because regardless of the type, it is the proportion of all nutrients and ingredients (including water) that determines a food's nutritional value and palatability.

One portion of canned dog food may very well have the same nutritional density as one portion of dry dog food. However, cats have significantly different requirements in terms of moisture content and meat in their diets, and many sources strongly recommend canned cat food over dry.

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