I just got a puppy. It took me two years to process the loss of my first dog, and I couldn’t get myself to fall in love with another one. When I was ready to become a dog parent again, I had severe questions:
Was I taking good care of Thea? Did I provide her with the love she deserved?
While Thea was with me, I believed she had the best life possible. I gave her regular exercise. I fed her regularly and gave her treats, and she seemed happy. But then I realized: I was giving her dog food and didn’t bother to learn much about proper nutrition. I merely assumed that the packages I bought gave her everything she needed.
When I started researching proper dog nutrition, I realized the issue was more complicated than it initially seemed. The 25 percent rule for dog food, in particular, looked quite interesting. It made me aware that not everything you buy is right for your dog. I was a student back then, so I usually opted for the cheapest kibble at the supermarket. The ingredients included added vitamins and nutrients, so I genuinely believed the food was good for my dog.
As it turns out, we have to be a bit more careful when buying dog food. I’m determined to provide a better life for Yoda now, so I started by getting informed about the 25 percent rule for dog food.
Dog food rules everyone should know about
Before we get to the 25 percent rule for dog food, we have to realize that there are other percentages involved in the equation. Why should we care about this? Well, we all want our dogs to be healthy, don’t we? But we also want them to enjoy their food. When we’re aware of the percentages in the ingredients, we’re able to tell the difference between different brands and types of dog food. We’re ready to choose something that’s both good and tasty for the dog.
Don’t worry; it’s not complicated at all.
These percentages indicate the type of food you’re getting. The FDA establishes the rules, so they are valid indicators of nutritional values needed for our pets.
The 100 percent rule for dog food
One ingredient food meets the 100 percent rule. If, for example, you’re getting 100 percent beef treats, they are only beef. This rule allows the manufacturers to add water for processing, and trace amounts of condiments and preservatives.
You might assume that this is the best type of food to give to your dog. It’s not. Only dog treats can follow the 100 percent rule, and we all know they contain too many calories, and our dogs cannot eat them in large amounts. Plus, a balanced diet calls for more than a single ingredient.
The 95 percent rule for dog food
When you’re getting food based on a few ingredients, it meets the 95 percent rule. At least 95 percent of the product must belong to the main ingredient mentioned in the product’s name. If, for example, you’re getting food labeled as “Chicken for Dogs,” it must be made of at least 95 percent chicken. But there’s a trick: the water doesn’t count. When you calculate the water for processing, the main ingredient must still account for at least 70 percent of the product.
More than one main ingredient is allowed. If you’re buying a product labeled Beef and Liver for Dogs, for example, the two main ingredients should account for 95 percent of the total weight (water excluded). The first ingredient mentioned in the product’s name is the dominant one. This means that there’s more beef than liver in the food.
You want to make sure the first ingredient is meat. If you’re buying Rice and Chicken, it means there’s a whole bunch of rice and not enough protein.
Why is this important? If you’re buying something labeled as dog food, it must comply with the 95 percent rule. And food that meets the 95 percent rule is what you want to provide for your dog to keep them healthy.
I talked to Robert, a friend of mine who works as a writer for UK Best Essays. He works from home, so he has more time to spend with his dog, and he can cook his meals. “High-quality dog food that follows this rule is expensive for me,” he says. “So I tend to prepare his food at home, and I always follow this rule for his main meal. I combine various main ingredients. I’ll prepare chicken and rice, lamb and liver, beef and rice, beef and buckwheat, and so on. I add a minimum amount of water and no additives.”
That’s a good idea. If you can’t afford to buy high-quality dog food, it’s not that hard to prepare it at home. You only deal with one or two ingredients.
The 25 percent rule for dog food
I usually gave Thea this kind of dog food. Most dry products fall within this category. I also gave her food that followed this rule when I wanted to make a switch from kibble and chose cans. She loved the versatility, but was it good enough for her? Unfortunately, no.
Foods that follow the 25 percent rule for dog food contain at least 25 percent of the ingredients in the name (not counting the water used for processing). When the food contains such a small percentage of the main ingredient, it must come with an additional term in the product name. That’s why you’ll see a descriptive term, such as “Dog’s Delight Beef Dinner.” If the product were named “Dog Delight Beef Food,” it would have to comply with the 95 percent rule. If it has a label such as platter, dinner, entree or any term other than food, it complies with the 25 percent rule.
According to this rule, the product must contain at least 25 percent of the ingredient mentioned in the name. If we count the added water, it means the product contains at least 10 percent of the mentioned ingredient.
Is this food bad for your dog? Not necessarily. However, it doesn’t meet your dog’s nutritional needs. It’s like an entree you order at a restaurant. The Caesar salad, for example, will contain tons of veggies and only a bit of chicken. That’s what you’re practically giving to your dog when following this rule, and it’s not enough.
You want to get real food, preferably food that meets the 95 percent rule, for your dog. Food based on the 25 percent rule is not bad, but you want to use it as an addition to the main course of higher quality.
Products that fall below the 25 percent rule for dog food
Some products don’t even follow the 25 percent rule. They contain less of the ingredient mentioned in the title. Those are the products that use the word “with” in the name. If, for example, you get “Dog Food with Rice and Chicken,” it means it must contain at least 3% rice and 3% chicken.
Be careful; “Chicken Dog Food” is not the same thing as “Dog Food with Chicken.” The difference is enormous.
So what’s the lesson? Read the labels! Every single time. If you thought you were buying affordable food when getting the cheapest product on the shelf, you were wrong. Yes; that food is cheap. But it’s not cost-effective because it doesn’t meet your dog’s needs.
To keep your dog healthy and happy, be careful with your choices and read the dog food labels.
Warren Fowler’s lifestyle is full of hiking adventures. When he’s not busy with his guitar or enjoying the sunny day outside, he excels at blogging skills and scrolls through social media. You can meet him on Twitter and Facebook.