Along with checking the label for ingredients and guaranteed analysis, there are other areas to evaluate. Feeding directions can be especially important if you need to put your Belgian on a weight loss program.
The feeding directions listed on a food assume your dog will be eating the prescribed amount for his size. By following the package directions, you can feel comfortable that your dog is getting adequate nutrition, including vitamins and minerals. Realistically, many Belgians don't seem to go "by the book". If your Belgian is less active, you may need to cut that amount down. If you feed less than 80 percent below the recommended amount, you may be depriving your dog of some essentials ingredients however. In those cases, check with your veterinarian to be sure your Belgian gets the nutrients he needs.
Individual states, the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) and the National Advertising Council all have stipulations on what claims can be made on a pet food. Many health claims can lead to the food being designated as a "drug" not a food and therefore under more regulation. Currently approved claims for pet foods include assisting in the treatment or prevention of urinary problems and tartar (hairballs too if your Belgian has a pet cat!)
Other claims have no legal definition so companies can use them without having to meet a certain level of proof. Commonly used terms include premium, gourmet and holistic. Human grade is misleading as the minute ingredients are sold for use in pet food, they are no longer classified as "human grade". You can make a human grade pet food but the requirements are steep. "Organic" has a legal definition for human foods but not for pet foods. The USDA stipulates the human organic foods must be free of antibiotics, hormones and pesticides.
AAFCO, the Association of American Feed Control Officials, also has stipulations for the term "natural". Natural means the item must not be chemically synthesized. Some exceptions are allowed for certain vitamins, minerals and trace minerals. Non natural ingredients would include the preservatives BHA and BHT. to claim a food as natural, all ingredients must meet the criteria.
Preservatives are required for dry foods, such as kibbles. Canned foods are preserved by the act of canning. You need to be aware that once you open a can, that preservative protection is gone. All open cans should be stored in the refrigerator.
There are many different preservatives in use to keep pet foods safe and healthy. These can range from natural antioxidants such as Vitamin E to chemically synthesized preservatives. All preservatives will be listed as ingredients on the label - generally down near the end, as they are usually a small addition by weight.
If you would like to receive updates directly to your email, simply hit the subscribe button. It is free!