Natural, balanced and beyond: Making sense of dog food labels

(BPT) – Dogs are man’s best friend, so it’s only natural to want to give him the best care, from the veterinarian he goes to, right down to the food you put in his bowl every day. But in a world filled with an ever-expanding array of choices, it can be hard to make sense of it all. However, getting to know the meaning behind the labels you see at the pet store will make it easier to give your four-legged friend the food he deserves.

“Making sense of dog food labels can be a challenge and many owners aren’t sure where to start when it comes to choosing the best food for their pet,” says Dr. Jessica Vogelsang, veterinarian, petMD contributor and author of “A single, seemingly simple word can have a much more complex meaning. But learning the story behind those words will tell you a lot about what you’re feeding your dog.”

Vogelsang points out a few key words that dog owners should pay attention to:

“Natural”: When it comes to dog food, the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO), a body that sets voluntary standards for the pet food industry, defines “natural” as “a feed or ingredient derived solely from plant, animal or mined sources.” In practical terms, this means that a “natural” dog food, like Hill’s Ideal Balance, contains no chemically synthesized ingredients (aside from vitamins).

“Balanced”: Pet food is formulated to be the sole source of your pet’s nutrition so it’s the ingredient ratios that are essential to making the food complete and balanced. This means that it has to strike the right balance between macronutrients, like carbohydrates, fat, and protein, and micronutrients or vitamins and minerals. Macronutrients provide calories and both the amount of calories and the ratio of carbs, fat and proteins to one another are important for optimum pet health. Micronutrients are vitamins and minerals that the body uses in smaller amounts, but they are no less important. For example, minerals like calcium and phosphorous are essential to bone health and provided in the wrong amounts can cause health problems for your pet.

“Grain-free”: Like people, some dogs have food allergies and sensitivities and can benefit from a grain-free diet.

“When you shop, read labels carefully, and consider the source,” Vogelsang says. “For instance, Hill’s has a long history of making leading dog foods, and their new Ideal Balance has been formulated by a team of pet nutritionists to provide your pet with natural ingredients perfectly balanced.”

Providing your pup with healthy food is one of the best ways to ensure that you’ll share a long, happy life together. To learn more about feeding your dog well, visit or

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