Dog Nutrition – How the AAFCO Standards Affect What Goes in Your Dog’s Food and Why

Dog Food Standards by the AAFCO dog food regulations

Even though the AAFCO statements are what you need to see on your dog food labels, they are not directly responsible for regulation. That is the job of the USFDA and the USDA. These two organizations use the AAFCO uniformed guidelines to help them regulate the dog food but at the same time are using their own ingredient description guidelines and uniformed label. Each individual state works a little bit different, but many of them have actually taken the AAFCO recommendations into law.

So you can have a complete understanding, the AAFCO created a uniform definition for all the ingredients included in EACH serving. That way there’s no contradictions or confusion between different brands or types of dog food. You can read all this info in their AAFCO Manual that is published annually. It contains a set of standards that all the dog food companies MUST stick to in order to get approval to even sell their food.

All the pet food companies must pass all requirements in this manual so pet owners can have some assurance that the food is safe. However, it does not mean the dog food is all that healthy and that is why it’s very important to get a “premium” dog food because those companies go above and beyond all the standards that are set by the AAFCO. Remember … the standards are set as a “minimum” requirement.

Here are the two types of statements that the AAFCO goes by:

1. Tested: Anything that states it has been “tested” means that they have actually given it to dogs with positive results.

2. Formulated: This means it has not actually seen results but the dog food company has met the recommended guidelines by the AAFCO.

How Do Dog Food Companies Meet Their Guidelines

All dog food has to be judged and graduated before it can be distributed. Since the AAFCO is the ONLY one that can do this, you must make sure to look for the AAFCO statement on your packaged dog food.

1. Nutrition Profiles

2. Adult Maintenance

3. Growth (this is for puppies)

The AAFCO checks each category and figures out what nutrients are needed. They have to meet “above” the minimum requirements and “below” the maximum requirements. This will make sure there are no shortcomings. These requirements must be defined on the dog food package.

4. Fit for all Life Stages

This one has much stricter requirements but is for both adult dogs and puppies.

There have been some controversies with the AAFCO but the tests were proven adequate and reliable when it comes to being safe.

Below are the Protocols for Testing Your Dog’s Food

In a 26 week feeding trial, they use eight healthy dogs. Out of those eight, six are required to complete the trial. During this trial, they can only eat the particular product given to them and of course, water. They are not allowed any trees because it may interfere with their results. When testing is finished, a veterinarian will perform several medical tests to check the dog’s health. In order to pass, that dog must not show any nutritional deficiencies, not any more than 15% in loss of body weight and their blood tests must meet a certain range for their packed cell volume, hemoglobin, serum alkaline phosphatase and serum albumin. If six out of those eight dogs pass the test, the food can be packaged and put on the market.

I hope this has helped you understand a little bit more of how our dog food is regulated. Even though this may not sound like a great way to test our dog food, it is the only one we have right now and it seems to be getting much better since our last pet food recall. It is important to make sure you see the AAFCO statements on your dog food package, but it is even more important to make sure you are giving your dog “Premium” food since these companies go above and beyond good nutrition that the AAFCO says you need as a minimum requirement for your dog.

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