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Dog and cat food labelling, what is it and how to read it?

Dog and cat food packaging labels are full of information. All kinds of terms and numbers that may be cause for confusion. And yet, you can learn a lot about the product from its food label. We will explain how food labels work and how to read them.

What is a food label?

Your dog or cat food packaging contains a lot of information. There are pet food quality marks to tell you more about the origin of the ingredients. The food label is usually found on the back. This label provides more information about the contents of the food.

The different sections of a food label

Each food label for dog or cat food contains at least the following data (the percentages in the list below are an example):

  • Crude protein: 25.0%
  • Crude fat or Fat percentage: 9.0%
  • Crude fibre: 2.5%
  • Crude ash: 6.0%
  • Moisture content: 9.0%

What remains are the carbohydrates. In order to count the carbohydrate percentage, just add up all the elements above and subtract that from 100%. In this example, the food would contain 49.5% carbohydrates.

Carbohydrates are important nutrients for both dogs and cats. This is surprising to some, since cats are carnivores. But cats do extract energy from carbs nonetheless. Read all about cats and carbohydrates here.

Nutrients in pet food

Your dog or cat extracts the energy it needs from proteins, fats and carbohydrates. In addition, the food contains crude fibre, crude ash and moisture. Below an explanation of each of these ingredients.

Crude fibre: Originates in the cellular wall of plant-based products. Also referred to as dietary fibres. Neither dogs nor cats can digest them, and yet they all need these crude fibres (in limited amounts) to keep their intestines healthy.

Crude ash: Has nothing to do with ashes. Crude ash is the part of the food that cannot be digested by your pet. In order to generate energy, your pet’s body burns proteins, fats and carbohydrates. Once burnt, the minerals are left over, i.e. the crude ash. Kibble usually contains 5% to 8% crude ash and wet food around 2%.

The moisture content varies per food type. 80-82% moisture is common for wet food. Dry food (kibble) usually contains around 9 to 10% moisture. This is why access to fresh drinking water is extra important for kibble-eating pets.

The exact amount of water your dog or cat needs, depends on several factors such as age and activity level. We will tell you all about it in our blogs ‘How much water does my dog drink?’ and ‘How much water does my cat drink?

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