Features November 2018 Issue

The Best Wet Dog Food: How to Find It, Where to Look

Canned dog food is highly palatable, shelf-stable, and usually made with fresher ingredients than dry foods. Here’s what to look for and what to look out for when shopping for canned food.

This year, we’re going to make it super simple. On this page, we’re going to show you how to read labels on cans of wet dog food so you can interpret the most important nutritional information canned dog food supplies. On this page, we list of a bunch of companies that make canned foods that range from really good to really great. If you choose products from this list and use the information we are about to share with you to analyze and compare them, you will absolutely have what you need to find a number of healthy canned foods for your dog.

Canned Dog Food Labels: The Big Stuff

There are eight things required by law on a canned dog food label. The front label must contain the brand and product name, species for which the food is intended, and the quantity statement (how much is in the can). The next five requirements may appear on the back or back and side labels.

Many consumers don’t think very critically when it comes to the front label. If they see beautiful roasted chickens or grilled steaks, and fresh-scrubbed carrots or glistening apples, they may imagine that’s what’s in the food. But you really have to compare the art with the ingredients list (discussed in detail below).

Whole Dog Journal canned Dog Food List 2018

What's the best wet dog food money can buy? It really depends on your individual dog.

What’s far more important than the pictures is the verbiage used on the front. If the name of an ingredient is used in the product name (such as “Chicken & Rice Formula”), that named ingredients must comprise at least 70% of the total product by weight and at least 95% of the product not counting added water in the food. When more than one ingredient is in the name, no ingredient can be less than 3% the total product by weight. Because chicken is listed first in the name, there must be more chicken than rice in the recipe.

When the words “dinner,” “platter,” and “entrée” are used, a different rule is at work. The named ingredient in the phrase (for example, the “beef” in “Beef Dinner”) must comprise a minimum of 25% of the total ingredients.

ol' roy dog food

Contains no bacon cheeseburgers! Pay attention! It says Bacon Cheeseburger Flavor. Beef is 6th on ingredients list, after water, chicken, wheat flour, liver (what species?!), and “meat” by-products (what species? ack!). Bacon is 11th (after corn starch, salt, and soy flour); dried cheese is 13th. Yuck!

If the word “with” is used (e.g., “Billy’s Dog Food With Chicken and Eggs”) the food is required to contain at least 3% of each named ingredient.

And if the word “flavor” is used, the requirement is that the food simply contain something that could convey that flavor; there is no minimum amount required.

The NEW Best Canned Dog Foods of 2018 Review

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The Fine Print on Dog Food Labels

The fourth requirement is the nutritional adequacy statement. Get out the magnifying glass! The “AAFCO statement” is very small on most labels, but contains very important information about which nutritional requirements the product has met.

AAFCO stands for “Association of American Feed Control Officials.” It is not a regulatory body, but it developed the nutritional standards used by all states. Somewhere on the label, usually very tiny, each dog food will state whether it is “complete and balanced” (or for “supplemental or intermittent feeding”), and whether this has been confirmed by a “feeding trial” or if it was formulated to meet certain nutritional standards. There are pros and cons of each method of confirmation.

Who is it for? The AAFCO statement will also specify who the food is meant for. All foods that are sold as “complete and balanced” must meet either the nutritional requirements for “growth and reproduction” (i.e., puppies) or the slightly lower requirements for “adult maintenance.” If a food says it can be fed to dogs “of all life stages,” it has met the higher nutritional requirements for a puppy food. Nutritionally, there is no difference between a food that meets the requirements for “all life stages” and a so-called puppy food – “all life stages” includes “growth and reproduction.” The kibble size of a “puppy” food might be smaller, but this is not a requirement!

However, if a food says it is complete and balanced for “adult maintenance,” it will not meet the higher nutritional needs of puppies.

Organic Dog Food

Organic claims are strictly defined. If the USDA Organic seal is present on the label, the product must contain a minimum of 95% organic ingredients.

The USDA’s National Organic Program regulates all organic crops, livestock, and agricultural products certified to the USDA’s organic standards. Organic certifiers inspect and verify compliance, and the certifier of each product must appear on the label, too. The USDA also conducts audits, investigations, and enforcement activities to ensure all products labeled organic meet its regulations.

usda organic label

If a product label says, “Made with organic ingredients,” the food must contain at least 70% organic ingredients, must state the certifier, and may not use the USDA Organic seal. If it specifies an ingredient that is organic (“Made with organic chicken”), all of the chicken in the product must be organic.

More Required Information

Dog food labels must bear the name and address of the manufacturer or distributor (requirement #5). We prefer the label to also contain the company’s phone number, but this is not required.

The “feeding directions” also must appear on the label (requirement #6). The statement must include the recommended amount of food to feed relative to the dog’s weight. This is calculated by a standard formula that says dogs require so many calories per pounds of body weight, but given the range of canine activity and metabolic rates, it can’t really be considered much more than a starting place. It is always necessary for owners to adjust their dogs’ rations based on how the dogs look and feel.

Dog Food Info That Matters Most: Guaranteed Analysis and...

The last two label requirements are the most critical. The “guaranteed analysis” (GA, requirement #7) gives you the minimum amount of protein and fat that are present in the food; they may be more, but there has to be at least that much. The GA also provides the maximum amount of moisture (water) and fiber that are present in the food.

dog food guaranteed analysis

Why the minimums and maximums? They use minimums for protein and fat because those are the most important values in a dog’s food; it’s what you are paying for. And they use maximums for moisture and fiber because this is not what you want to pay for – even though, with canned food, you actually are paying for a lot of it: Most canned dog foods contain about 78% to 85% moisture.

The fiber content of canned foods varies even more widely. Keep in mind that dogs have no dietary requirement for carbohydrates; they can live just fine on fat and protein alone. Canned foods that contain no carbohydrate source whatsoever will be pretty low in fiber – like, 1% maximum. In our opinion, there are better and far less expensive ways to supply your dog with fiber than in his canned food! It makes far more sense to use a canned dog food as a good source of protein and fat, and supply him with as much fiber as he may need to maintain a healthy weight and produce healthy stools through another source, such as fresh cooked or canned pumpkin, home-cooked grains (such as oatmeal, quinoa, or rice), home-cooked vegetables, or a dry dog food.

A final note on the GA:Manufacturers may (but are not required to) include other nutrient values on the GA. By doing so, they are literally guaranteeing those amounts in the food, and this is subject to testing and enforcement by state feed control officials. It’s a good way for a pet food maker to put their money where their mouths are concerning claims of special benefit from the inclusion of certain nutrients, such as DHA or glycosaminoglycans (e.g., chondroitin).

2018 canned dog food

The NEW Best Canned Dog Foods of 2018 Review

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Comments (2)

In addition to the great WDJ article written above, are more things to consider. Such as avoiding vague ingredients like "bone meal" and "by-products" that contain risky elements. such as rendered meat/bone scraps coming from unidentified sources, and other miscellaneous waste (roadkill, manufacturing plant waste). Sometimes "rendered" meat comes from sources not earmarked for pet food (PF). Meaning the danger of including euthanized livestock (or pets) is increased! There have been some notable recalls over this issue.

Please consult the recommended list offered in the WDJ site, and/or do an internet search on the PF you're feeding, or a new one you want to use. A reputable manufacturer will make their ingredient list well positioned on the website. But if you have to keep drilling down endlessly for detail, that's not a good sign. You should get there by about 3 clicks. Manufacturers are permitted (or rather, not fined) for saying whatever they want to on their website, but the ingredient label on the PF package (or can) must be accurate by law. And is determined by relative weight. If the claim is a 100% duck protein PF, then it can't be made up of chicken as a substitute, etc.. Be aware too, of split ingredients. So the label might start with rice, protein, and brewers rice (but that's twice the rice to protein, for ex.). Your best assurance is that protein is human grade edible (which doesn't mean people can eat the PF product!!). But does mean that the protein is 100% USDA Inspected and PASSED (approved!). Namely, that the protein is intentionally slaughtered for processing, but has not died from disease (cancer, tumors, contagious illnesses).

Also be aware that canned PF food can contain endotoxins (a bacterial residue, not killed by pressure cooking, and usually coming from unclean protein sources). This is not the case with canned food manufactured for humans. (Check the internet for more detail on this issue). To confirm the quality of the PF you've chosen, speak with the manufacturer and get those assurances in writing, to verify their claims & quality.

Also PF does not need Food Coloring and Flavor Additives, and shouldn't be preserved with ethoxyquin (which Ol'Roy used to be). Watch the percentage of corn and soy in the PF, which are heavily GMO'd ingredients. Dogs don't eat "soy" by nature. And corn shouldn't superceed protein on the label. An abundance of peas and legumes can be difficult for some dogs to process. The peas (usually field peas) are not the same as the lovely sweet green peas we have on our dinner plate. You can also research the internet on this subject too.

Your best bet is to rotate the PF brands & products you're using. So a dog doesn't eat too much potato, or rice, or grain-free substitutes. No meal should be served 24/7 365. And a "Limited Ingredient" formula will help you control exactly what that dog is eating, so if there is a problem, there are less variables to question. If a dog has a healthy metabolism, rotating a diet should not be a problem. Occasionally feed some raw protein (manufactured for dogs), or whole food (real) meat (like minimally cooked stew meat chunks), which helps to keep the dog's natural digestive processes strong. Dogs evolved by being "opportunistic scavengers" meaning their ability to eat a wide variety of appropriate food sources!

Posted by: Pacificsun | October 28, 2018 2:17 PM    Report this comment

Please be informed about Nutrionally mediated DCM! The correlation between Grain Free dog food and this is compelling. When I see so many of these “grain free” foods being touted in “the best of” category, I find it shocking. The incidence of DCM has increased so dramatically since these”grain free” foods were introduced into our “human options” for our dog family members. This is not a coincidence... hence why it is now being called Diet related or Nutritionally mediated DCM (which is a silent killer). There are 3 kinds of DCM - genetic, pre-disposed and now Nutritional related directly a result of foods containing potatoes, legumes, lentils, pea protein, peas, pea starch, sweet potatoes. There are some “grain free” options for those truly allergic to grains, (very few dogs truly are statistically). Or choose a low grain option. AS LONG AS NONE IF THESE INGREDIENTS ARE PRESENT. The physiological mechanism involves the disruption of The synthesis of methionine and cysteine, both precursors to Taurine...all of which are amino acids necessary for heart health. Do your research. Please. Your dog deserves it. This is real. Cannot post link...Look it up please. This is evolving daily as more data / studies are done. There are no symptoms for DCM, until it’s either irreversible or too late. Nutritional Mediated DCM can be reversed if caught early and changes made. Diet change from Grain Free is number ONE. Fb search Taurine Deficient Dilated Cardiomyopathy. Many of these “good” foods listed are showing as the culprits for dogs ending up with DCM. The common denominator is the grain free food and ingredients listed abvove.

Posted by: GoodDogg | October 28, 2018 2:09 PM    Report this comment

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