How to Read Dog Food Labels – Cavapoo Nutrition

A cavapoo sits next to a box of dog treats.

One of the most important factors in achieving this is understanding how to read dog food labels.

With so many different brands and types of dog food on the market, it can be overwhelming to decipher all the information presented on the packaging.

This guide will break down the key components of dog food labels and provide tips for making informed decisions about what to feed your Cavapoo. 

Quick Facts About Dog Food Labels

SectionKey Information
Guaranteed AnalysisProvides nutrient content, including minimum percentages of crude protein and fat, and maximum percentages of crude fiber and moisture.
Ingredient ListIngredients are listed by weight, with the heaviest first. Look for high-quality protein sources and be aware of potential allergens like grains. Avoid artificial preservatives.
AAFCO RegulationsAAFCO is responsible for regulating pet food labels. Look for the AAFCO label statement to ensure the food is complete and balanced for a specific life stage.
Nutritional Adequacy for CavapoosCavapoos need at least 20% protein, complex carbohydrates like brown rice, at least 10% fat, and a balance of vitamins and minerals.
Meat and ProteinShould be the first ingredient. At least 20% protein for adult dogs and 22% for puppies.
Good FatsLook for omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. At least 5% crude fat is recommended.
CarbohydratesChoose complex carbohydrates over simple ones. Avoid corn and wheat.
VegetablesGood for fiber, vitamins, and minerals. Look for sweet potatoes, peas, and carrots.
Natural IngredientsChoose foods with natural ingredients and avoid artificial preservatives, colors, and flavors.
Vitamins and MineralsLook for a variety of vitamins and minerals like vitamin A, vitamin C, calcium, and iron.

Understanding Dog Food Labels

For any pet owner looking to meet the nutritional needs of their healthy dog, understanding dog food labels is a necessary skill.

The product name alone can give you an initial idea of the main ingredient, but for a comprehensive view, the ingredients must be listed in descending order by weight on the product label.

This is a requirement by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to ensure transparency in animal feed and pet food products.

Not only do the ingredients have to be listed, but the nutrient profile, including the minimum amount of key nutrients like protein and fat, must also be clearly stated.

This information helps pet owners discern whether the food meets the specific nutritional needs of their dogs. 

Guaranteed Analysis

The guaranteed analysis section of the dog food label provides information about the nutrient content of the food.

It typically includes the minimum percentage of crude protein and fat and the maximum percentage of crude fiber and moisture.

Some labels may also include information about vitamins and minerals.

It is important to note that these percentages are based on an as-fed basis, meaning the percentages are calculated with the moisture content included.

This can make it difficult to compare the nutrient content of different dog foods, especially if they have different moisture levels.

Understanding Dog Food Labels

Ingredient List

The ingredient list on a dog food label is required by law and provides valuable information about what is in the food.

Ingredients are listed in order of weight, with the heaviest ingredient listed first.

Look for high-quality protein sources, such as chicken or beef, as the first ingredient.

It is also important to be aware of any potential allergens or sensitivities your dog may have.

Common allergens include grains, such as wheat and corn, and some dogs may also be sensitive to certain proteins like chicken.

Look for whole, recognizable ingredients.

Steer clear of artificial preservatives like BHA and BHT.

According to Dr. Jennifer Coates, a veterinarian featured on PetMD, “The first five ingredients play a significant role in the nutritional make-up of a pet food.”

AAFCO Regulations

The Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) is responsible for regulating pet food labels and ensuring they meet certain standards.

The AAFCO label statement, also known as the nutritional adequacy statement, indicates whether the food is complete and balanced for a specific life stage, such as adult maintenance or growth.

It is important to choose a dog food that meets AAFCO standards to ensure your Cavapoo is getting all the necessary nutrients for its specific life stage.

Key Ingredients to Look for in Dog Food Labels

Nutritional Adequacy 

As Cavapoos are a smaller breed, their dietary needs are different from larger dogs.

They require a well-balanced diet that provides them with all the necessary nutrients for their growth, metabolism, and activity level.

Here are some key points to keep in mind when feeding your Cavapoo:


Cavapoos need plenty of high-quality protein in their diet to maintain their muscle mass and overall health.

Good sources of protein include meat, fish, and poultry.

When choosing the food, look for products that contain at least 20% protein.


Complex carbohydrates like brown rice and oats are an essential part of a Cavapoo’s diet.

They provide energy and help regulate their blood sugar levels.

Avoid foods that contain high amounts of simple carbohydrates (such as corn or wheat) as they can cause spikes in blood sugar levels.


Healthy fats, such as those found in salmon oil, are essential for a Cavapoo’s overall health.

They help maintain healthy skin and coat, support brain function, and provide energy. Look for at least 10% fat.

Vitamins and Minerals

Cavapoos require a variety of vitamins and minerals to maintain their health.

Calcium is particularly important for strong bones, so it’s essential to include this mineral in their diet.

Look for food that contains a balance of vitamins and minerals, or consider adding a supplement to their diet.

Feeding Guidelines

When it comes to feeding your Cavapoo, follow the feeding guidelines on the dog food packaging.

The amount of food your Cavapoo needs will depend on their size, age, weight, and activity level.

Generally, adult Cavapoos need 1-1.5 cups of food per day, while puppies may need up to 2 cups per day.

Life Stages

As your Cavapoo grows and matures, their dietary needs will change.

So choose a food that is appropriate for their life stage (puppy, adult, or senior).

Puppy food is higher in calories and nutrients to support growth, while senior dog food is lower in calories and designed to support joint health.

Reading dog food labels correctly

Caloric Content: How Much Energy?

Caloric content is usually listed as “Kcal per cup” or “Kcal per kg.” This information helps you determine how much to feed your dog.

For example, if the label says 400 Kcal per cup, and your adult Cavapoo may need 800 Kcal per day, you’d feed him two cups daily, split between the number of daily meals.

Key Ingredients to Look for in Dog Food Labels

Food manufacturers, including many pet food companies, must list the minimum amount of key nutrients, as well as the maximum, to meet the requirements for labeling organic or non-organic pet food.

The ingredient in the food that provides the flavor must also be specified as part of the label.

Additionally, the labels must indicate the life stage the food is formulated for, such as puppy or adult, and include feeding directions to meet your dog’s nutritional requirements.

“Animal feeding tests using AAFCO procedures” prove the food provides a certain level of nutrition, which is essential for pet parents to note.

So, before you buy food for your pet, invest some time in reading and understanding the ingredients used in pet foods to ensure you’re meeting your dog’s nutritional needs.

Meat and Protein

Dogs are omnivores and need a diet that is rich in animal protein.

A good dog food lists meat as the first ingredient, such as chicken, beef, or fish.

The protein content should be at least 20% for adult dogs and 22% for puppies.

Good Fats

Fat is an essential nutrient that provides energy, supports cell growth, and helps your dog absorb vitamins.

Look for dog food that contains good fats such as omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids.

These can be found in ingredients such as fish, flaxseed, and chicken fat.


Carbohydrates provide energy and can be found in ingredients such as rice, oats, and potatoes.

Choose a dog food that contains complex carbohydrates rather than simple carbohydrates.

Simple carbohydrates, such as corn and wheat, can cause spikes in blood sugar levels and lead to weight gain.


Vegetables are a great source of fiber, vitamins, and minerals.

I like to feed dog food that contains a variety of vegetables such as sweet potatoes, peas, and carrots.

Natural Ingredients

Choose dog food that contains natural ingredients and avoid dog food that contains artificial preservatives, colors, and flavors.

Natural ingredients are easier for your Cavapoo to digest and can help prevent allergic reactions.

Vitamins and Minerals

Vitamins and minerals are essential for your dog’s overall health and well-being.

Dog food containing a variety of vitamins and minerals, such as vitamin A, vitamin C, calcium, and iron would be a good choice.

Labels for dog food

The Role of Water and Moisture in Dog Food Labels

The amount of moisture in a dog’s food can significantly impact their overall nutrition and health.

Here’s what you need to know:

Dry Kibble

Dry kibble is a popular choice among dog owners because of its convenience and affordability.

But, it contains very little moisture, usually only around 10%.

This means that dogs who primarily eat dry kibble may not be getting enough water in their diet, which can lead to dehydration and other health problems.

For this reason, make sure your Cavapoo has access to fresh water at all times, especially if they eat a lot of dry kibble.

Canned Food

Canned dog food contains much more moisture than dry kibble, usually around 75%.

This means that dogs who eat canned food are getting more water in their diet, which can help keep them hydrated and healthy.

The downside is that canned food can be more expensive than dry kibble and has a shorter shelf life once opened.

Water and Moisture Content on Labels

When reading dog food labels, pay attention to the water and moisture content.

The moisture content is typically listed as a percentage, and it includes both the water added during processing and the natural moisture in the ingredients.

Dry matter analysis is a useful tool for comparing the nutritional value of different dog foods because it removes the impact of moisture content.

Dog food label

Decoding the Guaranteed Analysis of Pet Food

One of the most important sections to pay attention to is the guaranteed analysis.

This section provides information on the minimum and maximum levels of certain nutrients in dog food, which can help you determine whether the food is appropriate for your Cavapoo.

Here’s what you need to know about decoding the guaranteed analysis:

Crude Protein

Crude protein is the most important nutrient for dogs, as it helps support muscle growth and repair.

The guaranteed analysis will typically list the minimum percentage of crude protein in the food.

Don’t consider any food that has less than 20% crude protein, although higher levels may be more appropriate for active or growing dogs.

Crude Fat

Crude fat is another important nutrient that provides dogs with energy and helps support healthy skin and coat.

The guaranteed analysis will typically list the minimum percentage of crude fat in the food.

5% crude fat is the absolute minimum with higher levels being more appropriate for very active or working dogs.

Crude Fiber

Crude fiber is a type of carbohydrate that helps support healthy digestion and bowel movements.

The guaranteed analysis will typically list the maximum percentage of crude fiber in the food.

Look for a food that has no more than 5% crude fiber, although some dogs may benefit from higher levels of fiber if they have digestive issues.


Calories are an important consideration for dogs, as they need to consume enough energy to support their daily activities.

The guaranteed analysis may list the number of calories per cup or per kilogram of food.

Here are some dog foods that I recommend.

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