A close-up of a dog balancing a carrot on its head.

Good Nutrition Is a Balancing Act

Dogs need a balanced diet for optimal health just like we do. Since many pet parents feed commercial dog food as their pets’ only source of nutrition, veterinarians and animal nutritionists recommend choosing a food that’s labeled as “complete and balanced.” But what exactly does “complete and balanced” mean? And how do you know if your dog’s food fits the description?

What the phrase means in a nutshell

“Complete and balanced” is the phrase used by pet food companies to indicate that a dog (or cat) food provides total nutrition for a specific life stage.

A “complete” diet, according to the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO), is one that contains all of the currently known essential nutrients (except water) at levels adequate to meet a dog’s daily needs.

In reality, being complete isn’t good enough.

A dog food also has to be balanced to avoid nutrient deficiencies that can occur even though the diet appears to contain all essential nutrients. A “balanced” food provides nutrients in the correct ratios so that optimal absorption of all nutrients occurs. And because most dogs eat or are fed to meet their energy (calorie) requirements, a food must also be balanced so that all nutrients in the proper amounts and ratios are consumed when dogs’ calorie needs are satisfied.

How do you know if your dog’s food is complete and balanced?

The only way to know if your pet’s food is complete and balanced is to look for the AAFCO nutritional adequacy statement on the package. This statement may be called out as “Nutrition Statement,” “AAFCO Statement” or something similar, depending on the pet food brand. The nutritional adequacy statement itself must be written in a standard format. So it will read similarly on any brand’s package. Most commonly, you’ll find the nutritional adequacy statement on the back or on one side of the food package in small print.

To carry a “complete and balanced” AAFCO nutritional adequacy statement, a dog food must either be formulated to meet the nutritional levels established by the AAFCO Dog Food Nutrient Profiles or pass a dog feeding trial using AAFCO procedures. Those diets that aren’t complete and balanced must carry a statement indicating that the product is intended for intermittent or supplementary feeding only. Profiles have also been established for cats’ nutritional needs, so cat food labels include similar information about the food’s adequacy.

In the case of Diamond CARE Weight Management Formula for Adult Dogs, the nutrition statement reads “Diamond CARE® Weight Management Formula for Adult Dogs is formulated to meet the nutritional levels established by the AAFCO Dog Food Nutrient Profiles for maintenance.” This statement is your assurance that this food provides the protein, essential amino and fatty acids, vitamins and minerals that your four-legged family member needs.

RELATED POST: Nutrients and Ingredients: Not Necessarily the Same

The information in this blog has been developed with our veterinarian and is designed to help educate pet parents. If you have questions or concerns about your pet's health or nutrition, please talk with your veterinarian.


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