Dog food regulations

Different dog food regulations exist for different countries and I'll cover the US to start with as this is the biggest market for dog food.

Why do we need dog food regulations?

We need dog food rules and monitoring organizations to ensure the following:

boy with dog
  • Dog food is wholesome and provides the required nutrients for dogs.

  • Dog food is safe to eat.

    The definition of the word "safe" is not as black and white as you might think. For dog food no premarket approval is required as long as the ingredients are considered safe foods, are generally recognized as safe (GRAS) or have been approved as food additives.

  • Dog food that is reliable and consistently manufactured.

  • Dog food does not contain any harmful substances including viable micro organisms.

  • Dog food is truthfully labeled.

Wouldn't it be an ideal world if all of the above was always true (well, at least dog food wise)? Sadly this isn't the case.

Just as we need an army and a police force in society; so do we need watch dogs in the dog food industry. Faults can happen on purpose (cutting costs to make higher profits), by accident (human errors) or out of ignorance.

Due to globalization, supply chains have grown larger and larger and it has become more difficult to oversee what's in dog food and where it came from. Are the same rules and standards applied in the originating country? Are the same ethics applied at the source? We can't be sure unless we check! Trust is good, but security is better when it comes to pet food safety.

Dog food regulations can vary from state to state and the official organizations concern more with general misbranding and labeling requirements than with pro-active controls of pet food.

Additional rules may apply to special products for our canines such as nutraceuticals and dog treats or to special advertisements such as health claims and usage of the term "natural".

Three authorities oversee dog food regulations in the US

Food and Drug Administration's Center for Veterinary Medicine (FDA/CVM)

The FDA/CVM is a consumer protection organization. The FDA division that deals with animals is called the Center of Veterinary Medicine (CVM).

Basically the FDA's responsibility is to ensure that the ingredients that are used in dog food are safe and are of nutritional value to our dogs. The FDA is the organization of choice to deal with interstate situations like nationwide dog food recalls as its authority crosses all state lines.

The FDA has rules for dog food labeling regarding identification of the product, net quantity statement, name and place of the distributor and listing of all ingredients in descending order based on weight. In addition, the FDA also watches the health claims that are stated on the dog food package.


Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO)

AAFCO aims at the development and implementation of uniform laws, regulations, standards and enforcement of policies for regulating the manufacturing, distribution and sale of animal feeds.

For example, the AAFCO provides additional labeling regulations on top of the FDA/CVM’s federal rules, but not all states in the US adopt this model (some have their own models).

In order to label dog food as "complete and balanced" it must comply with the required Nutrient Profiles for dogs as defined by the AAFCO.

Pet Food Institute (PFI)

The PFI is the voice of the US pet food industry since 1957. Pet Food Institute represents roughly 98% of all US dog food manufacturers before the US Congress and state and federal agencies. Other tasks include supporting research in pet nutrition and educating the public on proper feeding and pet care.

Other industries contribute to safety as well

The role of IT in pet food safety

The ability to trace ingredients, parts and lots to the source is essential to food safety in the food manufacturing industry. Pet food manufacturers today depend on only a few large food companies as customers. Rising costs of raw materials, heightened consumer awareness of food safety, and stricter government regulations mean increased competition and lower profit margins for the manufacturers. This means that company profitability depends on efficient operations.

IT companies can help automate processes in the pet food industry and ensure that everything is traceable and trackable. In case of pet food contaminations speed is of the essence to recall all affected foods.

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Recommended resource about dog health issues

For a complete survival guide on stress-free dog care, including detailed information on when your dog needs to see the vet, how to respond to pet emergencies, dog first aid and all common health problems, check out Ultimate Guide to Dog Health.

This is a quality handbook on dog health care, and teaches you how to take a proactive and prepared approach to knowledgeable dog ownership.

Learn how to deal with minor dog health problems before they become major ones »

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