Translating Pet Food Labels

Translating Pet Food Labels

Whilst most people are paying more attention than ever to labels on their foods are we doing the same for our pets? Often pet owners are not entirely sure about what the ingredients on pet food labels mean. Here are some things pet owners should avoid in their pet's diet:


Antioxidants are not always a negative thing which can lead to confusion. Some antioxidants promote body condition and a healthy blood circulation system. Natural antioxidants such as those you find in fruits like pomegranate even prevent blood vessels from being damaged and can prevent inflammation.

But chemical antioxidants that are used in dry pet foods are there to prevent fats from oxidising and going rancid and can have opposite effects. Common artificial preservatives can be dangerous to pets if consumed over long periods of time. BHA (butylated hydroxyanisole) and BHT (butylated hydroxytoluene) are two common artificial preservatives used. The World Health Organisation has identified BHA as a possible carcinogen, or cancer-causing agent, in laboratory animals. Other ingredients such as propyl gallate and ethoxyquin are also used and can both have adverse effects on pet health.

Chemicals and colourings

Low quality meat or foods that have low meat content turn grey during the production process. Red colourings then give this a more appetising appearance.

Treat your pet's diet and nutrition in the same way you do your own. Would you buy the foods that have red label warnings, contain chemicals and colourings and live off these foods every day? If you are unsure what some of the ingredients are do some research to find out more. Make an informed choice about the diet your pet eats and know that just like your own meal choices - theirs also nurtures their overall health and wellbeing.


EU law states that pet food detail the analysis of what it contains in its packaging label. One thing you'll notice listed is ash, this may seem an odd ingredient! During testing, pet food is burned to see how much non-organic matter is included in the food. The amount of ash left behind after burning shows the amount of minerals such as copper, zinc and magnesium that are present. You should be looking for a low amount of ash as animals cannot handle high levels of minerals at a time, particularly synthetic minerals which are often added in pet foods. By feeding pets natural foods with no artificial additions, you are providing them with naturally occurring vitamins and minerals which are absorbed much quicker and more effectively than those from artificial sources.

Open versus closed labelling

There are two ways of labelling the ingredients in pet foods. A closed declaration uses general, non-specific phrasing such as "contains cereals and animal derivatives", this can be useful for companies who save costs when changing the ingredients in the pet food by not editing the packaging. Whereas an open declaration states precisely what is contained. The latter is obviously the preferable way to list ingredients so you can be completely aware of what your pet is being fed. Be wary of labels with non-specific phrasing as you risk exposing your pets to allergens!


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