Do You Know What's in Your Dog's Food? Labeling Leaves Veterinarians and Pet Owners Confused

It's absolutely essential to read the ingredients before you serve that food to your dog.

When you feed your pet, do you know what's in their food?

On some packages of pet food, there are pictures of beautiful cuts of beef and chicken. When Inside Edition’s Chief Investigative Correspondent Lisa Guerrero asked shoppers what they thought the main ingredient was, they said they believed it was grilled chicken.

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But those consumers were wrong. The chicken "flavored" dog food actually contained "meal," which is made from powdered parts of the chicken that humans do not eat. The same often goes for packages showing cuts of beef and fish. While it can be nutritious for pets, there are no pieces of meat in their dinner, as the packaging suggests.

When it comes to knowing what's in your dog's food, labeling rules can be confusing.

A can of dog food labeled "beef" has to have 95 percent beef in the food. But if companies call it "beef dinner" instead, it must contain only 25 percent beef. And if the package says "with beef,” it only has to have three percent beef. Finally, if it says “beef flavor” it doesn’t have to contain any beef. 

"I think the rules for how pet food is labeled [are] very confusing," Dr. John Tegzes, a professor of veterinarian medicine, told Inside Edition. "It's confusing for me and I’m a veterinarian. It's absolutely essential that we read the ingredients."

But reading the ingredients is not as easy as it should be. The ingredients label on a package of Pedigree chicken-flavored dog food has a tiny font. Print and labeling expert Ruth Ciavarra had to take out a magnifying glass to read it.

“The actual height of the font, the width of the font and the closeness of one letter to the next, really just makes it completely unreadable. I would make it larger, and let people see it,” she told Inside Edition. 

The next time you go to buy pet food, don't go by the pictures or the labels. Instead look at the ingredients — if you can.

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Mars, the makers of Pedigree told Inside Edition: "We believe the ingredients are legible and we take additional steps to communicate about our products. Beyond product packaging, we list all of our ingredients on our brand websites and we have our support team available by phone to answer any questions. We want to give consumers as many options as possible to read and understand our ingredients."

They added: "The image of the chicken is meant to visually underscore that the product is chicken flavored (as opposed to salmon or steak), which is important in helping consumers identify the flavor and product that they are looking for." 

Pet food makers told Inside Edition they recognize that some animal lovers may find the food labels hard to understand. Together with state regulatory and consumer group communities, the Pet Food Institute (PFI) and its members are working under the auspices of the Association of American Feed Control Officials to modernize pet food labels.  

Kibbles ‘n Bits® told Inside Edition that their products are made with quality ingredients and the company provides complete and balanced nutrition for pets throughout all life stages. Our products are manufactured and labeled in accordance with all applicable State and U.S. Food and Drug Administration standards and regulations.

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