Let’s Raise Our Expectations For Dog Food


We often encourage our readers to ask dog food makers for the “complete nutrient analyses” for the products they feed to their dogs. These analyses list values for every vitamin and mineral in the food, every required amino acid that makes up the protein content, and every required fatty acid that’s represented in the “crude fat.” The values listed should be the amounts present – but often, they are the amounts expected in the food (more about that in a moment).

Unlike in human nutrition, where nutrient levels are reported as a percentage of the “recommended daily allowance” (RDA), no RDA exists for dogs; there is no consensus on target or ideal nutrient levels for dogs. The closest equivalent for pet food are the AAFCO Dog Food Nutrient Profiles, which are tables compiled by the Association of American Feed Control Officials that show the legal  minimum amount of all the nutrients required by dogs, with just a few maximum values for nutrients that have a well-established record of causing harm at excessive levels (calcium, phosphorus, iodine, selenium, vitamin A, and vitamin D). 

As recently as 2015, a maximum value for copper was included, but the maximum was eliminated for the 2016 revision of the Profiles. In “Excessive Copper,” by Eileen Fatcheric, DVM, a number of board-certified veterinarians cite an increasing number of cases of copper-associated hepatopathy (CAH) in dogs and argue for restoration of regulated maximum copper levels in dog foods.

Even if there is no legal maximum, however, dog owners who are concerned about CAH – and, according to Dr. Fatcheric and the number of specialists she cited, that should be all of us – can do some due diligence. We can ask the makers of the foods our dogs eat to provide complete nutrient analyses for their products and compare the amounts of copper present in the foods with the current AAFCO minimum amount (7.3 milligrams per kilogram of food) and the former AAFCO maximum amount (250 mg/kg).

Here’s the catch: Many manufacturers will send you an analysis that contains the nutrient levels they expect to be in their products (called a “typical nutrient analysis”) based on their formulations, rather than the results of a laboratory test of a finished product. If you receive an analysis, check to see how it’s characterized. It seems to us that the least dog food makers could do is test their products and give consumers access to the actual results.

And in the meantime, to protect your dog, ask your veterinarian for annual blood tests and pay attention to the ALT results; see Dr. Fatcheric’s article for more details. 


  1. I like this article on lets raise our expectation on dog food very informational I believe choosing the right food for your dog takes alot of research to find nutritional value that is good for your dog without any filler thank for the tip.