AAFCO Dog Food Nutrient Profiles


The following items represent some of The Dog Food Advisor’s most frequently asked questions about AAFCO dog food nutrient profiles.

What is AAFCO?

AAFCO is an acronym for the Association of American Feed Control Officials. AAFCO is a non-profit organization that sets standards for both animal feeds and pet foods in the United States.

What are AAFCO dog food nutrient profiles?

In order for a dog food to be marketed as “complete and balanced”, it must meet the nutritional standards established by AAFCO.

These nutritional adequacy standards are defined by two nutrient profiles based upon a dog’s stage of life…

  • Adult maintenance
  • Growth and reproduction

Where can I find the AAFCO nutrient profile for each recipe in a review?

The AAFCO nutrient profile symbol can be found at the end of each recipe in a review and is enclosed in brackets.

SymbolAAFCO Guideline
[A]All Life Stages
[M]Adult Maintenance
[G]Growth and Reproduction
[S]Supplemental Feeding Only
[U]Unspecified on Product's Webpage

What does growth and reproduction mean?

Dog foods rated for “growth and reproduction” are designed for puppies and pregnant or lactating females.

How can a manufacturer claim a particular product meets one of the two AAFCO nutrient profiles?

In order for any dog food company to claim a product is “complete and balanced” for a specific life stage, that claim must first have been validated in one of two ways…

  • Laboratory analysis only
  • Laboratory analysis plus actual feeding trials

How can a consumer know which method was used to verify AAFCO nutritional adequacy?

The first method uses laboratory analysis of a sample to verify the food meets AAFCO nutritional standards. The label will read…

“(Name of product) is formulated to meet the nutritional levels established by the AAFCO Dog Food Nutrient Profiles”

The second not only uses laboratory analysis but also proves that nutritional adequacy by conducting actual feeding trials with real dogs. This type of adequacy statement will probably read…

“Animal feeding tests using AAFCO procedures substantiate that (name of product) provides complete and balanced nutrition”

What if a dog food cannot meet either of the AAFCO nutrient profiles?

Any product that cannot meet either the AAFCO adult maintenance or growth and reproduction standards must state…

“This product is intended for intermittent or supplemental feeding only”

In other words, a product not intended for long-term use.

How can I tell if a particular dog food is OK for my puppy?

Any dog food that claims to meet AAFCO nutrient profiles for either “growth” or “all life stages” should be OK for most puppies.

If you expect your puppy to weigh 50 pounds or more as an adult, please be sure to read our article, How to Choose the Best Puppy Food and Lower Your Dog’s Risk of Hip Dysplasia.

Is it OK to feed a puppy a dog food claiming to be suitable for “all life stages”?

AAFCO only recognizes two dog food nutrient profiles

  • Adult maintenance
  • Growth and reproduction

However, manufacturers are permitted to market a dog food as suitable for “all life stages” so long as it meets the guidelines for both “Growth and reproduction” and “Adult maintenance”.

  • Sue Forbes

    Lol!! Hey Bill! How funny you saw this – it’s one of the very few reviews I’ve written about anything. I just felt very strongly about it after seeing the doc! If you find a food you feel good about that is affordable, please let me know! 🙂

  • Bill Bonnefil

    No way Sue!?!? I just randomly saw this looking for food for my new pup. Thanks for the recommendation!

  • Bobby dog

    Lol “really,” nothing wrong with having a nice kitchen. I like to do some baking now and then!

  • Mercedes Tate

    Really? Are you that materialistic?

  • Bobby dog

    If her home was anything like her kitchen, I am sure I would love it too!

  • Pitlove

    Yeah I was in awe of her home and kitchen in the PetFooled documentary. They showed it there too.

    One of the holistic vets around my area is absolutely loaded. I swear she has so much money she doesn’t know what to do with it. Most of her clients that shop with us have told me they haven’t walked out of her office paying under 250$. Most end up paying around 500$ for most visits.

  • Pitlove

    I used to visit the Mercola healthy pets site a lot, but I just couldn’t take all the articles stating that I needed to buy their supplements and flea products etc. Like I said, I feel like she does genuinely care for her clients/readers pets, but on the other hand I think she also clearly knows what she is doing. She knows what will pull at naive pet owners heart strings and scare them enough to buy her products or listen to her views on pet food and veterinary medicine.

    Any business needs to make money. Why wouldn’t vets recommend what they sell in their clinic? I sure as heck don’t send people out of my store to PetSmart. My boss would kill me!

  • Bobby dog

    I watched a couple of her videos demonstrating some of her pet food recipes. She has a very, very beautiful kitchen; close to my dream kitchen. Holistic medicine appears to pay her bills just fine. 😉

  • InkedMarie

    I’m still not used to this job thing. I was home for 5yrs with grandkids, Subway prior to that. Most of my jobs since 2000 were not the kind with vacation but next week, I have a PAID vacation!!

    We ended up at the VCA clinic when Gemma got sick. Our vet at the time is a nice guy, good vet but a very simple office: no xray, etc. He was closed on Wednesdays, closed most saturdays & only open til 5pm but if there are no appointments, they leave.

    So, we took gemma to VCA and have been happy with them. Monday to Thursday they are in til 8pm, friday til 6pm and saturdays til 4pm. Nice to have long hours!

  • Crazy4cats

    One of the clinics we go to is a VCA clinic as well. They do not push anything either, but are pretty darn expensive. I’ve learned my lesson the hard way though by going to a “value” clinic.

    Full time jobs aren’t much fun, are they? LOL!

  • InkedMarie

    I’m the same way re her newsletter. I like the traditional vet we hae now. It’s a VCA clinic but he doesnt push anything. We had a holistic vets but since I started a full time job last July and her limited hours, we dont go any longer.

  • Crazy4cats

    I receive her newsletter and enjoy some of the information and articles. However, I do feel like she is trying to “scare” me into buying some supplement that my pets can’t live without just about every article. Also, don’t like the bad mouthing of traditional vets either. I do, however, think there are times when a little “fairy dust” may be appropriate when nothing else seems to help. I do believe she thinks that she has our pets best interest in mind though. Many people post on here that traditional vets are always trying to sell them stuff to make big money off them and do not think holistic vets are that way. Hello?

  • Pitlove

    Unfortuntely she uses fear mongering and half truths to get people to believe things she says. She graduated from the rank 13 vet school in the country and should understand things like weight based vs non- weight based drugs/vaccines, drug/vaccine therapeutic index, yeast etc but demonstrates in plenty of her videos that she’s more concerned with bad mouthing the pet food industry and traditional vets, than the truth.

    I think she means well, but I no longer use her as a source of creditable information.

  • Sue Forbes

    I agree – We are trying to figure out what food to feed them now. So far, I think we are going to try to research the best kibble and supplement it like Susan is saying. The problem I am having is deciphering which food is sourced well (not using diseased animals for protein, etc) and is actually “good” for your dog. Seems there is no way to tell since the rules are so lax for what they can use and how they can market it!

  • InkedMarie

    I was at our local Agway (feed type of store) and picked up a bag of Earthborn Primitive Naturals. It’s the only one that has l3ss than 3.5% fiber. I hope to try Victor and Dr Tim’s as well.

  • disqus_SBl7sCuYS7

    I prefer science based veterinary medicine

  • Traci Jensen Clarke

    I have just started researching what pet food is good for our dog. A friend told to about Karen Bedker, I am instersted in your thoughts?

  • InkedMarie

    Weird! It’s in my email but I couldnt find it!

  • Pitlove


  • aimee

    I didn’t delete it…it just disappeared! The post is still in my history and flagged as “pending”

  • InkedMarie

    Not sure why you deleted a response to me about the vide but thanks for telling me more about it. I gather you decided to pay for it? (Edit: you watched it at a friends, missed that part)

  • InkedMarie

    Crap, I meant to say O’Malley and Ginger!

    Boone is staying on raw forever. I’m ordering a bag of one of Dr Tim’s tomorrow for the other two.

  • Pitlove

    what dry food will you be using? What do you think will happen with Boone and his food allergies?

  • InkedMarie

    I do feel raw is best but we are having a big change in life so Boone & Ginger will be going back to kibble next week. I do bad mouth what i feel is crap food whether dry, canned or raw!

  • InkedMarie

    Thanks for trying!

  • disqus_SBl7sCuYS7

    Definitely biased.
    Bad mouthing dog food. You could say the same negative things about raw and homemade diets.
    How many dogs have died due to raw food? Become gravely ill?
    Just because you don’t hear about it doesn’t mean it’s not happening.

  • Susan

    Hi Tyler now start rotating your dogs kibbles & look for other good quality kibbles & freeze dried or air dried raw like Ziwi Peak also start adding some cooked foods to your dogs diet as well… this way your dog is getting a variety of foods & proteins & not eating the same boring kibble 24/7 if that brand of kibble is lacking certain vitamins/minerals, omega 3 fatty acids etc he’s not on the kibble long enough to cause long term health problems..

  • disqus_SBl7sCuYS7

    Is this it? Maybe someone who has seen it on Netflix can tell you if this the same film? I am not interested in watching it.

  • InkedMarie

    Well crap, i thought I’d try to find it tomorrow since it was free. no Netflix here either.

  • Pitlove

    They got Karen Becker, Barbara Royal and Susan Thixon for it. It was pretty much what I expected to hear from them.

  • aimee

    Where did you find it for free. Places I looked wanted to collect money to see it

  • Pitlove

    It is free. I would never pay for this lol

  • aimee

    Did you pay for it or can it be seen without opening your wallet?

  • Pitlove

    I’m watching it right now. I saw Karen Becker and am considering turning it off.

  • aimee

    Nutrience also contains by products. Pretty much anything in pet food is a by product of human food production. Nothing wrong with by products. Lots of nutrients can be found in them.

    . From “Feed Your Pet Right” AAFCO doesn’t define fish so if you see salmon and cod etc in the ingredient list that is likely fish heads and racks.. the “leftovers” of the fish after the fillets were removed. By products of the human fish industry.

  • disqus_SBl7sCuYS7

    I saw parts of the documentary and I am seriously considering cancelling my Netflix subscription because of it. I do not want to support this type of propaganda.

  • Tyler Wyles

    I watched this documentary. Sad because we are the ones who are feeding them and they trust us to give them good food. I was using purina savor but now changing to nutrience grain free sub zero. It’s 5 star and no by products or grain. It is still dry kibble. But a step in the right direction.


  • Sue Forbes

    We just watched this documentary called “Pet Fooled.” It’s on Netflix…it is incredibly eye-opening, and anyone with a dog or cat should see it!! We are looking into food options other than kibble because of it…so far it’s just hard to find raw/dehydrated that is somewhat affordable, but we are going to find a way to switch or at the very least supplement.

    If you are concerned about what you are feeding your dog – by all means, PLEASE watch this!!

    It is despicable what the pet food industry is allowed to get away with in their ingredients, where they are sourced, and how they can market their “food”!!


  • Sherrie

    I fed raw that I made for 15 years to our 4 newfoundlands.
    On the veggie question I put eggs from our chickens ( shell and all) in the blender along with whatever veggies I wanted to add.
    That was poured over the meat in their dish.

  • Susan Skrapits Biesecker

    As a vet tech I have personally been involved in one of their studies. We had several dogs at our clinic involved in the study for the j/d diet. The results were very conclusive – the stuff works. And the amount of time and money Hills SD puts into research is A LOT!!!!!

  • Susan Skrapits Biesecker

    Both brands offer different foods – my last Dane was on SD Duck and potato and lived to 11 and 8 months (long for a Dane)

  • Susan Skrapits Biesecker

    As a licensed tech too my vets say the same with SD and RC!!

  • Susan Skrapits Biesecker

    If you are referring to Blue Buffalo – As a vet tech we tell all our clients that it is the worst food on the market…great marketing campaign – crappy food.

  • Deborah M. Damascus

    The Farmers Dog. Check them out, I’m feeding both my dogs this food, it is shipped in pouches and you put it in your freezer and it is formulated to meet all AAFCO standards.

  • Susan

    Hi, look at Best Dog Foods, 4-5 stars grain free formulas…. Canidae Pure, Taste Of The Wild, Victor, Holistic Select, Earthborn Holistic, Sport Dog Elite is very similar to Victor but cheaper… https://www.sportdogfood.com/dog-food/top-brands/sport-dog-food/

  • Susan

    Most Hills Science diet formulas are chicken same with Royal Canine formulas they do poultry by product, when I asked a Hills nutritionist vet, “what’s with the all the chicken in most vet diets & pet shop Hills Science diet formulas, my boy cant eat chicken”, the lady said chicken is cheap….Victor would be a better pick…Hills & Royal Canine run, it’s not worth all that money for a bag of filler…

  • Lucas Welch

    Sorry but Hills Science Diet is Trash..

  • M.B. Vet tech

    The Veterinarians at the clinic I work for do not recommend Blue Buffalo Dog food. If you don’t mind paying close to the same price, gradually over 1-2 months time, switch your pet over to Hills Science Diet Dog food, Royal Canin dog food. Victor Dog food is also good too, and less costly. Read the labels, some dog foods will say “lamb or bison” on the front of the package just to attract the customer, but in reality the dog food company added chicken or beef into the mix… that’s not good if your an owner who’s trying to get their pet away from chicken or beef. Read the recommended amount/ quantity for feeding your size of pet. I see too many owners over feeding and over indulging their pets and the pet has become obese, needy, and miserable.