AAFCO Dog Food Nutrient Profiles

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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

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 fine for your puppy.

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 more stringent guidelines for “growth and reproduction”.

In other words, any dog food suitable for “all life stages” is also suitable for puppies, too.

  • losul

    I guess I never delved into the why’s of it, as I’ve never been willing to feeding my dog raw pork for other reasons.

    But it is a very curious and interesting thing.

  • aimee

    Did you ever find what it was about pork liver that prevented the Cu from being available? What is different between say pork liver and beef liver in how copper is handled in that it can be available from beef liver and not pork? I”m curious to know the answer to that!

  • aimee

    I just used that article as an example as copper sulfate being used in a study in dogs and on to how I find information.

    The study had a control group in which copper sulfate was fed as the copper source to provide as I remember ~ 14 mg/kg DM of Cu in the control diet. The test diet had 1.8 mg/kg DM from I presume the ingredient sources Problems were not reported for the pups on the control diet.

    Each study only gives a snapshot of information. Taken together reasonable conclusions are drawn.

  • losul

    Hi Aimee, I did read that, and have read before to that.

    The vast majority of my dogs organ meats come from non-feedlot beef, with not much depending on poultry organs, and never pork.

  • aimee

    Thanks losul,
    Did you catch the curiosity that Cu from

    some types of liver may not be bioavailable? I haven’t followed that one out to know why that would be. Another research project. : )

  • aimee

    There are gaps in nutritional research. There are studies in which the chosen nutrient level was found to be too low and there are studies that were determined to allow for normal growth. but gaps between them.

    Can you link to the reference and study in which the high level was based on pigs?

    Copper from a natural source can cause liver problems if you have a genetic disorder. It would be very difficult to get a high enough dietary copper level from natural sources to cause liver disease in an animal with a healthy liver and without a genetic disorder due to the concentration in the natural source.

  • losul

    blondebat, I accessed pages 171-173 from here, much as Aimee describd.

    from the link below, click on the first main link. (says page 171)

    https://www.google.com/search?q=nutrient+requirements+for+dogs+and+cats+copper+requirements&btnG=Search+Books&tbm=bks&tbo=1&gws_rd=ssl

    Good point about proper made raw diet, or really any proper whole foods diet for dogs having no need for added copper, and additional supplemented could be detrimental. In my personal opinion, completely I agree with that.

  • blondebat

    I tried The Google Books look up, but the book is not listed. NAP has it but you cannot access pages 171-172

  • blondebat

    That article had nothing to do with the daily requirements of copper in dogs. It only tested what happened when they were with held from copper at all. No news there. Coulda told them that.

  • blondebat

    So, the the safe lower limit cannot be determined either, if the higher limit isn’t determined yet.
    The AAFCO based their number on the pig study.
    copper from meat has little to no chance of causing disease in a healthy liver. It’s the added copper from minerals that is causing the problems. Hence-kibble.

  • aimee

    Hi blondebat,

    Go to google books and search for the book Nutrient Requirements of Dogs and Cats. Once there search in the book. I used the term “copper requirements” Read through pages 171-172 and you’ll find the studies used to base requirements on. When I want to read a study cited in NRC I go to pubmed and search for it.

    Here is one I found by doing that.
    http://jn.nutrition.org/content/121/11_Suppl/S83.long

    Copper in any form can cause problems, including copper from a natural source which is why people with Wilson’s disease are recommended to avoid certain foods like liver.

    Increased copper in the liver can cause disease and liver disease can cause increased copper accumulation in the liver.

    Inherited problems with copper metabolism, Wilson’s in people or copper storage in dogs are examples of copper accumulation preceding liver disease.

    Liver disease from any cause can cause increased copper accumulation in the liver from the liver not functioning normally.

    Finally high dietary copper from any source can cause problems as well. NRC hasn’t established what a safe upper level is because the research isn’t done. AAFCO placed a limit on copper. I don’t know what this number was based on.

  • blondebat

    Hi Aimee, Do you have a link to that study? Also, the processed,chemically added form of copper is what is causing the disease. the natural form found in raw or freeze dried meat is perfectly fine.

  • aimee

    Hi blondebat,

    From the NRC 2006 Nutrient Requirements of Dogs and Cats the requirements are based on studies done in dogs, some of which used copper sulfate as the source of copper.

  • blondebat

    Feed raw. Research raw. It is the best for your dog. Be careful of supplements such as copper which causes liver disease.

  • blondebat

    It has been recently reported that the requiremnt for copper in dogs is based on a government study in PIGS. it has also come to light that copper cause liver disease in DOGS. Be careful you don’t get the raw with added supplements because it contains copper. Feed raw and the dog gets natural copper.

  • blondebat

    Feed raw. Any kibble is death.

  • Pamela Covey

    I have a Boston Terrier with itchy skin issues. My vet had to give her an allergy shot and put her on a daily dose of Temeril, switched her food to Science Diet sensitive skin, and advised me to treat the occasional out break of scratching with a bath and cortaid. I typically bathe her every 2 to 3 weeks using a sensitive skin shampoo and conditioner on her, and try to only buy dog treats that are made from real meat without any other by products, such as chicken jerky, however she does get a greenie about once a week to help keep her teeth clean and her breath from becoming horrid. Haha
    We live on a farm, so during the warmer farming season she does tend to get into stuff like weeds, fields, garden, etc. and get irritated, and that is when the baths may become more frequent and the cortaid comes in handy. I like Doghead shampoo and leave-in conditioner the best. It seems to work well, is gentle in her, and it smells good which is always a bonus. :-)
    I hope that this helps you.

  • Stacey

    Not true, your shouldn’t bathe that often, at least not with shampoos. A mix of apple cider vinegar and water (50-50) to rinse is helps remove allergins etc, but shampooing that often will dry out their skin. I have never had any vet suggest weekly baths and we had a dog for 12 years that was allergic to life, food related and environment. That was never suggested for her..

  • Dog_Obsessed

    Just to clarify, are you asking if they do or asking if Alexis is aware of it?

  • DogFoodie

    Are you aware if The Honest Kitchen offers “kickbacks” to vets who recommend their products?

  • Crazy4cats

    Glad to hear you found a few foods that work!

  • teresa

    Thanks , I actually went to a canine nutritionist and we were able to find a food. The new purina Beyond is grain, wheat and soy free, As for treats we found a few and she is doing much better and will eat these foods. But she is just limited, she can also have Natural Balance Duck and Potato. But ty for the advice its always good to get another opinion.

  • Crazy4cats

    I would be careful recommending foods and supplements for a dog with a health condition if you are not qualified to do so. I’m also disappointed in many vets knowledge of nutrition, but I don’t believe they all prescribe the Rx foods for kickbacks. Unfortunately, I think that is all many learn and they believe it works. Consulting a holistic vet or another vet with more education in nutrition would be best for the poster.

  • Andrew C

    As soon as I hear “prescribed food” that tells me it’s probably not something good. Most vets prescribe food based on the kickbacks they receive, not based on the health of your dog. I would look through the list of Best Grain Free Dog Foods. They will not have wheat, and most will not have corn or soy, either. It’s very easy to find ones that do not contain chicken in that list, because chicken is a common food-allergy in dogs. As for pH balance, I’m not sure where you would find that information, but you can look for ingredients like cranberries, probiotics, and vitamin C.

  • USA Dog Treats

    Hi jersey,

    Increasing vegetables and fruits would be increasing carbs.

  • jersey

    Not true. You can increase vegetable and even fruit intake. It doesn’t have to be fat and carbs. Just be VERY careful which vegetables and fruits you give your dog’s as some are toxic and fatal if ingested..

  • jersey

    I found out that using shampoo made for humans was causing an allergic reaction on both of my dogs. I only use shampoo made for dogs now and the allergic reactions stopped. Itching can also be just an allergy in general. You would need to figure out what that is to help your pet. I have a Shetland Sheep Dog (sheltie) and he has allergies that cause his ears to itch. Sometimes he gets ear infections from the allergy which need medicated drops.

  • theBCnut

    Cooking does NOT necessarily destroy prions, so that is not a valid argument for not feeding raw, but it may lead to a valid argument for being careful of where you get your meat, which we try to advocate anyways. Current practices in raising meat for human consumption(which is the only meat we suggest feeding raw) should limit the very slim possibility of a dog getting a prion disease even further.

  • theBCnut

    http://caninespongiformencephalopathy.blogspot.com/2012/03/canine-spongiform-encephalopathy-new.html

    “The canine species seems to display resistance to prion disease and no single case has so far been reported.7,8″

    http://www.dogsnaturallymagazine.com/rendered-waste-ingredients-far-more-serious-risk/
    To date, no prion disease has been discovered in dogs (though it is doubtful much research has been done to find one).

    http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0050623
    For example, several felid species developed prion disease (feline spongiform encephalopathy or FSE) during the bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) epidemic in the United Kingdom, whereas no canine BSE cases were detected.

    There, just in case this was an actual concern of yours instead of an irrelevant argument, I have provided some links for you to do further reading. You can find many more by googling “prion diseases in dogs.”

  • SabrinaSabrina

    .

  • theBCnut

    Yes, I put it on a public forum, in response to a specific statement. If you had actually answered that question, it wouldn’t bother me a bit, but instead you brought up something else entirely, and you are the one complaining about people answering your irrelevant argument. You are also the only one name calling and acting like a child.

  • SabrinaSabrina

    you put it on a public forum and it seems that you are not interested in an answer. You only want to argue. So, what is really wrong? Are you lonely? Or just a troglodyte?

  • Crazy4cats

    :D

  • DogFoodie

    Right? Geesh.

  • theBCnut

    You see, I DID ask Dogwhisperer. That’s my whole point.

  • SabrinaSabrina

    Maybe you should ask Dogwhisperer…or tell them. Seems like you know it all.

  • theBCnut

    I know what “prions” are, but you seem to be missing the point. Dogwhisperer said “you may be missing parasites in the meat that can be killed with high temperatures.” I was responding to a specific statement, asking a specific question. I really don’t mind one bit if you are afraid to feed a dog what a dog was intended to eat because of some disease they are extremely unlikely to get, but I was wondering if Dogwhisperer was worried about anything specific, LIKE the parasite that dogs can get from eating raw salmon or maybe trichinea from pork.

  • SabrinaSabrina

    It sounds like your dog is comparable to a human trying to eat the toast crumbs off the plate instead of having a piece of toast. That is not good at all.

  • SabrinaSabrina

    Sounds like they are being cheap. Maybe you should think about boycotting this company if they are unwilling to do anything. AAFCO approved does not have anything to do with the size of the food. They are just interested in whether it is able to be consumed by a dog without the dog getting ill. It sounds like your dog is comparable to a human trying to eat the toast crumbs off the plate instead of having a piece of toast. That is not good at all.

  • SabrinaSabrina

    Also, give him a portion of a can of no salt added green beans or peas (depending on the weight of your dog) mixed with his food. That is a low calorie solution and dogs think they are getting a treat. It is inexpensive, too. My dog is not overweight. She is just a large breed at 50 pounds. She had food issues when I first got her and I did not want her to get bloat from eating too fast so I gave her a can of green beans in her food. This slowed her down and filled her up. I did this in the evening and fed her regularly without green beans in the morning. She loves it.

  • SabrinaSabrina

    My dog has such sensitive stomach that I have only found one food she can tolerate without being sick. It is Iams lamb and rice dry food.

  • SabrinaSabrina

    According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), “The term “prions” refers to abnormal, pathogenic agents that are
    transmissible and are able to induce abnormal folding of specific normal
    cellular proteins called prion proteins that are found most abundantly
    in the brain.” (2014). The prions are not parasites, but they are infectious and can be transmitted from raw beef to dogs if the prions are present in the beef.

  • SabrinaSabrina

    And to what temperature do you have to HEAT meat in order to kill the prion that causes the disease? In conclusion, do not feed raw meat to a dog because there are many organisms that may be present that are harmful, but that can be eliminated by cooking to the proper temperature.

  • SabrinaSabrina

    That is because it is a medicated shampoo and your dog had a skin infection.

  • Jaki

    Thanks I will try that. He gobbles down his food in seconds. He gets a 1/2 cup in am & pm. He was over weight and we have to cut his food down as per Vet. At first it was a 1/4 cup twice a day. After he loss the weight we increased it but I am ordering a good puzzle hopefully it will help some. Like you said he will eat until he pops

  • Susan

    Paul Falknor Iams was the founder of the Iams Company..

  • Dori

    Spongiform Encephalopathy is an infectious disease. It is part of the prion group of diseases. Not a parasite at all.

  • Dori

    Cesar Millan is the last person I would take advice on with any issue that any of my dogs have. I have three dogs. One is 15 years old the other two are 5 1/2. I have been bathing them every 8 to 10 days all of their lives as they have been part of my family since very very young. There has never been an issue with any of them in so far as baths are concerned. Yes, if your dog is solely an outside backyard dog than it is advised to bath them less often because they need to keep their natural body oils to help thwart the horrible weather conditions that those poor dogs are exposed to year round. If your dog is part of your family and lives in your home and sleeps on your sofas and on your bed, then they need to be bathed. Health wise it is also to their benefit to be bathed just as it is for humans. Also any and all vets will tell you if you have a dog that has environmental allergies that it is crucial to bath them at least once a week to remove any environmental allergies that they have come in contact with.

  • theBCnut

    Spongiform encechalopathy isn’t a parasite.

  • Susan

    My vet told me to bath Patch every 5-7 days as soon as he starts his scratching & rubbing on my carpet, with “Malaseb” medicated anti fungal shampoo & this stops his itch, I love Cesar Miilan but he’s better as a trainer…

  • SabrinaSabrina

    If he is a fast eater then he does not feel full even if he eats enough. Puggles and many other dogs will eat til their stomachs explode. You have to be sure there is not an underlying medical condition. I suggest getting a food puzzle which allows the dog to eat slower and also have fun.

  • SabrinaSabrina

    My hound came from a shelter and they fed her low quality food. Cesar Millan (Dog whisperer) suggests adding plain, low fat yogurt to dry dog food for healthy skin and coat. I substitute 1/4 of the dry food for the yogurt and after two weeks the dog’s skin is softer and she sheds less. This was in the Summer when shedding was bad.

  • SabrinaSabrina

    That is because the protein molecules take longer for the body to digest and the fiber makes one feel full for a long period of time compared to a low fiber diet. I know this from my own experience on the South Beach Diet.

  • SabrinaSabrina

    spongiform encephalopathy