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

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”.

  • 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.