We grew up looking at the food pyramid in our elementary school classes. Carbohydrates such as rice and grain were on the bottom. Other food groups, such as fruits, vegetables, proteins, and fats made up the rest of the food pyramid to create a model of a balanced diet.
While most of us will have some version of the human food pyramid forever ingrained in our minds, we don’t often think about what a complete and balanced diet looks like for our dogs – at least not in the same way that we think about our own diets. We hear “complete and balanced” dog food all the time when talking about dog nutrition. What does it really mean when it comes to our dogs' nutrition, and how do we go about balancing it?
Complete & Balanced Dog Food – What It Means
If a dog food is labeled “complete and balanced”, it means that it provides your pet the right amounts (in the right proportions) of every single nutrient that your dog’s body needs: every day, every meal. A food that earns the complete and balanced label is designed to be fed as your dog’s sole diet, as determined by the Association of American Feed Control Official’s (AAFCO) Dog Food Nutrient Profile, or by passing a feeding trial using AAFCO procedures.
The Food & Drug Administration stands by the importance of AAFCO’s standards:
"When you see a reference to either an AAFCO nutrient profile or a feeding trial using AAFCO procedures on a pet food label, you’re better assured that the ‘complete and balanced’ claim is valid. Endorsements and seals of approval from other organizations are not assurances of nutritional adequacy and may be misleading.” - FDA
AAFCO Recommendations and Compliance
Every Just Right blend meets or exceeds AAFCO standards. AAFCO updates The Nutrient Profile for both cats and dogs as new nutritional information from scientific studies becomes available. While it’s true that AAFCO itself doesn’t regulate or test dog food on the market, each state has feed control officials that do these exhaustive checks – most have adopted AAFCO recommendations – and ensure that each pet food company is compliant for manufacturing safety and nutritional quality. (You can even read the feed inspector’s manual for what to check, how to check, and how to enforce these policies.) It’s because of these inspectors’ rigorous procedures that prevent “just anyone” from putting an AAFCO-compliant dog food on the market.
What Does a Complete & Balanced Dog Food Look Like?
Every dog has a different balanced diet unique to them. Anything from changing life stages to different breed sizes can affect your dog's nutritional needs. Senior dogs have different needs than puppies and a blend of dog food that's healthy for your Great Dane probably won't be best for your Pug. For the sake of this infographic, we're talking about the basic nutritional requirements for the maintenance of an adult dog, plus just some of the ingredients Just Right® uses to deliver those balanced nutrients. (For a recommendation that’s tailored for your dog’s nutritional needs, create a blend.)
In short, to ensure your dog has a healthy diet, there are a variety of nutrients they should consume. In fact, your dog’s food pyramid is made of six important nutrients:
Explore the infographic below for an in-depth look at each nutrient and its purpose.
Visit our Ingredients page to get more information about any of our ingredients.
How Do You Make a 100% Balanced Dog Food?
At Just Right, we take balancing the nutrition inside our blends seriously.
When it comes to building your dog’s blend, our nutritionist Sara uses her knowledge of anatomy, physiology and biochemistry. She also understands the nutrient profiles of ingredients, how different nutrients and processes work together, and what biological effects they’ll have within your dog’s body. She considers all those factors in order to provide 100% complete and balanced dog food nutrition for every meal. Each ingredient is specifically selected for the nutrients it delivers. It’s a carefully chosen, carefully calculated process.
It’s always good to know the kind of nutrients that your dog needs, but there’s only so much you can deduce by looking at AAFCO recommendation range or at a dog food label. Why not take the guesswork out? Create a personalized blend of food for your unique dog: complete, balanced and tailored for your dog’s nutritional needs and preferences.
Association of American Feed Control Officials. 2020. AAFCO Dog and Cat Food Nutrient Profiles.
Hand MS, Novotny BJ. 2002. Pocket Companion to Small Animal Clinical Nutrition, 4th Edition. Topeka (KS): Mark Morris Institute.
U.S. Food & Drug Administration. 2016. “Complete and Balanced” Pet Food. http://www.fda.gov/AnimalVeterinary/ResourcesforYou/ucm047120.htm