What Does "Complete And Balanced" On Pet Food Mean? - Part 2

What Does "Complete And Balanced" On Pet Food Mean? - Part 2

What Does "Complete And Balanced" On Pet Food Mean? - Part 2

What Does "Complete And Balanced" On Pet Food Mean? Part 2: What Is Complete And Balanced? The Macronutrients – Protein, Fat, Carbohydrates

As discussed in our previous blog post, three main entities are responsible for what relates to being complete and balanced nutritionally for a dog. To examine the nutrient levels required to meet “complete and balanced” status however, we shall focus primarily on the AAFCO nutrient profile, simply due to being the most commercially adopted and internationally recognised.     

Protein and amino acids are first in the profile, with minimum levels for the protein macronutrient presented on a “Dry Matter” basis (the percentage of a nutrient once all moisture is removed – as opposed to “as fed” which is how the Guaranteed Analysis on pet food labels are presented), both for adult maintenance (18.0%) and growth and reproduction (22.5%)3. Interestingly, no maximum values are given. This can only be interpreted as meaning that none have been established. Assuming this to be correct, what therefore is considered an optimal benchmark? Lacking this information, dog food companies are consequently left to determine this themselves.

The next key macronutrient is fat, which again only has a minimum value 8.5% (growth and reproduction) and 5.5% (adult maintenance), but no maximum3. Unfortunately, this only serves to further complicate issues. What, if any, is the most optimal fat and protein ratio?

The final macronutrient carbohydrate, has no stated value, due to not being deemed an essential part of a dog’s dietary regime. This doesn’t mean, carbohydrates are not to be included in a diet, just that it doesn’t need to be.

Based on this information it is possible to formulate a diet, for example for the “maintenance” life stage requirement containing 18% protein, 5.5% fat and the remainder of the recipe containing 76.5% carbohydrate (dry matter basis). Alternatively, carbohydrates could be removed completely from a diet, and a 50:50 ratio of protein and fat used.


Two examples whereby one has a high carbohydrate content, compared to another with none and a significantly higher fat and protein content. Despite these differences both meet the AAFCO nutrient profile regarding macronutrients.

These examples serve to highlight that despite huge variations in the protein, fat, and carbohydrate content in a diet of a dog, both are deemed complete and balanced from a macronutrient perspective.