Did you know that due to ACVN® efforts, calorie content statements are now required on almost all dog and cat food labels in the majority of states?

Posted January 5, 2021


In the United States, calorie content statements are regulated at the state level, most often by the state feed control official. To help ensure uniformity in enforcement between states, the majority of them adopt and enforce the Model Bill and Regulations of the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO). ACVN® has worked closely with AAFCO on many important pet food labeling issues over the years.


In fact, it was ACVN® that introduced the amendment to the AAFCO Model Pet Food Regulations to require calorie content statements on dog and cat food labels. After years of deliberation and debate, the amendment was enacted in 2014. There was a grace period provided to allow pet food companies time to revise their labels accordingly, but at this time, all labels must be compliant, or the company runs the risk of enforcement action by one or more of the states that have adopted the AAFCO Models.


Admittedly, what may appear on the label is often in small print on the back panel and can be difficult to find. ACVN® is continuing its efforts with AAFCO to improve the visibility of this information. In the interim, you should be able to find a “Calorie Content” statement somewhere on the back or side of the package. It is distinct from but probably near the guaranteed analysis or feeding directions.


A proper calorie content statement should provide information on the type of calories (“Metabolizable Energy” or “ME”) and how the calories are determined (“calculated” or “fed”). The amount of calories in the pet food must be expressed in terms of kilocalories per kilogram (“kcal/kg”). A kilocalorie is the same as a standard food calorie, and a kilogram is equal to 2.2 pounds. By requiring all foods to provide this information in the same way, a consumer can easily compare between similar types of products. In addition, calories must also be expressed in terms of kilocalories per familiar household measure or other common unit of feeding, such as per cup, can, or biscuit. This helps the consumer determine how many calories are being fed to the dog or cat.


There are some exceptions to the rule, but very few. Certain types of dietary supplements may not bear a calorie content statement. Also, dog chews, such as rawhides and pig ears, may be exempt from AAFCO labeling requirements under certain conditions. Otherwise, all dog and cat foods, including snacks and treats, need to have the statement on the label. If the product is not exempt and you still can’t find the calorie content statement on the package, the product may be improperly labeled.


Most labels of nationally-distributed products will bear the statement, because even if the state you are in does not enforce the calorie statement requirements, other states will, and it is too expensive for a company to have different labels for each state.


With the help of ACVN®, pet owners and veterinarians in the US now have access to calorie content information for commercially available pet foods and treats. This information is critical in helping determine how much a dog or cat should be fed.




What is a Board Certified Veterinary Nutritionist® and how can your dog or cat benefit from a consultation with one?

Posted July 29, 2020


Many pet owners think of their dogs and cats as family members.  And pet owners want to provide their dogs and cats diets on which they will thrive. This means avoiding diets that do not meet all a dog’s or cat’s nutritional requirements, diets that a pet will not eat, or diets or foods that could be potentially harmful. But with over 125 companies producing dog and cat foods in the United States,1 it can be very difficult to determine which foods are best to feed a dog or cat. If a pet has one or more medical conditions, it can be especially difficult. For many diseases affecting dogs and cats, nutritional modification is an important component of their overall management. A board certified veterinary nutritionist® is a veterinarian who specializes in animal nutrition, is uniquely qualified to help create nutritional plans, and can help manage medical conditions in animals.


A board certified veterinary nutritionist® is a Diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Nutrition (ACVN®). The ACVN® is the AVMA-recognized specialty organization for nutrition. Board certified veterinary nutritionists are veterinarians who have gone on to complete advanced training in biochemistry, metabolism, medicine and veterinary nutrition. Training involves intensive clinical, teaching, and research activities spanning at least two years. After completion of a training program, credentialing process, and a comprehensive 2-day written certifying examination, a board certified veterinary nutritionist® is uniquely trained in the nutritional management of both healthy animals and those with one or more diseases.  Board certified veterinary nutritionists understand the underlying causes and specific nutritional strategies that are used to prevent and treat diseases.  Board certified veterinary nutritionists understand that nutrition is critically important to maintain overall health and ensure optimal performance, as well as to manage the signs and progression of specific diseases. A board certified veterinary nutritionist® is uniquely qualified to recommend specific therapeutic diets, formulate critical care nutrition plans for hospitalized pets, and formulate home-prepared diets to manage the complex medical and nutritional needs of individual animals. Consultation with a board certified veterinary nutritionist® will ensure that a pet is receiving an appropriate diet for their age and size. The nutritional plan can address medical condition(s) as necessary and improve a dog’s or cat’s overall health.


To provide the best diet for a dog or cat, a board certified veterinary nutritionist® can provide guidance through the challenges facing veterinarians and pet owners. A board certified veterinary nutritionist® will provide balanced, customized nutritional plans for individual animals, whether this involves commercial or home-prepared diets.  While recipes for home-prepared dog and cat diets can be found on the Internet and in books written by veterinarians and non-veterinarians with varying levels of nutritional training, the majority of these diets were found to be inadequate when compared to recommendations for nutrient intake using ingredient databases and recent scientific findings.2-5 Nutrition consultations for medical conditions are made generally through a referral from the animal’s primary veterinarian, who also supplies the necessary background medical information for a complete overview of the animal’s current health status. The nutritional plan can address one or more medical conditions, even when commercial therapeutic solutions are not available, and improve overall wellness.




  1. Website: petfoodindustry.com/directories/211-top-pet-food-companies-current-data?page=1 Accessed 03/24/2020.
  2. Stockman J, Fascetti AJ, Kass, PH, et al: Evaluation of recipes of home-prepared maintenance diets for dogs. J Am Vet Med Assoc 242: 1500-1505, 2013.
  3. Streiff EL, Zwischenberger B, Butterwick RF, et al: A comparison of the nutritional adequacy of home-prepared and commercial diets for dogs. J Nutr 132:1698S-1700S, 2002.
  4. Heinze CR, Gomez FC, Freeman LM: Assessment of commercial diets and recipes for home-prepared diets recommended for dogs with cancer. J Am Vet Med Assoc 241:1453-1460, 2012.
  5. Larsen JA, Parks EM, Heinze CR, et al: Evaluation of recipes for home-prepared diets for dogs and cats with chronic renal disease. J Am Vet Med Assoc 240:532-538, 2012.