There are four types of dog foods: canned, dry, semi-moist and raw. To a certain extent, the type of dog food determines which ingredients can be included in the ration, as well as the ultimate cost. Let’s look at each of the choices individually.
Canned diets are sometimes referred to as “wet” or “moist.” There’s a good reason for this – they contain about 75 percent water. These are the common varieties of dog food that line the shelves in grocery stores and pet supply outlets. The percentage of water may seem excessive, but this is not significantly different than the amount of water present in fresh meat or in living animals. It may seem that the water content is designed to provide more filling than nutrients, but there is a reason for this. All canned foods are sterilized by high-pressure steam. The high water content is needed to ensure adequate and uniform heat penetration without burning some areas while inadequately cooking others.
Most meats used in canned foods are ground while they are still frozen. This helps reduce bacterial contamination of the product while promoting efficient grinding. The meat is then mixed with ground cereal, chopped vegetables and micronutrients. It is interesting to note that, for the most part, manufacturers discount the nutritional value of the ingredients and add vitamin and mineral “premixes” to the ration to meet the actual nutritional requirements of dogs. So, despite all the advertising hype of the nutritional value of the ingredients used in a dog’s food, most manufacturers concede that the processing removes much of the wholesomeness and goodness of the ingredients.
The “maintenance” diets are formulated with one-third meat and two thirds cereal, while the “luxury” or “gourmet” diets usually mix two-thirds meat with one third cereal. Even the so-called “all-meat” rations usually have about 10 percent carbohydrates. At this stage, some ingredients are “cold processed” by loading the ingredients directly in the can. Other manufacturers first heat the mixture to about 180 degrees F., which may produce colors and flavors, inactivate enzymes, and cause controlled swelling of starches. The canned ingredients are then sealed and loaded into a pressure cooker and processed.
Dry foods, often referred to as “kibble,” were the first dog foods available commercially. Although they were originally baked on sheets and broken into pieces by a kibbling roller, this process has been replaced by extrusion. Extrusion uses pressure heating and steam cooking to treat the cereal-based product. The usual ingredients for these extruded dry foods include a source of protein (soybean meal, meat, fish, or poultry meal) and a carbohydrate (corn, wheat, barley, fat and vitamins and minerals).
To make dry foods, the ingredients are mixed together and steam heat is added to begin the cooking process. Later, the ingredients are removed to a pressure cooker and the finished product gets extruded and cut into appropriate pieces. At the final stage, the “kibble” can be sprayed with hot fats to increase palatability. The moisture content of these foods is reduced to about one percent by the use of hot air drying. Most extruders have a limitation in the fat content of the ration (8-10 percent) for mechanical reasons, but newer, twin-screw extruders can actually create a high-fat, dry dog food, (30 to 40 percent fat). Even with the old extruders, the fat content can be increased by overspraying the dry food once it is removed from the barrel of the extruder.
Semi-moist dog foods are intermediate between the dry and canned foods in their moisture content. These are the products that often look like hamburgers made for dogs, containing 25 – 35 percent water. It is hard to get much reliable information about semi-moist processing, because pet-food companies still regard this as a closely guarded trade secret. The trick to making a semi-moist dog food is to create a ration that isn’t canned, that contains appreciable moisture, that has a long shelf life, and that is not subject to mold growth. To accomplish this, “humectants” are added to the ration that allows the food to be “moist” yet bind the water so it is inaccessible to microbes. The most common humectants are glycols, sucrose (table sugar), and phosphoric acid.
Raw Dog Food
Raw dog food diets are controversial. But the popularity of the diets — which emphasize raw meat, bones, fruits, and vegetables — is rising.
Racing greyhounds and sled dogs have long eaten raw food diets. Extending those feeding practices to the family pet is a more recent idea, proposed in 1993 by Australian veterinarian Ian Billinghurst. He called his feeding suggestions the BARF diet, an acronym that stands for Bones and Raw Food, or Biologically Appropriate Raw Food.
Billinghurst suggested that adult dogs would thrive on an evolutionary diet based on what canines ate before they became domesticated: Raw, meaty bones and vegetable scraps. Grain-based commercial pet foods, he contended, were harmful to a dog’s health.
Raw dog food diet: What it is
A raw dog food diet typically consists of: Muscle meat, often still on the bone, bones, either whole or ground, organ meats such as livers and kidneys, raw eggs, vegetables like broccoli, spinach, and celery, apples or other fruit, some dairy, such as yogurt.
Digestibility of the food is also important. If the food is palatable and eaten readily, it is a waste if the food cannot be digested adequately. This is a problem with the very cheap diets that contain a lot of cereal grains and fiber as a cost-cutting measure. If you look at the pet-food label, you will find that these foods may meet nutritional recommendations but that the nutrients may not be able to be used. The real trick to making a quality dog food is to process ingredients properly so that the nutrients are digested readily. If this is done, cereals, fruits, and vegetables can be as satisfactory as meats in a dog’s diet.
People Food / Table Food (Raw & Cooked)
We hear quite often “do not ever feed your dog table food.” What should be said is, “Do not feed your dog from the table.” If you feed your dog from the table you will train your dog to beg for food at the table, which may be offensive and inappropriate especially when we have guests. However; it is appropriate to supplement a dog’s daily ration with healthy left over table food. We would not suggest feeding such foods as Doritos, onions, grapes, raisins or chocolate but left over eggs, meats, fish, skins, green beans, carrots, cauliflower, broccoli leaves and stems mixed in with their daily ration can be very healthy for your dog. Ensure you google search a list of unhealthy foods for dogs. One of our recommendations to keep your dog healthy is to keep a Tupperware container in your refrigerator and place healthy people food (leftovers) into that container, then mix your dog’s normal daily ration, being dry, moist or raw, then as a special treat, feed them that mixture. To make feeding mentally stimulating, periodically stuff this mixture into a Kong or femur bone and have your dog work to get its meal. This form of feeding stimulates a dog’s mind, it is an excellent puzzle for your dog. Remember, periodic supplementation with healthy table food can be very beneficial to your dog, just be sure to avoid feeding him from the table.
We also suggest researching the ingredients in your dog’s food to determine if they are optimal ingredients for your dog. More on this subject next month.
Visit http://missouriscenicrivers.com/baddogfoods.html for a list of foods that are dangerous to dogs.
Lastly, don’t forget to feed an appropriate amount of calories for your dog’s daily needs. Refer to our article, “Weight Control For Optimal Health,” to learn how to determine your dog’s caloric requirements.
“Canine Nutrition. What Every Owner, Breeder, and Trainer Should Know” – Lowell Ackerman, D.V.M.
Jeff Woods, CPDT-KA