Copyright (c) 2010 Nick Travis
People tend to treat their pets as family members. This can extend to feeding table scraps or sharing their food with their dogs. All veterinarians will advise against this practice. Human food is almost always inappropriate for proper health and nutrition. Canine specialists recommend a good quality dry dog food, fed in appropriate amounts. This diet has advantages over the other options available to pet owners.
Dry food is less expensive than canned food and does not contain excessive moisture. It can be left in open containers for self-feeding without fear of spoilage. Most dry offerings have crunchy texture that is satisfying for dogs' chewing behavior and can promote improved oral health. There are many options for kibble-type food and the quality range extends from cut-rate low quality brands with questionable ingredients to custom produced, high-price brands with exotic content such as duck or venison. There are even vegetarian brands that use plant-based proteins instead of meat.
The actual protein content of dog kibble varies greatly among brands. Protein makes up only part of the food with the remainder being fiber and filler. The amount and quality of fillers used to increase food volume makes a difference in both nutrition and cost of the food. Some common filler materials are: corn, peanut hulls, weeds, straw, feathers, and corncobs. These fillers have no nutritional value and can promote allergic reactions in sensitive animals. Higher quality products contain only wheat or rice - based filler and high quality fiber sources such as beet pulp. Fiber is required to promote proper stool formation.
The protein source can be one or more of many animal-based products as well as vegetable-based. Meat by-product is the common term for those animal parts not used in food for humans. This can be from chicken, beef, lamb or pork slaughterhouses. Fish packing operations provide much animal food protein and some operations provide animal protein specifically for pet food.
Regardless of the source most protein in dry food is processed or rendered into dry protein with little resemblance to the original source. In most cases this results in a healthy but cheap component for the food product. To make a food more palatable to dogs, various flavors are added or even sprayed onto the product during the final stages of manufacture. Mass-produced products targeted at the low price end of the market exercise less control over of ingredients. Small custom producers generally give the health and happiness of companion animals a higher priority.
Internet research into pet food production will leave many readers worried about their pets' wellbeing. There are government agencies that try to maintain standards for pet food contents and food container labeling. The basic quality of mid-priced to high-end food is good and healthy for animals. The super-low cost products can be of questionable quality at best. One thing pet owners can do is learn what the terms in the list of ingredients actually mean then read the labels closely before selecting a product.
Pet health experts will remind owners that frequent changes can cause digestive problems. If an animal is doing well on a certain brand of food, change just for the sake of change is not justified. It is better to stick with a selected brand of dry dog food as long as the dog is healthy and happy. The same concern applies to the treats you give your pets.