, June 25, 2024

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How to Choose Dry Dog Food and Cat Food

  •   5 min reads
How to Choose Dry Dog Food and Cat Food
These five bowls contain different dry foods. (Photo from iStock royalty-free images.)
By Mariana Burgos

In today’s market, pet owners are presented with a dizzying array of choices when it comes to feeding their beloved companions. From vegetarian to raw, grain-free to high-protein, the options seem endless. However, amidst this plethora of offerings, dry dog and cat food, commonly known as kibble, remains a staple for many pet owners.

Nutritional Essentials: Unraveling the Puzzle

Having a comprehensive understanding of pet nutrition is essential in ensuring the well-being of our animal companions. As pointed out by Jane E. Brody in her article in the New York Times website, titled “The Truth About Cat and Dog Food,” it is important to provide pets with a balanced diet that includes proteins, fats, carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals. However, the wide variety of choices available on pet food shelves can be daunting, with significant variations in cost and quality between branded and generic products.

Brody demonstrates that experts knowledgeable about these products indicate that the primary ingredients in most varieties of dog and cat food typically consist of protein, fats, and carbohydrates. Non-premium brands tend to utilize more grains, poultry, meat, and fish byproducts. Despite efforts to find substantial evidence supporting the health benefits and longevity of commercial pet food, the authors were unable to find any credible findings.

Marion Nestle, Ph.D., M.P.H., a human nutrition expert and author of the critically acclaimed  What to Eat, has teamed up with Malden C. Nesheim, Ph.D., a Cornell animal nutrition expert, to write  Feed Your Pet Right, the first comprehensive, research-based guide to selecting the best, most healthy food for your cat or dog.

A dog and a cat eat dry dog and cat food. (Photo from iStock royalty-free images.)

Production Process:

From Ingredients to Kibble

Understanding how dry pet food is made provides insight into its nutritional composition and quality. From the FEDIAF website, the production process, as described in their article, “How Dry Pet Food is Made,” begins with ingredient selection and sourcing.

FEDIAF is the trade body representing the European pet food industry composed of 15 national trade associations and five companies.

It said animal derivatives, such as liver and poultry by-products, along with cereals, grains, and vegetables are chosen and processed to create a dry meal. The ingredients are then mixed, cooked and cooled.

In the extrusion method, the dough is heated under pressure, pushed through a die machine to form kibbles, and then dried and cooled. Alternatively, baking involves rolling out the dough, cutting it into shapes, and baking in an oven. After drying and cooling, kibbles may undergo coating to enhance flavor and preserve freshness before being packaged and distributed.

Separating Fact from Fiction

Several misconceptions surround dry pet food, as highlighted in Brody’s article. While some may believe that premium brands offer superior health benefits, research suggests otherwise. Despite the higher price tags, premium and generic brands often share similar ingredients and nutritional profiles. Additionally, claims of health benefits attributed to specific ingredients, such as antioxidants and omega-3 fatty acids, lack substantial evidence.

Please check at the back of the food packaging, under ingredients, if the kibbles contain food coloring and food flavor. Always avoid pet food with artificial color and flavor. (Photo from iStock royalty-free images.)

Furthermore, the notion that pets require specialized diets, such as grain-free or gluten-free, is challenged by scientific findings. Dogs and cats are capable of digesting grains when cooked, and food sensitivities may not necessarily warrant expensive alternatives. Instead, finding a diet that suits individual pets’ needs, whether premium or generic, is paramount.

Tips in Choosing the Best Pet Food for Your Pet

Based on our research, here are some recommendations for selecting the most suitable dry pet food for your beloved animal companion.

1. Choose a High-Quality Pet Food

Always ensure that the pet food you select is labeled as “complete,” as this indicates that it has been carefully formulated to meet the specific nutritional requirements for your pet. Foods labeled as “supplemental” should only be given as occasional treats in addition to a nutritious diet.

2. Review the Ingredient List

It is important to carefully review the ingredient list on pet food packaging. Look for a protein source listed as one of the first ingredients for dogs and cats. For herbivores like rabbits, prioritize high-fiber ingredients like alfalfa or hay.

3. Consider Serving Size, Not Package Weight

When choosing pet food, pay attention to the recommended serving size rather than the total weight of the package. Opt for food with a lower serving size, as this indicates a more nutrient-dense option that will provide your pet with healthy calories.

4. Select Food Based on Your Pet’s Age and Activity Level

Choose pet food designed for your pet’s life stage and energy level to ensure they receive the appropriate nutritional balance. Senior pet food may include joint health supplements, while puppy formulas are high in protein for growth. For  active pets, select food with a higher protein content.

5. Be Mindful of Treats

While treats can be a useful tool for training and positive reinforcement, it is important to be mindful of the quantity and quality of treats given to pets. Treats should complement a balanced diet and be of high quality. Avoid overfeeding treats and monitor your pet’s overall food intake for a healthy diet.

In conclusion, dry dog and cat food remain a popular choice among pet owners for its convenience and nutritional benefits. By understanding the nutritional requirements, production process, and debunking common myths, pet owners can make informed decisions when selecting food for their furry companions. Whether opting for premium or generic brands, the key lies in providing a balanced and complete diet to ensure pets live healthy and fulfilling lives.

This article also appears in the Manila Standard

About the Author: Mariana Burgos is a freelance artist, writer, and tutor. She has been a solo parent for 17 years now because she is wife to a desaparecido. She and her daughter are animal lovers and are active in advocating not only human rights but the rights of animals as well.

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