When it comes to our pets, feeding them the best means helping them to live longer and happier lives.
The pet industry is booming which has led to exponentially more choices when it comes to pet food. With each one claiming to be the best, how do we really know which ones offer quality nutrition?
Select Foods with High Digestibility
Digestibility is arguably one of the most important measures of quality pet food. Digestibility determines the proportion of nutrients that can be delivered by the food. Greater digestibility means higher bioavailability which is the proportion of nutrients the body can absorb. The food can contain many nutrients but if they cannot be digested, they will ultimately end up as very nutrient-rich poop which does not benefit our pets. With a digestible food, your pet should not strain to use the bathroom despite a smaller and more firm stool size. A less digestible food can contribute to excessive gas, runnier stool, and food moving through the digestive tract quicker.
Here’s a simple example of how digestibility can affect the absorbability of nutrients:
|Dry Dog Food||Protein in the Food (%)||Digestibility of the Food||Actual Digestible Protein|
While digestibility claims are not allowed on pet food packaging, reputable brands will offer this information on their website or in consumer brochures. Nutritionists agree that the minimum target for digestibility should be 80%. However, digestibility tests found Dr. Bob’s Wisdom™ Dog Food to far exceed this minimum with 97% digestibility! This is due to the high-quality ingredients and the 3-part air-drying process. When looking for a pet food, always be sure to take a deeper look at the ingredients and processing methods.
Checklist for Finding a Digestible Pet Food
- Transparent brands that will provide digestibility results to their consumers (website, consumer brochures, and/or customer service
- No indigestible by-products in the ingredients. Find foods that source quality animal proteins derived from muscle meat vs feather, carcass, etc.
- No high heat or heavy processing (such as kibble that requires average processing temperatures of 176oF to 392oF). High heat denatures protein making it far less digestible. This means your pet will be receiving far less of the essential amino acids required for the body to function. Select foods that are air-dried, dehydrated, raw, or home-cooked at low temperatures.
Select Pet Foods with High Nutrient Density
Quality foods will offer higher nutrient density. This means that there are a higher proportion of nutrients in a smaller amount of food. The digestive tract of both dogs and cats is shorter than ours and is optimized to receive nutrients with a smaller volume of food. When a food is less digestible and less nutrient-dense, they must consume much greater portions of food to meet their needs. This can overwhelm their system and lead to digestive upset. Alternatively, quality foods will contain more nutrient-dense whole foods that work synergistically to provide more health benefits.
Checklist for Finding a Nutrient-Dense Pet Food
- Find food with higher metabolized energy (ME) coupled with smaller serving sizes. Metabolized energy is the actual energy absorbed by the body. If they are absorbing more energy from a nutrient-dense food, they will require much less food to meet their nutritional needs.
- Look for a greater proportion of whole food ingredients compared to added vitamins and minerals. It is nearly impossible to meet AAFCO requirements without supplementing vitamins and minerals into pet foods. However, higher quality, whole food ingredients provide greater nutrient density. This means a much smaller proportion of vitamins will need to be added to the recipe.
Select Pet Foods with Naturally High Palatability
A high-quality pet food should be naturally palatable to your pet. Palatability is the capacity of a food or an ingredient to stimulate the appetite of dogs or cats to encourage eating and satiety. If your pet is not eating their food, they may not be meeting their nutritional needs. Their sense of palatability may come from a variety of factors such as nutrient composition, smell, moisture, and texture. Given this, it’s no surprise that kibble brands must include many palatants to encourage your pet to eat their foods.
Kibble is processed by extrusion which leads to a decrease in palatability. This explains why kibble brands contribute millions of dollars towards research on how to trick our pets into loving their foods. Fresh and less processed “forms of pet food on the market including raw and frozen, infused, freeze-dried and dehydrated [air-dried] usually do not demand the addition of a palatant.” This is due to the preservation of nutrients, aroma, moisture, and texture. The main takeaway is to select minimally processed foods that are higher in quality and nutrients, and don’t require a lab to make them palatable.
Quality-Kibble: An Oxymoron
When evaluating the elements that contribute to quality food for our pets, it becomes clear that kibble falls short in many ways. Our pet’s food should not meet minimum requirements for digestibility, nutrients, nor should it require cocktails of palatants to be edible. This is what led Dr. Bob Goldstein to formulate Wisdom™ Dog Food. It features all the convenience of kibble but it’s made with a unique 3-step air-drying process with quality whole food ingredients. These factors help Wisdom raise game, across the board with a highly digestible, nutrient-dense, and naturally palatable food. In fact, independent testing shows that dogs prefer Wisdom™ to leading kibble and alternative foods every time!