Beyond Kibble

With a growing number of pet food options available in the market today, it can be overwhelming to decipher the differences. As a pet owner or as a pet food manufacturer, one of the most important things to understand is what goes into the labeling of pet foods. Regulations vary, but it is up to the State Feed Control Officials to truly regulate what goes into pet food. However, there is a recognized standard that most go by that has been put together by the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO). AAFCO itself does not regulate or approve products, but it establishes standards for complete and balanced foods. These are the generally accepted guidelines that most companies start with.

These AAFCO standards for a complete and balanced pet food require that “the pet food contain every nutrient that we know the pet needs as specified in the AAFCO Dog Food (or Cat Food) Nutrient Profiles”. These are based on the recommendations of the National Research Council (NRC) for dogs and cats. There is another option for pet foods to pass animal feeding trials using AAFCO procedures, if a product is designed for a particular stage. This allows formulation of products that may or may not meet AAFCO nutrient profiles, such as some that may be used by veterinarians for treatment of particular conditions where the diet needs restricted protein, sodium, etc.

Pet food manufacturers choose ingredients that will let their food reach or exceed these requirements. There are many factors to consider when choosing ingredients, including cost, as well as palatability. Many pet food manufacturers choose to use by-products of other industries as their protein sources. These by-products can be made more usable through processing with heat, or sometimes hydrolysis with enzymes. However, these may not always start out as extremely palatable to pets. In these cases, companies may use enzymes to fully hydrolyze a meat source, which they then coat the kibble with after processing. This improves palatability of the final product. Amylase enzymes may also be used in foods with higher carbohydrate content to help reduce viscosity.

Enzymes can also be beneficial to foods which use fresh meats as their protein sources. These meats need to be broken down in order to be formed into kibble. Enzymes can do this without any chemical additives. Some meats may also cause issues with viscosity in machines, in which case the addition of some enzymes can help material flow better, helping optimize the production process.

In addition to enzymes for pet food processing, some companies are using them as a functional ingredient to aid digestion. In these cases, the enzymes must be added at the end stage in a coating on the kibble. This is because the enzymes will otherwise be destroyed by the heat of the extrusion process. However, enzymes and/or probiotics added in a coating at the end of the kibble-making process can work as a functional dog-or cat- food ingredient which will provide benefits to the pet’s digestive health.

If you have any questions regarding the use of enzymes in pet food, please send us an e-mail!


Why Raw? Helping Digestion in Dogs and Cats

There are over 78 million owned dogs and over 84 million owned cats in the United States.  This contributes to the over $20 billion pet food industry.  If you own a dog or cat, you have surely seen the endless food choices, and there is a good chance that you may not think there is much of a difference.  Dog food is dog food, right?  Don’t they just eat meat?  Dogs are designed to eat meat, but if you look at the kibble that you buy at the store, it likely does not resemble any kind of meat you are familiar with.  This is because even if you have selected a food with a high protein content that is made of meat products, it has been highly processed.  Cooking and processing food to make it into a kibble drastically changes its properties from the state the food would be in if the dog were to eat it naturally.

There is a growing recognition in the pet food industry that these processed foods are not natural for dogs.  This has led to the development of several raw food diets for pets.  While this may sound unappetizing to us as humans, it is actually the way that our pets evolved to eat.  The ancestors of your cat or dog had to hunt for their food, and they did not cook it prior to eating it!  Why feed a raw diet?  Normal pet foods will provide your pet with the recommended levels of protein, fat, vitamins and minerals, but the main thing that processed foods will not include is enzymes.  Raw foods are rich in natural enzymes, but these are denatured when foods are cooked.  Enzymes aid in the breakdown of components of food, helping it to be better utilized by your pet.  Nutritional deficiencies in pets can manifest themselves in several ways, from weight loss to poor skin/coat, to the unpleasant habit of coprophagia.  A raw food diet may help alleviate several problems by helping get your pet back to the way they are naturally meant to eat. Raw filet steak

However, a raw food diet may not be feasible for your situation, or your pet may still have some digestive issues once on this diet.  Enzyme supplementation for your pet is an increasingly well-recognized option to help their digestion.  If they are on a processed diet, enzyme supplementation will help replace the natural enzymes that were destroyed in their food when it was cooked.  If they are on a raw diet, it will give them even more of what they need to properly break down their food so that it can be fully absorbed.  If your pet still seems to have digestive upsets, supplementing with a probiotic may help restore the natural balance of “good” bacteria in their gut.

Whether or not you want to commit to a raw food diet for your cat or dog, adding enzymes and probiotics can drastically help to keep their digestive system in balance!  If you have any questions regarding the use of enzymes or probiotics, or if there are any particular topics you would like to see covered on this blog, send me an e-mail, I would love to hear from you!