Count the calories

The key to your pooch’s perfect health is right nutritional balance. Here are various food options and their nutritional values.

Types of prepared dog food

Prepared food can be classified on the basis of its percent moisture as dry food (5-12%), semi-moist food (15-30%) and canned food (70-85%). Dry food?:?They are generally rich in carbohydrates with crude fat at 5-10%. Different types of dry foods for different physiological status are available. They have long shelf life, provided they are properly stored. The concentration of nutrients is high and feed intake is less.

Semi-moist food?:?Semi-moist foods are most acceptable to dogs and moisture content is generally between 15 and 30%. They can be stored for several months with reduced water activity. (Water activity is a measure of the water that is available for bacterial or fungal growth in or on the surface of the food. It is measured as relative humidity at equilibrium and most bacteria will not grow at levels below 0.83 and yeast below 0.6. The low water activity is achieved by the inclusion in the recipes of humectants such as sugar, salt, propylene glycol or glucose which ‘tie-up’ the water).

Canned food : Most convenient to use, highly attractive to dogs, canned products are primarily meat or fish based product or meat, fish and cereal products. These foods are reliable, safe and convenient to serve. They are highly palatable, particularly when carbohydrate is less. Most canned foods are balanced foods with good digestibility. Nutrient density is low because of high moisture content.

Home-cooked food

In developing countries like ours, pets are fed with home made foods. It is therefore essential to ensure that the dietary nutrient requirements are met through such feeding practice. Judicious inclusion of appropriate food items to supplement deficit nutrients can overcome nutritional deficiency disorders and support healthier life. It is imperative to note that salt needs to be supplemented in dog food. However, there are certain skin conditions wherein your vet would have advised to avoid salt, as it would aggravate those conditions.

Common food stuff used for pets

Meat and meat by-products?: Raw lean meat contains 67-70% of water, 20-22% protein and 2-9% fat. Offal meat like liver, kidney, spleen, etc are low in calcium with adverse calcium to phosphorus ratio of 1:15 to 1:30, but are deficit in Vitamins A and D (liver and kidney are exception). Liver is a good source of B complex vitamin with good quality protein but has low iodine content. Fish contain 2% fat with composition similar to lean meat. However, fatty fish contain 5-18% fat. Fish has good quality protein but Vitamin A and D are absent. It has high iodine content with better calcium to phosphorus ratio.

Dairy products?:?Dairy products like cream, skimmed milk, whey, cheese, etc are generally palatable but the lactose (disaccharide) present in dairy product is not well digested as secretion of enzyme lactase is minimal. Also, dairy products are poor in iron and Vitamin D. Hence dairy products in dog food should not be included at high level.

Eggs?:?They are good source of iron, B2, folic acid, B12, Vitamin A and D but lack Vitamin C and carbohydrate: They are poor source of vitamin Niacin.

Cereals and cereal by-products?:?Cereals like barley, oats, rice, wheat, corn, are used as source of energy. They usually contain 12% moisture, 9-14% protein, 2-5% fat and about 70-80% carbohydrate as starch. Wheat, oats and barley have a higher protein content and less fat than rice and maize. In terms of quality of protein, there is little variation among cereals. Cereals are rich in Vitamin B1 and Niacin. The phosphorus is in the form of phytase, hence not available to the extent of 70% to pets.

Fat and oils?:?Butter, lard, tallow are examples of edible fats and oils. The essential fatty acids Archidonic acid is present in small amount. Fats and oil have high energy density. Oils do not have mineral/protein and are rich in vitamin E. Dogs like animal fats as they add flavour and palatability to other foods. Fat used for deep fat frying should not be used for feeding as it may contain peroxides and other toxic materials.

Other animal by-products?: Meat meal, meat and bone meal are examples in this group. Protein quality is variable depending upon the raw material and extent of heat treatment. Ash and mineral content are also variable. Sterilized bone meal is commonly used, which contains 32% calcium and 14% phosphorus.
Vegetables?:?Vegetables can be classified into three kinds, considering their use as foods: whole plant or leaves and stems (e.g. cabbage, cauliflower – not of much feeding value to dogs and cats, high in water, fibre and good source of B vitamins, but cooking destroys B vitamins), roots and tubers (e.g. potatoes, carrots, turnip, tapioca – are rich in starch but cannot be fed raw to dogs and cats) and peas and beans (e.g. green peas, broad beans, soybean – are rich in protein, good source of B complex vitamins. Anti-nutritional factors like Trypsin inhibitors, Heamagglutinin are present in soyabean but are destroyed by heat treatment and produces flatus or intestinal gas flatulence).

So, to keep your canine healthy, opt for a perfect nutritionally balanced diet.

(Prof Dr. V .Balakrishnan, M.V.Sc., Ph.D., is specialized in animal nutrition and heading the Department of Animal Nutrition, Madras Veterinary College, Chennai. He has established an ultra modern mineral laboratory and has devised indigenous RUSITEC (Rumen Simulation Technique instrument).)

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