The three main types of pet foods are dry, soft-moist and canned products.
These vary in a number of characteristics including moisture, cost,
palatability and amount of nutrition delivered per pound of food.
Evaluating a pet food diet should include consideration of all these
factors. In spite of these variations, with today's advanced technology,
all types of pet food products can be formulated to provide complete and
balanced nutrition for dogs.
Which Products Are
The immense number of choices pet owners have when purchasing pet food
sometimes makes it difficult to pinpoint exactly what type of product to
buy. The important criteria to consider in choosing the type of product
are the place the consumer shops, how much money the pet owner would like
to spend and the level of convenience, palatability and digestibility
desired. As long as the product offers 100% complete and balanced
nutrition, the form of the food and the category are simply a matter of
the pet owner's preferences.
Canned dog foods contain between 8% and 15% protein and between 2% and 15%
fat, depending on the type(s) of animal tissue used in the diet. The
moisture content for canned pet foods is approximately 75% (less than
78%). Canned dog foods deliver 375 to 950 metabolizable kilocalories per
pound. Total food consumption is high because of the low caloric content.
The nutrient balance is dictated a great deal by the type of animal tissue
used in the diet. These diets offer the highest palatability and the
highest cost per serving when compared to the dry and soft-moist products.
In addition, canned products are less convenient to serve than other
product types. Once a can is opened, unused food should be stored in the
Most dry dog foods contain 18% to 27% protein, 7% to 15% fat, less than
12% moisture and 35% to 50% carbohydrate (also expressed as N.F.E. or
nitrogen-free extract). These diets deliver between 1,400 and 2,000
metabolizable kilocalories per pound of product. Dry cat foods contain 28%
or more protein, 8% to 24% fat, less than 12% moisture and have 1,400 to
2,000 metabolizable kilocalories per pound of diet.
Commercial dry dog foods were introduced in the United States during the
late 1890s in the form of baked biscuits made with blended grains,
vegetables and meat. Many of the early pet foods were collectively labeled
"dog and cat food diets" and little was known about the
individual nutrient requirements of dogs and cats. However, as animal
nutritionists began to study the nutritional needs of dogs and cats,
certain unique nutrient requirements were established for each species.
Soft-moist dog and cat foods contain approximately 16% to 25% protein, 5%
to 10% fat, about 25% to 35% carbohydrate and 30% water (moisture levels
sometimes go as high as 50%). High-quality soft-moist diets contain
approximately 1200 to 1350 metabolizable kilocalories per pound of
product. Soft-moist dog and cat foods generally offer higher palatability
as compared to dry diets, are convenient to serve and store easily. They
are more expensive to feed than dry diets.
Categories Of Pet Foods
In addition to distinguishing pet foods based on their form, products are
also distinguished more generally based on the criteria of cost, place of
purchase, nutrient density (number of calories per pound) and, to a lesser
degree, palatability and digestibility. Super premium, premium and
non-premium products can all offer 100% complete and balanced nutrition.
No official definitions exist for these categories of pet foods and the
characteristics of products vary from one manufacturer to another. In
general, super premium products tend to be at the high end of the spectrum
for the distinguishing characteristics, premium products fall in the
mid-range and non-premium products tend toward the lower end of the
spectrum for cost and nutrient density. Super premium foods are generally
sold in pet specialty stores and veterinary offices, carry big price tags
and are usually energy dense, or have more calories per pound of food.
Premium foods are traditionally sold at grocery stores but are also
available in pet specialty outlets. These types of products are moderately
priced. Feed stores often carry non-premium pet foods which are very
Some pet foods are designed with palatability as their distinguishing
feature. These products often have kibbles with different sizes and shapes
and carry various flavor claims. They appeal to pet owners interested in
indulging their pet and providing great variety.
Store-brand products are those pet foods sold under the store's name as
opposed to a national brand name. These foods are designed to offer
similar guarantees, ingredients and performance to the nationally
advertised brands at a lower price.
The difference in moisture content among the various types of pet food
impacts the nutrient density of the products or the amount of nutrients
per pound of food. As the water content of the diet increases, the amount
of protein, fat and other essential nutrients decreases. That means the
animal must consume a larger portion of the high moisture products to
receive the nutrition they need.
This difference in moisture content also prohibits a direct comparison of
the nutrient content of one product type to another. For example, a
consumer cannot compare the 12% protein content of a canned dog food to
the 21% protein level of a dry dog food and conclude the dry food will
supply more protein. The serving size for the canned food will be much
larger due to the increased amount of water. Thus, the dog will actually
consume similar amounts of protein with each product. The consumer can,
however, make a fair comparison of the 21% protein content of one dry dog
food to the 30% protein content of another dry dog food and conclude that
the dog will receive more protein by eating the higher protein product.
That is not to say, however, that the higher protein product is
necessarily superior. That would depend on the life stage and lifestyle of
the pet to whom the product is fed. It is generally accepted that dry pet
foods are more economical to feed than the soft-moist and canned varieties
and offer more convenience to pet owners. Dry products also have crunchy
kibbles which help reduce the build-up of plaque and tartar on the pet's
Pet Foods To Meet
Many pet foods are formulated to meet certain specific nutritional needs
of dogs. For example, diets designed specifically for puppies usually
contain higher levels of the nutrients pets need during their period of
rapid growth and development.
Some dog foods are formulated to have higher levels of protein and
calories to provide the extra energy dogs need when they are hunting or
working. Other dog foods are formulated to be lower in calories and fat to
help less active and older dogs maintain normal body weight.
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