Understanding Pet Food Digestibilty
Pet food digestibility is a key component in helping to evaluate quality. It is often overlooked as a simple, yet effective companion, to ingredient analysis when determining if your pet’s food is good enough to eat.
Understanding the basics of dog food digestibility can easily help you evaluate the quality of a food. This is good information to examine once you’ve reviewed the ingredients panel in your quest to find the best dog food.
There are two key pieces of information which give you important clues about the digestibility, and quality, of a dog food. The first is reflected in the Feeding Guidelines. The second is noted as a standardized measurement known as Metabolizable Energy.
We’ll concentrate on Feeding Guidelines, since they are readily available on every bag of food.
A third piece, Guaranteed Analysis, is often misinterpreted for quality comparisons and dog food ratings. Guaranteed Analysis, while universal, provides much less useful information about quality than Feeding Guidelines or ME.
Feeding Guidelines Relate to Dog Food Digestibility
Feeding guidelines are found on every bag of pet food. This information is provided by the manufacturer. It tells you how much food should be fed to provide the minimum daily nutritional requirements for a dog of a particular weight.
Some feeding guidelines vary based on both weight and activity level. Puppy and kitten feeding guidelines vary based on age as well. For simplicity’s sake, we’ll confine our adventure to adult formulas.
While Feeding Guidelines provide important information, keep in mind that it is a guideline, not gospel. It provides an excellent starting point for feeding a particular food. Your pet may need more, or less, of the food to maintain weight.
You can read a bit more about Feeding Guidelines here.
Let’s take a look at how ingredient quality relates to feeding guidelines and pet food digestibility.
Ingredient Quality Relates to Dog Food Digestibility
The minimum daily nutrition requirements for a dog are set by AAFCO. You can learn more about AAFCO here. Let’s use an easily understood comparison between the nutritional content of a steak vs. a rawhide bone. Both come from a cow, and both can be considered beef. Obviously, both have a very different nutritional value.
For the sake of this example, let’s say that rawhide contains the same “nutritional profile” as steak, but in much smaller percentages. You’d need to consume much more rawhide to get the same nutrients as provided in a small serving of steak.
Looking at it a bit more realistically, compare the nutritional value of a 1/2 pound hamburger to an 8 oz lean cut of steak. You’ll get better nutritional value from the steak, since the burger can contain more fat, gristle, bone and other exciting animal entities.
When a food uses a lower quality ingredient, your dog must consume more of that lower quality ingredient to meet the minimum nutritional requirement. Your dog’s system works harder to process a larger volume of the food to get those daily nutrients. Dog food digestibility suffers. You get to pick up more of the undigested “end products” .