Just like the human diet has evolved through the times, so has the food we feed our four-legged friends. From traditional kibble to new, innovative solutions made from plant-based “meat,” here are some things to keep in mind as you choose a diet for your dog.
1’st Generation – Kibble
What is kibble?
Kibble is the traditional dry food often fed to dogs. It’s made from dried, ground-up ingredients and shaped into pellets and usually consists of grains, meat, vegetables, oils, binders, and other additives.
Low moisture content
One of the main issues with kibble is the fact that it is so dry. Imagine eating a bowl full of cheerios without milk or a plate full of saltines without any beverage to accompany it. The lack of moisture in this type of pet food can lead to digestive issues and, if not given enough water to drink, dehydration, which could leave your dog with heart and kidney problems. According to PetMD, wet dog food is more likely to keep your dog adequately hydrated.
“Feed Grade” ingredients
Meat in kibble often consists of so-called “feed grade” animal products. This type of meat is sometimes nicknamed “4D-meat” because it can contain meat from animals that were disabled, diseased, dying, or already dead by the time they arrived at the slaughterhouse. This meat is not approved for human consumption but can be labeled “feed grade” and used in pet food. In a 2016 study, Dr. Andrew Knight, a veterinary professor at the University of Winchester, noted: “Due to expensive labour costs, plastic ear tags are not always removed. Old or spoiled supermarket meat, sometimes without removal of styrofoam packaging (which increases labour costs), may also be used.”
In addition to the meat in kibble not being of high quality, it is usually also highly processed and cooked at very high temperatures, which leads to the kibble being stripped of necessary nutrients and vitamins. A study at the Wageningen University in the Netherlands showed that high-heat drying of pet food can significantly decrease its nutritional value. According to the National Cancer Institute, high-heat processing of meat is also linked to increased cancer risk.
2’nd Generation – Fresh animal products
What is fresh dog food?
Fresh dog food has many definitions, but it often refers to pet food that is either homemade or manufactured using fresh ingredients and sold refrigerated or frozen. It usually contains no (or fewer) preservatives and no “feed grade” ingredients, but rather meat, grains, and vegetables fit for human consumption. It can also refer to a raw-food diet.
More expensive than kibble
A significant downside to fresh pet food is the cost. Because it is less processed and generally has higher-quality ingredients than kibble, the price for this type of food is much higher. Even if you were to make the food at home, the ingredients could end up costing much more than kibble would, not to mention the value of the time you would be spending on cooking for your dog.
Risk of nutrition deficit
Especially with homemade pet food, you need to take caution to ensure your dog is getting all the required nutrients. Dogs require specific amounts of protein, fats, carbs, vitamins, and minerals, and it can be easy to accidentally include too much or too little of something when making your own pet food. A study at the University of California, Davis, School of Veterinary Medicine showed that homemade pet food may be risky. In the words of Jennifer Larsen, lead author of the study and assistant professor of clinical nutrition at the William R. Pritchard Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital at UC Davis:
“The results of this study […] indicate that most available recipes for healthy dogs, even those published in books by veterinarians, do not provide essential nutrients in the quantities required by the dog. It is extremely difficult for the average pet owner — or even veterinarians — to come up with balanced recipes to create appropriate meals that are safe for long-term use.”
When it comes to fresh pet food, especially raw food, it’s important to consider the risk of bacteria and food-borne illnesses. A study by the FDA Center for Veterinary Medicine (CVM) showed that raw pet food was more likely to be contaminated with disease-causing bacteria than other types of pet food tested. The CDC also does not recommend feeding your pet a raw-food diet.
3’rd Generation – Plant-based pet food
What is plant-based pet food?
Plant-based pet food refers to any pet food that does not contain meat or animal products. The proteins and fats in this type of pet food typically come from ingredients such as peas, grains, and vegetable oils rather than from meat and animal by-products. This type of pet food can also contain plant-based “meat” made from plant and yeast proteins. This is where PawCo comes in.
What is PawCo?
PawCo is a brand of vegan pet food based on plant-based “meat” made with plant and yeast proteins. Our meals include all the essential amino acids, vitamins, and minerals and contain healthy, tasty, and nutritional ingredients such as vegetables and vegetable oils in addition to the plant-based “meat.”
Reduced meat-related risks
Because plant-based dog food contains no meat, it avoids the meat-related health risks discussed above, including “4D meats”, salmonella and listeria bacteria found in raw meat, and the heightened cancer risk associated with high-temperature processing of meat. Instead, this type of pet food relies on protein sourced from plants and yeast to provide the required nutrients.
Reduced allergy symptoms
Contrary to popular belief, grain allergies in dogs are very uncommon, and dogs’ most common food allergies have proven to be chicken, beef, and egg. By feeding your furry friend a vegan diet, you may be able to give them relief from allergy symptoms such as loose stool or constipation, gas, and vomiting.
Environmental and animal welfare benefits
In addition to the numerous health-related benefits of a plant-based diet, feeding your dog meat-less meals also helps save the environment and the lives of animals. To learn more about the benefits of a meat-free diet for dogs, read our blog post on the subject here.