Commercially prepared dog foods are very commonly used (feeding at eight of every ten dogs). These fall into two main categories: complete diets(the bulk of the dog food sold on the market), and incomplete diets that require meat added to them. Pet foods are also divided into three la groups, depending on their moisture content.
There are three groups of moist foods: frozen, fresh meat or canned meat -products, which are packed as an incomplete diet and are best used as an ingredient in a home-mixed formula where cereals and possibly calcium supplements are added. There are, in addition, completely balanced canned products which have been fortified with minerals and vitamins or a combination of meat, cereals and other ingredients. When buying a moist canned food, read the label to ensure that you are buying a balanced food. Canned foods are usually highly palatable because of their high water and moisture content, which means they are expensive per calorie. Generally they have a poor-quality protein source.
Semi-moist foods are sold in plastic wrappers. They look like chunks, patties or packets of fresh meat and are made from meat, meat by-products, soya beans, vegetable oils, sugar and preservatives. Semi-moist foods are a complete balanced diet, highly palatable, easily digested, with a high kilojoule density. All of these points make them well suited to young, growing or pregnant pets, but for the same reasons they may promote obesity in mature or sedentary dogs. They should not be fed to dogs over six months old. Many of these foods contain a high density of cereals, which may promote allergic skin conditions in some dogs.
Dry foods are a mixture of ground cereals, meatmeal, soya beans, cheese, vegetables and animal fats, with trace ingredients and preservatives. They are usually presented as meals, biscuits or kibbles, pellets or expanded chunks (listed in order of increasing palatability and expense). They tend to have a low-quality protein. In general, dry food products are not very palatable, but they are inexpensive. They are ideal for feeding mature dogs or dogs that tend to become overweight. Their unpalatable nature, coupled with a low protein level, renders them ideal for self-feeding, as the dog is unlikely to overeat and become fat.
The highest number of calories and food value come from high-protein dry foods. This is because moist foods or canned foods contain about 72 per cent water, while high protein dry foods contain only 8 per cent water. Which commercial ration is best? This is difficult to answer, because each dog is an individual, with its individual metabolism. Each commercial ration is different in its make-up. Nutrition is such a complex business that the best method of choosing a dog food is to observe the animal’s performance after feeding one particular food for a period of a month or six weeks. Contents labels on cans are of little use, as they don’t tell you what biological value the meal will have for your pet.
Palatability can be rated in decreasing order: fresh meat or canned, fortified meat, semi-moist foods, canned rations (which have cereal and meat mixtures) and dry foods. Preferences for fresh meat show a ranking from high to low of beef, lamb, chicken and horse meat. Cold meat straight from the refrigerator is generally less acceptable than cooked or warmed meat. Ground meat is preferred to cubed or whole meat. Animal proteins and fats are much more favorably accepted by most dogs than vegetable oils and cereal proteins. Many dogs also like human condiments such as salt, garlic and onions. Some prefer their food soft and wet, while others like it dry and crunchy. Appetite appeal is often moulded by habit.
Complete commercial diets are available in dry and moist form for puppies, working dogs, and geriatrics. Prescription complete foods are available for various health problems such as obesity, pancreatitis, bladder stone formation.