Dog food: What exactly is in it?

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If you take a closer look at dog food labels, you will find information on the “analytical components” of the food, which often begin with the syllable “raw”.

Here you can find out what these values ​​say about the feed and which content of crude protein, crude fat, etc., is recommended.

What should I look for in dog food labels?

In the USA, the manufacturer must provide information on the guaranteed analysis (given in per cent) and the ingredients on feed.

Based on these values, you can judge the dog food more precisely and make a judgment about the content of certain nutrients. 

If you have specific basic knowledge, expressions are often found here that the average dog owner does not know.

We, therefore, want to explain the most important of the analytical components to you. Incidentally, the syllable “raw” in front of the individual information only means that X per cent of this value was found in the laboratory analysis. But based on these values, ​​you can make no statement about the quality, i.e. how usable this nutrient is.

Crude Protein

First of all, let’s look at the crude protein. In summary, this content describes all nitrogen-containing components of the feed and thus essentially the sum of all protein compounds present in the feed.

To a small extent, this test even records B vitamins, for example – precisely because they contain nitrogen. However, the proportion is tiny and, therefore, negligible.

But not all proteins are the same: depending on whether it comes from muscle meat, connective tissue or plant substances, the protein has different usability and digestibility for four-legged friends.

If you only know the raw protein content, you can say nothing about the origin of the protein nor its actual usability.

In principle, dry food for adults and healthy dogs ​​should contain at least 20% crude protein. Canned food for the exact requirements must not have less than 6%, better still at least 8% crude protein, to adequately feed the dogs.

Are you amazed at this difference? It appears enormous but isn’t because wet food contains around 75% water, while dry food only has approximately 10%.

If you remove this water content, you get roughly the same values. Of course, the following also applies here: the dogs will need more of a poorly digestible protein (e.g. connective tissue) than of a particularly easily digestible protein (muscle meat, egg) to meet its needs.

Raw Fat

In principle, all feed components dissolved in an ethereal solution are counted towards the raw fat.

It means here again that the “classic” fats (triglycerides) and possibly other substances are recorded. These include, for example, fatty acids and fat-soluble vitamins such as vitamin A.

Comparable to raw protein, there is also a catch here: based on the natural fat content, you can say nothing about the type and origin of the fats.

This value alone does not provide any clues as to whether the fats in the feed give the dog essential, unsaturated fatty acids or are hardly usable.

Therefore you have to search the product description and composition for information on the oils and fats used or contact the manufacturer directly.

Particularly suitable sources for dogs are animal fats (such as beef and poultry fats) and nutritionally high-quality oils, for example, sunflower, rapeseed, linseed or salmon oil.

How high the crude fat content should be for your dog depends primarily on its activity level and the required performance: For normally active dogs, the natural fat content is around 12% in dry food and about 5% in canned food.

You must select a portion of food with a higher crude fat content for dogs that do ongoing active work (e.g. herding dogs in action). Depending on the activity, this is around 15-30% in dry feed, for example.

Crude Fiber

In the third place, we want to deal with the specification of the crude fibre content. As the name suggests, this is about vegetable fibres; to be more precise, the plant components are almost indigestible for dogs.

These include cellulose, hemicelluloses and lignin. You are probably wondering what they are doing in the food if they are indigestible – the answer is that these plant fibres are urgently needed to support digestion.

Because they stimulate intestinal activity, support the movement of healthy intestinal flora and contribute to the formation of optimal stool consistency.

The crude fibre content, all proteins, fats and ashes are removed with the help of acids and alkalis. It leaves only the indigestible herbal components, the “fibre”.

Logically, meat and offal have no raw fibre content, as they do not contain any vegetable components. Exceptions are the stomachs, which, uncleaned (e.g. as “green rumen”), have plant-based food components of the slaughtered animal.

Therefore, dog food only gets the required raw fibre content by adding fruit or vegetables, for example. It is between 2 and 3.5% in dry food, in canned food, ideally 0.5 – 1%.

The proportion of crude fibre should not be significantly higher. Otherwise, this only unnecessarily restricts the digestibility of the feed. At least you must achieve over 1% in dry and around 0.2% in wet food.

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Raw Ash

Finally, we come to the raw ash. It indicates the sum of all inorganic components in dog food. These inorganic components are the bulk and trace elements (minerals) and, for example, silicas.

The raw ash is determined by heating the feed sample in the so-called muffle furnace to 550 ° C and annealing it.

These are weighed and reported as raw ash. Strictly which minerals are contained cannot be deduced from this value alone, which is why this information would have to be determined using further procedures and listed separately.

Typically, dry fodder has a raw ash content between 5 and 8%. More minor deviations are, of course, possible. If this value is much higher in the leading food, it can make the dog less eager to eat it and possibly take in excessive amounts of minerals.

Of course, they have to meet his needs, but excessive amounts can also lead to an unhealthy oversupply.

Good Analytical Data = Good Feed Quality?

As you have probably already noticed, the analysis data of the food provide you with valuable guidance when choosing the right food for your dog.

Unfortunately, they alone are not enough to fully assess the feed quality. You should also take into account the composition and other information provided by the manufacturer.

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