Have you ever gone to a pet store and gotten confused with the variety of pet foods available on the shelves? Selecting the right form of pet food can be a daunting and confusing task. Pet parents should keep in mind that pets are fed based on their nutritional requirements considering their life stage, activity levels and their size. Most commercial pet foods are available in three different forms i.e., dry, moist and semi-moist/canned. These different forms are divided based on the moisture content in the food. Other differences include the nutrient profile and the advantages and disadvantages of each form. It is important to note that quality is independent of the forms, high-quality foods can be found in all three categories.
Dry foods usually contain 3 to 11% of water/moisture and offers high dry matter (DM) content. It has been produced with a caloric density of 3 to 7 kcal of ME/g food. Dry food particles are usually formed through extrusion; however, baking, flaking, pelleting, crumbling and dry meals are other possible manufacturing methods. When it comes to cost dry foods cost one-third as much as moist and semi-moist foods on a cost-per-calorie basis. These foods are usually acceptable to most pets and have reduced average preference when compared to moist and semi-moist foods. However, the perception that dry foods are superior for dental health is a generalization.
In this category of foods the moisture content varies from 60 to more than 87%. The dry portion of food contains all the non watery nutrients like protein, fat, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals. Small differences in moisture content greatly affect a moist food’s dry matter. Gums and gelling agents are often used to solidify the food and imbibe water in high-moisture foods to preclude “free” water in the container. These varieties are usually high in meat which contributes to higher protein, phosphorous, sodium and fat content. Moist foods usually have higher palatability and are known to rehydrate the body during the summer and also provide higher nutrient value for a smaller serving. Moist foods are packaged in a variety of containers including paper trays, plastic pots and stuffed plastic tubes (“chubs”), in addition to the more popular steel cans and aluminum trays. Moist foods have a low caloric density as fed and typically yield 0.7 to 1.4 kcal metabolizable energy/G food. An additional way of serving moist food is mixed with dry foods to enhance the palatability but once opened ensure that the packet is completely fed or refrigerated to avoid spoilage.
Semi-moist foods have an intermediate water content of 25 to 35%, falling in between that of moist and dry pet foods. These foods use humectants and acidification with simple organic acids to control water activity and inhibit mold growth. This form of food is highly palatable and has an intermediate preference between moist and dry pet foods. Semi-moist foods are usually packed in pouches or wrappers.
Treats are small food rewards that pet parents use for reinforcing their bond with their pets, as training aids and just for fun. Here, the moisture greatly varies based on the form of the treat. Treats should be given considering nutritional requirements of each pet and its important to be mindful that feeding treats should not be more than 10 – 15% of the total diet.
(MVSc, Animal Nutrition, Asst. Product and Techno Commercial Manager) Drools Pet Food Private Limited