Dog Food Label
Puppies have very special nutritional needs. They need calories and key nutrients to grow. Choosing an appropriate dog food for your puppy can be a bit daunting. Especially since there is such a large selection available.
The Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) is a non-profit organization that sets standards for puppy and adult dog food in the United States. These standards are reflected on the dog food labels. However, the labels usually list the minimum percentage of protein and fat and the maximum percentage of fiber, moisture, and ash available in the dog food.
The minimum and maximum percentages can be misleading. For example, the label may say crude fat (min.) 2%. This can be deceptive because it does not tell you how much fat is present in the food. The label gives the impression that it is low in fat. However, it could contain 40% fat. The crude fat (min.) 2% claim would be legitimate because the food does not contain less than 2% fat.
Many amino acids, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and other ingredients important to the proper growth and development of a pup may be missing from the label and the food. The AFFCO includes ten amino acids in the minimum nutrient requirements for dog foods. The protein quality of a food relies on the amino acid content and nutritional availability in the food.
The effect of high temperature processing on the dog food is also not taken into account. The effects on the nutritional values of feeds for livestock have been well documented. Studies concerning the effects of heat processing on dry pet foods are limited. However, research does indicate that it does affect the quality of proteins and vitamins.
Heat Processed vs. Cold Processed
Several studies have reported that heat processing has a negative impact on the nutritional value of amino acids. The raise in temperature during the production of pet foods triggers a nonenzymatic reaction between the sugars and proteins. This reaction is called the Maillard reaction. The Maillard reaction results in the combination of a sugar with an amino acid, making the amino acid unavailable for utilization by the dog’s body. Even though the total protein content may be at an acceptable level, only a fraction of the amino acids are available for use.
Researchers at the Animal Nutrition Group of Wageningen University in the Netherlands studied the effects of pet food drying temperature and time. It was determined that the Maillard reaction reduces the bioavailability of essential amino acids. This results in the amino acids, such as lysine, being unavailable for use by the body. Furthermore, they suggest that foods for growing dogs may be at risk of supplying less lysine than required. A report in the American Society for Nutrition indicates that damage to lysine in canine diets appears to be significant and varies greatly between brands.
In contrast, NuVet Plus wafers are created using cold processing. Low temperatures utilized in cold processing do not trigger the Maillard reaction. The 10 amino acids required by the AAFCO are arginine, histidine, isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan, and valine. NuVet Plus wafers contain these 10 amino acids, plus cystine, tyrosine, alanine, aspartic acid, glutamic acid, and glycine. A high quality supplement, like Nuvet Plus, provides a well-rounded complement of amino acids with greater bioavailability than that found in commercial dog foods.
Vitamins are also essential for proper development and health maintenance of a puppy. The animal body is able to create vitamin D when exposed to sunlight, vitamin K through good bacteria in the gut, and vitamin C. However, the remaining 13 vitamins must be obtained through diet.
A report in the American Society of Nutrition notes that, in addition to the undesirable effects of heat processing on protein quality, it can also decrease palatability and cause a loss of heat-labile vitamins. The AAFCO has minimum requirements for Vitamin B1-Vitamin B3, Vitamin B5, Vitamin B6 , Vitamin B12, and Vitamin D. NuVet Plus contains all of these vitamins, as well as Vitamin K.
Key ingredients like calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, potassium, sodium, potassium, zinc, selenium, and manganese may not be listed or included in commercial dog food. These minerals play basic roles in countless biochemical reactions throughout the body.
Calcium is the most abundant of the minerals, followed by phosphorus. Calcium plays a key role in muscle contraction, nerve transmission, blood clotting, and other bodily functions. Phosphorus also plays an important role in how the body utilizes carbohydrates and fats, and filters out waste in the kidneys.
Maintaining proper calcium and phosphorus levels is a little tricky. Each of the minerals needs to be available at a specific level and both need to be in appropriate amounts with respect to each other. High levels of phosphorus in the body can result in low levels of calcium in the body. If the calcium level becomes too low, the body will start to remove calcium from the bones for other essential functions in the body. The result can be weakened bones and kidney issues.
Commercial dog food companies should meet nutrient standards set by the AAFCO. It is unfortunate that the high temperatures used in processing commercial pet food reduces the bioavailability of amino acids. This causes the percentage of protein listed on a label to potentially be inaccurate. Heat processing also causes the loss of any heat-labile vitamins that may be present.
Cold processing of NuVet Plus wafers circumvents these problems yielding a much higher quantity and quality of bioavailable nutrients. NuVet Plus wafers contain trace minerals that are essential in a canine diet. In addition, NuVet Plus wafers contain a number of vitamins, minerals, and herbs that are not required by the AAFCO. As a result, they are most likely not in commercial pet foods. These additional ingredients greatly benefit canine health.
C. Sue Furman, Ph.D. spent 40 years at several major universities including the University of Maryland, School of Medicine and Colorado State University, College of Veterinary Medicine and Biological Sciences teaching future physicians and veterinarians and conducting research involving nerve and muscle. Learn more about Dr. C. Sue Furman here.