This article was written by TOBALIE in cooperation with Mr. & Mrs. Dog

Loving owners of cats and dogs are always engaged to give their pet only the best, and this also applies to dry and wet food. As a layperson, however, you can easily feel overwhelmed when studying the composition of the food on the back of the can or similar. What is behind the analytical ingredients? We find the following information on all feeds, but what do they mean and do they say anything about the quality of the feed?

Analytical ingredients

Ingredients are chemically measurable components of a feed and are measured with the chemical analysis according to Wender (standard procedure for determining the ingredients of feed). They are given as a percentage.

  • Crude protein: Here the nitrogenous compounds are recorded, that means not only protein, but also amino acids and all compounds of a protein-like nature, such as peptides and alkaloids. High-quality protein plays an important role in the nutrition, but no distinction is made here between the different sources of protein (from high-quality to low-quality). Adult healthy dogs need on average 2-6 grams of crude protein per kg of body weight, adult cats three times that per kilogram.
  • Crude fat: This is the information about the components of the food that can be dissolved in the fat solvent. This means all the pure fats and essential fatty acids contained, but also waxes and fat-soluble vitamins. Fats are important because only in this way can the important fatty acids be absorbed and the fat-soluble vitamins be processed. The more fat, the higher the calorie content of the feed. The crudefat content should therefore be adapted to the activity level of the animal. The more active, the higher. (An averagely active dog needs a value of around 12% for dry food, 5% for wet food).
  • Crude fibre: This is the indication of the content of indigestible or non-digestible ingredients of vegetable origin. They are important for intestinal transit, but higher values (over 1% for wet food) reduce digestibility. The more crude fibre, the more “cheap filler” like cellulose. However, as they are very satiating, a higher value can help overweight animals to lose weight. 
  • Crude ash: This is the theoretical value that would remain if the feed were burnt (in an oven at up to 550 degrees). This value indicates the inorganic components (minerals, trace elements, silicates from the soil). The value should be below 10%.  
  • Moisture: Dry food contains up to 14% water, wet food at least 60% (semi-moist food starts at 34%).

However, this laboratory analysis does not provide any information about the availability and digestibility of the nutrients and therefore says nothing about the quality or origin. However, the carbohydrate content can be determined from this information. The energy content, how many calories the respective feed has, can also be calculated in this way.

Furthermore, various substances are added to the feed, but what are such additives?

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Additives are substances, micro-organisms or preparations which are used because of their technological, sensory, nutritional or zootechnical effect on feed. 

  • Technological additives: 
    • Preservatives: These give the feed a longer shelf life and provide protection against yeasts and moulds. Natural preservatives can be sea salt, rosemary, thyme, fermentation (chemical transformation of substances by bacteria and enzymes), sage, oregano.
    • Antioxidants: They protect fat from becoming rancid, but also serve as preservatives. They also protect the cell walls and ensure faster wound healing. Natural preservatives are: Yucca extract, rosemary, linseed, marigolds, vegetable oils, cereal germs, vitamin E, L-carnitine.
    • Stabilisers, gelling agents, …: Emulsifiers, stabilisers, thickeners and gelling agents influence the appearance and consistency of feed and bind water. Binding agents, for example, ensure that fine solids (such as powders) stick together. The best-known binding agent is gelatine, but egg yolk, starch or flour butter are also frequently used as binding agents.
  • Sensory additives: 
    • Colourings, flavourings: Influence the appearance and taste of the feed.
    • Nutritional additives: Vitamins, trace elements are additives with nutritional character.
    • Zootechnical additives: This is any additive that can positively influence the performance and health status of animals or the impact on the environment. For example, digestive micro-organisms.

In contrast to the analytical components, the declaration or composition indicates the quality of the feed. 

What can such a declaration look like?

In the composition, the manufacturer declares the individual components of the feed. This makes it possible to see, for example, whether the stated protein content is of animal or vegetable origin.

The listing is always done in the order of their relevant quantity in relation to the fresh substance, in the case of dry food this means BEFORE processing.

Types of declaration:

  • Closed declaration: Summary of the individual components in groups without specification.
    Example: Meat and animal by-products, fish and fish by-products, vegetable by-products, minerals.
  • Semi-open declaration: Group declarations, but additional specification of individual components in percent.
    Example: 70% meat (of which 60% calf and 40% turkey), 28% animal by-products (of which 60% intestines), 2% minerals.
  • Open declaration: Declaration of all components in the feed with their exact percentage:
    Example: 32% chicken meat, 16% millet porridge, 10% chicken heart, 10% chicken gizzards, 8% carrot, 7% chicken neck, 7%, chicken broth, 7% chicken liver, 2% celery, 1% hemp seed oil, 0.5% parsley, 0.5% dandelion.

The open declaration is preferable, as only with this presentation of the ingredients a meaningful assessment of the quality of the feed is given. 

If you are still unsure whether the food you have chosen is the right one for your pet, consult a nutritionist. They will be happy to help you choose a food that is right for your pet.

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The analytical components of a food provide an important indication of the nature of the food. However, these alone are not enough to judge the quality of the food. A look at the further composition is therefore enormously important in order to feed our pets a healthy and balanced diet.