Cameron County S.P.C.A.

Serving Cameron County Pa.


The Importance of Pet Food Digestibility and Palatability

Posted on March 20, 2011 at 10:14 AM

The Importance of Pet Food Digestibility and Palatability

Written by Dr. Jill Cline, Ph.D.

Digestibility determines how much nutrition a food provides in a given volume, while palatability affects how appealing a food is to the animal. Both of these characteristics are important criteria when selecting the best food for your dog or cat.

What are digestibility and bioiavailability and how are they measured?

A food’s digestibility is the collective proportion of all nutrients in a food that is available to the dog or cat for absorption from the gut (intestine) into the bloodstream. Nutrient bioavailability is the proportion of the absorbed nutrients that are carried to target tissues and are available for use by the body. Because a highly digestible food provides a higher proportion of absorbed nutrients than a less digestible food, digestibility provides one measure of a food’s nutritional value and quality. In general, as the quality of ingredients in the food increases, so will the food’s digestibility and nutrient bioavailability.

Pet food companies measure the digestibility of their products using several tests, most of which include feeding trials. The food is fed to a group of dogs or cats for a selected period of time and the level of undigested matter excreted in the feces is measured and used to calculate nutrient digestibility. Although all reputable manufacturers conduct digestibility tests on their foods, the Association of American Feed Control Officials has not yet established a standard protocol for digestibility studies and does not allow the inclusion of digestibility claims on pet food labels. Commercial foods vary significantly in digestibility and ingredient quality, and so it can be difficult for pet owners to differentiate between super premium, premium and economy products. For example, the labels of two pet foods may have the same ingredient lists and guaranteed analysis panels, but when fed may have substantially different digestibilities (see below).

Total Protein vs. Digestible Protein

The pet food label provides an estimate of a food’s crude protein content on its guaranteed analysis panel. This measure reflects only the total amount of protein and does not indicate differences in protein digestibility between high and low quality protein sources. For example:

Dog Food A contains 21 percent crude protein and is 86.0 % digestible.

Dog Food B contains 23 percent crude protein and is 76.0 % digestible.

Food A: 21g protein/100g diet x 0.86 = 18.1g protein absorbed

Food B: 23g protein/100g diet x 0.76 = 17.5g protein absorbed

Although the crude protein value reported for Dog Food A is lower than that for Dog Food B, Dog Food A’s higher digestibility results in more protein being available to the dog, in a given volume of food.

What factors affect pet food digestibility?

A number of pet food characteristics influence nutrient digestibility. These include:

• Formula: The food’s formula refers to the type and quantity of different ingredients that are included in the product. Because pet food ingredients vary significantly in digestibility, the overall product formula is influenced by the digestibility and nutrient bioavailability of its various ingredients.

• Ingredient Quality: Overall pet food digestibility is increased by the inclusion of high quality ingredients and decreased when poor quality ingredients are included. For example, a pet food’s digestibility is decreased by the presence of poor quality protein, ash, certain types of dietary fiber, and phytate (a component of plant ingredients that decreases the availability of certain essential minerals in the diet).

• Processing: Proper processing techniques, cooking temperatures, and storage procedures support optimal nutrient digestibility and bioavailability. Conversely, digestibility and nutrient bioavailability can be significantly reduced by improper processing or excessive heat treatment. For example, excessive heat damages protein, resulting in decreased digestibility of the protein and reduced bioavailability of certain amino acids. This means that a smaller proportion of the protein is digested and absorbed. Some of the amino acids that are absorbed are also altered in structure (called a “Maillard Reaction”;) leading to a reduced ability of target tissues to use them efficiently.

What is palatability and how is it measured?

Palatability refers to perceptions of a food’s taste, smell, and texture. It is an important food characteristic because, simply put, pets must be willing to eat adequate amounts of the food to meet their calorie and nutrient needs. Unpalatable foods will be rejected, regardless of the quality of their ingredients or balance of essential nutrients. Dogs and cats differ somewhat in the food characteristics that they find desirable. Cats are strongly affected by the aroma of a food and will carefully smell a new food before tasting it. Dogs often prefer foods that are high in fat and include protein from animal sources. For both dogs and cats, the texture, size, and shape of food pieces are important; scientists who study palatability refer to this as “mouth feel”. Finally, in addition to animals’ sensory preferences, scientists who study palatability also consider the pet’s environment and the owner’s reactions to different types and flavors of food.

Similar to digestibility, there are a number of ways that pet food companies assess a food’s palatability. Tests that measure the animal’s preference when initially presented with a new food provide information about the immediate appeal of the food’s smell, appearance and texture. Long-term interest is measured using food preference studies. Each dog or cat is offered a choice of two diets that are presented in identical bowls to the left and right. Surplus food is offered in each bowl and the positions of the bowls are switched daily to account for dogs or cats with right- or left-side preferences. The amount of each food that is consumed at each meal is measured over a period of several days. These tests provide information about a food’s acceptability to dogs and cats over time and its relative palatability when compared with other foods. And, finally, the ultimate test of palatability involves presenting the food to pets in homes, where both the pet’s and the owner’s perceptions of the food are considered.

Selecting a Digestible (and Desirable) Food for Your Pet

Some pet food companies provide digestibility data with product literature or through the company’s customer service web site. However, neither digestibility nor palatability is explicitly reported on pet food labels. Here are a few helpful tips for selecting a food that is both highly digestible and palatable for your dog or cat:

• High quality ingredients that are correctly processed produce highly digestible foods. When digestibility information is available, select a food from a reputable manufacturer that has a dry matter digestibility of 80% or greater. Reject maintenance diets that have digestibilities that are lower than 75%.

• A product that is highly digestible will produce normal stool volumes and well formed and firm feces. In addition, the fecal matter will not contain mucous, blood, or any recognizable components of the food.

• Highly digestible foods result in relatively low defecation frequencies, and bowel movements that are regular and consistent. Foods that are not highly digestible may cause excessive gas (flatulence), loose stools, or diarrhea.

• Your dog or cat should readily consume and enjoy the food, in a quantity that promotes normal growth rate and optimal body weight. There should be no need to entice your pet to eat the food by adding treats, table scraps, or other human foods. An excessive quantity of food should not be needed to maintain your pet’s normal body condition.

Categories: None

Post a Comment


Oops, you forgot something.


The words you entered did not match the given text. Please try again.


Reply MGrodgigoure
5:40 PM on March 28, 2021 
therapie cognitivo comportementale c'est quoi therapie breves bretagne comprar Viagra Viagra Generico en linea , pharmacie angers garde. pharmacie leclerc libourne pharmacie veterinaire amiens pharmacie de garde marseille boulevard national , pharmacie favier amiens telephone. pharmacie grace de dieu therapies breves marseille pharmacie auchan semecourt community colleges near me business Australia pharmacie de garde sens suisse generico cd2e0e0 , therapie de couple gratuit therapie cognitivo comportementale ile de france .
Reply Lmoppitact
9:57 PM on March 23, 2021 - essay writer program write my essay please online essay writers write my essay online
Reply Fjjuutemy
3:09 AM on March 4, 2021 
male viagra pill walmart otc viagra viagra effect on women
Reply HaroldWrota
8:20 AM on March 2, 2021 
????? ?????
Reply buy tadalafil us
8:54 PM on February 24, 2021 
indian tadalafil tadalafil 40 mg from india taldafil
Reply hydroxychloroquine studies
12:46 AM on February 15, 2021 
what is hcq medicine azathioprine hydroxichloriquin
Reply what is plaquenil
9:39 PM on February 14, 2021 
erectile wow video plaquenil side effects erectile clinics cleveland
Reply Labxitact
1:24 AM on February 12, 2021 
levitra vs cialis review miglior sito vendita cialis vipro lifescience cialis
Reply AbcfNiketamma
11:54 PM on February 11, 2021 
viagra interac online discussion on viagra viagra generics canada
Reply JbnvAmism
12:13 AM on February 11, 2021 
payday loans laws in indiana trouble paying payday loans green tree cash advance phone number
Reply Fvfcutemy
7:30 AM on February 10, 2021 
directions for viagra viagra paypal pfizer viagra online
Reply Ahkditact
2:53 PM on February 9, 2021 
walmart pharmacy online canadian pharmacy canada pharmaceutical online ordering
Reply Kbcxdome
10:44 AM on February 9, 2021 
cheap canadian drugs compare prescription prices kamagra oral jelly
Reply dribiagroudge
5:56 AM on February 7, 2021 
cbd oil benefits cbd cbd products
Reply Kuikunoky
5:53 AM on February 7, 2021 
dapoxetine vs viagra viagra for women uk generic viagra 50mg
Reply Nncsutemy
8:15 PM on February 6, 2021 
buy generic viagra paypal canadian generic viagra buy viagra online without prescription
Reply Nncsutemy
4:00 PM on February 4, 2021 
canada drugs direct viagra online online viagra 100mg professional
Reply AqcfNiketamma
12:03 PM on February 4, 2021 
cialis brand 20 mg price comparison cialis cialis
Reply Kbbgdome
8:46 AM on February 1, 2021 
supreme suppliers viagra pharmacies near me viagra without prescription - canada drug prices ’
Reply Fmnfitact
6:10 PM on January 31, 2021 
price of cialis in nz buying cialis on line cialis - but cialis online ’