Dry Matter Basis — A Better Way to Compare Dog Foods

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Without a measuring method known as dry matter basis, it can be very difficult to compare dog foods.

Shopper Using Dry Matter Basis to Compare Dog FoodsThat’s because pet food companies report the nutrient content of their products using something known as Guaranteed Analysis.

In essence, Guaranteed Analysis is the pet food industry’s version of the Nutrition Facts “panel” printed on every package of human food sold in the U.S. and Canada.

The purpose of the Guaranteed Analysis panel is to make it easy for consumers to compare four critical nutrients…

  • Protein
  • Fat
  • Fiber
  • Moisture

However, when used alone, these numbers can be misleading.

That’s because the system used for reporting the percentages fails to consider the widely varying amount of water present in different types of foods. And this can be a critical factor when comparing moist foods — like canned or raw products — with dry kibbles.

Even the Food and Drug Administration warns of the importance of paying attention to this issue on its own website…1

“To make meaningful comparisons of nutrient levels between a canned and dry product, they should be expressed on the same moisture basis.”

Dry Matter Basis Explained

So, when comparing the nutrient content of different products, it’s important to first remove 100 percent of the moisture content from every dog food being evaluated.

This moisture-free approach to stating the true nutrient content of any food is known as dry matter basis.

Let’s say you have a can of dog food listing a Guaranteed Analysis protein figure of 10%. This is the protein content just as it’s fed from the can — what the industry refers to as “as fed basis”.

Doesn’t sound like much protein, does it?

However, what if that same label revealed the product contained 75% moisture? And what if you were to completely remove all that water from the can?

You’d be left with just 25% “dry matter”. 

To determine the amount of protein on a dry matter basis, simply divide the reported amount of protein (in this case, 10%) by the total amount of dry matter (25%) in the can.

Then, multiply the result by 100.

Dry Matter Protein Content = (10/25) x 100 = 40%

That gives you a dry matter protein content of 40% — a lot more than the label’s reported protein content of 10%. That’s four times the amount of protein as indicated by the Guaranteed Analysis.

By the way, this same method for computing dry matter basis works for any other nutrient, too.

Using Dry Matter Basis to Compare Dog Foods

Now, as long as you’re comparing canned food to canned food, dry matter basis isn’t that important.

However, when you’re comparing canned food to dry kibble, the issue becomes critical.

For example, say you’d like to compare two products — a can of dog food with a bag of kibble.

The canned “wet” product lists protein content at 10% and the dry kibble reports protein at 23%.

At first glance, the kibble looks like it contains more protein. Right?

Well, now, let’s use dry matter to level the playing field.

Using Guaranteed Analysis, the wet food shows a water content of 75% and the kibble, just 10%.

Now, let’s remove all the water from both dog foods. Take a look at the protein values after converting the data to dry matter basis…

Guaranteed Analysis vs Dry Matter Basis

The canned product now lists 40% protein, compared to kibble’s 26% figure? The wet food contains much more protein — on a dry matter basis — than does the kibble.

The Bottom Line

On the surface, when reading a package label, canned dog foods almost always look inferior to their kibble counterparts.

However, looks can be deceiving.

So, don’t be fooled by a dog food label’s protein or fat numbers. When comparing the nutrient content of two or more dog foods, be sure to first convert the labels’ figures to dry matter basis.

Footnotes

  1. Interpreting Pet Food Labels“, Center for Veterinary Medicine, U. S. Food and Drug Administration
  • LabsRawesome

    The lowest carb kibble that I know of is Victor Ultra Pro 42 Formula. 17% total carbs. Victor’s site- http://www.victordogfood.com/ I pay just under $40 for 30lbs.

  • Dori

    What are you feeding your french bulldog mix? She should be on a grain free and also white potato, rice free, soy free food. A lot of the reason for a low carb diet is that some carbs and starch foods cause inflammation which is bad with luxating patella and also arthritis. Low carb, grain free will also keep some of the weight off her which is pretty critical with a dog with a luxating patella. I’ve had two dogs with luxating patellas. One was a stage 4 at the age of 8 months and had to have surgery because it was no longer possible to manually pop it back into place. She was a real trouper throughout the process. Her surgeon had told us to keep her on the leaner side because she has a luxating patella on her other back leg but not bad enough to need surgery. She’s now 5 years old and it has not been an issue. I do keep her on the thinner side.

  • LabsRawesome

    .

  • Angie Zapata

    Just found out my dog has Luxating Patella and to feed her a lower carb diet. How do i know how much carb is OK. I used the formula and came up with 45%. Is that too much. She is a french bulldog mix and 38 pounds.

  • Bobby dog

    Glad I popped in and found your link to this calculator!!! :) I am going to post this link on the cat rec thread on the forum section. Thanks for sharing!!!!

  • Betsy Greer

    On a dry matter basis for your formula, I get 57% protein and 25% fat. So, the numbers do look a little high on the fat. Oh, by the way, here’s a nice dry matter basis calculator I just found: http://fnae.org/dmb.html?inputboxm=72&inputboxi=7&button.x=103&button.y=22&button=Click.

    I probably wouldn’t use the Primal exclusively, and would balance it out with fresh lean meats, dark leafy green veggies, etc.

  • Zach

    But the primal pronto turkey recipe has 16 percent protein 7 percent fat and 72 percent moisture. Is the fat still supposed to be high when not going over the 50% thing?

  • Betsy Greer

    I got a little freaked out about the fat the other day in the canned food I was looking at. For raw you could use two or three percent for the ash.

    I just asked my friend Shawna the same question about fat and this is what she told me, “…I do know that 50% fat on a calorie weighted basis is not over the top.. The general rule is that fat should not exceed 50% of the protein (so if protein is 40 on a dry matter basis than fat should not exceed 20 percent). So if a food has 40% protein and 22% fat dry matter than when figuring calories fat will be higher as fat has double the calories per gram as does protein. Additionally Steve Brown in his article in Dog Food Advisor states that the ancestral diet had 44% calories from fat. http://www.dogfoodadvisor.com/choosing-dog-food/raw-dog-food-fat/ Also, if you look at Darwin’s raw, which we know to be a well balanced raw diet, the calories from fat are also 50%. http://www.dogfoodadvisor.com/dog-food-reviews/darwins-dog-food/

  • Zach

    Is the fat supposed to be higher? The primal pronto turkey and sardine doesnt have ash listed, so i played around with it.

  • Betsy Greer

    Then you might prefer to calculate things on a calorie basis. Dr. Tabitha created a nice calculator for that on her website: http://naturalalternativesvet.com/pet-food-label-translator

  • Zach

    I dont understand. I dont take the water out of food. So why would i use percentages without the water?

  • Cara

    when you purchase hills you are also helping to keep their research going, which means laboratory tests on animals that never experience freedom or love. I wonder how much research is going into finding more ways to mask corn and byproducts as healthy meals for carnivores. Kibble must be cooked, destroying the digestive enzymes which the pancreas then needs to boost into overtime to produce.

  • InkedMarie

    Where did you go for vet assistant school where you learned so much about nutrition? Our local community college is now offering a vet asst course but nutrition isn’t part of it.

    :)

  • Shawna

    Several on here have had FANTASTIC results feeding much higher quality foods then the prescription diets to their dogs with pancreatitis — including some raw. Melissa is one of those.

    Prescription diets aren’t necessarily the healthiest diets for dogs with disease but they are a good alternative for vets that can’t give better options for sure!!

  • Shawna

    WHY, is corn an excellent source of protein? What makes it excellent?

  • LabsRawesome

    Hi Name. Plant proteins tend to be more difficult for dogs to digest, are less
    palatable and offer less nutrition. Grains are lower than vegetables on
    the digestibility and nutritional adequacy scale. Protein from meat has all the essential amino acids, plant protein is incomplete, and of low bio availability to a dog.

  • Name

    Pancreatitis can become very severe(even deadly) and expensive to treat. Hill’s I/d and Royal Canin gastrointestinal diets are very bland and still have all of the nutrient requirements your dog needs. I would not take chances with an over the counter food. Remember that they make presciption diets for a reason. A lot of study, research and comparison has gone into making these diets. When you purchase Hills, you are also helping to keep their reasearch going. The bag may seem more expensive, however If you are measuring the food correctly, it actually comes out to the same cost as regular foods. They typically need less of it, and they digest it better, so less comes out the back end :)

  • Name

    I am a veterinary assistant, I have a degree and have been doing this job for 8 years.
    Corn is an excellent source of vegtable PROTIEN! The protein part being the most important part.

  • drsantafe

    I have to keep my dog on a very low fat diet because of pancreatitis. If the Fromm’s chicken is 2% or so guaranteed analysis, but 10% dry matter basis, will this be too high in fat? Very few dog foods show a detailed analysis. My vet would still like her to be on either Hill’s id or Royal Canin.

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  • gspal

    A 500 g of wet dog food pouch of http://www.kennelkitchen.in states Guaranteed Analysis as:

    Crude Protein Min(g/100g) = 7.48

    Moisture Min (g/100g) = 68.99

    Crude Fat (g/100g)= 7.20

    Crude Fibre Min( g/100g) = 3.17

    Calcium Min (Mg/100g) = 219.61

    Iron Min( Mg/100g) = 9.51

    Phosphorus (g/100g) = 1.17

    Would this imply that total protein content of the 500 g pouch is 37.40 g? We need not take moisture content as everything is given weight-wise?

    Again, is there not something wrong about the calcium and phosphorus content? Calcium to phosphorus ratio should be skewed in favor of Calcium. But here it is the other way around.

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  • Betsy Greer

    It’s so fluffy I’m gonna die!

    Dang, that’s a cute puppy! : )

  • Sean Taylor

    Sorry DFCit but you are wrong.

    Take a 33/17 food. On the bag is says G.A. on an as fed basis. As fed means each feeding.

    So like Patty said, if you feed 1c (as fed), 33% of that 1 cup would be protein and 17% of that cup would be fat.

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  • Pattyvaughn

    If you feed 1 cup of food, 33% of that 1 cup will be protein, 17% will be fat. If you feed one pound, 33% will be protein, 17% will be fat. If you feed 100 oz., 33 oz. will be protein, 17 oz. will be fat. If you feed 100g, 33g will be protein, 17g will be fat.
    .

  • DFCit

    No! Your dog neither gets 33% protein nor 17% fat per serve.
    If for example the total weight of the food is 30kg, it is this total bag that has these protein and fat contents.
    For the sake of illustration, let us assume that each serve is 15gram.Your dog gets 0.0165%of protein per serve.This is how I got the value for protein.15gram is 0.015kg/30kg x33%.
    I hope it helps.

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  • LabsRawesome

    Rick, UM I was just saying that dogs have no biological use for grains. I realize that you can’t feed a dog meat only. My 2 eat mostly grain free canned dog food. Fresh food ( Human grade protein) and a small amount of grain free kibble.

  • Rick

    canines in the wild do not eat corn, it’s true, but they don’t eat meat exclusively, as do cats. Dogs do eat carbs and need them, as well as veggies too. An all meat diet is not good for dogs.

  • sharron

    hi
    can someone please explain how does the guaranteed analysis work on a bag of dog – i assume the analysis is for the whole bag – so how much is my dog getting per serving – for an example the acana she is eating now is 33% protein, 17% fat – does this mean every time i feed her she is getting this amount – i feed her 2 x/day
    thanks

  • Bjornwoodpile

    Wild felids simply do no consume vegetable matter for nutrition. They eat grass when they want to force themselves to *vomit*.

    Canids do eat some plants, but usually small amounts of very easily digested fruits.

    Only the small cats eat the vegetable matter in the intestines of their prey – large cats get rid of it before eating. Many big cat documentaries show them doing this.

    Small cats, which tend to scarf down small prey after just busting up the bones, don’t have to digest the tiny amount of seeds or grasses contained in their prey – they just have to *pass* them.

  • Bjornwoodpile

    All living things share a common ancestor, aimee.

    Our dietary requirements are vastly different than a chimpanzee. Like Jackals and Wolves, we share a common ancestor but are different in some very important ways.

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  • Hound Dog Mom

    Most kibble is 10% moisture. Dr. Mike includes a dry matter analysis on each review.

  • Melissa

    How do I determine the water content in a dry kibble? Would it be the moisture content listed under the guaranteed analysis?

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  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1140685339 Betsy Greer

    I don’t think it’s the article that’s misleading as much as it’s the manufacturer.

  • Edy

     so TRUE!!! all big dog companies have their own way to stick it to you!

  • Ned

    I think this article is missleading.
    If I have a can with 16 and 75% of the content is moisture (water) then Im only getting 4oz of dry matter. Therefore Im paying for 16oz but only getting 4oz of food. What they do is they take the total of what you are paying for and dividing it with the protein. Then you are paying for 16oz which contains only 10% of protein off the total weight it makes perfect sense. I dont like to pay for water in my dog’s food. If I want water I get it off my faucet

  • Shawna

    Nice posts Bjornwoodpile!!

  • Shawna

    WOW!!  That is pretty pathetic!!

    Apparently certain breeds of dogs are also affected by a lack (or too low amount) of taurine as well.  Hopefully, the owners of those breeds know this..??

    If we could (in a perfect world) leave science out of the picture and feed our dogs “food”, they’d be a lot better off :)..

  • aimee

    Hi Bjornwoodpile,

    From what I’ve read C. mesomelas is a terminal branch as is C. lupis and they share a common ancester which is why they are both in the genus Canis.

  • Bjornwoodpile

    Is there any evidence at all that Canis lupus familiaris  evolved from  Canis mesomelas?

  • Bjornwoodpile

    Is the pet food industry really going back the arguments from the 1980’s that it’s GOOD to feed our pets really low quality foods, because this is “more ecologically sound”?

    Americans today are eating twice as much meat per person, and more than twice as much dairy per person, as our ancestors did just 100 years ago.

    The amount by which we over eat, as a nation, is more than enough to feed all of our pets adequately.

    World hunger is not a problem of production – we’re burning enough corn in our cars every year to feed enough chickens and pigs to feed our pets.  We’re currently turning soybeans into plastics.  

    World hunger is a problem of resource distribution – some people don’t have the money to purchase food, and so they are forced to go without.  If the price drops low enough for them to afford, the price is lower than production cost.

    When you’re dealing with informed pet guardians, you should be aware – we know hearts and kidneys and liver and tongue and tripe are good for our resident hypercarnivores.  We’re already using those items.

    We just don’t want “protein meal” made from the tumors of cancer ridden steers in their food.

  • Bjornwoodpile

    Dogs and cats mostly eat grass in order to purge or to make up for mineral deficiencies. They do not eat them as part of their normal gastrointestinal functioning.

    Healthy hypercarnivores simply have no need for fiber.  Anyone who doubts this should talk to the Zoo staff the next time they take the kids to see the lions and cheetahs and wolves.  

    Some hypercarnivores can benefit from fiber if they’re suffering from IBD, but that’s not a sensible reason to make it a regular part of the diet of a healthy animal, anymore than human beings should eat mint every day just because it can help settle an upset stomach.

    Dogs and cats are not human beings.  Their systems don’t actually work identically to ours.

  • Bjornwoodpile

    The need for Taurine was made crystal clear in a peer reviewed paper published in 1978.  It took until 1987 (and a lot of rage on the part of people who lost cats because it was missing) for the NRC to start requiring it.

    If only the limits of scientific knowledge were the biggest problem, our pets would be a lot better off.

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  • Mary Kay Office

    Does anyone know why Proctor & Gamble is trying to hide the expiration date on its California Naturals Lamb & Liver dry food? Having had a wonderful pet die of systemic thrombosis from mold in food, I am concerned about the decreasing size of the expiration date that is embedded in the package graphics.

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  • Hound Dog Mom

    Hi Aimee,

    It’s not that I don’t think corn is digestible or usable, I just believe it’s lower quality and less usable ingredient than others that are available (i.e. high quality meat) and that it has a lot less nutrition that other ingredients available. I also have a strong feeling that if the price of corn were to suddenly skyrocket and the price of meat were to plummet companies such as Hills, Purina, etc. would suddenly change their tune when it comes to ingredients, the use of corn is all about price in my opinion and it’s not a superior ingredient. However with said there are many ingredients that I have bigger issues with than corn.

  • aimee

    Shawna,

    NRC simply doesn’t address any diet modification in any disease states. So it doesn’t say to raise, maintain or lower protein.

    Kidney specific diets with controlled protein levels are needed with kidney failure patients when BUN levels rise to the point of causing clinical signs. I just recently read that high BUN contributes to anemia of kidney patients due to a shortened rbc lifespan. I didn’t know that : ) 

    I find no fault with companies that make diets to fill that need.

    I totally agree there is are gaps in nutritional information. Heck I think we probably don’t know as much as we know! This is why I rotate diets and why I add fresh. Hopefully what one diet lacks the other has!

    In regards to taurine it was recognized as a needed nutrient and it was known how much was required. The problem as I understand it was levels were established via purified diets. The problem came about with the intereactions in the diets, especially the proteins, such that levels far exceeding what was established in a purified diet were inadequate.

    Sure dogs can’t digest many foodstuffs without processing… either can humans! Yet we eat these foods all the time. If humans limited their food choices to only those that could be consumed without processing humanity as we know it wouldn’t exist!

  • Shawna

    It’s not that simple aimee..  Yes rice and ?? can be combined to increase the biological value but there is still going to be an excess of amino acids from anything other then very careful combining. 

    I don’t think you can take any one nutrient in a food although.  You have to factor the whole food.  Corn is gentically modified (which MANY have major concerns with).  Corn is very high in omega 6 fatty acids.  Corn has phytates and problem lectins.  Corn has a lower biological value.  Most important however — there is NO nutrient in corn that could not be supplied by a more healthful and species appropriate food.

    Corn isn’t even a good diet for herbivores..  That alone should tell us all we need to know about feeding dogs corn…

  • Shawna

    Hi aimee ~~ I was basing my info on information supplied by nutritionist Lew Olsen.  But I missed the fact that NRC recommendations changed YEARS ago.  My apologies for siting incorrect, for the current time, information.. :)

    What I find interesting however, is that Science Diet, Purina etc don’t follow NRCs suggestions to not lower protein…???  Do they not hold any value in NRC recommendations?  Or do they pick and choose what they want to follow?

    NRC recommendations are based on current “science”.  They can be wrong.  Mary Straus comments on one such error “A good example of how these standards can change is the discovery in 1987 that cats were dying of heart failure due to a lack of adequate taurine in cat food. Previously, the NRC did not recognize taurine as an essential nutrient for cats, and no one knew how much cats required.”  http://dogaware.com/articles/wdjhomemade1.html

    Mary goes on to write “In the Overview section at the beginning of the 2006 edition, the authors admit, “An extensive amount of new research conducted since the previous National Research Council publications on dogs and cats was available for the NRC report, yet several gaps still exist in our knowledge of requirements for specific nutrients.”

    So like HDM, I ask — why do we think “science” can do better then mother nature?  Dogs can’t naturally digest and utilize corn without human intervention — mother nature tells us corn is not an appropriate food for dogs.

  • aimee

    Hi Shawna,

    Just to clarify there is no recommendation to lower dietary protein levels in dogs with kidney disease in the NRC book. Dietary recommendations in disease states are not addresed.

     The only references I could find regading kidney disease and protein  in the NRC book is that protein delpetion may occur during kidney disease due to anorexia and that glycine levels may be increased as the kideys usually convert glycine to serine. pg 114

    P.S. If you go to google books you can search within the book.

  • aimee

    Hi Stuart,

    I love love love the NRC book! It is such a treasure trove of excellent information. I think you have to be a bit of a science nerd to really appreciate all its richness.

    Full Admission… I count myself among the science nerds : )

    I’ve really enjoyed your posts. Hope you continue to contribute here.

  • aimee

    HDM,

    What I got out of this study is that it is a reanalysis of previously analyzed data. The authors are questioning if these particular GMO’s are safe. 

    They conclude that their reanalysis “strongly suggests”  hepatorenal toxicity and are calling for further study using a variety of species and longer feeding times. As they state “Proof of toxicity is hard to decide on the basis of these conditions.”

    They also caution the reader not to apply their results to all GMO varieties.

    I have n/p if someone elects to avoid feeding an ingredient on the basis of it being a GMO ( a personal choice) vs saying things like it isn’t digestible or usable.

  • aimee

    HDM,

    A low Biological value of a particular protein does not mean that the amino acids can not all be well utilized. The amino acids in corn can all be well utilized when blended with other proteins whose AA profiles complement each other.

  • http://DogFoodAdvisor.com/ Mike Sagman

    Hi Stuart,

    Please be assured it was never my intention to mislead readers when I wrote this article nearly 3 years ago. In any case, you make a very good point in your criticism of the way I titled this report.

    So, thanks to your comment, I’ve retitled my article to more accurately convey its message.

    Thanks for your comment.

  • Shawna

    Hi Stuart :)
     
    True, humans don’t make cellulase either but we (are supposed to at least) chew our food making cellulase not necessary.
     
    Cellulose is not the only source (or the best in my opinion) of insoluble fiber..  Not only that but unless the food is processed, the nutrients within the food are indigestible due to the cellulose.  You feed a dog a baby carrot and you are going to get a baby carrot out the other side—-unless your dog is a chewer. 
     
    Grasses are eaten for various reasons.  Some are eaten to purge.  Others are good at killing parasites.  Others are sources of magnesium and chlorophyll etc.
     
    Herbivores — aka cows — don’t make cellulase either.  they rely on their four stomachs and the bacteria within to break down the cellulose in grass they eat.
     
    I have 8 dogs — three are grass eaters while five are not (unless purging).  And as mentioned, cellulose is not the only insoluble fiber.
     
    I actually don’t hold much value in data put out by the NRC..  From my understanding — they recommed lowered protein for all dogs with kidney disease.  I have a dog with congenital kidney disease — symptoms were noticed as early as 6 weeks of age.  She has been on a HIGH protein raw diet since weaning.  She just turned 6 years old the end of June.  She is still in EXCELLENT health..  They KNOW via current research that lowering protein can actually do more harm then good in kd dogs. 
     
    Also, Mike has the below blurb in his article about Dogs and Carbohydrates.
     
    “You see, according to the National Research Council and compared to the other two major nutrients — protein and fat — no carbs are considered essential for a healthy canine diet.1
     
    Dogs don’t need corn. And they don’t need wheat, barley rice or potatoes. 
     
    Dogs simply don’t need any carb-based ingredients — at all.”  http://www.dogfoodadvisor.com/canine-nutrition/dog-food-carbohydrates/
     
    Could you point me in the direction of the NRC study that reports corn is 85% bioavailable please.  Having a dog with kidney disease, bioavailability means everything so I’d really like to see this…
     

  • LabsRawesome

     Stuart, UM I was just saying that dogs have no biological use for grains. I realize that you can’t feed a dog meat only. LOL

  • Stuart

    Good call Addie.  Corn typically eaten by people is high in sugar and lower in starch, whereas corn typically used by pet food manufacterers is low in sugars and higher in starches and protein.  The way the corn is ground and cooked also greatly improves digestibility.  Thanks for your article!!

  • Stuart

    Labsareawesome…that would equal malnutrition, malnutrition, malnutrition.  Sorry, PLEASE find information elswhere than on the internet.  You have been very misinformed.

  • Stuart

    Hi Shawna,
    Thanks for your response.  No, they don’t make cellulase.  Neither do cats or humans.  If they did, they could just be herbivores.  On the other hand, fibre (cellulose), while not metabolically essential, is physiologically essential. Without it, dogs and cats would not have properly functioning digestive tracts.  This is why they have an instinctive desire to eat grass when outside.  Cellulose brings a balance of water into the intestines, as well as a proper paristaltic rhythm (the movement of the GI tract to move food along),  It is also required to create fecal bulk and nicely formed stools.  So yes, dogs and cats both need cellulos ein the diet….specifically undigested cellulose that can pass to the intestines :)
    Also, corn protein is 85% bioavailable as per the studies published in the NRC.
    Cheers, Stuart

  • melissa

     HiLabs-

    What are you feeding these days?

  • Addie

    It seems like the type of corn plays an important role in digestibility, so I don’t think it’s fair to claim the corn in dog food has 87->99% digestibility, unless you know which types of corn are actually in the food. 
    http://jas.fass.org/content/83/1/160.abstract?sid=861d2677-4400-428e-a48f-3fa5f38a175d 

  • Hound Dog Mom

    Labs, corn in dog food makes me want to BARF too. Pun intended. :)

  • LabsRawesome

    This whole corn in dog food makes me want to SCREAM & then BARF. When it comes to feeding dogs, they should have meat followed by meat and then followed by more meat, with some more meat thrown in for good measure!

  • Shawna

    Hi Stuart :)

    Dogs make amylase true — and, if fed a high carb diet they will even start to produce oral amylase to compensate.  However, dogs do not make cellulase.  So, dogs can not digest grains (or vegetables) unless they have been processed by humans first.  Several vets feel that dogs do not make “adequate” amylase (or other enzymes for that matter) to digest carb rich kibbled foods.  Animals eating their “natural” diet would have supplemental sources of enzymes in the food.

    When processed properly — yes, corn is digestible but what HDM was actually referring to was the bioavailability of the food.  Corn has a low bioavailibility.. 

    Corn (and other grains) have enzyme inhibitors (which can be but not always are broken down by extrusion).  They also have phytates and lectins (which are not broken down).  The lectins in corn are particularly problematic. 

    “Sustainability and polution” —- corn is one of the most contaminated crops available….  Corn fed beef are methane producing maniacs…  Speaking of cows — I’m not sure how one can consider corn appropriate for dogs when it is known to be damaging to herbivores like cattle???

    True, fat has more calories but fat is utilized by the body differently then carbs.  Once the glycogen requirements are met — carbs are stored as fat for later use.  A high starchy/carb diet will make you fat unless you burn it off.  Oh, lectins can also make you fat as they bind to insulin receptors..

    Yes, corn and grains definitely have nutrients that are utilized by the body.  However there are far superior and more species appropriate sources of those same nutrients that can and should be used.

  • Hound Dog Mom

    Hi Stuart,

    Actually, wolves generally don’t eat the stomach contents of their prey, contrary to popular belief. They spill the contents to get to the internal organs, the contents are generally only consumed if they eat an extremely small animal and even then you must remember that the contents are already partially digested.

    This is an outline of the study of wolves done on Isle Royal in which it was observed that the wolves didn’t eat the stomach contents of the moose that they killed:

    http://isleroyalewolf.org/sites/default/files/annual-report-pdf/ISRO_annrep05_06.pdf

    The next quote is from the “Hunting and Meals” page from the Kerwood Wildlife Education Center:

    “The wolf’s diet consists mostly of muscle meat and fatty
    tissue from various animals. Heart, lung, liver, and other internal organs are eaten.
    Bones are crushed to get at the marrow, and bone fragments are eaten as well. Even hair
    and skin are sometimes consumed. The only part consistently ignored is the stomach and
    its contents. Although some vegetable matter is taken separately, particularly berries,
    Canis lupus doesn’t seem to digest them very well.”

    From the mouths of the wolf experts themselves, who have observed
    countless numbers of kills: wolves do NOT eat the stomach contents of
    their large prey, and are carnivorous animals. Additionally, Neville
    Buck from the Howletts and Port Lympne Zoological Parks in Kent,
    England, notes that virtually no small carnivore (which includes
    varieties of cats, wolves, wild dogs) eat the intestinal contents of
    their large prey. The contents are spilled in the enclosures and are
    often rolled in by the animals, but very little is eaten (if any is
    eaten at all). His observations can be found in Appendix B of “Raw Meaty Bones” (Raw Myths)

  • Stuart

    Hi Aimee, I agree with you.  As I mentioned in my previous post, you only have to look to the NRC 2006 (the latest edition) to see that dogs and cats both have amylase and other carb digesting enzymes within their GI tract.  While not in the saliva, they keep theirs in their small intestins.  If they didn’t, they wouldn’t be able to consume their prey, who generally have bellies full of carbs when they are eaten. AND as you so keenly mentioned, wild canids and felids SELECT to eat vegetable matter in the wild (great example with the jackal).  Also, just wanted to say well done on your references!!  It is CRUCIAL not to trust everything you read (especially online!!).  If you cite a source, it must be reliable.  That generally comes down to only government publications, educational institution publications and peer-reviewed published literature.  THANK YOU for sharing information responsibly and thoughtfully. Keep up the great work.   

  • Stuart

    Hi Melissa,  interesting point and one I would like to address.  What we need to be concerned with when it comes to ingredients is human demand.  Our population has grown so much and the demand for protein around the world is higher than what can be met with current meat supplies.  We use so much grain (and land space) to feed/raise livestock animals (some estimates say up to 1/3 of global grain supply, but I can’t confirm that with a reference), so that we can then use those animals to feed us and our pets.  What we should do is be cautious and respectful of what we eat.  Know that when we eat a steak or chicken breast, that is only a tiny portion of what nutrients that animal can provide to us.  The “offal” or organs, feet, heads, entrails, etc. are all SUPER nutritious.  It’s not the use of grain in pet food that’s the problem, it’s that we are using our preciously limited supplied of crops to feed animals that we and our pets eat..instead of eating the crops ourselves or feeding those crops to our pets.  Here is an intersting government link to info that describes how since 1980, the per capita consumption of chicken has risen from 16.88 kg/person (1980) to 31.10kg/person (2010). http://www.agr.gc.ca/poultry/consm_eng.htm
    Also, here is an article from the pet food industry (2011) talking about how the supply of poultry is dwindling rapidly.  It talks about how it is the grain-free formulas that are causing the problem, not the use of grain: http://www.petfood-connection.com/forum/topics/are-you-having-difficulty-finding-poultry-products-for-your
    Happy reading!

  • Stuart

    Hello All,
    This is great discussion around nutrients vs. ingredients. Loving it.  In terms of published, peer-reviewed references around digestibilty of nutrients and the nutrient requirements of dogs and cats, you need only look to the NRC (National Research Council 2006 publication on Dog and Cat nutrient requirements).  This is what AAFCO is based on.  There are countless published, peer-reviewed, scientific studies that explain:
    1)Cats and dogs do have the enzymatic capability to properly digest non-fibre carbohydrates (so starches and sugars) and that those enzymes levels are responsive to amounts of carbs consumed.
    2) Corn gluten (corn protein) is over 85% digestible when totally gelatinized (cooked).  In fact, they mention even raw corn starch is 80% digestible.
    Keep in mind, fat is 2.5 times more calorie-rich than starch per gram, so in making formulas, it is a great way to keep calories down, but nutrients high.  Also (not just to pick on corn, but I will), corn is rich in sulphur amino acids methionine and cystine, which are so importan to skin and coat health.  While corn protein is not complete in terms of amino acid profile, what is does provide is very beneficial, digestible and nutritious. 
    At the end of it all, dogs and cats have daily dietary requirements for nutrients (protein/amoni acids, fat/fatty acids, vitamins, minerals and energy), not individual food items.  Food items (so ingredients in a pet food formula) are merely the vehicle to deliver those nutrients.  Many combinations of ingredients can deliver complete and balanced nutrition dogs and cats….and that includes combinations of foods/ingredients that don’t seem to be too popular with people these days (and sadly because we are totally missing the fact that our consumption has drastic and potentially irreversible effects on the environment: sustainability, pollution etc. AND THAT THERE IS NOTHING WRONG WITH THEM NUTRITIONALLY SPEAKING) such as cereal grains (which are vegetables, don’t forget) and organs meats (aka: animal by-products).
    Again, thanks for the good conversation.

  • Hound Dog Mom

    This is a good read about corn. The study isn’t related to digestibility, but links genetically modified corn to liver and kidney disease…another reason to want a corn-free food.

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2793308/?log%24=activity

  • Hound Dog Mom

    Aimee,

    For some reason whenever I try to reply to your post my post disappears..

    You’re correct that corn (when processed correctly) can have a high digestibility. What I meant and misworded in my previous post is that corn has a low biologic value (54) in relation to meat-based proteins (>78). Somewhere on this site Dr. Mike has the chart and biologic value charts with similar values can be readily found. The protein in corn simply is not very utilizable for dogs.

  • melissa

    I am one who has no major problem with some grains in dog food. I will feed one containing corn as part of the rotation from time to time,depending on the dog. However, with the drought conditions reported on the news, and the fact that America’s corn crops have been nearly destroyed, I have to wonder how this will affect dog food-it was reported that prices of corn are up 30-35%. As well, what about the quality of what is remaining and available? I can not imagine that drought conditions will bode well for the remaining corn, whether human or animal consumption.

  • aimee

    HDM,

    Will you post the reference you are referring to when you reported corn as only 54% digestible? Like Stuart I’ve always seen high digestibility reports for corn.

    In this study the starch fraction was reported as >99% and the protein fraction as 87%.

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10461997

    Looking at canids eating method.. grab and swallow I don’t see that salivary amylase would be of any benefit. I would think that levels of salivary amylase is low in all canids even those that eat a omnivorous diet.

    The argument that the presence of salivary amylase dictates the diet would carry a lot more weight if you would cite comparative levels between various canids and show a cooralation between salivary amylase and diet.

     For example a Jackals diet may be nearly 45% plant based. Do Jackals have significant salivary amylase?? I beleive they do not. 

    This paper is a good read though on how canids are physiologically prepared to eat carbohydrates.

    http://ajpregu.physiology.org/content/300/1/R67.full

  • Hound Dog Mom

    Stuart,

    I agree with you on the nutrients per calories, but I believe that the main purpose of this article is to help people understand the difference between protein levels in kibbles versus in canned food. Many people see 8% protein on a canned food and believe it has less protein than a kibble with say 20% protein.

    I also agree with you on the fact that all proteins are not equally digestible, however I disagree when you state “grains are an excellent source of digestible nutrients.” Grains can be an excellent source of digestible nutrients for herbivores and omnivores, yes, but you are forgetting that dogs were designed to eat primarily meat (they have no dietary need for carbohydrates). You say that corn yields digestible protein – corn is only 54% digestible as opposed to quality meats which generally have over 80% digestibility. Corn’s digestibility alone is enough to brand it as a low quality ingredient but then take in to consideration the fact that it is high glycemic, corn in markedly low in nutrients as opposed to other vegetables and grains, it’s highly susceptible to aflatoxin contamination, and corn is one of the most genetically modified crops. Grains have no place in a dogs diet.

    As for grains in general, dogs don’t even normally produce amylase in their saliva (the enzyme used to start the breakdown process of starches and carbohydrates) – due to this fact feeding foods high in carbohydrates places unnecessary stress on the pancreas to produce these enzymes. Dogs also don’t have the appropriate bacteria in their digestive tract to break down starches and cellulose.

  • aimee

    Stuart,

    Technically you are correct. But as you pointed out the gram/1000kcal basis can be a difficult concept to teach the average person to compute and understand from label information.

    I think teaching people to understand dry matter basis is a very good place to start.

     You have probably noted, the different diets are listed by guaranteed analysis, dry matter AND calorie weighted basis.

    As for digestibility I agree with you, unfortunately the companies themselves often don’t have this data. And like you I have no bias against grains in dog food.

     

     

  • Stuart

    Dry matter basis is not “The Only Fair Way to Compare Dog Foods”.  In fact, it’s difficult to understand because dogs don’t actually eat food in dry matter.  There is also the grams per thousand kilo calories or g/1000 kcal method.  This tells you how many grams of a given nutrient are in each 1000 kcals your dog consumes.  Anyway, it’s also a tough concept to teach people, but it’s important to know your title is a bit misleading.  Good job at trying to get the message out about comparing nutrient levels in different pet foods.  Now the key will be to teach people that knowing these levels is irrelevent because they don’t speak to the digestibility of these nutrients.  Just because 2 formulas have the same level of protein, doesn’t mean a dog will absorb 100% of that protein from either of them.  Moreover, we have some HUGE misconceptions about which ingredients (and manufacturing methods) furnish digestible nutrients.  For example, grains are an excellent source of digestible nutrients.  They must be properly ground and cooked (like all ingredients when making pet foods) and can yield digestible protein, vitamins, minerals, energy, and antioxidants (corn is a source of lutein and zeaxanthin…it’s yellow!). Anyway, just my two cents. 

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  • Allie

    You people with dog food issues should really take a look at the Darfood dog food. My dog got diabetes and I did alot of research on dog food. I found Darford to be an amazing dog food. I got his BG’s under control and his skin and fur are so beautiful and shiny again. I wish I would have really paid more attention to the dog food I fed him earlier in his life. Darford has never had a recall and I have heard only good things about the food. I feed my 10 yr. old large breed min pin (26 lb) Darford Turkey and Chicken Zero/G food and he loves it. He has only been eating just that dog food for almost 2 weeks and he doing great. Give a try and see how your dog does… my dog and future dogs in my life are eating just this dog food.

  • http://www.dfwpugs.com/ sandy

    This only gives you the dry matter of each: protein, fat, and fiber.  To get the carbs you must also subtract out ash, which the average ash is 8.

  • Beth

    no this is not correct as the protein, fat, fibre and moisture %’s added together = 51 
    so take the 51 from 100 (which is the 100% in the food) so you will have 49% left this is you answer  

  • http://DogFoodAdvisor.com/ Mike Sagman

    Hi Meagan,

    You multiply by 100 to convert the ratio to a percentage. Hope this helps.

  • Meagan

    Why do you multiply by 100?

  • http://www.brandretailers.com/ lucy_mary86

    Person who has dog they should read this meaningful content or whatever you can say. Totally agree with your point you mention here about dogs food. We need to concern about it. Thank you!

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  • Anonymous

    Ok I didnt know where else to post this.  So when I read the reviews you always talk about AVERAGE protein, carbohydrate, and fat. You rate on whether the numbers are above, below , just average.  But I cant find anywhere as to what the actual magic numbers you are using.  What are the 3 actual AVERAGE numbers?

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  • Michelle

    Thank you so much for all your instructions in deciphering dog food labels. My dog needs to be on a lymphoma-inhibiting, high-protein, low-carb diet. I use a nutritional tracker for him to make sure he is getting the proper amounts of protein, fat, and carbs. When doing the calculations to determine the grams of Protein from the percentage on the dog food label, I’m using the formula: g P = (% P * kcal) / 4

    But when determining the nutritional content of canned dog food, do I use the Guaranteed Analysis percentages or the Dry Matter percentages in the formula above?

    For example:
    Using a Merrick 5 Star Entree can label: Protein 9%, Fat: 4%, Fiber: 1%, Moisture: 81% with 380 kcal/can.
    The Dry Matter Percentages work out to be as follows:
    P: 47%, F: 21%, Fb: 5.3%, Ash: 8%, Carbs: 24%

    So, when calculating grams from percentage, do I use the 9% Protein or the 47% Protein in the formula? Using the entire contents, it works out to be 8.5 grams of Protein per can, while using the dry matter, it works out to be 45 grams of Protein per can. The 8g seems too low and the 45g seems too high for one can, so I really have no idea which is right. I would appreciate it very much if you can answer this question.

    Thank you

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  • Demelash

    crucial but CP-VALUE is not always constant(depend on the maturity of feed).
    ref; . . . .

  • Gordon

    Meagan – I think that adds up to 51% carbs instead of 41% according to Mike’s explanation of dry matter basis calculation arithmetic. You don’t need to include the 10% moisture subtraction after first calculating the dry matter basis on protein, fat and fibre.

    So unless I stand corrected, I think once the dry matter basis has been calculated which you seem you have done correctly, the following calculation is done resulting in 51% of carbs which incorporates the 4.4 repeater % in fibre as fibre is a carbohydrate.

    100 – 25.6 (protein) rounded to nearest decimal – 15.6 (fat) rounded to nearest decimal – 8 (ash) = 49.8% carbs, actually if one wants to be as accurate as possible regarding the rounding up of repeater decimals.

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  • Meagan

    Mike-I computated the dry matter basis for the Diamond Naturals Adult Lamb & Rice. This is the package labels
    Crude Protein 23.0% Minimum
    Crude Fat 14.0% Minimum
    Crude Fiber 4.0% Maximum
    Moisture 10.0% Maximum
    I figured 23/90 * 100 =25.5% protein on dry matter basis 14/90*100=15.5% fat on dry matter basis and
    4/90*100=4.4% fiber on dry matter basis.
    That would make carb content on a dry matter basis 41%.
    Is this all correct?

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  • http://DogFoodAdvisor.com Mike Sagman

    Hi Bev… You’re right. That’s one of kibble’s main advantages. In general, dry dog foods are certainly cheaper than wet foods. But we use dry matter basis because it’s the only way to properly compare meat protein content… not prices.

  • bev

    Granted protein on a percent dry matter basis is higher in the canned food, but you are paying for and filling your dog’s stomach with something that is 75% water. While I have not compared prices for dog food on a dry matter basis, I pretty strongly suspect you would spend less money and your dog would not have to eat so much to get his nutrition with kibble. If you feel your dog needs more protein, perhaps throw a little cottage cheese on top of his kibble, or, easier, buy a dry kibble formulated with more protein. How much protein does a dog require?

  • Diane

    This is very helpful, but causing me some grief. We are supposed to be keeping our dog on a reduced protein diet due to liver and kidney disease, and it appears we have been giving her much more protein than we realized. The labels are also misleading in that they list “guaranteed minimum % protein”, when the actual analysis is sometimes much higher. We are trying to feed her a quality dog food instead of Hills g/d that is almost as low in protein.

  • Kimberly

    I think the information you have provided here is great – I spend a lot of time reading labels and trying to discern what is best for my dogs, but there were things I just didn’t know to look for, nor could I get much guidance from my vet (although I do lover her). I would love to see you do a similar analysis and provide some guidance on commercial cat diets. The more I look at those labels, the more I think commercial cat foods are even worse for cats than those prepared for dogs (or at least, some of them)…..cats are carnivores and if you ever take a look at those ‘special weight loss diets’ for cats….well, I lost sleep over it….I don’t want to give my young cats diabetes…..anyway, great job….food for thought….