Why Is Palatability Important?
Even if a pet food is formulated to provide all of the essential nutrients required by a dog, it is of little value if the animal will not eat it. Quality pet foods are carefully formulated not only to be highly nutritious but also to be highly palatable.
What Is Palatability?
Palatability is a term used to describe how well a dog likes the taste, smell, and texture of a food. A premium dog-food manufacturer spends a considerable amount of time conducting controlled feeding studies to determine the right combination of ingredients and processing techniques to produce a nutritious, palatable food.
How Is Palatability Measured?
There are two ways to test and measure the palatability of a dog food:
First Bite: The first palatability test is called the “first bite” preference. This measures the dog's first impression of a food's aroma and appearance.
Total Volume: Because the novelty of a new diet can cause highs and lows in first-bite tests, a second test is conducted called “total volume” measurement. Total volume determines the staying power or ability of a diet to maintain the animal's interest over time. This is the dog’s overall choice of a food based on taste, texture, and nutrition for the entire test period.
How Are Palatability Feeding Studies Conducted?
In order to obtain and interpret accurate results, palatability studies must be performed by experienced animal technicians and the data analyzed by research nutritionists. Feeding studies are conducted by offering an animal two bowls of food at the same time. Each bowl contains a different diet that has been carefully weighed and recorded.
The technician observes which food the dog chooses to eat first, and then records that as the first-bite preference. After a specific time period, bowls are removed and any remaining food is weighed and recorded. Diets also are switched from left to right each day of the study to ensure that dogs are not eating one diet simply out of habit.
The total-volume measurement is determined by calculating the difference between the beginning and ending weights of each food. This procedure is repeated using the same two diets with the same group of dogs for five days. At the end of the five-day study, all observations and data are compiled and analyzed to determine the overall palatability of each diet.
What Affects Palatability of Pet Foods?
Dogs are attracted by not only the taste of a food, but also to its sight, aroma, and texture. Dogs are particularly interested in the smell of food.
What Is Liquid Digest, and How Does It Affect Palatability?
Liquid digest is simply protein that is enzymatically broken down into amino acids, which are the building blocks of protein. The enzymatic process reduces large protein pieces to smaller protein pieces and free amino acids. By adding small amounts of acid, the enzymatic or digestive reaction is stopped and a stable liquid ingredient is produced. After a dry-food formula is cooked, formed into kibbles, and dried, the liquid digest is sprayed evenly on the outside of the dry kibbles. This is called “enrobing.” Not only does the liquid digest make the food highly palatable, but it also adds to the overall digestibility of the food.
Is Liquid Digest a Good Palatability Enhancer?
Yes. We use liquid digest made from chicken to enhance the palatability of dry foods and to contribute to the nutritional value of the diet. Some pet foods include flavor enhancers, such as onion powder, which simply mask the aroma and taste of the ingredients and provide no nutritional benefits to the animal.
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Keeping Your Senior Dog Healthy and Active
It depends on the breed of dog, but your pet's senior years generally begin at age 7. Louise Murray, DVM, director of the ASPCA's Bergh Memorial Animal Hospital in New York City and author of Vet Confidential (Ballantine, 2008), tells you what you need to know to keep your older dog spry and happy.
Senior Dog Health: Preventive Health
At this stage, Murray recommends taking your dog to the vet twice a year. "So much can happen to an elderly dog," she says. Your veterinarian can take blood annually to test liver and kidney functions. "Discovering problems early is extremely important," she says. Your vet can be on the lookout for conditions that often affect older dogs, such as anemia and arthritis.
Senior Dog Health: Urination, Bowel Movements, and Appetite
Pay attention to what might be subtle changes in your dog's habits: Is she drinking more water or urinating larger amounts? These behaviors might indicate a liver or kidney problem. Have your dog's bowel movements shifted? This could indicate a digestive issue. Diabetes or digestive problems might cause your dog to eat more but still lose weight. Knowing the dog's patterns can help the veterinarian determine a course of treatment.
Senior Dog Health: Flea, Tick, and Heartworm Medicines
Continue to use preventive medicines.
Senior Dog Health: Dental Health
Clean your dog's teeth daily. If she has tartar buildup, you might need to have her teeth professionally cleaned at your vet's office, which requires sedating your pet.
Senior Dog Health: Exercise
Your dog is probably less active, so steady, moderate exercise is best for her now. Don't turn her into a "weekend warrior" who, after lying around on weekdays, accompanies you on a 10-mile hike on Saturdays. This is especially hard on an older dog's joints.
Senior Dog Health: Diet
Your veterinarian might wish to put your dog on a senior diet, such as IAMS™ ProActive Health™ Senior Plus. These formulations contain nutrients specifically geared toward older-dog health.
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