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Natural Awakenings Fairfield County & Housatonic Valley CT

The “Healthy” Truth About Canned and Dry Foods

Feb 27, 2014 04:25AM ● By Robert Goldstein VMD and Susan Goldstein

One of the most commonly asked questions we have been asked by pet parents over the past 40 years is whether canned or dry food is better for dogs and cats. Taking food out of the equation for a moment, the critical question is really what the health goals are for individual animal. The underlying motivation of concerned pet parents is consistently whether food plays a role in providing a high, day-to-day quality of life and increased longevity for their animal.


Dry foods are usually more economical and convenient, do not require refrigeration, help exercise the jaw muscles and are more calorically dense. However, they are unnaturally low in moisture (about 10 percent) and lower in protein and are cooked and dried at high temperatures for sterilization purposes. Cooking diminishes the active levels of vitamins, minerals and enzymes and the protein and fats’ nutritional qualities.  Dry foods also tend to require added preservatives as compared to canned food.


Canned foods are higher in moisture (close to 70 percent) and protein, making them generally more palatable and easier to digest. Because of the canning process, preservatives are not required and the food is generally more natural. On the other hand, canned foods are cooked at high temperatures to destroy potential bacteria and pathogens, having a similar adverse nutritional affect on the ingredient quality as dry food.  Once opened, canned foods require refrigeration and per feeding are generally more expensive than dry, especially for large breed dogs.


According to the Association of Animal Control Officials (AAFCO), commercially-prepared pet food must meet or exceed the published Nutrient Profiles for Dogs and Cats to be accepted as a complete food.  Dry and canned food are evaluated through a chemical lens, which sets the required amount of protein (amino acids), fat (Omega-6 fatty acid), fiber, moisture, minerals and vitamins in the pet food.  However, the food’s biological value (defined as its nourishing health benefits) is not part of this chemical lens and is noticeably omitted from this evaluation. A better way to evaluate a food may be through a biological lens taking into consideration the life force, nutritional balance, quality and conscious raw ingredient sourcing along with the AAFCO chemical requirements.


The pet food industry is currently undergoing a positive transformation and companies are taking the lead by producing more biologically-adequate dry and canned foods.  As an example, Blue Buffalo keeps their vitamins and minerals outside the cooking process with their Life Source Bits, allowing them to retain their full nutritional value. Origen is sourcing a variety of raw ingredients from local farms and offering a range of protein similar to what wild dogs and cats would find in their environment.  Many other enlightened companies are also following this path, including using human-grade and organic ingredients.


The first step to a new world of pet food requires a conscious effort to consider your dog or cat’s individual nutritional needs. Ask if this pet food matches your goals and whether it is producing a good end result. Even if the answer is yes, you can add in the following adjustments to your feeding program for optimal results:


A natural, food-derived, uncooked vitamin mineral supplement that has been appropriately dosed for dogs and cats.


A good quality oil rich in Omega 3 and 6 fatty acids, such as those from fish (preferably wild caught) or organic flax, hemp or borage oil.


Finely chopped, preferably raw, organic, colored fruits and vegetables that are loaded with beneficial antioxidants, fibers and phytonutrients, including romaine lettuce, broccoli, carrots, pumpkin, blueberries, cranberries and apples.


Although familiarity breeds comfort and preparing fruits and vegetables may seem like a lot of effort, picture what your life would be like or how you would feel living on heavily cooked food without any fruits or salads.  Fresh fruits and vegetables act as a “life force” spark plug for the immune system and you will see the benefits show up in your animal’s health as you do with your own. So break out your food processor and start chopping and adding fruits and vegetables to your pet’s every meal. 


Future articles will focus upon the controversies surrounding organic foods, feeding raw, dehydrated, freeze-dried, enhanced premixes and home-prepared diets.


Dr. Bob and Susan Goldstein are the founders and co-owners of Earth Animal in Westport. The Goldsteins are the authors of The Goldstein’s Wellness and Longevity Program and Dr. Bob is the editor and an author of the veterinary textbook, Integrating Complementary Medicine into Veterinary Practices.

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