Ensuring quality food for domestic animals is an increasingly important concern for both pet owners and producers.
Between 2013 and 2018, almost 7 million domestic animals were registered in Brazil, according to IBGE and Instituto Pet Brasil. This report also revealed the preference of families for dogs, there are more than 54 million dogs in all regions of the country. However, it was the number of cats that increased the most in the period surveyed, there were more than 23 million cats in Brazil back in 2018.
These big numbers represent the growth of the domestic animal population in Brazil and support the development of the PET products market, which, in 2018 alone, was responsible for more than R$ 34 billion in the economy. More than R$ 15 billion was spent just on food!
The opportunity for pet food producers to gain a share of this market is evident. But just as important as selling, it is necessary to offer products that guarantee quality food for dogs and cats. People are willing to prove their love by spending more and more money on domestic animals.
In order to develop and deliver adequate pet food for the health and well-being of PETs, much care is required. It is necessary that producers know the nutritional needs of each species and choose the best ingredients so that their products are part of a balanced diet for animals since there are several options for composition such as beef, chicken, swine, fish, cereals, vegetables, vitamins and minerals.
Below you will read more about the nutrition of dogs and cats and how their demands for nutrients should be considered for the correct formulation of feed.
Dogs’ nutritional needs
As with all domestic animals, dogs need a balanced diet to have a healthier life.
Below, we list the essential components of the diet of these domestic animals.
Proteins: they have the function of constituting muscle tissues, transporting substances, and enable communication between organs, in addition to strengthening the immune system. They can be of vegetable or animal origin (which has high biological value).
While they are puppies, dogs need to grow. In their last years of life, when they tend to lose muscle mass, they need to compensate for this loss. Therefore, in these phases, the feed must be rich in proteins to meet these animal needs.
Besides that, according to the guide “Your dog’s nutritional needs” prepared by the National Research Council (NRC), puppies weighing up to 5kg require about 56g of protein every day.
For adult dogs, with a body mass of about 15kg, the recommendation is that they consume 25g of protein.
For elderly dogs, the NRC recommends a formulation with higher protein content, around 75g of protein per 1000 kcal.
Fats: responsible for maintaining healthy skin and hair, helping brain and sight development, as well as playing an important role in the structural function of cells.
Puppies fed low-fat diets develop dry and thick hair and skin, and are more vulnerable to infections.
The NRC guide also reveals that dogs with a body mass of up to 15kg should consume 14g of fats daily.
For elderly dogs, whose metabolisms are less efficient, diets containing fewer fat and calories are essential to prevent obesity, a recurring problem in this age group of the animal.
Oils from animal sources such as poultry oils and pig fat – which are produced from fresh raw materials – are excellent sources of lipids for dog formulations. Because they are of animal origin, they have high digestibility and palatability, in addition to guaranteeing the fatty acids essential to the development of the pet.
Carbohydrates: they are the main source of energy in dog food. This rule applies to all stages of animal development.
In terms of energy, the NRC guide says that puppies with a body mass of up to 5kg need 990 kcal/day. Active adult dogs with a body mass of approximately 20 kg require 1353 kcal/day, while elderly and active dogs with a body mass of 20 kg require 1093 kcal/day.
Fibers: they guarantee the intestine good functioning. In special cases, plenty of fiber should be part of the diet, as in the case of dogs with a constipation problem.
In general, NRC reports that an adult dog’s daily diet can contain up to 50% carbohydrates from the total mass of food, including from 2.5 to 4.5% fiber. A minimum of approximately 5.5% of the diet must come from fats and 10% from proteins.
Vitamins: they are related to health, sight, skin, antioxidant activity, clotting factors, among others.
According to the guide, some vitamins are mandatory in dog diets, such as vitamins A (379 µg), D (3.4 µg), E (8 mg), and thiamine (0.56 mg).
Vitamin A is responsible for the prevention of diseases on sight, respiratory problems, and high susceptibility to infection situations.
When dogs are fed with diets lacking in vitamin E, they show signs of skeletal muscle rupture, reproductive failure, and retinal degeneration.
Thiamine deficiency can lead to brain damage and other neurological abnormalities.
Finally, vitamin K is responsible for blood clotting, and B vitamins participate in ion activation and neural tissue synthesis.
Minerals: they are part of metabolic reactions, nerve impulses, muscle contraction, and provide health for bones and teeth.
According to the NRC, the recommendation of calcium (1.0 g) and phosphorus (0.75 g) are crucial for strong bones and teeth. The guide describes that dogs need magnesium (150 mg), potassium (1.0 g), and sodium (200 mg) for transmission of nerve impulses, muscle contraction, and cell signaling.
Added to that, NRC shows that many minerals that are only present in small amounts in the body, including selenium (90 µg) and copper (1.5 mg), are important for a wide variety of enzymatic reactions.
A calcium deficiency in the diet can result in major bone loss, skeletal abnormalities, and pathological fractures. Excess of the mineral, on the other hand, can also cause skeletal anomalies, especially in large puppies.
Cats are carnivorous animals, so most of the nutrients they need are of animal origin. Below, we highlight the ideal diet composition for domestic cats.
Proteins: they make essential amino acids available for several vital functions, such as the synthesis of antibodies, enzymes (which regulate countless metabolic functions), hormones, tissues, in addition to providing an energy source and promoting an appropriate pH balance for these animals’ organisms.
Animal protein raw materials are more digestible for cats, such as poultry, beef, swine, fish and eggs.
These sources have complete, high-quality proteins, capable of supplying all essential amino acids to the animal. Taurine, for example, is an essential amino acid for cats, which minimum daily requirement is between 35 and 56 mg for an adult cat. This amino acid helps prevent eye and heart diseases.
According to “Your Cat’s Nutritional Needs” guide prepared by the National Research Council (NRC), 10g of protein/day is recommended for kittens with a body mass of approximately 800g. For adult cats with a body mass of around 4 kg, 12.5 g/day of protein is recommended.
Fat: because it is an essential part of plasma membranes, it is involved in cell integrity. In addition to participating in metabolic regulation, fat consumption results in shine to the animal’s fur.
Moreover, dietary fats improve the taste and texture of foods, making them more palatable and attractive.
Among unsaturated fatty acids, some polyunsaturated acids are characterized as essential to the health of felines, such as those of the omega-3 family.
According to the guide, 4 g/day of total fat is recommended in the feeding of kittens with a body mass of around 800 g. For adult cats with a body mass of approximately 4 kg, 5.5 g/day of total fat is ideal.
Carbohydrates: there is no minimum dietary requirement for cats.
Apparently, they are not essential in the diet. When there is adequate content of proteins and fats in their food, these substances provide glycogenic amino acids and glycerol for the animal to obtain the necessary energy.
This is one of the reasons why cats are classified as true carnivores.
Minerals: they are involved in almost all feline physiological reactions.
Minerals are part of enzymes formation, pH balance, nutrient absorption, oxygen transport, among other functions.
Vitamins: they participate in the metabolic regulation and normal growth of animals.
Some of them also have other functions, such as preventing night blindness (vitamin A) and antioxidants (vitamin E).
The daily recommendation of the NRC guide includes mainly vitamins A (63 µg), D (0.4 µg), E (2.5 mg), K (82 µg), B1 (0.33 mg), riboflavin (0.27 mg), B6 (0.16 mg), B12 (1.4 µg), among others.
Animal meals to improve pet food
As mentioned earlier, a big part of the diet of dogs and cats comes from animals, hence the importance of choosing the raw material correctly, in order to produce quality pet food. That is, raw materials produced from the ingredients that, in fact, meet the specific needs of nutrients and are the best options to the different physiological states of pets.
An important aspect for decision-making about ingredients is to identify the nature of the inputs used and their relative digestibility and bioavailability.
Likewise, it is necessary to pay attention to contamination by microorganisms, such as Salmonella ssp and metabolites produced by fungi such as mycotoxins, which are highly harmful to the health of animals.
It should also be taken into account the variability in the composition and the nutritional quality, related to the origin of the raw materials, the ash content, anti-nutritional factors, among others.
For all these reasons, raw materials of animal origin are the most indicated to improve feed formulations, due to their high content of digestible proteins, balanced presence of essential amino acids, and the absence of anti-nutritional factors.
Next, we will present some of these raw materials, animal meals that are recommended to make high-quality dog and cat food.
Meals made from poultry offal are produced by cooking, pressing and grinding poultry offal, cartilage and meat flaps.
According to a study by Greg Aldrich, published in Petfood Industry, chicken offal meals and meals produced only from chicken meat have the same nutritional value for dogs and cats.
In another research, published in Engormix, Dr. Greg found that meat and chicken offal meals are highly digestible by dogs and cats, contain the necessary essential amino acids, and have no anti-nutritional factors.
The same analysis concluded that animal meals, especially for cats, must contain less than 14% of ash for chicken meat meal. On the other hand, the recommended content of ash for chicken offal meals is 11.5%. He also warned that they are susceptible to oxidation. Therefore, it is important to pay attention to the peroxide and acidity levels when formulating the feed.
More than nourishing pets, Greg Aldrich says that poultry fat is well accepted by pets as its flavor is preferable to several other sources of fat.
Considering all these aspects the Poultry Meal (Low Ash) was developed. It is, therefore, a great alternative for the composition of dog and cat food. After all, in addition to high palatability and digestibility, it contains a lower ash content and a higher crude protein content (73%), essential for pet growth.
Pork crackling meal
Another animal meal that emerges as an alternative for application in dog food is pork crackling meal.
This ingredient is the result of cooking, pressing, and grinding the in natura porcine skin, in natura pork mask, and the crackling.
The crackling meal is produced with fresh, high-quality raw materials, which are not considered by-products of swine slaughter. It is also a rich source of protein, at least 80%, and essential amino acids.
It is worth mentioning that this meal has high palatability and digestibility, with excellent consistency, low mineral matter, and is naturally pleasant and attractive to the animals’ taste.
Thus, pork crackling meal is also a good alternative in the composition of dog and cat food.
Feather meal is another ingredient that can be used in the industrialization of dog and cat food. A great advantage of this ingredient is the high protein concentration, at least 80%.
This is exactly why it is used in pet food, increasing the protein content. The product is developed in such a way that it does not present antinutritional factors, reducing the chances of an allergic reaction in the animal, which is proven by an article published by Anton Beynen in All About Feed. Beynen revealed that dry foods with 14% feather meal in their composition are well accepted by dogs.
In order to take advantage of all the nutritional qualities of feather meal in the manufacture of pet food, it is also important to remember the importance of choosing reliable suppliers that work with quality processes, using clean and fresh feathers obtained from the poultry slaughtering production chain and with low mineral content.
Poultry feather meal with blood
Poultry feather meal with blood can also be used in pet food for dogs and cats because, in addition to presenting all the advantages of feather meal, blood improves palatability, increases the balance of amino acids and, according to a study published in Revista Brasileira de Zootecnia, the product makes pets reach satiety faster.
Blood also enriches the formulation of pet food, as proteins such as plasma and hemoglobin are very important to improve the regulatory functions of metabolism, such as absorption, transport, and synthesis of nutrients.
Poultry feather meal with blood is a nutritionally interesting alternative and, like the others, must be purchased from a reliable supplier so as not to compromise pets’ health and quality of life.
There is no doubt that the health and well-being of dogs and cats come first when the consumer chooses the animals’ feed. Therefore, the manufacturer cannot hesitate when choosing the most nutritious ingredients to produce pet food that will really meet the animals’ needs.
For this, understanding each of these meals and finding reliable suppliers is a very important step in the development of suitable feed. After all, it is only through the choice of quality inputs that the producer will be able to deliver pet food that contains nutrients with high digestibility and palatability, which are aspects that guarantee growth, healthy development, and quality of life for the animals.