Researchers tested the palatability and digestibility of three commercially marketed fresh and raw diets for dogs, as well as a traditional extruded kibble diet.

Fresh and raw commercially produced diets for dogs found in the refrigerated aisles of supermarkets may have health benefits, according to a study.

Scientists in the US noted, although manufacturers of such premium-priced food stuffs ensured they were nutritionally balanced, little work had been done to establish performance in dogs fed on the new diets.

Researchers at the University of Illinois College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences tested the palatability and digestibility of three commercially marketed fresh and raw diets for dogs, as well as a traditional extruded kibble diet.

They wanted to determine the apparent total-tract macronutrient digestibility; faecal characteristics, metabolites and microbiota; serum chemistry metabolites; urinalysis; and voluntary physical activity levels of adult dogs fed commercial diets differing in processing type.

The foods included a lightly cooked roasted-refrigerated diet; a lightly cooked grain-free roasted-refrigerated diet; and a raw diet. The lightly cooked roasted diets were pasteurised and the raw diet was treated with an acidifying bacteria that makes the food inhospitable to harmful microbes.

All diets were chicken-based, but some had added beef, salmon or chicken liver. Each diet also contained a vitamin and mineral mix, and a dry mix of plant products such as nutrient-dense sweet potatoes, kale, spinach, cranberries and carrots.

Eight beagle dogs were fed each diet for one month. After a 14-day transition period on to each new diet, they were monitored for voluntary physical activity; then urine, stool, and blood samples were collected and analysed.

Testing diets

As reported in Science Daily, corresponding author Kelly Swanson, Kraft Heinz Company endowed professor in Human Nutrition in the department of Animal Sciences and the Division of Nutritional Sciences at the University of Illinois, said: ”A lot of companies test for complete and balanced nutrition, but don’t go beyond that. The company we worked with – Freshpet – wanted to see how some of their unique diets would perform. Would dogs like them? Were they digestible? Would they increase activity?”

The roasted diets turned out to be more digestible than kibble, and both the grain-free roasted diet and the raw diet resulted in lower blood triglyceride levels than the kibble diet, even though they were higher in fat.

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