Before commercially processed pet food, pet owners fed their pets table scraps and leftovers. Some bought meat scraps from the butcher. It was also more common for pets to roam outside and supplement their meals with whatever they could catch.
In 1860, James Spratt produced the first commercial pet food for dogs, which was called a dog cake. In the 1950s, his company became part of a major food manufacture. Dog biscuits came along in 1907 and were originally intended to be a meal, not just a treat. In the 1920s, canned food was produced and became popular. During World War 2, tin used for the cans became important for manufacturing things needed for the war effort. Less canned pet food was produced and dry food, or kibble, became more popular. The first kibble was Dog Chow and Cat Chow.
Dry pet food is made of dry meal and meat as well as added vitamins and minerals. A hammer mill is used to grind the dry ingredients to a specific particle size. The result is what looks like flour. This flour is mixed with the wet ingredients, the meat and fat, and steamed to begin cooking. High temperatures are needed in order to destroy toxins.
Studies have shown that for puppies, an enhanced diet with specific ingredients is important. This is especially true for large breed puppies, which are considered to be puppies that will be at least 50 pounds when full grown. Large breed puppies, with not enough calcium and Vitamin D, which helps absorb the calcium, are prone to hip dysplasia and arthritis as they get older. Large breed puppies that grow at a slower rate have been shown to have less chance of developing hip dysplasia. In response to this finding, pet food manufacturers now produce special “large breed” formulas. Older dogs that already have hip pain and arthritis can be helped with supplements of glucosamine and chondroitin.
Raw hides are popular dog treats and are not expensive, but have no nutritional value. The artificial preservatives and coloring can cause allergic reactions as well as rashes and irritation in the mouth. They also can have harmful bacteria that can cause intestinal upset. Another problem is the fact that raw hides are not digestible and can cause a blockage which could be life threatening and require surgery. Raw fruits and vegetable such as apples, bananas and carrots are good treats, but grapes and raisins are toxic to dogs.
An ingredient shown to be beneficial for pet nutrition is DHA which is from the Omega-3 fatty acids in fish oil. Studies have shown that puppies learn faster when their mothers have been given DHA during their pregnancy and also when the pups have been given the supplement. There are other health benefits contributed to DHA, for example, support of the retina, which is important for older dogs.
DHA combined with an amino acid known as arginine is thought to prolong remission and the lifespan of dogs with lymphosarcoma while they are receiving treatment.
Animals have to acquire all the vitamins and minerals they receive from their diets because unlike humans, their bodies do not produce the vitamins they need. For this reason, a high quality pet food is very important and a quality, all natural pet vitamin is essential.