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For many pet owners, their fur-babies are like members of the family. As such, their pets are treated humanely, fed with freshly cooked food and healthy treats in addition to having a comfortable living space, usually uncaged and free.
For dog food in particular, pet food companies are developing recipes that closely resemble our food, incorporating human-grade meat and vegetable ingredients that pass USDA quality inspections. With more research in place, studies have shown that these superior dog meals are not only highly palatable but also more nutritiously dense and digestible than originally estimated.
Human grade implies that the ingredients are good for humans. In this case, the canine food uses ingredients that are suitable for people consumption and generally more nutrient-dense.
So in other words, it is healthy meals for dogs.
However, there is a subtle but noteworthy difference between human grade dog foods and pet foods made with human-grade ingredients. The first implies; in their entirety and processed form, that the meals can be consumed by us safely. They are made to go through the same stringent standards that are applied to foods meant for individual consumption.
The latter, on the other hand, implies that some ingredients are people consumable while others might not be so.
In short, it means that the ingredients are human-grade but not necessarily the finished product. Hence, these foods cannot be eaten by individuals safely. So only buy human-grade selections to make sure the entire end-product is safe for humans.
Since such canine food comprises ingredients that are safe to be consumed by people, technically, these meals can be consumed by us. However, bear in mind that they are made using recipes that fit canine nutritional needs, not persons.
Although safe, some of the ingredients, especially in the state in which they are used, might not be suitable for our bodies. So we might, at times, develop allergies from these foods. Remember, these canine foods are made for dogs and should be consumed by the furry ones only.
Manufacturers must abide by strict regulations the second they claim that all their ingredients, along with their processes, are of such quality. When it comes to your loved pets, it is therefore suggested to trust the best and most reputed brands in the niche.
Generally, these diets can be healthier for your dogs, which in turn prolong their lifespan besides keeping them disease-free. Besides homemade, slow-cooked food, feeding your fur babies store-bought such quality canine food can be as nutritious and saves you time too, besides offering your dog a wholesome meal.
Since it is meant to be wholesome meals, it can be scientifically healthier and safer for your dog. Think of it as healthy dog food. The ingredients with which these are prepared are generally organic, holistically formulated, locally-sourced and boast a denser nutritional profile.
Human-friendly canine foods are different from your regular dry kibble, made to follow the FDA guidelines; the standard abided by foods suitable for people while normal dog feed mainly follows the AAFCO regulations, which are less strict. Therefore, the foods have chances of carrying animal by-products and ingredients that may turn out to be harmful to your dog.
Human grade options, on the other hand, are tightly regulated with their ingredients and nutritional profiles are strictly inspected by FDA. The meat ingredients are specially approved by the USDA. This meat, as a result, is of the same quality as the ones found in a grocery store, making the diet safer and healthier too.
That said, there is no one-size-fits-all plan. The type of food that is right for one dog may not be the ideal choice for another. There isn’t always an obvious right or wrong choice. What you need to do is learn as much as you can about your dog’s nutritional needs and then select a pet food product that will meet those needs in a high-quality way.
That doesn’t necessarily mean you have to shell out for human-grade selection, but that is certainly one of the options. If you absolutely want to give your dog the highest quality meals and money is not a problem, go ahead, by all means. Some owners prefer freshly cooked meals or fresh frozen canine food for their pets.
Freshly cooked dog food or fresh frozen ones has its place in the dog nutrition industry. Some dog breeds may be better suited with fresh food, and owners, having sourced their ingredients from their neighbourhood, or they have close relationships with each of their suppliers, are able to guarantee the quality and safety of their produce.
Just like home-cooked food for people, freshly cooked equivalent for pets requires preparation and time. Pet owners can also make their own freeze-dried treats as well as meal toppers to give their dog food a boost of flavour and nutrition. In short, they can mix and match and control the ingredients to create their dog’s own homemade diet.
Discover how much is missing in your pets’ diet by understanding what makes whole food different from processed food.
Whole foods are characterized as foods that have not been processed, refined or had ingredients added to them. That means food in their natural state with little or no processing, no artificial ingredients, no colouring, no preservatives and no flavour enhancers.
Think of food that you look at and recognize as something that exists in nature, like broccoli, a fish or a potato. They haven’t been altered in form or flavour.
Processed foods have undergone a change of character. Foods are processed for many reasons including to extend shelf life, make them more convenient, alter their nutritional composition and make them taste, look or smell different.
Determining what is processed can get tricky – it’s helpful to think of processed foods on a scale ranging from minimally processed to heavily processed. Natural ingredients such as pre-washed or pre-cut fruits or vegetables have been minimally processed, whereas turning a banana into a banana chip requires more processing – people may not know that the final chip actually came from a banana.
Human-grade dog food is currently a loose term to describe food that is edible for people and, therefore, can sound like it could be a nutritious option for your dog.
Ingredients of such a diet range from chicken, salmon, beef, duck, to wheat, rice, and vegetables. Basically, these ingredients are the same as the ones used in regular formulations although some body parts may differ at times.
The manufacturing process also participates in making this category of food-safe for people consumption. However, even if a dog food is labelled as human-grade, it does not necessarily mean the item is healthier or safer for the pet. Any pet food labelled complete and balanced should meet the dietary requirements for the animal. Of course, care must still go into researching each pet food company and ensuring they fit your veterinarian's approval. Foods that use premium ingredients may improve coat quality or energy above and beyond the basic requirements.
Generally, top canine food brands do use high-quality sources, particularly protein ingredients, which is what makes them better nutritional options for your dogs. Human-grade dog food is made with premium ingredients that are considered good quality for human consumption.
Additionally, some ingredients that are good for people are not good for dogs. Human grade ingredients such as the meat extracted from poultry bones are not normally consumed by us but are appropriate for dogs to eat.
Human-friendly dog foods do have the benefit of meeting USDA standards for a person, which means the source of meat is likely to be of a higher quality compared to feed-grade pet foods. However, the USDA does have different classifications of meat such as prime, good, standard, canner and more. Additionally, there is no distinction between the standards of meat that are actually being used for this category of dog eats.
The short answer to this question of whether human-grade food is good for dogs would be - it depends. Just like any pet food decision, close inspection of the brand and product is recommended.
Senior dogs have special nutritional needs. Some senior dogs will benefit from special formulas designed to help strengthen their bodies and fight against common ailments that come with age.
As dogs age, their energy levels decrease, and they become more susceptible to conditions of the heart, joints and stomach. The best senior dog formulation keeps dogs healthy as they age by providing a high-protein, high-fibre, low-fat and low-sodium diets. The right food can help prevent obesity, which can cause health issues like diabetes, arthritis and heart disease.
For growing puppies, the best food to feed them is a high-quality commercial kibble designed for puppies. This ensures all the nutrients your puppy needs for growth and development are present.
You can add cooked meats and vegetables or rice as you wish; however, their main diet needs to be the commercially balanced kibble.
Raw diets are not recommended for very young pups as their immune system is not developed enough to cope with a high bacterial load. It is also very difficult to balance a raw diet for growing puppies.
Puppies have a high nutritional demand and can’t go for long without food. It’s very important to feed them small meals regularly.
For example, young growing puppies would need more energy so ingredients higher in carbohydrates and fat may fuel their day. Vitamins are needed for good sight, reflexes and to keep organs healthy.
For safety reasons, sick dogs should follow a diet prescribed by your vet. Visiting the vet is always a good idea if your dog is sick and won’t eat. He/she can help you figure out what ails your pet and what to do to get it to eat. Additionally, you can also make sure that your dog is prescribed the medications that it may need, whether they’re to address the illness or to encourage appetite.
For specific health issues like weight loss, you should always visit or call your veterinarian. They are your best resource to ensure the health and well-being of your dog. Medical advice is best for a controlled diet and suitable physical activities so it won’t all be a sudden shock to your pet.
Since there is still some haziness and controversy surrounding the term human-grade and human-quality as they apply to canine food, it is important to assess each brand individually.
While a pet food that is called human-grade could mean that it has passed all the necessary requirements to be edible to humans, it doesn’t always imply that it will also be a nutritious meal option for your pet as it may still lack a complete nutritional profile for dogs, such as the correct levels of specific vitamins and nutrients.
By ensuring you did thorough research on the brands, as a pet owner you can find an option that will benefit the nutritional needs of your dog and not be blinded by clever marketing gimmicks. Just remember to look beyond the packaging and read the ingredient label.
As a responsible pet owner, one must still do due diligence and research on each pet food company to ensure that they meet your veterinarian's approval. Foods that use premium ingredients may improve coat quality or stool volume above and beyond the basic requirements.
However, picking the right canine food is not as easy as it sounds. Human grade pet foods are still niche due to their higher costs. While some manufacturers justify increasing the price tag on their food, thus making it appear more exclusive, or superior but that does not mean it is automatically better.
When looking for human grade meals for your dogs, go with a trusted brand that promises quality and care for your pets.
Dr Francis is one of the top wildlife nutritionists in Asia. Originating from Montreal, Canada, he left at 21 to pursue his Masters and subsequently a PhD in wildlife nutrition at Oxford Brookes University. Instead of taking the path of common animal science to learn about farm animals, or through the veterinarian space and taking a certificate in nutrition, he took the road less travelled to dive deep into the world of animal ecology, metabolism and nutrition.
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