What determines dog food odor ? Is it dog's preferences ? No, it is not.

Do you ever wonder why most industrial pet food has such an overwhelming smell ?

We have explored what science has to say about this and bring you the facts:

Olfaction, or the sense of smell, is believed to be dogs most important sense and it is 10,000 to 100,000 times more sensitive than that of the average human. In fact, science has shown that dogs can detect volatile compounds at a x10,000 lower concentration then what humans can. In our everyday life’s perspective, scientist Alexandra Horowitz explains in her book Inside of a Dog that, if we can detected that a teaspoon of sugar has been added to our coffee, a dog could detect and teaspoon of sugar in a million liters of water.

This means that in cases where humans can’t detect an odor, dogs can. So, if a dog’s sense of smell is so extremely developed why does most pet food has such an intense and many times unpleasant odor ? wouldn’t this be overwhelming for the dogs ?

The answer is two-fold: the odor of most commercial pet food is designed to

a) overcome the bad odor of certain raw materials and 

b) to please dog owners and influence their purchase decision.

 During my professional career in food manufacturing I have learned that what drives the development of food products, is not how healthy the final product is but instead what drives purchase and most importantly, repeated purchase. Factors that drive purchase are for example the color, the odor and the appearance. Dogs don’t buy their own food, their owners do. So when the industry develops a new recipe of pet food, the core question at hands is what drives the pet owner’s purchase decision ? Science has shown that the odor of pet food is one of the factors that influences pet owners emotions that in turns triggers purchase decision. In fact, the industrial sensory evaluation of pet food is done by panels of trained human beings and dogs merely assist on the decision between concepts that are primarily decided by the humans.

Most pet foods have a strong odor because the raw materials used to make that food are of poor quality and flavors and other chemical substances are used to mask the real bad odor so the pet owner doesn’t perceive it.

The good news is: you can recognize and avoid this situation by avoiding the following ingredients:

  1. Meat meals or meat derivatives, fish meals or fish derivatives, vegetable meals or vegetable derivatives, oils and fats derivatives. When you see the word “meal” or “derivative” this means that the meat/fish/vegetable has been primarily used for human consumption and its remains (that are no longer apt for human consumption) are then used for pet food (by-products of slaughterhouses are a good example). Although this might sound sustainable, it is detrimental to our pets as these ingredients no longer have the nutritional properties they once did, and are used a cheap filler rather than a nutritional component.
  2. Vegetable protein extracts, mineral substances, vegetable oils. Seriously ? How vague can a label be ? as a general rule, do not accept a vague label. “vegetable oils”.. which vegetables ? that are some vegetable oils that can be beneficial for dogs and others that are detrimental. The same with “mineral substances” .. which minerals ? at what concentration ? and so on. How can one make a conscious decision about a purchase if the information available is vague and limited ?!?

In conclusion: Avoid foods for your pet that have ingredients mentioned above. If the pet food is made of good quality raw materials, that you’re also familiar with, then there is no need to mask bad odors. Imagine for a moment that you decide to cook dinner for your guests by using ingredients from your trash bin. You will also have to find a way to mask the off flavor that will emanate from the rotten or decomposed ingredients. It’s the same in pet food. When you start from fresh, high quality ingredients, there’s no need to mask any off odors nor have a vague label.  In fact the ingredients themselves will still have their natural and excellent taste and smell.

So, in summary, look for pet food and treats that are made with quality ingredients, just like you do when you pick your own food.



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