URBANA, Ill. – Adding a dog to a household or family is usually a good thing. Our furry friends offer protection, affection, and companionship in ways that no human could ever do. However, if you ask a dog owner what their least favorite aspect of pet parenting is, they will likely tell you that they are cleaning up after their dog’s business. Fortunately, a new study has found a way to ensure puppies enjoy better digestion while reducing the amount of feces their humans have to scoop.
Researchers at the University of Illinois say feeding dog food to dogs made with human-grade ingredients can result in up to 66 percent less stool. The team says these high quality dog food options have become increasingly popular over the past few years, taste better, and are easier to digest for our loyal companions.
“Based on previous research we’ve done, I’m not surprised at the results in human-quality feeding versus an extruded dry diet,” said Kelly Swanson, co-author of the study, in a university paper. “However, I wasn’t expecting to see how well the human-quality fresh food would fare, even compared to a fresh, commercially processed brand.”
Fresh dog food creates less waste
To achieve these results, a group of beagles were fed four commercially available dog food diets. This included a snack diet, a fresh and chilled diet, and two other fresh diets made with USDA-certified human-grade ingredients. All three fresh diets included foods like rice, chicken, broccoli, beef, and carrots. The dogs remained on each diet for a total of four weeks.
In particular, the beagles, who only ate nibbles for four weeks, had to eat more just to maintain their body weight. In addition, these dogs produced 1.5 to 2.9 times more feces than the pups on fresh food.
“This is in line with a 2019 study of humans by the National Institute of Health that found that people who eat a fresh, whole-food diet averaged 500 fewer calories a day and were happier than people who eat a processed diet, “notes Swanson. The Kraft Heinz Company is an Endowed Professor of Human Nutrition in the Department of Animal Sciences and the Department of Nutritional Sciences in Illinois.
In addition to the messy benefits of a fresher dog diet, researchers also say better food affects dogs’ gut microbe communities in unique ways.
“Since a healthy gut means a healthy mutt, microbial and metabolite profiles in stool are important metrics for evaluating nutrition,” explains Swanson. “As we have shown in previous studies, the fecal microbial communities of healthy dogs fed fresh food were different from those fed nibbles. These unique microbial profiles were likely due to differences in diet, the source of the ingredients, and the concentration and type of fiber, proteins and fats that are known to affect what the dog digests and what is fermented gets into the colon. “
The study was published in the Journal of Animal Science.