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What is digest and what's in doing in my dog's food!?

In the most basic of descriptions, digest is hydrolysed protein - sounds scary - but this is where the protein is broken down such that it cannot aggravate the immune system.

So why do manufacturers add digest as an ingredient to dog food.... ?
Digest is highly palatible and is a non-chemical way of enhancing the flavour of dog food.

So... is digest good or bad?
Digest is an ingredient which can be quite controversal as it is quite often described as a bad ingredient on many US websites. However, as with many ingredients there are different levels of digestibility and quality. The quality of digest really can vary and outside the EU can contain things that you really don't want your dog to be consuming such as antibiotics and growth hormones.

On the other hand, digest can be seen as a natural flavour enhancer. The better quality digests will be made of natural ingredients such as liver and will be naturally preserved.

So digests can vary widely in the quality used in dog food.
So what indicators are there in determining the good from the bad?

  • Look for naturally preserved dog food, whilst avoiding those preserved artificially.
  • Look for named digests, for example lamb digest, turkey digest, chicken digest etc.
    Avoid dog foods containing "animal digest" or "digest" as this can be from any animal and is quite often an indicator of poor quality.

You will find more and more companies declaring digest on their dog food ingredient panels as this has become necessary under new EU laws.

Some companies are very relucant to admit they use digest in their foods, quite understandable with the negativity (quite often unjustified) on some websites.

However, the majority of dry dog foods contain digests whether they state it on the packaging or not.

If a company tells you there is no digest in their dry dog food, ask them to put that on a statement on their website. You may be suprised to find that they're not so willing to do this!

and to help you read those labels.... our friend digest can be seen on a label as

  • Chicken Digest
  • Chicken Gravy
  • Hydrolysed Chicken
  • Chicken Liver

Remember that digest in dog food is not a bad thing as long as it's good quality and from a fixed protein source.