What are gelling agents in dog food, and are they good?
Every now and then I give my dog a dog treat, called manufactured dog food. Others call it just Dog food. He loves the fat and the jelly in the can. Its a very popular 100g tin of ‘dog food’ that I get from the supermarket. But then I found out there is hardly any animal fat in the can, but a LOT of gelling agent.
Here are the ingredients: (meats = lamb, chicken, beef, pork) gelling agents; vegetable oil; minerals; flavours; colours; vitamins. Ingredient analysis: 9% crude protein, 4% crude fat, crude fibre 1% Salt 0.3%
The reality behind that dog food label:
Firstly, the can says LAMB, yet there are FOUR meats listed on the back, suggesting that perhaps the cheapest ones are mostly used, and the cheapest parts. Lamb is likely to be just over 25% of the total meat in the can.
The second highest non meat ingredient is gelling agents. It used to be believed that the gel in cans was like jelly used in human foodie made from the marrow of animals but this is no longer the case.
If you look up one study on Gelling agents (REF 1) They found that “Diets containing GA (such as guar gum/carrageenan combination) resulted in higher digestibility of some amino acids at the terminal ileum.” It was believed that the apparent increased digestibility (and chance of taking up nutrients) was not because of any positive interaction with the nutrients such as amino acids, BUT “could be attributable to increased transit time in the small intestine as a result of increased viscosity of digests induced by the presence of the GA.” That is gel slows down the food, so it stays in intestine longer so might increase nutrition.
However, anyone who studies dogs knows that the high acid content and SHORT intestine of the dog digestion systems was evolved for eating meat and decaying meat. The idea is for the dog to digest meat quickly and expel quickly. The intestine does not like food hanging around in it for too long. Hence the gel is probably not a good thing.
In the next article I look at what meat amount is likely to be in the can, and why you are paying a lot of money for very little meat.
ref1 = Selected Gelling Agents in Canned Dog Food Affect Nutrient Digestibility and Fecal Characteristics of Ilea Cannulated Dogs Lisa K. Karr-Lilienthal, by Neal R. Merchen, Christine M. Grieshop, ET AL 2002