There has been an increase in dog food production in correlation with the increase in pet population. In the past couple of centuries there has been a non linear trend in the quality and variety of dog feed and treats – from home made taste-bud-stimulant to marine delicacy –
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Love for dogs is measured by trends
Homemade food ranges from non vegetarian kitchen residue to special food prepared for dogs. Occasionally the pet used to get a rare opportunity to wet their taste buds with fish, which they love the most. As the per capita income increased and the life style changed, the kitchens started drying out leading to the creation of market for ‘Ready to Eat’ food for pets. Starting with a couple of new products hitting market every decade during last century to the introduction of several products in a year presently is a measure of the expression of love for pets combined with the fashion and life style trend of the day. The earliest category to appear in the dog chew and treat segment are bovine products. The most common are the natural bones and rawhide dog chews (in the shape of bones, sticks, rolls, flakes, rolls and even baby shoes). Later flavors and colors were added to these products. This was followed by other parts of bovine organs like bully stick, tendon, liver, lung, food pipe, tripe, ear, hooves, snout, horn and tail. Then the market saw a flood of swine and avian products. After the outbreak of BSE (mad cow disease), the tilt was towards chicken products. The avian and swine virus shook the ground of these products. Now, even to hear the word swine is a taboo. The final resort and the last hope is the marine niche.
The growth of fish component in pet food has increased considerably and likely to reach a phenomenal growth in treat and chew segment. Though Indian contribution in global pet food business is negligible, our country is among the first to offer fish products to the pet food industry. Fishes are free from the bacterial and viral diseases common to cattle and other land animals. The new catch words around the world are Ocean Chew, Fish Jerky, and Ocean Delight etc. Many products have appeared based on fish in the past few months in the global market. Unlike bovine and swine products, which are nutritionally incomplete, fish based products provide a balanced nutrition and guarantee natural health and longevity.
Nutritional characteristics of fish products
Nutritionists universally acknowledge that the best animal protein for human and pet animals is the fish protein. It contains all essential amino acids. For example methionine is an essential amino acid, which is either absent in several vegetable proteins or present in very small quantities. Many of the animal proteins are also deficient in this amino acid. Lysine and methionine, which are deficient in plant and animal proteins, are present in fish in good quantity and in ideal ratio. Methionine along with cystine is essential for hair growth in dogs. The Biological Value (BV) of fish protein is also very high, usually above 70. This is a measure of how well an animal body can absorb and utilize protein. Digestibility and absorption of fish protein is the highest among animal proteins. Therefore, the fish protein is excellent for dogs of all ages, puppies and for the pregnant bitches.
In dogs, the synthesis and distribution of a pigment called pheomalanin is responsible for the coat color. Fish protein contains good quantity of aromatic amino acids like phenylalanine and tyrosine, necessary for the formation of pheomalanin. Fish contains most of the trace elements like zinc, iron, copper, selenium etc., which are needed for general health, strength and aesthetic look of fur. Fish based food and treats also supply the required calcium and phosphorus required for the dog’s healthy metabolism. Being low in fat and high in protein fish based treats would keep your fear of calories budget at bay. Some of the rare nutritional ingredients present in marine organisms are chondroitin sulfate and glucosamine. Glucosamine is present in the exoskeleton of marine crustaceans, and in elasmobranches fish along with chondroitin sulfate. In the modern age of health awareness, the above terms have become a part of lingua franca of pet owners. To own a good breed is a status symbol, similarly to talk about its nutritional requirement indicates that you are positioned higher on the knowledge and status pyramid. Chondroitin sulfate is known to cure osteoarthritis in animals. Chondroitin along with glucosamine improve joint health in young and aged dogs and helps in the better development of fetus. In Indian conditions, this is demonstrated well by Dr.Amole in his Supreet Vet Clinic in Amritsar. His clinical trials using fish treats and supplements on dogs have earned him the nick name ‘Magic wala Sardar’. Dr.Amole is afraid lest he will be known as ‘Machi wala Sardar’.
Magic wala Sardar
Description of the advantage of feeding fish products to dogs would remain incomplete without the mentioning the efforts of Dr.Amole. He visualized the importance of fish in pet nutrition much earlier than other veterinarians in the country. He got samples of fish based products from the only manufacturer in India and conducted independent clinical studies. He conducted hundreds of palatability trials on dogs and performed clinical studies on more than a dozen cases. The significance of his studies are that he maintained the record of pet’s name, age, breed and also the dog owner’s particulars. One of his famous cases was ‘Jawala Singh’s nude dog’. It was a male Spitz, lost hairs and looked like an American Hairless Terrier, entirely a different breed. Jawala Singh was looking for ways to dispose his dog as he couldn’t face criticism of his friends. He was so shy to appear in public with his nude dog during day light that he had to find a way to Dr.Amole’s clinic in the late evening of January 2009. Dr.Amole offered fish protein powder to this pitiable creature for 3 weeks. After a month the same critical friends of Jawala Singh were seen congratulating him for the purchase of a new dog, when in fact that was the same nude Spitz. Dr.Amole had repeated the same miracle on other alopecia cases, joint problems, and poor appetite cases. He also got very promising results with treats and chews made of fish on several breeds of young, adult, sick and healthy dogs and pregnant bitches. Fish meat powder as feed supplement is very useful for dog trainers, kennel owners and breeders to keep their dogs agile and beautiful. Feeding fish to dogs have become a global trend. Some of the Indian police dog squads are planning to supplement fish meat powder to their kennel population.
In addition to the amino acids, the other most important nutritional ingredient contributing dog’s health is Omega 3 fatty acids like EPA and DHA. Omega 3 and Taurine (present mainly in fish) have been reported to prevent heart attack in dogs. Omega 3 improves skin condition and coat shine. Taurine deficiency can cause metabolic disorders and in cats it can lead to blindness. Fish is known for its rich source of vitamin A, whose role in human and animals is long been established in history. Chondroitin, glucosamine, omega 3, taurine, vitamin E, vitamin A, sulfated and aromatic amino acids are magic molecules present as a natural package in one animal body that is fish, particularly elasmobranches fish group to which shark belongs. According to Dr.Amole, one of the most important nutritional advantages of fish meat is its anti-immuno-suppressant property. Vitamin E and taurine are both very important antioxidants and anti-immuno suppressants. Therefore, dogs fed on fish protein supplement during pre and post vaccination periods shown increase in efficiency of vaccination. Dr.Amole hopes that the fish products will soon be available to the Indian canine and feline population so that Indian pet owners and breeders will be pleased to see their pet live long, happy and healthy. Louis Vine in ‘The Total Dog Book’ mentioned way back in 1971 “Like humans, dogs get bored with the same food day in and day out. To keep a pet interested in the food, I recommend varying the diet a bit. About every other day he can be fed on entirely different food”. Yes, it is true and if that “entirely different food” happens to be the one containing the natural magic molecules; the fish, then that will be truly the expression of your love for your pet.