Make dog food more delicious

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When a pet is begging for food, sometimes it’s hard to resist giving them a little taste of your meal. Dogs are not known to be picky about their food, eating the same kibble day after day with relish. However, owners of spoiled dogs want their pets to have the best dining experience possible, especially for those rare, finicky dogs. Although animals of all kinds are known to beg, dogs tend to do so more often. There are several human foods that can be fed to dogs occasionally.

Now, researchers reporting the results of a pilot study in ACS ‘ Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry have identified key flavor compounds in dog foods that appear to be the most appealing to dogs.

For dogs, palatability depends on the appearance, smell, taste and texture of a food, just as it is for humans. Previous studies have suggested that scent is especially important for dogs. Some scientists have identified volatile compounds in dog food, but not much is known about how specific aromatic compounds influence the ease with which the dog eats the food. Maoshen Chen and his colleagues wanted to identify the main flavor compounds in six dog foods and correlate the compounds with food consumption by dogs.

In this small study, the researchers began by feeding six adult beagles one of the six foods for an hour each and determining how much the dogs were eating. The consumption of three of the foods was two to four times that of the other three foods. Using mass spectrometry, the researchers found that 12 volatile aromatic molecules correlated, positively or negatively, with the consumption of all six foods by the beagles. Then, the researchers added each flavor compound to an odorless food and gave the beagles a choice between a food containing one of the compounds and the odorless food itself.

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From these experiments, the team determined that dogs preferred foods containing several compounds, including (E) -2-hexenal (which humans associate with an unpleasant fatty odor), 2-furfurylthiol (a sulphurous, toasted and smoky odor) and 4-methyl-5-thiazoleethanol (a meaty odor).

In contrast, dogs did not like foods containing (E) -2-octenal (a slightly different unpleasant oily smell).

While other dog breeds and more subjects should be tested, these results could help dog food manufacturers formulate more palatable food, the researchers say.

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