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Why Your Dog Loves Bacon but not Pretzels: Palatability

Do you like kale? I don’t really like kale. But so many people love kale. I don’t think they actually do, they are just eating it because Lorraine down the street loves kale and she looks great, and I want to be like Lorraine. Maybe if I bake it and add cayenne pepper I could like kale. Wow what a ton of work to eat kale. No thanks.

Just as many people have different preferences on what they like to eat and what tastes good to them, your pet is no different. You watch your dog eat cat poop, dirt, scraps that have fallen under the oven and been there for months, and you wonder, “You’ll eat all of that, but won’t eat this pretzel I’m finally trying to feed you because you haven’t left my side since I opened the bag 30 minutes ago?” As us humans do, different dogs like different foods and flavors and this is where that fancy word palatability comes in.

Palatability is not a nutrient and does not relate to the nutritional value of a food. Palatability measures how well an animal likes a food. Acceptability by a pet indicates whether the amount of food eaten will be enough to meet the animal’s caloric requirements. A balanced pet food only needs to be palatable enough to ensure acceptability along with adequate nutrient intake.

A misconception accepted and practiced by many pet owners is that a food’s performance will improve by eating more of it. So if you buy that fancy expensive food and your pet seems to be losing weight, you may think that “Oh well I will just feed more of it to put that weight back on” When, in truth, your pet was probably already too fat, Karen, and could afford to lose those few pounds. So feed what it says to feed them for your dog’s size and breed. The dog will get the calories and nutrients that it needs and be healthier for it.

Another misconception of many pet owners is that they judge a food and it’s palatability by how quickly their pet consumes it. This may actually have nothing to do with the palatability of a food or how starved poor Garfield is. It may have to do with a breed of animal or even their home situation. Things such as eating quickly out of fear of another dog, cat, or toddler taking it from them.

A food’s palatability is determined by several factors, including odor, texture, temperature, water and salt content. If you, as a pet owner, have found a food that you believe will fulfill all of your animal’s nutritional needs, but they won’t eat it, there are a few things to try before tossing the food away and starting all over again with another brand and type of food. Simple things like moistening a dry food by adding a small amount of water, warming a food to body temperature or keeping the food in a warmer area of the house, adding the canned version of the selected diet to the dry food in the bowl are all things to try before starting over again.

In conclusion, it’s your pet and your call on what it eats. You don’t have to force feed an animal a food that they just downright don’t like, because if they will not eat it, they will suffer from malnutrition. But on the flip side of the coin, make sure if you are feeding your pet large amounts of whatever food they can get, pet food or human food, that they are still getting the nutrients that they need with the right things for their diet.

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