We often take for granted the food consumed by our dogs. Let’s talk about the basic care of the food that they consume, and its proper storage and handling.

Since the dog was first domesticated, dog food in various forms have existed. Dogs are carnivores, and in order for owners to properly care for their dogs, these needed to be fed protein. But of course during those days, meat was scarce and hard to get, so meat was for human consumption. It was recorded that during early Roman times, they used to feed their dogs scraps of human food and “nutritious whey,” a byproduct of cheese making, as a main source of protein.

During the 17th to 18th century in Europe, they fed their dogs a paste of processed food made from bread crumbs and pieces of meat. They also used meat scraps and offal from downed game, like the heart, liver, lungs from a deer and other wild game. They mixed it with blood from the animal and fed it to their dogs.

It was in the early 19th century that dog food started to be manufactured by mixing scraps of The biscuits, flour, vegetables, and meat for the purpose of mass consumption for dogs. The dog food that we know now started with these forms.

Dogs are carnivores, make no mistake about it. They have sharp canine teeth designed to cut and chew meat. But because of early and easy domestication of dogs, who then became our companions, it learned to eat a variety of food, including the kind we eat as well. It easily adapted to eat our scraps, whether meat or non-meat items.

Dogs can be fed different kinds of food; there’s the raw variety, another is the wet variety, and the last and most common is the dry kind.

The dry variety is convenient and often the cheapest kind of food. It is easy to prepare, leaves less mess, and because it is dry and compact, you can feed your dog a minimal amount of it. It is easily stored and doesn’t spoil. In order to prevent rodents or other pests from eating dog food, it must be properly stored and sealed.

The proper storage of your dog food will mean the difference in nutrition for you dog. Dog food must be properly stored in a dry, cool place away from direct sunlight. The reason for this is because dog food, however processed and artificial, is still organic, and anything that is organic is subject to oxidation and bacterial contamination and spoilage. Sunlight and heat cause oxidation and spoilage, so you can place dry dog food in a large plastic bin, sealed properly. It is important that dog food be kept dry to prevent fungus and molds from forming on it.

The wet variety is often processed and contains more moisture, protein, and fat. Given its form, dogs will require more of it. If your dog does not finish it off, it can and will spoil easily. Bacterial contamination is the main cause of spoilage for canned wet dog food. Once opened, it is best to let the dog finish it all. If unfinished, you can transfer it to a sealed plastic container and store it in the freezer but it cannot be kept for a long time. Approximately 1 to 2 months’ storage is optimal.

Another form is the “natural” or raw form of diet. Basically, it is food prepared and fit for human consumption. Examples of these are market grade beef, pork, lamb, and goat meat. If you believe it is better to feed your dog fresh meat in order to replicate the food that they eat in the wild, you must continually replenish your stocks.

It must be noted however, that this is the most expensive way to feed your dog and it is time consuming. Most importantly, you must be alert for food-borne illnesses if unsanitary food preparation is practiced. Some who give organic food to dogs sterilize the food by boiling and sanitizing it properly first before giving it to their pets to consume.

In keeping with the popular food trend today, some owners want to feed their dogs, organic food. This requires an investment in equipment and much patience. You need to put the prepared dog food in a separate freezer to avoid contamination; you also need to store it in airtight containers so that no bacterial contamination can occur.

As responsible and dog loving people, you will need to always remember that whatever form of food you choose to give your dog, it is important to consider if you yourself will consume that food. Therefore you must consciously try to feed your dogs or any pets that you are caring for the best food that you can afford. Not only should you give quality food to your pets, it is also important to give them proper care, nutrition, and shelter. A happy dog is a good dog.

This story appeared in Animal Scene’s April 2015 issue.