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Pet Food FAQs: Common Pet Food Questions


Drs. Foster & Smith Educational Staff
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What is the shelf life of your food?
Each bag and can of pet food is stamped with a "Best Before" or "Best If Used By" date. This date effectively represents the shelf life of each individual bag or can of food. Proper storage away from heat, light, and humidity will help to ensure that your pet's food remains fresh, nutritious, and delicious up to that date. Canned food that has been opened should be stored in an airtight container, refrigerated, and used within 2-3 days of the date it was opened.
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How should food be stored?
Heat, light, and humidity are the natural enemies of pet food. To best avoid all of them and keep your pet's food fresh and delicious, we recommend storing bagged food in the original bag with the top tightly rolled down inside an air-tight container. If at all possible, avoid storing your pet's food in a humid environment such as a basement or laundry room. Partially used canned food should be tightly covered and refrigerated immediately.
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How is dry pet food manufactured?
Dry foods are most commonly made in a process called extrusion. However, they can also be baked or pelleted. In the extrusion process, raw materials are first ground to the correct particle size (usually the consistency of coarse flour). Grinding increases the availability of nutrients, as well as the ease with which they are processed. The ground ingredients are then mixed to create a consistent product, ensuring that essential nutrients are correctly balanced in each individual piece of the finished product.
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The mixed dry ground materials are then extruded, a process that includes mixing, kneading, proofing (rising), shaping, rising again, and slicing. The dry mix is first preconditioned to start the gelatinization of the starches. The preconditioner very accurately measures the amount of the dry mix and blends it with the measured liquid portion that can include fat, meat products, additional water, and steam. This wet mix stays in the preconditioner for about 45 seconds. While in the preconditioner, the starch is cooked about 25%. The preconditioned food then moves to an extruder, a cylindrical multi-segmented barrel that propels, mixes, and further cooks the material, and then forces it through a die where it is cut to the desired length. The product moving through the extruder produces its own friction and heat, which then cooks the mix. The speed and friction levels can be varied depending on the formula, to ensure that the product is cooked at the correct temperature for the right length of time.

The newly formed, soft and spongy kibbles are then transferred from the extruder to the dryer where additional moisture is removed. Most kibble takes about 15 minutes to dry properly. If kibble is dried too quickly or at too high a temperature, it will be more fragile and break during handling.

The kibble then goes through a cooling process of around 7 minutes. If the kibble is too hot when it leaves the dryer and is packaged before it cools, condensation will develop, which will encourage the growth of mold or bacteria in the package.

Enrobing, the last step in the manufacture of dry pet foods, entails the addition of either liquids or powders to the outer surface of the kibble. Fat and flavor enhancers are usually added at this stage. Fat is not usually added in the mixing stage because it can disrupt starch gelatinization. Fat and flavor enhancers greatly improve taste and palatability, and are most effective when applied to the outside of the kibble.
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How is canned food manufactured?
Most canned pet foods contain a high level of meat products as their base. The meat product is first ground into small pieces, then carefully weighed and added to a batch mix that also includes vitamins, minerals, and sometimes grains.

After the ingredients are combined, they are thoroughly blended in a mixer. During mixing, the temperature is increased so that starch in the food begins to gelatinize and protein begins to denature. This greatly improves texture and flavor. Once the product has been properly cooked, it then moves to the canning process.

While the cooked mixture is still hot, the product moves into the filler/seamer machine. This machine fills, places the lids on, and seams from 300 to 600 cans a minute. Steam is blown over the top of the filled can as the lid is applied to maintain the heat, so that when the can cools, it will be vacuum-sealed to help prevent spoilage.

Once the cans are filled and sealed, they move into a sterilizer where they are heated to temperatures of 121° Celsius for at least three minutes. This ensures that dangerous bacteria, such as Clostridium botulinum, are killed. Once the cans have been properly sterilized, they are cooled, labeled, and ready for sale.
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How are pet foods preserved?
Pet foods are either preserved with natural preservatives such as tocopherols (Vitamin E), citric acid, rosemary, and Vitamin C, or artificial (chemical) preservatives such as BHA, BHT, and ethoxyquin. Drs. Foster & Smith Foods have no artificial preservatives.
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My pet has ants in her food bowl. What should I do?
Especially during warmer months, ants and other insects can get into pet food bowls and water dishes and cause problems. Fortunately, you can solve this problem without the use of insecticides.

Purchase a pet food dish with a "moat" around the food and water compartments. Fill the "moat" with water and a few drops of dishwashing soap. The insects won't be able to cross the soapy water.

If you're concerned about your pet drinking the soapy water, or if the commercial "moat" dishes available are too big for your pet, you can easily make your own. Get a plastic container with a cover (such as an empty whipped topping container). Select a heavy food dish, which your pet will not be able to push around with her nose. Cut a hole in the cover of the plastic container large enough for the food dish to easily fit through with about 1" clearance around it. Partially fill the plastic container with soapy water. Set the food dish inside the water-filled plastic container. If the dish sits too low in the plastic container, place the dish on a heavy base (such as a smaller covered plastic container filled with sand). The level of the water in the larger plastic container should be low enough that your pet will not be able to reach it with her tongue. Again, insects will not be able to cross the 1" clearance or the soapy water. And your pet will not be able to drink the soapy water in the bottom of the larger plastic container because of the cover on the top.
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My pet doesn't seem to like the food. Can I get my money back?
We at Drs. Foster & Smith want you and your pet to love your new pet food. If, for any reason, you (or your pet) are not satisfied with your purchase, simply contact us toll free at 1-800-826-7206 and we'll refund your purchase price-no questions asked.
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