Understanding Digestibility and the Nutrient Potential in Pet Food

cat and doog sleeping

When it comes to providing the nutrition for our furry companions, we often find ourselves pondering the effectiveness of the foods we choose. One crucial factor that determines the quality of pet food is its bioavailability – or the proportion of nutrients absorbed from the food that can be used around the body.

What is bioavailability?

In the context of pet food, bioavailability refers to the extent and rate at which the nutrients in food are absorbed and used in the body to support vital functions, prevent disease and promote overall wellbeing. A pet food with high bioavailability contains nutrients that are easily and effectively utilised, while a food with low bioavailability is largely eliminated from the body as waste. All pet food ingredients should serve a purpose, whether to provide your pet with nutrition or to improve texture and taste.


What influences bioavailability of food?

Ingredient quality

High-quality ingredients sourced from reputable suppliers tend to provide superior nutrient bioavailability, as they are likely to be more fresh and less likely to have come into contact with chemicals that could interact with nutrients in the foods.

Processing techniques

The processing methods used in pet food production can significantly impact the bioavailability of nutrients. Factors such as cooking temperature, processing time, and storage conditions can affect the stability and availability of essential nutrients.

Nutrient synergy

Some nutrients work together, enhancing each other’s absorption and utilisation. Formulating pet food with the right balance of complementary nutrients can improve overall bioavailability.

Antinutritional factors

Certain compounds that are naturally present in some ingredients can interfere with nutrient absorption. Careful processing techniques can minimise the presence of these and enhance bioavailability.

Your pet’s biology

Every pet is physiologically different, which means nutrients that are easily absorbed by one animal might not have the same value for another. This can be impacted by health, breed and age, which is why foods with tailored nutrition for their life stage or dietary requirement are incredibly valuable. For example, OPTIMUM™ products offer adult dog and cat food, as well as puppy and kitten ranges.


How the bioavailability of pet food is assessed

Lots of research and testing goes into developing pet food recipes that provide the best bioavailability. This includes analysing the nutrient content of foods and trials to assess how much is being absorbed. For example, OPTIMUM™ products undergo extensive digestibility testing to prove their effectiveness in terms of bioavailability and delivering as much nourishment as possible to your pet.

Digestibility studies

Digestibility trials carried out by pet food brands provide valuable insights into the bioavailability of nutrients. These studies assess how much of the nutrients in a particular recipe are digested and absorbed by animals.

Nutrient formulation

Pet food brands invest in research and development to formulate recipes that offer ideal nutrient absorption. This involves selecting ingredients and processing methods that maximise bioavailability and promote balanced nutrition. For example, the OPTIMUM™ pet food range has been developed with nutritionists at Waltham Petcare Science Institute - a world-leading authority on pet care and nutrition - ensuring that dogs and cats receive all the essential nutrition they need, no matter what their life stage or lifestyle.

Ingredient testing and analysis

Rigorous testing and analysis of individual ingredients helps determine the nutrient content of food and assess their bioavailability potential. This information helps formulate recipes that meet pets’ specific nutritional needs.

Bioavailability and pets’ nutritional requirements

Pets have different nutritional requirements depending on their breed, health, life stage and activity level. Bioavailability plays a crucial role in ensuring that pets get adequate nutrition for their specific needs.

How to maximise bioavailability

Choosing the best quality ingredients and adding supplements to recipes can help your pet get the most out of their meals.

Whole food ingredients

Whole food ingredients, such as natural meat and vegetables, can enhance bioavailability as they are nutrient dense and go through minimal processing.

Fortification and supplementation

Added nutrient supplements in pet food, such as vitamins and antioxidants, can bridge any potential gaps in nutrient bioavailability.

Veterinarian guidance

If you’re unsure, it's a good idea to speak to your vet about your pet's individual nutritional needs, as they'll have a good understanding of your pet's health, breed and life stage. This will ensure your pet food provides them with the ideal bioavailability. By understanding the factors that influence bioavailability and how to evaluate them, we can make informed choices that support our pets. You’ll find more advice on pet nutrition, health and training at our pet care blog.

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