When eating a proper meal, do you like your food warm or cold?
An overwhelming majority will say "well, of course, I like to eat my meals warm. Eating cold food is preposterous!" No one likes to eat food straight out of the refrigerator unless it's ice cream or a salad, that's for sure. If we can't stand eating cold food, what more our beloved dogs?
Think about it.
When a wolf kills its prey, the carcass would still radiate some body heat. The blood and internal organs would be warm, and the wolf will proceed to eat it while it's still fresh. The natural aroma and taste of raw meat would stimulate the senses of the wolf tenfold.
If you look at it this way, heating your dog's food makes a ton of sense, now doesn't it? You might even be surprised to learn that 24% of dog owners warm pooches meal. Before we delve deeper into why we all need to heat our best friend's meals, let's check out what types of dog food are out there first.
Types of Dog Food
Some dog owners feed their pets raw food, while others opt for canned food or dry kibbles. While the natural dog food vs. commercial dog food debate is a whole new topic altogether, let's touch on the subject a bit.
Raw food- Unprocessed food that has no preservatives, salt or spices. This includes fresh ground meat (beef, lamb, chicken), vegetables, and eggs. Dogs get 100% of the nutrients and antioxidants from raw food, with no added sodium or toxic chemicals.
Commercial dog food- Anything that comes out of a can or bag. This type of food can be dry (kibbles) or wet (ground meat). Manufacturers list the nutritional values on the label, and they try to replace the nutrients lost during the manufacturing phase. It doesn't always work, though!
But what about cooked, homemade dog food?
Homemade dog food is an offshoot of raw dog food but cooked. The same fresh and natural ingredients are used to make it. But raw food owners say that cooking the ingredients diminishes its nutritional value. While cooking destroys bacteria found in raw food, it also destroys natural enzymes and nutrients.
The Case for Heating Dog Food
The process of heating releases the natural aromas in food, making it more palatable. Dogs have an acute sense of smell, and like us, the aroma of a meal is a massive contributor to appetite. Dogs who are sick or recovering will benefit more if you heat their food.
The same goes for older dogs or picky eaters. If it's feeding time and Rover just looks at his food and turns away, it means that his meal is unappealing. Try heating your dog's diet to 101F - 102F or anything near body temperature to help release aromas that can stimulate your pet's sense of smell.
Heating dog food is especially important during cold weather. For much of the same reasons we humans love hot soup during winter to warm us up, dogs would enjoy a warm meal, too.
How to Heat Dog Food Part 1: The Microwave
There's a discussion about whether it's safe to use the microwave to heat dog food or any type of food, in general. While there are plenty of studies on the possible harmful effects of microwave radiation, the jury is still split on the topic. Below are some of the arguments as to why you shouldn’t use a microwave to heat dog food:
- Based on the studies that say microwave cooking is bad for the health, there's a recurring theme: carcinogens. Studies show that cooking or heating food in the microwave changes the chemical composition of food into carcinogens.
- The EMF (electromagnetic field) that a microwave emits is harmful, according to the World Health Organization. It's also dangerous to heat plastic in a microwave, even if it's "microwave safe." Most plastics can release toxic chemicals such as BPA, PET, xylene, and phthalates when heated. These chemicals may end up in your dog's food. Stainless steel bowls are no good either, as they spark. Use a ceramic bowl for your dog’s food instead!
- Nutrient loss when cooking food in a microwave is comparable to conventional cooking. Some argue that using a microwave is better because there's no water for the nutrients to leak into. Cooking, in general, diminishes and destroys most of the nutrients in food, making this argument a wash.
Again, the jury's still out on microwave cooking, so you should take all this with a grain of salt, so do your own research.
How to Heat Dog Food Part 2: The Right Way
If you're feeding your dog raw food, one of the best ways to heat it is by adding a warm (not boiling) broth. The broth could be anything - beef, chicken or bone marrow. A time-saving idea is to make a lot of soup and store it in the fridge. When it's time to feed your dog, heat up some broth and mix it with the raw food!
This is also applicable to canned food, dry kibbles, and homemade cooked dog food. When the weather is cold, or your dog's food came from the refrigerator, pour some warm broth over it.
Another way is to place the cold dog food in a glass, watertight container and submerge it into hot water for a few minutes.
The Bottom Line
For much of the same reasons we heat our meals, your dog deserves a warm meal, too. Heating dog food helps make it more palatable because it releases aromas locked inside of it. If you want your dog to finish his food, try heating it.
Avoid going overkill when heating dog food. Cooking or heating food past a temperature threshold is a surefire way to destroy the nutrients in it.Until next time!