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How to Calculate Pet Food Dry Matter Basis (with Calculator)

Brooke Billingsley

What is Dry Matter Basis and Why Does it Matter?

What is dry matter basis and why is it important for pet food? We’ve got the answers—and a calculator to help you determine the ratio of nutrients to moisture content.

When looking at the nutritional values of pet food, the guaranteed analysis listed on the package is misleading because it’s based the total weight. To get a correct reading, you need to eliminate the moisture content to find a proper distribution of nutrients.

Sounds confusing? Don’t worry. Our calculator will take the mystery out of the process, giving you a more accurate reading of nutritional analysis in your pet’s food.


Why Reading Labels Doesn’t Tell the Full Story

Pet food labels carry many of the same rules and restrictions that labels for human food do. There are specific things that have to be listed, including the nutrient profile of the food. Any pet food you look at should have percentages of protein, fiber, fat, and moisture on the label. There may be other nutrients listed as well, but these are the main ones you should be looking at.

So, you look at a dry dog food and see that it’s 40% protein, which is perfect for your highly active dog. But you prefer to feed your dog a mixture of wet and dry food, so you look at a few cans of food and realize that you’re looking at protein percentages around 10-15%, with a few that are higher or lower. Which makes you wonder if kibble actually is that much more nutrient sound than wet food. A 30% protein difference is significant, and that’s putting it lightly. Why does all this matter, and how can you apply it to choosing a food for your dog?

What Is Dry Matter Basis & Why Is It Important?

Dry matter basis is the nutrient profile of a food without accounting for the moisture in the food. As you can image, comparing the 40% protein kibble and the 10% protein wet food looks quite different when you remove moisture from the equation. Calculating dry matter basis means you can compare apples to apples when it comes to pet food, allowing you to pick the most nutrient sound food for your dog.

Labels on pet food can be misleading when it comes to nutrient profiles, and this is less about companies being dishonest and more about companies being held to a specific standard of labeling that doesn’t adequately compare products. This results in some products looking much higher quality than they are while other products are left in the dust, even though they’re actually the higher quality product.

beige-rat-sits-on-food-bowl_VeronArt16_shutterstock
Credit: VeronArt16, Shutterstock

What Are Ideal Dry Matter Basis Results?

Unfortunately, there’s no easy answer to this one because the ideal dry matter basis is going to vary significantly for each dog. Dogs have varying calorie and nutrient needs based on age, health status, activity level, and whether or not they are spayed or neutered. For an active dog that participates in daily sports, a dry matter basis of 40% protein may be perfect. For a dog in kidney failure, a dry matter basis of 40% protein is much higher than the dog’s kidneys can handle. An active dog can tolerate a higher fat content in its food without weight gain than a sedentary dog can. A great starting point for determining the ideal dry matter basis results for your dog is consulting with a veterinary nutritionist, or even your regular veterinarian. They will be able to give you educated guidance to help you make the best decision for your dog.

What About Wet Food for My Dog?

Wet food has its pros and cons, so you have to weigh those against each other to determine if you will feed your dog wet food and if so, how much. Wet food may have a higher dry matter basis than a dry food, but because it’s a smaller quantity of food, you have to feed more of it. Wet food is usually a much more expensive route than feeding kibble. You also lose the benefit of kibble helping to keep teeth clean and wet food has a much shorter shelf life once opened than dry food.

Wet food usually is nutrient-dense, though, and far more palatable to some dogs than dry food is. It provides more options for dogs that need more water in their diet, and it usually has a higher dry matter basis of fiber than dry food, meaning it’s often a better option for dogs with digestive problems. Choosing to feed your dog wet food or not is entirely up to you and your veterinarian to decide.

Dog-with-a-full-food-bowl_nancy-dressel_shutterstock
Credit: Nancy Dressel, Shutterstock

Conclusion

Calculating the dry matter basis of dog foods can provide you excellent guidance when it comes to choosing the best, most nutrient-dense food for your dog. Practicing the equation until you are comfortable with it will help you significantly when you are in the store and needing to compare foods. This way of determining the nutritional value of a food is becoming more popular because of how effective it is. Hopefully, manufacturers will start putting the dry matter basis on labels. Until then, you have the tools you need to calculate it yourself.


Featured image credit: Africa Studios, Shutterstock

Brooke Billingsley

Brooke Billingsley spent nine years as a veterinary assistant before becoming a human nurse in 2013. She resides in Arkansas with her boyfriend of five years. She loves all animals and currently shares a home with three dogs, two cats, five fish, and two snails. She has a soft spot for special needs animals and has a three-legged senior dog and an internet famous cat with acromegaly and cerebellar hypoplasia. Fish keeping has become a hobby of Brooke’s and she is continually learning how to give her aquarium pets the best life possible. Brooke enjoys plants and gardening and keeps a vegetable garden during the summer months. She stays active with yoga and obtained her 200-hour yoga teacher certification in 2020. She hosts a podcast focusing on folklore and myth and loves spending her free time researching and writing. Brooke believes that every day is an opportunity for learning and growth and she spends time daily working toward new skills and knowledge.