Tuesday, July 9, 2013


Jack Prentice
The most mundane household chores often bring questions to my mind. Like feeding the dog. Our dog Jack has a sensitive stomach (to go along with his sensitive emotions and nerves). For that reason, he eats a dry dog food made from chicken and rice, along with the occasional Milk Bone. Poor sensitive Jack won’t eat until after my husband gets home. I have no idea why. When Jack is really upset (like when we’ve had the nerve to be gone most of the day), he won’t eat at all. If hubby and I go out of town and leave Jack with my mother, he often won’t eat for a couple of days. In case anyone is wondering, yes, I tried some of that fancy canned food once. That was a mistake I paid for with the price of steam cleaning.

But our dog Jack aside, choosing a dog food is a complex endeavor. So many choices. There are whole grocery aisles full of assorted bags and cans. And there are as many opinions of what’s good for dogs and what’s not. Canned food, dry food, raw food. . .arg! What’s a dog parent to do?

And that leads me to my questions. When did people start feeding their dogs food from packages or cans instead of tossing them scraps or letting them scavenge? When did feeding dogs get so complicated? Who invented official dog food?


It all started with a Yankee electrician from Cincinnati named James Spratt. In 1860 he unveiled Spratt’s Patent Meat Fibrine Dog Cakes, a combination of wheat, beetroot, vegetables, and beef blood. Then, as always happens when someone thinks up a good idea, competitors soon followed, like Dr. A.C. Daniels’ Medicated Dog Bread and F.H. Bennett’s Maltoid Dog Biscuits. (I don’t know about you, but the words fibrine and maltoid do not sound appetizing in the least.)

A British company took over Spratt’s formula and began production in the U.S. in 1890. Several U.S. firms entered the market as well, introducing their own biscuits formulas and dry kibble.

Canned horsemeat dog food was introduced in the United States after World War 1. And we shouldn't leave out pet cats. The 1930s brought canned cat food, along with dry meat-meal dog food. Pet food production was expanded in the 1950s by the adaptation of equipment used in the production of breakfast cereals. And from there things kept growing until they became the complicated industry that exists today.

So I guess I’m glad we have options. And as long as Purina keeps making the chicken and rice formula, I’m happy. So is Jack’s stomach and my carpet.

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