When Was Dog Food Invented?


Have you ever wondered where the idea for dog food came from? Or when was dog food invented? I want to focus this article on those concepts because that’s how we have all the dog food choices available in today’s world.

Who DID Invent Dog Food?

A guy named James Spratt invented dog food in 1860. He was an electrician so didn’t have any interest at the time in the pet or dog industry. In the 1800s, dogs lived outside and got raw meat or table scraps. On a journey to sell lightening rods, he saw dogs eating leftover dry biscuits. Sailors used these biscuits on long trips because they would last a long time. They were made out of flour, water and little of salt. when was dog food invented

In The Years Before Dog Food

Two thousand years ago there was a farming manual written by Roman philosopher and poet Marcus Terentius Varro. They wrote passages noting that their farm dogs were to be given bones from dead sheep and barley bread in milk. In the middle ages the European Royalty gave their hounds meat-by-products like lungs, liver or heart. The other part of their diet was grain and vegetables. People who were not royalty fed their dogs cabbage, potatoes, animal bones and crust from bread. In the 1800s, the Empress Tzu Hsi of China was known to give her Pekingese dogs shark fins, quail breasts, and antelope milk. The other wealthy owners around that time fed dogs roasted duck, cakes, candies and liquor.

Spratt’s Meat Fibrine Dog Cakes

Spratt’s Meat Fibrine Dog Cakes were the name of James Spratt’s first dog food! He made them out of wheat, vegetables, beetroot, and prairie beef. Dog Cakes were targeted towards higher class incomes since one fifty pound bag of dog food cost a full day of work even for a skilled craftsmen. FH Bennett introduced milk bone dog biscuits as a dog food and was a competitor to Spratts dog cakes.

Gaining Popularity

After the dog food was made, it had to gain popularity with the public. It was advertised to health freak dog parents such as dog show owner participants. In January 1889, Spratt’s dog food made the cover of American Kennel Club.

In 1956, the first dry kibble was introduced and made by a process of extrusion. Extrusion was used because food could be made in large qualities. The wet and ingredient were mixed together to make a doughy substance. After that it was put in a machine called the expander. The expander would cook the food at a big pressure of steam and high temperatures. Once that was finished, a die cut machine would form the shape of the food.

The Pet Food Institute spoke highly of kibble and made sure the public was aware that their dog food should be kibble based. This helped the sale of it significantly. The Pet Food Institute was a group of lobbyists. They made sure that dog owners knew that table scraps were no longer healthy or safe for your dog.

Moving To A Can

Canned dog food came in 1922 by Ken Ration. This food was made of horse meat and labeled as red meat. After World War One they need a way to get rid of dead horses so they put them in canned dog foods. Slaughtering horses became a huge thing because people seen how much money they could make. People were slaughtering fifty thousand horses a year. Thankfully that didn’t last forever due to animal lovers getting mad about the increasing amount of horses being killed.

Working Up To Todaydog food

Once the dog kibble and can food was introduced and highly bought by consumers, they were still able to keep expanding. Next came the weight and health management formulas. Jean Cathary was a french Veterinarian surgeon that started these formulas in the 1900’s. He would mix up his own concoctions for the clients he served. He was so successful he registered the food to Royal Canin and later on Hills. Hills Pet Nutrition introduced the Prescription kibble for dogs in the 1980s.

Steve Brown was the first person to make raw pet food in the United States. He actually started with dog treats but later went on to make raw food since his treats were a success. Instead of marketing his product, he gained sales through education. Raw dog food was used a lot with holistic veterinarians. Veterinary medicine was founded in the United States in 1895. The dog food industry helped open the doors to vet care because people were starting to think more and more about their dogs health.

8 thoughts on “When Was Dog Food Invented?”

  1. Brenda says:

    Great article! Very interesting the history.

    1. Thanks Brenda! Always nice to hear your thoughts!

  2. Hi, Holly. I just wanted to tell you how unique I find your idea of even telling us when dog food was invented. I’m that type of person who wants to know everything concerning my pooch, so a big “Thank you” for your informative post.

  3. Jukka says:

    As a relatively new dog owner I never actually gave thought about the history of dog food. I knew instinctively that pet food has to be a relatively new invention just like any other processed food stuff. Here in Finland it was common to feed your dog with scraps all the way to the 60s and 70s and I think I have heard pet food really became a thing in the 80s. As did pets actually. Before that dogs and cats were generally kept for work. Hunting, guarding, pest control etc. It’s kinda funny how animals have become family members in such a short time. Thanks for the interesting read!

    1. It is nice people started keeping them as family members especially when dogs can be extremely hard working and loyal. They deserve to be treated well in return 🙂

  4. Angela says:

    WOW, I really enjoyed reading your article about the origin of dog food. I never knew any of this. I love history so this was great information to learn. I am a cat owner, I wonder if the cat food history is similar. I would imagine they originally just caught birds and mice and worked for their food. Thanks again for writing such an original article. Great work!

  5. They probably have very similar history. I love cats just as much as I do dogs. Thank you for the compliments!

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