Scientists found evidence that the smells of various species of insects drew dogs’ attention just as much as factory-made dog food. Previously, scientists hadn’t done many experiments to compare the aromatic attractiveness of insects to commercially available kibble. This recent study, published in Annals of Animal Science, helped to fill that informational void. What’s more, the researchers suggested that insects in dog food could serve as both palatants and nutrient sources, and thereby reduce formulation costs.
Experiment on dogs’ interest in insects compared to kibble
Researchers at the Poznan School of Life Science in Poland conducted an experiment in which four species of insects were compared to dry kibble.
In the experiment, 35 adult dogs were presented with conventional dry kibble along with air-dried samples of either mealworm larvae (Tenebrio molitor), Turkestan cockroach (Shelfordella lateralis), black soldier fly larvae (Hermetia illucens) and tropical house cricket (Gryllodes sigillatus). The 20 male dogs and 15 females differed in terms of breed: Yorkshire Terrier, Beagle, Labrador Retriever and mutts. The kibble was made up of corn, wheat, chicken and turkey meal, animal fat, as well as soybean meal.
When given to the dogs, all five samples were in identical opaque boxes with perforations in the covers. The scientists presented the dogs with the samples three times, randomizing the samples order each time. Every time a dog spent 15 second or more examining a box, the sample within was recorded as being chosen.
Dogs chose insects as frequently as kibble
Statistically, the dogs showed no preference for kibble over insects, or vice versa. However, gender did play a role in preference. Males seemed drawn to mealworm larvae, whereas females showed more interest in Turkestan cockroaches, although the researchers were unsure why this occurred.
In their discussion of the results, the scientists noted an economic benefit to pet food companies if insects alone do indeed prove to attract dogs as much as commercial kibble. Potentially, insects could replace aroma and flavor supplements that don’t add nutrients, but do add costs, in pet food formulations.