It was James Sprat of Cincinnati, Ohio who gave life to the British pet food industry at the turn of the twentieth century. While visiting London he noticed dogs on the docks eating old ship's biscuits and decided to start producing biscuits for dogs.

Although it all began as dry food, moist foods have always been the market leaders. This is possibly because moist varieties appear to be closer to "real" food. There was also a scare some years ago that dried cat food led to fatal urinary diseases in cats. Last year 434,000 tonnes of moist dog food and 531,000 tonnes of moist cat food were consumed.

Although pet owners often complain that their animal is particularly "fussy", with pet food you really do get what you pay for. A Which? pet food preference test, carried out in 1994 found that when choices of premium and economy pet foods were offered to 32 cats and 32 dogs for 16 consecutive meals, most of the animals wolfed down the more expensive brands.

By law all pet food should be made with raw materials from animals which have been passed for human consumption - though generally this will mean that the meat found in pet foods comes from the same animals we would eat, but rarely the same parts. Contrary to popular belief Rover and Tiddles will not be offered meat from horses, whales or kangaroos.

Many vitamins are lost during the manufacture of pet food so some companies replace them artificially. The rich colour, however is purely to convince the pet owner that the food is appetising. Animals are enticed by smell, taste and texture.

For more information on pet health contact:

Pet Care Trust, Bedford Business Centre, 170 Miles Rd, Bedford,Tel: 01234- 273933

Pet Health Council, Thistledown cottage, 49 Main St, Sewstern, Grantham, Lincs

Tel: 01476-861 379

Hill's Science Diet: 0800 282438