Is Dry Kibble Bad for my Dog?

“To kibble or not to kibble”- that simple question causes a great deal of controversy among pet owners, veterinarians, breeders, pet food companies, etc. Here at Volhard Dog Nutrition we feel that knowledge is power, and we are hoping that when you have a better understanding about kibble, you can make more informed decisions for your own dog.

Many people think that feeding a fresh or raw diet is a fad. The truth, however, is that commercial kibble is in fact the fad. Commercial dog food has only been around for about 160 years. Prior to this, dogs were typically fed whatever their owners were eating, table scraps, bones, leftover meat, eggs, etc. Remember, people have been domesticating dogs for thousands of years! Kibble was not their answer to, “what should I feed my dog?”

We at Volhard Dog Nutrition feel that the optimal diet (species-appropriate)for dogs includes fresh, whole foods made from food-grade ingredients. Proteins that are chosen to be fed, should be grass-fed, free-range and organic, if possible. The optimal diet for your dog also includes healthy fats, high moisture (around 70%) and is a healthy balance of protein, carbohydrates and other nutrients. A great way to feed this balanced diet is with fresh, natural foods.

So what makes kibble a wrong choice for your dog?

A few issues with kibble:

  • It is not biologically appropriate.
  • Feed Grade Ingredients.
  • Highly processed ingredients.
  • It contains synthetic vitamins, minerals, and nutrients that are not as bioavailable to the dog.
  • It contains high-starch carbohydrates like high-glycemic, genetically engineered corn, wheat, rice or potato.
  • Low Moisture.
  • Increased bacteria risk.
  • Goes rancid quickly.
  • Added colors and chemicals.

What is a species-appropriate diet?

In order for a dog to experience thriving health, they must consume the foods they were designed to eat. This is known as species-appropriate or biologically appropriate nutrition.

What’s wrong with Feed Grade Ingredients?

The regulation that is placed upon feed grade ingredients meant for dogs only is significantly different from that designed for human food consumption. Pet feeds are allowed to contain what is called “4D” meats. These meats are sourced from dying, diseased, dead or downed animal material and meat ingredients sourced from non-slaughtered animals - with no disclosure requirement.

The FDA says, “Processed pet food, including pet food consisting of material from diseased animals or animals which have died otherwise than by slaughter, goes through high heat processing, which is designed to kill harmful bacteria...”

Rendering is one of the processing methods of sanitizing otherwise putrid, inedible animal by-products and animal waste. Many ingredients in pet food today are from rendering plants.

How do highly processed ingredients affect my dog?

Many of the bioavailable nutrients in kibble are lost during the high-heat process, so in order to make sure dogs will eat it and that it is balanced, fats, flavor enhancers and synthetic nutrients are added to replace what has been lost. Different types of acrylamide and other carcinogens are created in this process that could be detrimental to your dog’s long-term health.

All starches are carbohydrates but not all carbohydrates are starches!

GMO grains and other high-starch carbohydrates make up the majority (60%) of kibble. If you are feeding a grain free kibble then you have swapped grains for high-levels of starchy carbs including legumes, peas & lentils. This creates metabolically stressful insulin, glucagon and cortisol spikes throughout the day. The high carb content and its effect on the dog’s body can cause premature disease such as diabetes and contributes to the growing epidemic of pet obesity.

My dog drinks water, what is the problem with dry food?

Kibble is a low-moisture product, which puts a dog in a constant state of dehydration. Think of it like this- you sit down for a meal of a bowl of Saltine crackers with nothing to drink. The dry food absorbs all the moisture in your throat, stomach and intestines leaving the dog with a minimal amount of fluid to churn the food into something that moves through the digestive system. When a dog gets dehydrated, they can experience several harmful symptoms:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Reduced energy levels and/or lethargy
  • Panting
  • Sunken, dry-looking eyes
  • Dry nose and gums
  • Loss of skin elasticity

Raw food is dangerous because it contains bacteria?

In dry kibble, there’s always a risk for bacteria and mycotoxins to be present. Also, storage mites can multiply rapidly in dry kibble. Pets can develop a hypersensitivity to storage mites, resulting in itchy inflamed skin, hair loss and ear infections. With a pH of 2, a dog’s stomach is more than capable of handling raw materials without getting sick like a human would.

Why would the spray on fats go rancid?

As soon as you open a bag of dry kibble, light and air affect the fragile ingredients inside the bag of food. The fats that are inside the kibble and that are sprayed on the food during production start to go rancid. This can be quantified at 1 week and by 6 weeks you have toxic food! Long-term consumption of rancid fats in kibble can destroy vitamins, which can lead to vitamin, protein and fat deficiencies. Even more alarming, many other health issues have been attributed to rancid fats including malnutrition, hair loss, diarrhea, kidney and liver disease, reproductive problems and even cancer and death.

I always wondered what made the colors in kibble?

Many food dyes, referred to by the Center for Science in the Public Interest as the “Rainbow of Risks”, have been banned because of their negative effects on laboratory animals. This report finds that several of the nine approved food dyes could be causing serious health issues, including cancer and hypersensitivity reactions.

But my Veterinarian says that's what I should be feeding?

We’ve shown you evidence that kibble may not be the healthiest choice for your dog. As it stands, the only benefits of kibble are convenience and cost. As pet owners, it is important to have a good relationship with your veterinarian and to have the ability to communicate freely with them. However, you will find that not all veterinarians are advocating for fresh diets.

The problem with your average veterinarian giving you nutritional advice is that they have had very little nutrition training outside of the few hours focused on food during their time spent in school/training. Most vets get their information from other biased or uninformed vets, they believe what they read in the vet publications sponsored by kibble companies, they get their information from sales representatives of the big kibble companies, or from limited private reading. I am sure you understand why kibble companies do not make the best reference source as they are only interested in selling their products and are not open to alternative diets even if that might be actually needed. Private reading usually reinforces whichever position on the argument they’ve previously decided.  Don’t let this discourage you, there are many wonderful, holistic, proactive veterinarians coming to the forefront of the dog world trying to change the tide! You can read more about talking to your vet about a healthy diet by clicking here.

Volhard Dog Nutrition is backed by 30 years of experience, clinical testing, and happy healthy dogs of all breeds, ages, and activity levels. If you would like further information on our specific diets, please visit our website, www.VolhardDogNutrition.com or you can also send us an email (info@VolhardDogNutrition.com) or give us a call at 888-571-2245 (Monday - Friday, 9:00 am-5:00 pm EST).