The Trouble with Dry Pet Food (Kibble) and Why Your Dog Deserves Better

Over the years, you've probably had it drummed into your head that kibble is the only food that your pet should eat. Just try and slip Fido a table scrap. Someone is sure to scold you that canines should never eat "human" food, only kibble. On the day you picked up your pet from the rescue, shelter or breeder, you were probably even handed a small sampling of kibble to bring home. And like the good owner you are, you probably headed straight to the pet store to buy a bag for your new fur baby.

But did you know that kibble is not the wonder food that dog food manufacturers would like you to believe it is? In fact, this highly processed food often contains questionable ingredients; including some that have been linked to health issues, such as allergies, obesity and cancer.

Then, there's the freshness issue. Ask yourself this. If you were given the choice of eating fresh food or dried-up biscuits every day, which would you select? Probably not the monotonous biscuits. So, is it any wonder that your dog often stares longingly at the fresh food you're enjoying.

History of Kibble

In 1941, according to the Orlando Sentinel, 91 percent of pet food was sold in cans. This changed dramatically during World War II. Suddenly, tin became way too valuable to waste on pet food cans. The industry had to pivot quickly so that they could continue delivering their products to their customers. The answer? Kibble. These small bits of dried pet food could be packaged in bags rather than in cans. And by 1946, the vast majority of dog food was sold in kibble form.

Today, a walk down the aisles of a pet store can be mind boggling. Bag after colorful bag of kibble line the store shelves, vying for your attention with clever verbiage and eye-catching designs. It seems like there are so many different types of dog food to choose from. But are there really?

The Appearance of Choice

Looks can be deceiving. While it may appear at first that you have a wide selection of pet food companies to choose from, in truth, you don't. Several conglomerates own most of those pet food brands. Mars, for example, is the manufacturer behind a slew of pet food brands, including Royal Canin, Pedigree, Iams, Cesar, Eukanuba and Nutro. And then there's Nestle Purina PetCare, which sells more than 30 pet food brands, including Alpo, Purina, Purina Pro Plan, Beneful and Just Right. So, in reality, how different are these pet foods from one another? Could it be that many are basically made from the same recipes with just slight variations?

The Trouble with Kibble

Most dry kibble formulations consist of at least 60% carbohydrate, very little moisture and low quality proteins from alternative sources such as peas. And yet 80% of pet parents are feeding this to our carnivore companions.

Then, there is the question of the ingredients used in kibble. Have you ever spent time actually studying the label? At first blush, the information on most bags of kibble seems impressive. Buzz words like organic, balanced diet, natural and wholesome are mixed in with a general description of the kibble ingredients. It's easy to get fooled into thinking that a bag of kibble is the best food for dogs. But if you take a moment to carefully read and understand the ingredients going into your pet's food, you may not be so quick to feed it to your canine.

For example, the main pet food ingredients listed on one popular brand of kibble are corn, soybean meal, beef and bone meal, animal fat, wheat middlings, water, ground wheat and then finally beef. The first ingredients on a label are going to be the ones that make up the highest content in the kibble. So, the meat protein is not the first, second or even the third main ingredient in this pet food. It's actually the eighth ingredient, well down the list, which means that this kibble contains a lot more inexpensive fillers than actual meat.

And please don't be fooled by the third ingredient -- beef and bone meal. This was not meat added to the kibble. This term is actually describing the slaughterhouse waste products -- the bones and other parts of the animals -- left after the meat suitable for human consumption has been removed. This waste is then ground up and heated to kill off microorganisms before being added to your pet's food.

Pet food labels are also filled with words that can be misleading. For example, if you see the word flavored -- as in chicken-flavored or beef-flavored -- don't be fooled into thinking that the product actually has to contain that meat in any significant amount. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA)'s only requirement for a flavored product is that it contain at least a trace amount of the meat or a meat by-product.

Organic is another misleading term. Hearing that a product is organic may convince you to pay a little bit more for that food. But you may not be getting anything extra for your dollars. Why? Because currently, the FDA does not have any official guidelines governing the use of the term organic.

So, Why is Dry Dog Food So Popular?

Kibble does have its advantages. Because it's cheaper to make a food that consists of empty fillers and ground-up slaughterhouse waste products, these savings are often passed on to consumers. Kibble is also easy to package, has a long shelf-life, and is easy for a pet owner to store and feed to their pets.

Pet Health Issues Caused by Kibble

Unfortunately, many of the pet food ingredients in kibble aren't a necessary part of pet nutrition. Dogs, for example, don't need carbohydrates such as corn, rice and potatoes in their diet . Their bodies only require protein and fat. In addition, many of these fillers, such as corn, are fattening. And that could be one reason why obesity has become a growing pet health problem in the U.S. According to the AKC, 56 percent of dogs in this country are either overweight or obese.

Another problem with kibble? Some of the unnecessary fillers contained in kibble have been linked to a number of health issues, including diabetes and allergies. Some kibbles also contain chemical preservatives, such as BHA and BHT, which are considered to be known carcinogens.

But it's not just ingredients that have been intentionally added to your pet food that could make your dog sick. According to a recent study, lab tests detected high levels of lead, mercury, arsenic and cadmium in pet food.

Best Food for Dogs

For years, dieticians have counseled humans against eating too many highly processed foods. And the same is true for dogs. It's just too easy for your pet to consume way too many empty calories on a kibble diet, especially if you are feeding an inferior pet food.

A better option for canines today is a raw diet. The dog food ingredients, such as raw eggs, muscle and organ meats and vegetables, used in this diet are chosen because they are biologically appropriate for canines and, thus, provides better pet nutrition. Owners who have turned to a raw diet for their pets claim that their dogs appear healthier, have more energy, shinier coats and even cleaner teeth. So, isn't it time to toss the kibble and try something that might be more biologically appropriate for your pup?