Dog nutritionist, Alyssa Ralph, advises pet owners what to look out for on food packaging and breaks the stigma that comes with feeding your canine a kibble diet
Image: Alyssa Ralph)
‘Is kibble bad for dogs?’ is a question that causes a great deal of controversy among pet owners, vets and food companies.
There are many claims that dry dog food can be unhealthy for dogs, and some people believe it even contributes to a lower life expectancy.
But much to popular belief, kibble is not unsafe to feed pets – and expert dog nutritionist, Alyssa Ralph from Your Dog’s Club, is sharing the reasons why.
She told The Mirror: “The truth is, there are many forms of dog food, including wet, raw, fresh and kibble, and all of them are capable of being bad for your dog.
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“Feeding your dog well extends way past simply the type of food you opt for. You can just as easily damage your pet’s health with poorly formulated raw food as with poor kibble.”
An owner’s budget, living situation and lifestyle can have a huge impact on the foods their feed their dog, and Alyssa is a strong believer that pet parents shouldn’t be slating each other’s choices.
She says: “Let’s ditch the kibble-shaming and encourage a more wide-ranging education of what goes into dog food. That way we can promote healthier dogs across the nation.”
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How can you tell a good kibble from a poor kibble?
There are a lot of indicators that can suggest you’re looking at a low quality kibble.
Alyssa explains: “First, look at the protein source. Is it a named meat source, such as chicken, duck, or salmon? Or is it a vague ingredient, such as a meat or poultry meal?
“A more specific source generally equates to a better, well-balanced recipe.”
Alyssa advises looking for an average protein content of 25-30 per cent, but not to forget about carbohydrates.
“Grain-free foods are often touted as healthier, but most of them rely on white potato or peas to replace the grains, which can be problematic,” Alyssa says.
Sweet potato is a fantastic primary carbohydrate source to look out for.
It’s also important to consider how much of the recipe is made up of legumes, such as chickpeas.
“Research is still ongoing, but there’s a chance that these ingredients can contribute towards the development of a heart condition known as dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) in our dogs,” she says.
If your dog’s breed is naturally prone to this disease, it’s best to choose kibble with a low to zero content of these ingredients.
Lastly, you can look at the temperature the kibble was cooked at. A lower temperature, around 80°C, will have a stronger protein structure than kibble that is cooked at higher temperatures, over 180°C.
“There is even some evidence to suggest that gently cooked meats are actually more digestible for your dog than raw meats as well, meaning your dog could get more benefit from them over raw food,” Alyssa added.
Does having a long shelf life mean its unhealthy?
In short, no. One of the most appealing factors of kibble is the convenience, as it takes up a relatively small amount of space.
You don’t need to chill it and you can feed it readily without the need to defrost or cook it.
“Of course, for kibble to fulfill these needs, it needs to be preserved – and yes, some preservatives can be harmful for your dog,” Alyssa says.
“Artificial preservatives tend to be ingredients such as BHA, BHT, propyl gallate, and potassium sorbate.
“These have been found to promote certain health concerns, most notably a variety of cancers, as well as impacting some brain function.
“However, natural preservatives do exist and seem to be much safer for the health of our beloved pets.
“These include vitamin E, vitamin C, and rosemary oil, which can give kibble a shelf life of up to one year, without the implications and risks of the artificial versions.”
Is kibble safer than raw pet food?
“There is a plethora of science available that links the feeding of raw food to our dogs with public health concerns, such as outbreaks of E.coli,” Alyssa says.
“Kibble has been shown to have markedly reduced risks, and is the safer option for households that can’t commit to impeccable hygiene around their dog.
“This hygiene must extend past just the food preparation areas, as dogs fed raw meats can shed the bacteria in their saliva, as well as their excrement.”
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George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.