It is entirely acceptable to feed your dog dried kibble! Kibble, also known as ‘dried food’ is one of the most common canine diets in existence. Kibble has been commercially produced and fed to dogs since 1956 but more recently there have been allegations about this type of diet being unsafe for dogs. Currently, there are more diets available to feed your canine friend than ever before and this can lead to strong opinions regarding which diet is the best, is there such a thing? This article will discuss what kibble is and will (definitely try to) highlight that a kibble diet is in fact safe to feed your dogs.
Table of contents
What is ‘kibble’?
In simple terms, ‘kibble’ is ground up ingredients shaped into pellets, of all different shapes and sizes. These ingredients are usually composed of meats/fish, grains, cereals, vegetables, vitamins and minerals. Kibble sizes are usually breed and age dependant, for example, small breed dogs such as Chihuahuas usually have smaller kibble sizes compared to Great Danes!
Kibble is traditionally sold in bags and it has a low moisture content (approximately 10% water), unlike tinned dog food. This lower moisture content usually leads to your dog drinking more water to stay hydrated, which is acceptably fine.
How is kibble made?
Have you ever sat and marvelled on how kibble is made? Each individual brand of kibble will have their own specific recipe and ingredients (regulated of course via PMFA). That’s what makes them unique from each other (as well as different appearances, shapes and packaging).
As mentioned earlier, these ingredients include meats, grains, cereals, as well as added vitamins, minerals and antioxidants; and will provide all the nutritional needs for your pet. In summary, these ingredients are cooked at very high temperatures in a machine called an ‘extruder’. The mixture is then squeezed into different shapes and are coated with oils and fats to provide palatability. There is some debate into whether the processing of kibble loses its nutritional value. Technically, it might lose a bit of value, in the same way that cooking human foods reduces things like the amount of water-soluble vitamins. However, more importantly, the finished product is formulated to provide the vital nutrient content required for your canine friend.
Pros to feeding kibble:
Commercial kibble includes nutritional completeness. This means that you don’t need to worry about vitamin or mineral deficiencies or supplementing your pet’s diet. The basic requirement for any suitable diet is that it is ‘complete and balanced.’ In dogs that are fed a raw or a home cooked diet, if this is not balanced accurately this can lead to malnutrition and consequently abnormal bone mineralisation and growth abnormalities (Dodd et al, 2019). In addition, cats fed an exclusive home cooked diet are at risk of developing taurine deficiency which can lead to heart failure (Novotny et al, 1994).
In addition, no preparation is required which definitely adds a more convenient component to feeding this type of food. Furthermore, storage of kibble is much easier than storing raw/wet foods. Feeding kibble also makes it easier for you to manage your pet’s weight, as portion sizes and guidelines are easier to follow. Tragically, in 2019 around 51% of dogs are classified as obese (PFMA, 2019) and pet obesity is a growing problem. Thankfully, there are now many dry weight management diets available to aid this global issue. There are also kibble diets formulated for dogs with underlying allergies, these are called ‘hypoallergenic’ diets and whilst aiming to support your dog’s allergy control plan, you can be assured that they will also be receiving all of their nutritional needs.
Cons to feeding kibble:
So, everything has pros and cons! Kibble is not unsafe to feed your dog, however, this type of diet may not work or agree with every individual. Some dogs prefer eating a wet or a tinned diet just as us humans prefer eating certain types of foods. In addition, if your pet has complex medical needs, there may not be a dry food formulated to suit them.
You may have read some scaremongering articles discussing dried food recall and suggesting’ kibble is toxic.’ Food recalls take place when there are safety concerns with a type of product, often this is due to worryingly high concentrations of a substance (e.g. bacterial infection) which is not supposed to be present! In both human and Veterinary fields, food recalls take place regularly and this process is vital to protect health and welfare. To expand further, in the USA, the food and drug administration (FDA, 2021) have recalled different types of pet foods over the years due to various reasons and these recalled products vary between dried kibble, raw and wet diets (with raw and wet food being recalled more often than kibble).
Which kibble should I feed my dog?
There is no such thing as a ‘one diet fits all.’ If there was it would definitely make everyone’s lives simpler! There are definite variabilities between the quality of kibble and the higher value (generally a bit more expensive) brands often use higher quality ingredients and grains, this may in some cases add nutritional value (although that isn’t proven). However, some of the more expensive brands employ more nutritionists (especially those who also offer prescription diets), and in these cases, you may be paying extra for the additional research work that has gone into formulating the diet in the first place.
So, to conclude, ‘to kibble or not to kibble?’ ‘YES to kibble.’ We all want the best for our dogs and there are pros and cons to every diet. Feeding non-commercial and unconventional diets to dogs is more popular now than ever before, however, the majority of dogs are still being fed a commercial, dried diet (Dodds et al, 2020). As a small animal Vet, I would confidently say from talking to Owners that most of my canine patients are fed kibble. I have no hesitation with feeding my feline friend dried food and I feel that you shouldn’t either.
- Dodd, Sarah & Barry, Maureen & Grant, Caitlin & Verbrugghe, Adronie. 2019. Abnormal bone mineralization in a puppy fed an imbalanced raw meat homemade diet diagnosed and monitored using dual‐energy X‐ray absorptiometry. Journal of Animal Physiology and Animal Nutrition. 105. 13118.
- Dodd, Sarah & Cave, Nick & Abood, Sarah & Shoveller, Anna & Adolphe, Jennifer & Verbrugghe, Adronie. 2020. An observational study of pet feeding practices and how these have changed between 2008 and 2018. Veterinary Record. 186. 105828.
- PFMA Obesity Report 2019.pdf
- Taurine Deficiency in Cats | PetMD
- Novotny, Hogan, and Flannigan (1994) Echocardiographic evidence for myocardial failure induced by taurine deficiency in domestic cats. Canadian Journal of Veterinary Research 58:(1)
- Recalls & Withdrawals | FDA