This week I asked the question: Is it okay to make kibble the basis of your dog’s diet? I noted that advocates of raw feeding, home cooking, and other diets would argue that it isn’t.
But kibble sure is convenient.
After doing the research and giving the issue some thought, here’s how I saw it.
1) Bones and Raw Food
Fans of this primal diet — including Jim McBean who guest posted about it on my blog and writes regularly on the topic at DoggyBytes.ca — contend that the dog-wolf divide is nonexistent and that canines thrive by eating the same thing that their lupine ancestors ate.
Animal welfare advocate Mary Haight, who brought up this topic recently on her comprehensive The Fight Over Pet Food vs Pet Food Safety post on DancingDogBlog.com, provides a relevant counter link, citing the FDA’s recent statement that eating bones pose a health risk. Commenting about the raw diet on that same post, Eric Goebelbecker of DogSpelledForward.com notes:
I am supposed to believe that as dog was domesticated, either via “adoption” or as an opportunistic scavenger, that he maintained a diet consisting of raw meat and bones? Did Paleolithic man starve his kids so his dog ate well? Why is it that the truly wild dogs we see today still live from scavenging around villages (Africa) and hanging around in garbage dumps (Mexico)? Why are they *thriving* if dogs should only be fed meat and bones?
2) Home Cooking
Many of you wrote advocating home cooking buttressed by supplements to ensure that a proper nutritional balance is achieved. It’s a nice idea but supplements don’t grow on the supplement tree. So added to the work of cooking — which many find pleasant; I don’t — is the work of finding out where the supplements come from, whether they include any additives and chemicals… Supplements are less regulated than dog food and we know how well regulated dog food is. Not.
3) Cans, Rolls, Freeze-Drieds, Dehydrates
Store-bought food exclusive of kibble runs the gamut. Some varieties claim to be nutritionally complete, others are only intended to be supplemental. Some have many ingredients, some have only a few, some are totally organic, others contain suspect mystery components. All tend to be expensive, but the brands with the greatest health claims, especially the freeze drieds and the dehydrates, are the priciest. What they all have in common: They go through some kind of processing — minimal as it might be — in order to get to the store and live on a shelf. And they’re designed to be convenient.
Not all kibble is created equal — and it’s not hard to separate the wheat (or I should say the Monsanto corn) from the chaff. My two favorite sites for evaluating the different brands of kibble are The Whole Dog Journal, which does annual surveys of dry food; and the DogFoodProject.com, which teaches you how to read a dog food label.
By coincidence, an email that I received from a company offering me a sample of packaged home cooked food, individualized to my dog and delivered to my home, helped me make my decision.
The company writes on its website:
…. Kibble – no matter how high the quality of the ingredients – is still a highly processed food product. Kibble’s base ingredient is carb-heavy, processed dough, even with higher protein formulas. Kibble dough is essentially “fried” during processing, using the fats in the formula. Since much of the nutritional value is lost in this process, virtually all kibble receives a spray of synthetic vitamins and minerals to “balance out” the nutrient profile and make up for nutrient loss in the extrusion process.
A kind of class snobbery — that’s the only way I can describe it — seems to be going on. Convenience is okay as long as it’s expensive convenience, like dehydrated raw food. When convenience is associated with kibble, no matter how high quality, it’s synonymous with laziness.
If you have the time and the money and the conviction that a particular type of non-kibble diet is best for your dog, I say go for it. I agree that just kibble is boring, and that some fresh food is desirable. So I use high-quality kibble as a base and top it with low fat meat that I also eat myself, sometimes adding veggies. Easy.
One more thing: You can’t put home cooked food or raw meaty bones in a toy designed to keep dogs occupied, like the one pictured on top of this post.