The kibble remains by far the most common mode of food in the world because more than 90% of dogs eat it. Although I have never made a point of recommending fresh food for your dog when your lifestyle and your budget allow it, I consider that turning your back (as many local purists do) on those who give kibble would be to prevent a host of dogs from living healthier lives. After all, whether we’re feeding raw, kibble or anything in between, we can all make small changes in the way we feed our dog to ensure better health.
I therefore wish throughout this article to list the 10 most common mistakes that I see in people who feed their dog kibble. At the beginning, it was a top 8 but let’s admit that it sounds less good…and as if by magic during the writing, two more came to me (I won’t tell you which ones)!
Here are the 10 mistakes you may be making (in part) if you give kibble.
1. Always give the same kibble
Those who read me frequently must be tired of seeing me constantly repeating that we must give VARIETY to our dogs! Yet this is a major problem in today’s market.
It makes NO sense for a dog to eat the same kibble all his life. Those who perpetuate this myth do so for the sole reason that they do not want to lose your clientele ($), whether it is your veterinarian, a salesperson in a store or a company directly through loyalty programs (ex: 12e sac free).
I can never repeat it enough: no kibble is perfect. This mode of animal nutrition is a useful compromise for us humans but very imperfect for the health of our dog. If you can’t offer your dog anything other than kibble, at least offer variety…but not just any old how!
Many companies offer what are called rotating diets , where in the same brand you will have a product line containing 3, 4, 5 “flavors” (proteins) that you can alternate without making a transition like when you change brands. . Basically, a rotating diet is the same “basic recipe” to which we add a different meat protein for each “flavor”. To imagine it, it’s a bit like eating potatoes, carrots and meat alternately every day (chicken, lamb, fish, etc.). Identical basic recipe (potatoes + carrots) and you vary the meat.
No dog should eat the same meal all his life and for those who do, don’t be surprised that one day he decides he’s had enough and refuses to eat. In addition, it is by constantly being exposed to the same protein that over time, the dog’s body develops allergies and intolerances to many ingredients. Another reason to include variety in your meals!
Is it necessary to vary at each meal? No! What I normally recommend is changing with each bag purchase . You finish your bag of chicken, so buy fish for the next one for example and so on, depending on how many flavors are available in the brand you give. Over time you may notice that your dog has his favorites or likes a flavor less…but still, alternating between 3 or 4 flavors is better than not alternating at all.
Another way to provide variety is to switch brands once in a while . Let’s say your dog has been eating a brand for a year or two, nothing prevents you from trying another product. There are so many good products on the market (I wrote a top-10 of the best brands in this article) that I think it makes sense to try something else from time to time. The only drawback when switching from one brand to another is that you have to make a transition by mixing the two products (old and new) for a few days so that the dog’s stomach gets used to it. When trying another brand, start with a sample or small bag to confirm that your dog will like it (if ever that’s difficult).
In general, I find that people are too afraid to switch brands. I see it a lot in conscientious people who are expecting their first dog (I was the same). We give ourselves the impression that we are going to make a very important choice for the whole life of our dog and it ends up being very stressful…for US! When people write to me asking for help in making the “final” choice between say between two or three good brands, my response often surprises people when I tell them “choose your dog” by presenting them with samples of the three brands and looking at what he is naturally drawn to.
In short, change is not negative…it is even recommended! You just have to know how to do it.
2. Buy too big bags
Another major mistake that I see all too frequently: people with small dogs buying huge bags!
Did you know that once the bag is opened and in contact with the air, the kibble slowly begins to mold? And yes…
The last step in making a kibble before packaging is to spray it with a source of fat (eg fish oil, animal fat, artificial flavor, etc.) to give it flavor. This fat will, however, begin to oxidize as soon as you open your bag. Result: after a few weeks, micro fungi will have formed on your dog’s kibble.
Have you ever noticed that towards the end of the bag, your dog loses interest in his kibble? So you buy him a new bag of the same product (if you’re not doing a rotating diet) and like magic…your dog then becomes super interested in eating again! However, it is the same product. It’s not magic…he was just tired of eating his croquettes with mushrooms!
In an ideal world (depending on the protein), your dog’s bag should be used up completely in 2-3 weeks. Nobody actually does that…so I recommend that you use up your entire bag in about a month, which is fine. So if your dog is 4 lbs and you buy the big bag of 25 lbs telling me (all proud) that he will have it for 6 months… tell yourself that each time I feel a little sorry for your dog who will eat oxidized kibble 10 months out of 12 in his year.
It costs a little more to buy smaller bags…yes…but a sick dog will cost you even more!
3. Put the kibble in a plastic container
This is a major mistake of many of you: as soon as the new bag of kibbles is opened, you hasten to pour everything into a nice plastic container! It’s one of the worst things you can do!
Do you remember I was telling you about the fat sprayed on the kibble before the packaging stage? Well, if you put the kibble directly in a plastic container, this fat will stick to the walls of the plastic container and will again create mold there (invisible to the naked eye). Even if you wash the bin frequently, the mold will remain embedded in the plastic which is a porous surface and washing will not change anything!
Additionally, the plastic is created using various chemicals that will react with the kibble to release BPA, BPS and phthalates, which are proven to cause hormonal issues and cancer. In 2013, the University of Texas proved that even tiny parts (one part per trillion) can affect how cells in the body work. In the same study, it was proven that 90% of the 500 plastics tested release these chemicals naturally. Imagine how much the percentage increases once you add the reaction that happens when the fat in the kibbles oxidizes in contact with the air each time you open the container to feed your dog!
Alternatively, you won’t have this problem by using a glass or ceramic container (provided you wash it frequently). If despite all this you want to continue using your plastic container: put your entire BAG of kibble in the plastic container . The kibbles stay in their bag and the bag goes in the plastic container. That’s acceptable. In addition, in the event of a problem (eg kibble recall) you will always have your bag to check the batch number to find out if your bag is affected by the recall.
4. Buy a kibble for a supplement or ingredient in the bag
Are you one of those who buy a brand of kibble because it contains a supplement such as glucosamine (to relieve joint problems) or cranberries (urinary problems)? If so, you are probably the victim of a great marketing stunt!
Of glucosamine, no kibble contains enough to offer real relief to a dog and that’s not to mention that cooking kills a good part of it. But let’s do the exercise, just to prove my point:
To get noticeable relief, a dog will need 20 mg per pound of its weight. This therefore means that a 50 lbs dog (which we will take as an example) will need 1000 mg of glucosamine per day .
When indicated by the manufacturer, a normal kibble will contain approximately 300 mg per kg. So for 1 kg of kibble we get 300 mg of glucosamine. Then, you should know that 4 cups of kibble equal 1 lbs on average. 1 kg is therefore equal to 8.8 cups of kibble .
- This means that if his food contains 300 mg of glucosamine per kg, your 50 lbs dog to have his 1000 mg of glucosamine will have to eat… 29 cups of food per day! You see that is impossible! He will become obese long before he sees an improvement in his joint pain…
But you will tell me that there are products higher in glucosamine. Yes, but let’s see again how much food a 50 lbs dog will need to eat to get his “dose” of 1000 mg per day:
- Food containing 375 mg/kg: 23 cups per day
- Food containing 500 mg/kg: 18 cups per day
- Veterinary joint food ($120 per bag) containing 950 mg/kg: 9 cups per day
So you see that even with the veterinarian’s “joints” kibble, your dog will have to eat 9 cups a day…while the recommended portion for a 50 lb dog is 3.5 cups which will only provide him with 377 mg of glucosamine…while it would take him 1000 mg a day! Let’s say that we are far from the mark…and I’m not even talking about the quality of these supplements put in the kibbles versus what you will buy separately.
In short, all this mathematics to make you understand that a supplement, we add it ourselves separately to ensure the right dosage and its quality . To think that it will be found in good concentration in a product like kibble is to live in a world of hugs.
5. Not reading the ingredient list
The first thing you should do when looking at a kibble is to read its ingredient list, no matter where you buy your kibble. You would be surprised to read how much the foods sold at high prices are filled with low-end ingredients (feathers, sawdust (wood), animal by-products, etc.), which are sold to you at the price of a quality product ($100 and + the big bag).
But no matter where it comes from, at $100 a big bag, the ingredient list should contain a lot of MEAT! Not corn or wood!
Then, when reading the ingredient list, do you see several added vitamins (A, B, D, E)? If so, the manufacturer must have added synthetic vitamins , which are always less well absorbed by the dog’s body than those naturally contained in the ingredients. Why does he have to add more? Because the basic ingredients are not nutritious enough and do not contain enough.
Moreover, do you also see names that you are not too familiar with starting with “ L- …” such as: L-lysine ? In this case, it is amino acids added again because the ingredients are of too low nutritional quality. The more added amino acids you see ( L – lysine, L – carnitine, D L -methionine, etc) the more it is an indicator that the product contains little meat because these amino acids are present almost exclusively in meat .
By reading the list of ingredients, you will then know what you are really buying…because the design of the bag doesn’t give a damn to your dog. What matters to him is to be well fed and for this part, he can only count on you.
6. Believe in puppy food
One of the questions I get asked MOST OFTEN in a week is: Can I feed my puppy an “all life stage” food?
The short answer: YES
In reality, puppy food exists a lot because YOU like it to say “puppy” on the bag. It comforts the customer… just as the opposite makes him insecure, hence the fact that I am asked this question so often.
Have you ever compared the same puppy and adult food? Generally, the only difference you will find will be that the puppy food will have about 2-3% more protein and fat.
See an example here with Acana for small breed. On the left you have the puppy formula and on the right the adult version.
You could achieve the same result by taking the adult version and increasing the serving slightly. The opposite also: an adult could eat puppy food without harming his health…but his portion should be reduced a little otherwise his meal will contain too many calories. When you go to the grocery store, is there children’s chicken? No…it’s the same chicken as the adults. It’s all about the portion. Same for your dog.
The only downside I would like to add, however, is for large breed dogs . Since large breed puppies (70 lbs and + adult) grow extremely quickly, it is important to have these calcium and phosphorus values to avoid health problems (dysplasia, etc.):
- Calcium: 1.2 to 1.8%
- Phosphorus: 1.0 to 1.6%
- Calcium/phosphorus ratio: 1:1 to 1.8:1
If you buy a kibble marked “large breed” you are sure to have these values. This does not mean that you absolutely have to have “large breed” written on the bag. Many “ all life stages ” products also work perfectly well for large breeds. On these products you will have (usually under the ingredient list or analysis table) something like this:
The important word is obviously “including”. For “all life stage” products that are not suitable for large breeds, you will have “excluding” or “except for…”, as in this example:
7. Not adding toppers
Toppers are so important to me that I devoted an entire article to them in 2017.
What is a topper? In reality, it is an addition that is made to kibble from another product in order to increase the potential nutritional value. It is therefore a high quality product that we cannot afford ($) to offer as the only food to our dog but that at least we can add a little bit to his kibble every day.
My favorite topper is the freeze-dried one. It is the dry product that comes closest to raw. Dogs literally go crazy for it and the nutritional value is extraordinary. In addition, if you live far from major centers and your store does not have any in stock, you can easily order some online because it is super light and therefore inexpensive to post.
In short, each person who gives croquettes should at each meal add a few pieces of freeze-dried ( freeze dried in English) to the meal of his dog. It’s downright giving a boost of nutritional value to your meal.
Moreover, some manufacturers have even started to follow this recommendation and directly manufacture a product that includes kibble and freeze-dried pieces in the same bag. Here are three examples:
Personally, I always recommend adding the freeze-dried product yourself. In this way you control the quantity and above all, you can crumble it and mix it with the kibble…because some dogs will eat only the “big pieces” of freeze-dried if you don’t crumble them. They are not crazy! But if your dog eats everything you put in his bowl, then these two-in-one (kibble + freeze-dried) products are a great choice.
8. Do not add fresh foods
Freeze-dried is great, but THE best thing you can add to your dog’s kibble is fresh food. Especially fruits and vegetables.
An American study has proven that if only 3 times a week we add green vegetables to our dog’s kibble, we will reduce his chances of cancer by 90%. If you add orange or yellow vegetables , then you will reduce his chances of cancer by 70%. When we know that more than one in two dogs dies of cancer these days, this information becomes even more telling.
What to add? Broccoli, beans, cucumber, peppers, carrots, kale, etc… Is it fresh and is it green, yellow or orange? So add some! You will then see your dog’s preferences.
What portion to add? See your dog’s bowl as a plate and tell yourself that you add about 25% fresh vegetables, or 1/4 of his plate/bowl. They can be raw or lightly cooked. It’s calorie free so your dog won’t get fat. This is also what I advise dogs who are trying (with difficulty) to lose weight on kibble: between meals, give vegetable snacks!
Some fruits can also be added in reasonable amounts as they contain sugar. Strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, bananas, kiwis, pineapple etc…it’s excellent for your dog too…but in more moderation.
Another incentive to add: the majority of fruits and vegetables reduce the acidity in the dog’s body (alkalinize). Knowing that a more acidic environment increases inflammation, there is reason to want to reduce this acidity! Not to mention that fruits and vegetables provide a large amount of vitamins and minerals, enzymes, antioxidants, fiber and phytonutrients.
But that’s not all because there are a host of other foods that we can add to our dog’s kibble. Here are a few:
- Quail eggs (my dog’s favorite)
- Sardines (preserved in water or olive oil)
- Pumpkin puree
- Goat’s milk
- coconut oil
- apple cider vinegar
- Fermented vegetables
- Fish oil or hemp
Here is a short video of Rodney Habib where he interviews Steve Brown (world leader in food formulation) on what ingredients can be added to a raw and kibble diet. You’ll see that if he had one food to choose from to add to the kibble, Steve Brown would go with it…(I’ll let you find out).
9. Do not add moisture
The biggest problem with kibble will always be its lack of moisture. While fresh food contains about 70% moisture (water), kibble contains about 10%. It’s 7 times less water, which puts our dogs in a constant state of dehydration . This causes a multitude of health problems, such as urinary disorders (stones, crystals, etc.).
So it will surprise you but yes, we should always add a little water to our dog’s kibble. That said, that doesn’t mean your dog will like it…but at least give it a shot. If he likes it, it’s clearly a plus for his health! In addition, it may make him eat a little less quickly, which is also excellent.
At the same time, in recent years, several companies have developed products to combat this lack of hydration. This is where the broths that can be added to croquettes and which work very well have come out. It adds flavor to the kibble AND it improves hydration. Here are a few that are excellent:
10. Believe in veterinary foods
If you’ve ever gone to the vet for a health issue with your dog, chances are they’ve recommended a prescription diet for your dog. In fact, 35 to 45% of their customers rely on these foods sold only in veterinary clinics. But if the vet sells it, surely it’s the best on the market? Unfortunately no! I would even go so far as to tell you that these are some of the worst products on the market.
What do I blame them for? Mainly, the lack of meat but also: the overabundance of bad grains (corn, wheat, soy), the use of filler ingredients such as powdered cellulose (that’s a nice word for sawdust…yes yes, WOOD), the addition of many synthetic vitamins (because the basic ingredients are not nutritious enough)… in short, everything that should NOT be found in a kibble is found in those sold by your veterinarian , no matter which one of the three major brands he sells: Hill’s, Purina or Royal Canin.
You do not believe me? So let’s look at some recipes for these famous “vegetable puffs”. I give you two for each company and I challenge you to find where the meat is.
As you can see, there is nothing very shiny about the ingredients of these formulas that are sold to you at high prices. If you give away these products, then you are paying for a premium product and getting low-end ingredients.
Also, do you notice how from one formula to another the same ingredients are always used, in a different order? So I would like to know how they explain that a formula supports digestive, kidney, skin or urinary problems…if they all contain the same thing? Isn’t there a LOT of marketing behind this?
Honestly, these foods are a great way for your vet to build loyalty and increase revenue. I wouldn’t be against it if it were sold to you at a fair price…but paying more than $100 for a big bag when there are barely $5 worth of ingredients, that’s not what I like. call a fair price. In fact, you’re paying for a nice bag, that’s pretty much it!
As I often say: the kibble industry is one of the only industries where the price paid has no connection with the quality you get. You could pay half the price and feed 4 times better!
I hope these few tips have taught you a trick or two that you can put into practice to improve your dog’s health. We all want the best for our dog and giving kibble is still the most common mode of canine nutrition.
There are several ways to ” pimp ” your kibble to improve this mode of animal nutrition which, it must be admitted, is a bit flat at the base.
Experiment and see how your dog reacts. Chances are, mealtimes will get more and more interesting if you put my tips into practice!
Dog Food: Ten Scary Truths – Jan Rasmusen
TOP 10 MYTHS ABOUT PET FOOD AND NUTRITION – Dr Jean Hofve, DMV
Rotation Feeding for Pets – Pet MD
Canine Diseases Linked to Grains in Dog Food (Part 2) – Dog Food Advisor
THE DEADLY REALITY OF PET FOOD STORAGE CONTAINERS
Glucosamine: Does Your Joint Support Kibble Stand Up? – Dogs Naturally Magazine
Adding Fresh Foods to Commercial Dog Food – Dog Aware
5 Steps to Enhancing Your Dog’s Store-Bought Dog Food – Mary Straus
10 quick & easy food boosters you can add to your dog’s meals to improve their health – Holly Montgomery
Evaluation of the Effect of Dietary Vegetable Consumption on Reducing Risk of Transitional Cell Carcinoma of the Urinary Bladder in Scottish Terriers – Malathi Raghavan, Deborah W Knapp, Patty L Bonney, Marcia H Dawson, Lawrence T Glickman
Complete and Balanced via Feeding Trial or Nutrient Profile? – Truth about pet food
AAFCO Dog Food Nutrient Profiles – Dog Food Advisor
11 Reasons To Feed Your Dog Fruits And Vegetables – Dogs Naturally Magazine
Soaking Dry Dog Food in Water – The Whole Dog Journal
Busted: Dogs Naturally calls bull$hit on prescription diet dog food – Dogs Naturally Magazine