I present to you today a type of product that definitely deserves to be known: toppers. Forgive the anglicism but I couldn’t find a French equivalent that makes sense…
But in fact, what are these toppers?
In short, these are products that we can (should) add to our dog’s kibble in order to increase their nutritional potential. It is not made to completely replace kibbles but to add on top or to mix with kibbles. Toppers are in my opinion THE way to feed your dog well if he eats kibble.
For those who don’t know, kibbles were not invented because they are optimal for dogs, but because they are simple for humans.. Their big problem: the lack of moisture and the obligation to add carbohydrates (not necessary for the dog) in the recipe in order to hold the kibble together. Even in a high quality kibble (Stella & Chewy’s, Horizon, Acana, Fromm, PetKind), the carb level (filling) will frequently be around 30-40%. For a poor quality kibble (Royal Canin, Purina, Science Diet), the carbohydrate (filling) level will frequently reach 50% or even 60%. And then you’ll wonder why your dog poops so big! It’s no surprise because nearly (or more) half of its kibble is made of filler ingredients. Of course, you also have to know that there are better and worse filling ingredients. More info in this article if you haven’t already read it.
Apart from the obligatory presence of carbohydrates, let’s add the fact that the croquette is cooked at high temperature and it is easy to understand that a good part of the nutrients (macronutrients and micronutrients (vitamins and minerals)) are destroyed by the high heat of baking (often around 300 degrees Fahrenheit). Besides, it’s not for fun that you’ll see a long list of synthetic vitamin additions.at the end of the kibble ingredient lists. Tell yourself that if they add them, it’s because they are missing naturally after the cooking stage! By the way, this is also another element to consider when choosing your kibble: at what temperature is it cooked? A company proud of its product will not be afraid to answer this question and some kibble companies cook at 200 degrees Fahrenheit which takes longer but results in a more nutritious product.
In the end, and despite the disadvantages of this mode of animal nutrition, some people will still choose to feed their dog with kibble, whether for a question of budget or lifestyle. I have nothing against that, as long as I choose a quality kibble. The article quoted above will help you make the best possible choice because in this area (the kibble), the price is too often NOT significant of quality ! People who come to see me for consultation are frequently surprised that I am able to cut their monthly bill in HALF while feeding their dog 3 times better than junk food!
But let’s say you already have a good quality kibble, is there a product you could add to every meal that would greatly improve your dog’s nutrition?
Absolutely, and these products are the toppers! Here they are in more detail:
What is freeze dried?
First of all, it is important to know that freeze-dried is, in my opinion, the best kept secret in dog food. Its main advantage: total conservation of nutrients and no fillers. In short, freeze-dried has all the advantages of raw (apart from the high humidity), without the disadvantages.
Of course, you could only feed your dog freeze-dried. However, unless you have a very small dog (or a very large bank account), this is not an option for 90% of people because of the high cost. But where freeze-dried becomes extraordinary for everyone is when used as a topper. Just take a few pieces (5-6 per meal) and break them up to mix them with the croquettes you are already giving.
First observation: you will never have seen your dog so happy to eat his meal as if you put a little freeze dried (lyophilized) in topper! The reason is that it is an extremely tasty product since it is devoid of humidity (without cooking) and is composed of 90-95% only of meat, ground bones (calcium contribution) and offal (proportion in natural vitamins). It is therefore a real explosion of flavors that your dog will experience when he tastes this product. It is also a great way to increase the interest of a dog who is choosy or has become bored with his kibble food.
On this subject, it is in my opinion a serious mistake that we make to always give the same flavor of kibble to our dog. This is why more and more companies are doing what are called rotating diets where you will have 3, 4 or even 5 choices of kibble, all made with the same “base” of ingredients but where ONLY the meat protein will be changed. (ex: chicken, turkey, salmon, pork, lamb). It is therefore this rotation from one flavor to another that will provide your dog with a balanced diet, and not by eating the same chicken kibble all his life!
That said, even if your dog eats his kibble with appetite, adding freeze-dried topper (mixed with the kibble) is the best gift you could give him to optimize his health! In addition, this way it will not cost you so much since we are talking about additions to kibble and not feeding only freeze-dried.
Afterwards, this super versatile product is also the best training treat you could give your dog.. People who do disciplines like agility will frequently use freeze-dried to keep their dog’s focus in competition. On the other hand, no need to do high levels of training to use this product! It is actually the best treat that you can use on a daily basis. Why? Since it’s basically a complete and balanced food, your dog could literally eat the whole bag and he would never get sick, which is not the case with other treats such as beef liver, which will cause diarrhea if the dog eats too much of it in a short period of time. Also, since freeze-dried is very crumbly (breaks easily), it will be easy to break into smaller pieces.
Finally, freeze-dried is also popular with those who feed their dog fresh (raw) food. If they go camping or keep their dog, they will frequently use freeze dried for these few meals, to the delight of the dogs. In fact, the majority of dogs will prefer freeze-dried to raw, which is saying something!
Why is freeze-dried little known?
First of all, there are few companies that manufacture it because the process is complex. In fact, it takes 24 hours to make freeze-dried. To explain it to you simply, we take the fresh, raw and frozen food and then place it in a chamber where a pressure equivalent to 5 times that found at the bottom of the ocean will be added to it, a bit like a hyperbaric chamber. This pressure, over time will remove almost all the moisture from the product but without any cooking! The ice contained in the frozen product will turn into water vapor (evaporate) but WITHOUT going through the water stage as when we thaw a product for us. In short, you see that the process is complex and will understand that only serious companies will invest in this production. freeze-dried,
In the end, the advantages of this product are:
- No cooking of the product therefore optimal conservation of nutrients
- Store at room temperature
- Versatile (can be used as a meal, treat or supplement to add to kibble)
- Lightweight (perfect for online ordering)
Adding a bit of freeze-dried food to your dog’s kibble at each meal is only good for him! All the advantages of raw, without the disadvantages.
Here are some brands available in Quebec and my appreciation of each:
It’s my favorite brand of freeze-dried products mainly for their great versatility and popularity with dogs. Also, it is the one that contains the most meat, with 95% (the missing 5% is made of organic fruits/vegetables).
They manufacture the product in two formats: meal mixers and patties.
The “ meal mixers ” are made to be added to kibble since the product comes in the form of small pieces. When I talk about topper, it’s mainly the meal mixer that I’m talking about. Stella & Chewy’s makes 5 flavors: Chicken, Beef, Turkey, Lamb and Fish. A 3.5 oz bag is around $12 while the large 18 oz bag is around $50.
In addition, the company also recently released a new product called the Superblend meal mixer, to which they added fruits: bananas, strawberries and blueberries. This series is available in three flavors: duck, chicken and beef.
Recommendation: if you want to use the product as a training treat, I recommend beef, chicken and lamb only since these are the flavors whose pieces hold together best (to be put in a treat pouch for example ). If, on the other hand, your goal is to break up the pieces to add them to the croquettes, then there is no problem, you can go with the flavor of your choice.
Stella & Chewy ‘s patties are convenient for someone who wants to serve the product as a meal to their dog. Like I said earlier, this is an option if you have a small dog. The patties are also very popular with people who eat raw and want to keep their dog because they are simple to serve. It is of course also possible to break up the patties to mix them with the croquettes as toppers…
Their main advantage is the wide variety of flavors (proteins) available. In all, Stella & Chewy’s produces 9 flavors in patties : chicken, beef, lamb, duck, surf N turf, turkey, pheasant, venison (venison) and rabbit. Most flavors sell for around $40 for a 15-ounce bag, except for the last three, which are made with exotic meats and are therefore more expensive.
Finally, the last element that distinguishes Stella & Chewy’s products is the fact that each production batch is tested by an independent (external) laboratory for the presence of pathogens. The test therefore confirms that the product is absent from 3 bacteria: salmonella, e. coli and listeria. For the sake of transparency, the company even offers (via its website) to any customer to view the analysis report of the bag he has in his possession!
Here is an example of the analysis report of a bag that I currently have at home.
K9 Natural is a company from New Zealand, where the environment is extremely pure and the quality of the meat impeccable. The company manufactures frozen raw food and also freeze-dried. They only have one product which is the equivalent of Stella & Chewy’s meal mixer, ie made in the form of small pieces. They therefore do not make patties and their product contains 90% meat, 5% fruits/vegetables and 5% green mussels and eggs. Green mussel is a powerful natural anti-inflammatory excellent for joint health in dogs!
I like this product a little less than Stella & Chewy’s for two reasons:
- The pieces of K9 Natural are very friable, ie they break very easily. If your goal is to add the product to the kibble, that’s no problem. If, on the other hand, you plan to use the product as a training treat that you will put in your pocket to go for a walk, then forget the project!
- The fat level and the protein/fat ratio is not optimal in my opinion. In short, the product is a little too fatty for my taste, mainly for beef and lamb. On the other hand, I have nothing to say about the chicken, which is very well balanced.
One thing that sets K9 Natural apart is that they make freeze-dried tripe (beef and lamb), which no other company does. Tripe is loaded with digestive enzymes and probiotics which will greatly aid your dog’s digestive health. I add it a few times a week to my dog’s meal, much to his delight. Normally, when it is not freeze-dried (tripe exists raw and also canned), it really smells of death, which makes many people refrain from giving it. Now that K9 Natural makes it freeze-dried, it’s a great option that we should all try!
Orijen makes freeze-dried patties only, with three flavors available.
The patties are 90% meat, 10% fruit/veg, and all of their recipes are mixes of multiple meats, which I find less convenient if you suspect an allergy in your dog. Also, since this product is only in patty form, I find it less convenient to use as a topper to add to kibble.
Finally, I find the pancakes very hard which for me is a negative point since if you add water, it will be difficult for the pancake to absorb. This is one thing I hadn’t mentioned: if you’re using freeze-dried as a workout treat or topper, you don’t need to add water (although you can do that too). On the other hand, if you want to feed your dog only with freeze dried, then you must moisten the product, ie add water to it!
Orijen also makes freeze dried treats which may look like Stella & Chewy’s meal mixers but like their patties, the treats are very hard to break and much more expensive which in my opinion makes them overpriced to use as a topper. That said, they are still excellent treats in terms of ingredient quality!
- The Honest Kitchen – Propper Toppers
The last product I’m talking about is The Honest Kitchen’s Propper Toppers. This company is the only one in the animal world to hold a “ human grade ” certification , which means that ALL of their ingredients AND their manufacturing processes are the same (or even superior) to the human food industry. So you could open any of their products and eat it yourself. It’s something unique that you won’t find with any other company.
Interesting fact: even the ink used on their packaging (boxes, bags) is NOT from China! Try to find a product whose ink is not made in China…
Going back to the product, the Propper Toppers is a different product than the rest you have been presented with in the sense that it is NOT freeze dried, it is dehydrated. Dehydrating the product partially cooks it, which affects some of the nutrients. We could therefore say that it is a more processed product than freeze-dried.
The first thing that will hit you if you try it is the smell that comes out of the bag: it smells really good!
The product is made in small pieces since it is made directly to be added to kibble. Four flavors are available (contrary to what the video above says): chicken, beef, turkey and fish.
One thing I don’t like though is that the pieces are much harder than freeze-dried, which makes breaking them down into kibble a lot more difficult. This is what I find advantageous with a product like Stella & Chewy’s or K9 Natural: it flakes off so well that it can be mixed with kibble so that the dog loves everything: his kibble AND the freeze-dried powder. . So we cannot do this with The Honest Kitchen product. It’s still a good product (better than anything else not discussed in this article) but it’s not of the caliber to compete with freeze dried in terms of ingredients, nutrient preservation and versatility. On the other hand, it is perfectly balanced to be used as a complete meal, which can clearly help out! It is also an excellent product to use as a treat, which will be better than any “cookie” made of several ingredients. In short, a product that deserves to be known and tried, even if it is not my first choice as a topper.
In my opinion, those who feed kibble should all add a small topper to each meal. This will have the effect of greatly improving the nutritional quality offered to your dog without necessarily costing you more. You will also increase his interest in meals and don’t be surprised to see him running excitedly at the mere sight of the bag…because after all, they know when something is good for them!