TRACIE HOTCHNER: ALL KIBBLE IS NOT CREATED EQUAL

You should not have to be afraid of putting a premium kibble in your dog’s bowl! A nicely created dry dog food is healthy as (at least as part of) your dog’s meal. Kibble may have gotten a bad rap because lower-quality kibble (like the majority sold in the supermarket) is subjected to artificial flavoring, preservatives, sugars, coloring agents and chemicals for texture or shape. This is the reason some people shun kibble at all for their dogs. But all kibble is not created equal!

My dogs have kibble as part of every meal. I happen to have chosen HALO from all the possible brands because the company is transparent about where their ingredients come from and how they are handled. They only use good stuff- real meat for the protein and whole ingredients for the rest. There are even charming little bits of dried veggies in with the kibble pieces in some of the recipes!

Although the food value of ingredients can be somewhat compromised by the kibbling process, you still want to look for whole foods that went into making that dry food. You want to look for a protein source by its name (lamb, salmon, chicken) and also any whole grain. There is a lot of misunderstanding out there about grains in dry dog food. There is a lot of misunderstanding out there about grains in dry dog food when it is not the grains that are the problem – a “grain free” kibble is not necessarily better nutrition for your dog. You won’t see corn in any quality kibble because it is rarely whole corn that is used in pet food and corn “leftovers” are not nearly as nutrient rich.

The worry about grain in dog food usually refers to wheat which can be allergenic. But many pet food companies use the leftovers of grains, the nutrient-depleted parts that are left after the good part has been used for human food. Look for words like oats, oatmeal, barley, millet, and white or brown rice, which are all good because they are easily digested and all good sources of complex carbohydrates, which supply fiber, along with a consistent level of energy.

All of us need to learn to read the label on bagged dog food and be able to recognize all sorts of ingredients to avoid. My favorite saying about dry dog food is: Res Ipsa Loquitor (the thing speaks for itself). You can easily see when a food is made up of many highly processed chemical-laden ingredients – if you aren’t sure, look up the ingredients list in my book THE DOG BIBLE to find the “Ingredients to Avoid.”

Some original sources of protein for dry dog food are even subjected to irradiation to neutralize the toxic or rotten ingredients, which may destroy some valuable nutrients. Then the extruded kibble dough that has been cut into circles or triangles and been baked or fried is sprayed with fat (for flavor) and with manmade versions of the vitamins and minerals that would have been in the ingredients in the first place.

The higher price of HALO is a result of using whole ingredients and never using rendered meats or by-product meat meals. I know I am getting what I paid for – and glad to do it for my dog’s long-lasting health!

People are a little confused about how kibble is made and what goes into it. It’s true that the ingredients in a dog food factory are heavily managed – by frying, boiling or crushing – as part of being turned into a dough that is then made into the small nuggets you find in the bag. Kibble is made by subjecting even good quality ingredients to high heat in order to make the dough, so which then passes through an extruder (like is used to make pasta if you have ever seen a machine for home use). After it exits the machine and is cut into the appropriate shape, it is baked or fried. All this processing can break down the nutrients in any food but a high quality pet food company has studied how to retain or replace those nutrients – and in some cases, to make them even more digestible and usable by the dog’s body.

Good kibble is perfectly fine as long as it is not the only thing your dog ever eats. People who want to feed their dog the best quality meals and use whole, real food will still continue to use the best kibble they can find as about one-third to one-half of their dog’s dinner. This is especially true of larger, more active dogs who really need those extra calories and quality carbohydrates to feel full and have energy. Dry dog food can satisfy hunger over many hours and supply a nice balance of nutrients, even in their processed state.

If you wish, you can supply a variety of other food (in as unprocessed a form as possible) to complete the meal, in addition to a good kibble. Myself, I like Halo and I rotate amongst the three protein sources in every bag of dry food I buy – chicken, fish or lamb. I round out my dogs’ dinner by also putting in their bowls quality protein (from canned dog food, cottage cheese, eggs or protein I cook for them or myself), real vegetables and even some fruit.

Tracie Hotchner, author of The Dog Bible and The Cat Bible, guest blogs here every Thursday on healthy, natural choices for pets.

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