Why I never plan to feed kibble to my dogs again!
The healthy or not so healthy side of kibble.
The majority of dog, and cat, owners still feed their pets kibble today. It's advertised frequently on TV, there's countless brands on the shelves in pet stores, and even veterinary surgeries supply many different types of kibble designed for dogs and cats with different health conditions or even different breeds. It's understandable why owners feel that that is what you do, feed kibble, but should they? Over the past couple of years I've read more and more about canine, and human nutrition and there seems to be a big misunderstanding or lack of knowledge in how we view food and nutrition. I believe we all need to open our eyes to the food we and our pets eat, open our minds and make an informed choice to what is right.
We are familiar to the reports and government advice on our health and diets, sometimes it is confusing but generally all advise on reducing the amount of processed foods we consume. Numerous studies have concluded a diet of highly processed foods will increase the risk of us developing cancer so what about our dogs?! Kibble IS highly processed. Typically it comprises of meats, animal derivatives (it's a bit of a loose term so unable to know what animal or parts may be included), meat meal (made from parts of the animal that aren't consumed by humans, its cooked, dried and ground to a powder), grains such as corn and barley, rice, wheat, vegetables including lots of starchy ones such as potatoes and peas/legumes, a selection of supplements and additives such as preservatives and artificial colours. I'm unsure as to the quality of the meats used in the various brands here in the UK but reports from USA highlight meat from dubious sources and even outdated human grade meat being added to the mix without even being properly removed from its packaging! Plastics and Styrofoam should not be part of any species diet! The food is cooked to high temperatures of 115-145 degrees centigrade to kill all the micro-organisms (although maybe not so as there have been recalls of products due to Salmonella in the past), moisture is removed and it is ground to a powder, antioxidants are added to help prevent the fats from going rancid then it is extruded into little pellets. That's definitely a highly processed food.
Something I thought about for several years before transitioning my dogs to a raw diet was why is the life span of our pets diminishing. I remember when I was a child the odd Jack Russell Terrier living until their early twenties and cats seemed to live even longer! Today I am lucky to hear of a dog reaching 15 years of age, most seem to die from tumours or as a result of their bodies being unable to bear the weight of their bodies on their arthritic bones well before that age. It's so sad to see or hear of them in such conditions and even more shocking when you hear of young pups and kittens dying as a result of cancer, some are only months old!! Something has gone wrong.
I while back I watched a presentation (on line) by Rodney Habib. Rodney is a blogger but came to the forefront after his quest to discover the oldest dog in the world. After his dog, Sammie, was diagnosed with cancer he went on a journey to find out why. Take a look at his TedX talk which can be found on his website http://planetpaws.ca One thing I can say is the diets of most of the oldest dogs didn't involve kibble!
I have read articles that talk about the cancer causing toxins/chemicals found in processed foods and these are generally caused by the high temperatures that the food is cooked to and kibble is created by using much higher temperatures than the cooking we do at home (typically our meat is cooked to reach an internal temperature of 80 degrees centigrade whilst kibble 115+ degrees C).I get it that it's convenient but we love our pets and maybe we should be looking more carefully about what we are feeding them.
So apart from the 'highly processed' and cancer thing there are other reasons. Have you looked at the teeth of a dog, or cat, that has been fed on kibble?! Now I am aware that there may be a genetic issue, although I suspect it's more to do with the microbiome of the mouth, but generally a kibble fed pet has much more tartar and gum disease than a dog or cat that has been fed a raw diet. Raw meaty bones act as an abrasive, cleaning the teeth as the dog gnaws at it. It's important here to say DON'T give cooked bones to your pets, the bone composition changes and it will more likely splinter causing oral or internal damage. Sometimes you may hear of dogs teeth having been cracked by a bone but the general rule is not to feed any weight bearing bone except those from poultry. Bones that support the majority of the weight of the animal are stronger and generally more dense than other bones such as ribs and neck bones. The appropriate size bone should be carefully chosen for your dog also. A raw fed dog will have more acidic stomach juices that can dissolve bones but care still has to be taken if you feed bones. Premade raw food that contains tiny fragments of bone can still act as a teeth cleanser as these can still be abrasive to the teeth. On the other hand kibble, which often is high in carbohydrates, sticks to the teeth (do you not find the same when eating biscuits or crackers) and provides a nice environment for plaque to grow and build. Teeth cleaning is always advised whether you raw feed or kibble feed your pet but some raw feeders find it is not necessary as the teeth are white and the gums healthy.
Looking at other members of the canine species none of them eat a high carbohydrate diet. Kibble can comprise of 60+% carbohydrate and grain-free is no better (yes, for me if it isn't convenient to feed a raw diet, say we are away, then I might offer our dogs a grain-free wet meal, but this is on rare occasions). The substitutes for the grain are generally potato, legumes or tapioca all of which will be converted to sugars. Protein on the other hand is broken down into amino acids, the building blocks of muscle and tissue and important in immune, brain, eye and heart function. High carbohydrate diets can cause blood sugar spikes leading to higher insulin levels and inflammation within the body. It can also cause the body to go into 'fat storage' mode. If you join any one of the number of Facebook groups supporting a raw meat diet, those that believe in following a nutritionally balanced, species-appropriate diet, you will see numerous images of healthy muscular looking dogs with shiny coats, a far cry from many of the dogs that are seen nowadays.
I'm happy that I have found out about biologically appropriate diets but I would like all dog owners to re-evaluate what they feed their pets. I'm not saying it will be appropriate for everyone or every dog/cat but how can we decide if we are not informed. Vets have their own opinions, some favour raw diets whilst others don't. You yourself may prefer to see a particular GP and don't hold another in such high regard whereas someone else sees them differently. If we each become a little more informed then we will be able to make better decisions for our pets.
Below are some of the articles or presentations that have been of particular importance to me, and a few more recent articles, when choosing my dogs diet. Please let me know what you think about kibble or a raw meat diet for cats and dogs, perhaps you can share more knowledge with me.
Although I have not watched it as we don't have Netflix (although I see it is available on line for a small fee), there is a documentary film called Pet Fooled. Many raw feeders comment that that was the inspiration for them to convert their dog to a raw meat diet. Perhaps one day I will be able to watch it too. Have you watched Pet Fooled, and if so what did you think of it?
"Riskier Than You're Told - This habit can shorten your pets life" by Dr. Karen Becker( healthypets.mercola.com)
"Is Protein Deficiency Hurting Your Dog?" by Dana Scott (dogsnaturallymagazine.com)
"Kibble: Why It's Not A Good Option For Your Dog" by Roxanne Stone MSc (dogsnaturallymagazine.com)
Rodney's TedX Talk by Rodney Habib (planetpaws.ca)
"8 Reasons To Feed Your Dog Raw Food Diet" by Dom Naish (topdogtips.com)
"The Worst Myth In The Pet Industry" by Karen Becker https://m.facebook.com/story.php?story_fbid=10156284761592748&id=113688237747&_rdr
"Pet Parents Are Finally Ignoring This Advice - Are You?" by Dr. Karen Becker (healthypets.mercola.com)