by Healthy Barks April 06, 2022 9 min read
What is kibble?
Dry pet food or ‘kibble’ is the most popular dog food purchased in India, being the most economical, cost-effective of all commercial dog foods.
According to a 2019 survey conducted by The Business Research Company of the Global Pet Food Market, the dry dog food market was the largest segment of the dog food market segmented by type, accounting for 70.6% of the total.
It is made by mixing ground-up ingredients, including meat, grains, legumes, vegetables, fruits and shaping them into pellets which are then cooked in a process called extrusion. (We will delve into the comprehensive kibble manufacturing process in our next blogs.)
Pet parents feed kibble to their dogs. Before referring to any pet food diet, it becomes important to be aware of the repercussions. Every dog is unique, with unique nutrition requirements, and hence, giving a balanced diet becomes of utmost importance. It’s critical to know the dog and his specificities.
Just like humans, dogs have their own feeding behaviors, expressing unique food preferences. Hence, choosing the right products for your pet depends on various factors such as breeds, life stages, price points, ingredient preferences, disease conditions, etc. Proper and balanced nutrition is vital to your dog’s health and longevity.
Is it a superior pet food product that gets into the oh-so-adorable tummies of my pets? Does it contain the age-old goodness of human-quality ingredients? Is it produced ethically? Is it fulfilling my dog’s nutritional needs? Is it portioned according to my dog’s dietary criteria? Is it a meal that is holistic?
These are some basic questions that we can ask ourselves before filling our dog’s bowl with a plethora of dog food products available in the market today. Any deficiency in nutrition at early age can suppress your dog’s immune system.
Let’s dive deeper into the subject.
To kibble or not?
Pet food manufacturing process is not at all easy, it takes strenuous efforts and quite a number of steps to make a product that fulfils your pet’s nutrition requirements. As we constantly evolve our own eating choices, it is our responsibility to think consciously about our doggos and their eating habits as well.
There are a number of substandard ingredients that have made their way into pet foods over the years which are not beneficial to our pets and can cause severe health implications.
Curious about the ingredients used in your dog’s kibble?
Let’s understand these.
BHT and BHA detected in kibbles have raised some concerns because they are known carcinogens, substances capable of causing cancer. Sodium Nitrate is often added to dog food to retain color. It can cause severe symptoms of arthritis, abnormalities in the dog's immune system, and has even been linked to deaths in many cases. If consumed in large amounts, Sodium Nitrate can be toxic to pets. It can cause various life threatening disorders including a blood disorder called methaemoglobin. Various other chemicals are added as stabilizers, preservatives and gelling agents for increasing the shelf life of the products.
These are meats that are obtained from 4D sources, from Dying, Diseased, Dead, or Downed bodies and meat parts, and can be a source for microorganisms and toxins.
# Reality Check: Recorded by Truth about Pet food and evidenced by Google Earth Images, this report shows us images of rendering facilities that process dead animal carcasses and animal parts into ‘food’ for pets.
Rendering, in simple terms, is a process where fat and water is separated from meat solids using extreme heat.
As a matter of fact, industries are permitted to include so-called ‘Rendered’ (4D) meats and the resultant meat meal is marketed as safe, causing severe intestinal illnesses to dogs. These are difficult to digest, and are potentially carcinogenic.
For our picky eaters, it’s crucial that the food meets their palatability requirements. Palatability refers to the overall willingness and desirability of the animal to eat a particular food. According to an article released by Petfoodindustry.com, a “palatability enhancer'' is an additive that is added to pet food to provides an aroma, taste, texture, aftertaste, mouth feel, and organoleptic sensation that is appealing to animals. Yeast culture used for Flavoring, and as a source of protein can be potentially toxic to the liver.
Unnecessary, feed-grade ingredients in pet foods are added mainly as a flavoring to make inexpensive food more attractive. Also a potential allergen for some dogs.
Excessive use of sweeteners, such as sugar and syrups prepared from ‘cornstarch’, used in kibble and numerous dog food products often lead to dogs experiencing obesity. Continuous intake of sweeteners can promote nervousness, tooth decay, arthritis, cataracts, and allergies in dogs. Pets get addicted to foods containing sugar.
Even if you purchase the highest-quality kibble from the market, much of the added vitamins and antioxidants (apart from some claimed on the pack front) will be synthetic. Synthetic vitamin supplements added in commercial foods are known to considerably weaken the immune system, causes skin irritation, and allergic reactions in dogs.
The healthy alternative to kibble in order to stay away from the health-risks and frequent vet visits is replacing the processed food with fresh dog food, pet-appropriate diets that are made using human-grade ingredients: natural and real, all of the ingredients’ integrity remains completely intact. Natural pet food made using natural ingredients is healthier and better quality than traditional diets. You may want to switch to this and save a mountain of those vet bills.
My Dog enjoys kibble - does it mean they are bioavailable?
All dry dog foods or kibble need preservatives to prevent the fat from becoming rancid. Some pet food brands are too heavy on carbs, have low-quality ingredients, and added sugar.
Once the packet is opened, the synthetic agents start degrading and the food starts turning rancid. Ever noticed why the strong irritating smell of a new kibble bag starts smelling less strong as you use it? It’s not you adjusting to the smell, it’s the oxygen working hard to degrade the dry food.
Its high-time we treat our pet’s right and treat them as humans. They deserve the best lifestyle choices and it starts with giving them the right food.
Are the grains in your dog’s Kibble healthy?
Now, there are two types of dog kibble: grain kibble and grain-free kibble.
If you're feeding a grained kibble, it will use grain as a binder that keeps the ingredients together while they're mixed. If you're feeding a grain-free kibble, it uses another starch based legumes, like chickpeas, as the binder.
Before we dig any deeper into the subject of grain vs grain-free dog food, here are the most commonly used grains by pet food manufacturers:
For us humans, eliminating grains from our diet is marketed as a solution for everything from reducing belly fat, to improving skin tone, or even to alleviate the symptoms of depression, whatever the brand or product is getting sold to you.
But what about our dogs? Should our dogs switch to a grain-free diet too just because we have decided to? Are there potential risks leading to severe diseases and health-issues in dogs caused by a complete grain-free diet?
According to a warning released from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), grain-free food might be giving dogs a life-threatening heart problem called dilated cardiomyopathy, or DCM.
Therefore, we do not need to completely abandon grains from our dog’s meals but what we need is to choose novel or good grains (quinoa, buckwheat, oats, brown rice) over bad grains (corn, wheat, and all gluten-containing grains). Gluten has been attributed wih causing variety of inflammatory health issues. Chronic inflammation is an arthritic dog’s #1 enemy. If you have an arthritic dog, be sure you’re feeding one with quality ingredients in adequate quantity and with optimum nutrition.
According to TopDog Health, natural foods like veggies and fruits are inflammation-fighting powerhouses.
Your dog’s diet should include a balanced combination of good or novel grains that provide complete nutrition. This can result in relief from conditions like skin rashes, weight gain, less-energy levels, all of which is caused by adding bad grains to your pet’s diet.
Does eliminating bad grains from your pet’s diet lead to a healthier, happier and disease-free lifestyle? Absolutely yes.
Most of the pet food brands claim that the food they manufacture is grain-free but it is often substituted by other carbohydrates, such as potatoes, sweet potatoes, lentils, or peas. Therefore, grain-free foods are not carb-free. In some cases, grain-free food may be equal to or higher in carbs than dog foods with grains. Excessive consumption of carbohydrates
Apart from adding all the good grains into our dog’s diet, we need to make sure we are feeding them a complete and balanced diet. This calls for customizing meals as per your dog’s nutrition requirements. Adding clean ingredients in appropriate quantities. It takes time, energy and mindfulness to ensure our dogs are eating properly balanced and safe meals.
Let’s discuss Shelf life
How is Shelf life planned in Pet Foods?
Against the myths, dogs require fat in their diets and in greater amounts than humans. Fat is critical for providing energy, shiny coats, proper cellular, hormonal, and nerve function, while also contributing to the flavor and texture of the food.
Fats readily go rancid if not carefully protected. There is no way to prevent it entirely, only to slow it, and there’s no recovery. Fats degrade when its fatty acids start reacting with moisture and other compounds in air. They break down into free fatty acids and other unstable compounds. Rancidity happens due to a process called oxidation, when these free fatty acids come in contact of oxygen.
As mentioned in the June 2020 magazine issue of Pet Food Processing, the most common approach to inhibit auto-oxidation is to include antioxidants in the formulation. This happens at all stages of manufacturing and entire supply chain. Antioxidants are sprayed on each piece of kibble in large mixers for extra protection to ensure fat preservation throughout the product’s shelf life. Synthetic antioxidants that are chemically derived can certainly damage the food’s nutritional value in order to extend the shelf life.
As shapes derived from the initial dough will be brown in nature.
Spraying them with flavors and colors makes the fats inside the kibble tin rancid.
Kibble can deteriorate very quickly once opened. Just try to keep some kibble out in open for few nights. You would see for yourself that these start to turn moldy and hence rancid. This is very bad from nutritional point of view and leads to a decline of vitamins, including hair loss, malnutrition, diarrhea, kidney damage, etc. in your Dog.
Evolution of eating habits in humans and pets.
We, humans, are so specific about what goes inside our system, but our pets rely upon us to feed them a nutritious diet. We are constantly looking for healthier alternatives, and the next most efficient, result-oriented diet we can follow. When it comes to our pets, there is an alarming need for a lot of awareness and personalized food options.
An article about the History of Kibble says,
“kibble isn’t lining the shelves of supermarkets and drug stores because it’s the only thing your dog can eat. It’s there because it is convenient, profitable, and makes good use of animal products that would otherwise go to waste.”
Today our eating choices are evolving as we are becoming more conscious eaters, and so are our pets’. Let’s start becoming a more conscious consumer. Dogs do not really care if the kibbles are in bone or hear shape or whether they are colored red, green or yellow. So before you go to a super-mart or online and buy “Oh my gosh, doesn’t it look cute” dog food, think about the health of your pet.
Pet Parents often choose kibbles as their instant solution to keep their dogs cozy, ignoring the fact that the expensive, fancy kibble might not be fulfilling the nutrition-requirements of their pet. We can start by making informed decisions about what we feed our four-legged loved ones.
Our pets do not deserve to die or suffer because of inadequate feeding and marketing jingles.
As pet parents ourselves, choosing fresh, tasty, unprocessed, nutritionally-balanced, and human-grade food tailored just for your pup’s nutritional needs over fun gimmicks is what we can do as responsible pet parents :)
PS: Look out for our next blog story to know in-depth about the kibble making process where we explore behind the scenes of the dry food industry. We would also be covering the other two dog food segments i.e. wet dog food and dog treats and mixers in our upcoming blogs.
Parents want to gift a healthy and happy life to their pets. Healthy Barks aims to empower such parents by introducing clean label and experts formulated products. Visit here and check out our portfolio of tail-wagging products.
We have an in-house team of vets and nutritionists to ensure the best care for our furry friends. If you're facing issues in managing your dog's food and nutrition, drop us a 'Hi' on Whatsapp at 7676720200 and we'll help you out.
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