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The greatest pain in being a dog owner is not about training your dog. It’s about finding the best dog kibble that’s safe and healthy for your dog.
I was so much worried and confused like you when I first thought of buying dog kibbles.
Then I started researching dog food journals, credible dog food blogs, and industry reports.
These 12 factors I found can help you buy the right dog kibble without going crazy.
Let’s get started.
What’s dog kibble?
Generally, dry dog foods are alternatively known as dog kibbles.
Kibbles are made from various ingredients that are suitable for different kinds of dogs.
The moisture content of kibbles ranges from 8-10%, making it easy to feed dogs and hence the most popular dog food of all time.
Pros and Cons of dog kibble
- Most kibbles are inexpensive and are cheaper than wet dog foods.
- You can put on dog bowl throughout the day without any risk of decomposition or contamination.
- Easy to store, needs no refrigeration.
- Measuring the exact quantity for your dog’s diet is possible.
- Lasts quite long if stored in an airtight container.
- If you’re looking for an extra addition to your dog’s oral care, kibbles should definitely help to keep his teeth cleaner.
- Some dogs don’t enjoy eating kibbles as it’s dry.
- Lots of junk ingredients are available in many dog kibble brands, so you need to research and find the best ones suited for your dog.
12 factors to consider when buying dog kibble
#1- Choose kibble based on the life stage and condition of your dog
Dog foods, whether it’s dry or wet, are manufactured for only two life stages- puppy and adult dog.
So, If you have a puppy, you will need to look for kibbles that are formulated for puppies only. These kibbles will have more nutrients, proteins, and calorie content.
And for adult dogs with a low activity level, you should look for kibbles that have moderate proteins and fat with nutrients and minerals suited for their age.
Other than age, the breed of your dog might also call for a different choice of kibbles. I feed my GSD with German Shepherd suited dog foods only. While I have a different set of dog foods for my Pit Bull boy.
Certain dog breed like the Chihuahua has a smaller mouth, so smaller sized kibbles will be easier for them to eat.
That’s not the end. Your dog might have flatulence, coat problems, obesity, and numerous other issues.
So, identify the conditions and change their foods when it’s needed.
#2- Learn to read a dog food label
According to AAFCO, kibbles, or any other dog food must contain these 8 pieces of information:
- Product Name: The product name is the first step to identify the quality of dog food. So, if the name says ‘beef,’ it should have at least 70% beef in the overall product. Some dog kibbles might have names like ‘chicken formula dog food’ or ‘beef formula dog food.’ These types of dog food might contain too many ingredients in lesser quantities.
- Net weight of the product: Listing the product weight on the front of the pet food label is compulsory.
- Name and address of the manufacturer: This is very important. You don’t want any anonymous dog food manufacturer’s name on the label.
- Guaranteed analysis: We will cover this in the next section in details.
- List of ingredients: This is the part where unethical manufacturers apply some tricks to make the product look good. You will find artificial fillers, and preservatives added at the end of this list. So keep an eye on that. Manufacturers sometimes add variations of the same ingredient to hide the abundant quantity of that ingredient. For example, corn might be listed as flaked corn, kibbled corn, corn, etc.
- Dog or cat food identification: You don’t want to feed cat food to your dog at any cost!
- Statement of nutritional adequacy: Look for the statement “complete and balanced.” This indicates that it meets the minimum requirement of AAFCO recommended nutrients.
- Feeding guidelines: Feeding guideline give you a rough idea about how much to feed your dog based on his weight or age. This might vary depending on your dog’s breed and conditions.
**Bonus: Look for AAFCO approved statement on the label. This means the particular dog food is balanced and meets minimum pet health standards.
#3- Grains or no grains?
You might have heard from your neighbor feeding their dogs with grain-free dog foods.
So, what’s really the difference?
Grains are carbs, and research confirms the fact that dogs can metabolize carbohydrates.
But do we need to feed carbs to our dogs just because they can digest it?
A Research study published in Veterinary Medical Center, which is still ongoing, suggests that a grain-free diet can cause taurine deficiency and ultimately lead to heart diseases.
These are the reasons you should avoid grains in dog kibbles:
- Your dog has an allergy to grains.
- The grains might be Genetically modified (GMO).
- Your dog has diarrhea or other stomach issues and is feeding on a grain diet.
Other than these, I see no reason to avoid grains.
Wheat is the number 1 grain that causes allergy in most dogs. So, you can skip that for best.
If you are concerned about GMO grains, then go for other unpopular grains like barley, oats, quinoa or amaranth.
Stop wasting your money if your dog is doing fine on grain diets.
#4- Glutens or no glutens?
Some dog owners really get mad when they see glutens of any sort in dog food.
I can understand. And it happens with me too.
But when I did some research, I found that the fear of gluten originates from a recall confirmed by FDA in 2007.
The manufacturer used wheat gluten that might have contained melamine. And hence many dogs died of kidney failure.
So, without going on a debate on this matter, we can totally avoid wheat glutens in dog kibbles.
But should we avoid all glutens?
Basically, glutens are plant-based proteins. It’s neither bad nor good for dogs.
If your dog is gluten intolerant, then it’s best to avoid this.
If you go for gluten diets, make sure it’s less in quantity and doesn’t outweigh the meat protein content of the food.
#5- Look for healthy carbs and easily digestible vegetables
According to Nestle, carbohydrate is one of the main ingredients in dog foods.
As dogs can do without any forms of carbs, many dog owners think it’s unhealthy.
But that’s not the case always.
Dog kibbles with complex carbohydrates are the best. Because this help to regulate the overall digestion process of your dog.
Look for carbs like sweet potatoes or regular potatoes, beet pulp, peas, etc.
If you are considering grains in your dog’s kibbles, look for whole grains. Whole grains include whole wheat, oatmeal, buckwheat, brown rice, quinoa, etc.
Vegetables are also good sources of healthy fibers. Though it adds very little nutritional benefit and calories, the fibers in them are good for food digestion.
Some complex carbs like the sweet potato is a good source of antioxidants for your dog.
#6- Understanding how commercial meat and protein works
Let’s face it.
From the main ingredient point of view, dog kibbles are generally low in meat protein.
This is a harsh truth that you need to know.
So, how can you get the best dog kibble with the proteins that your dog needs?
- The first step is to make sure that the meat protein listed is named. For example, if the manufacturer uses chicken or beef, it should be listed as chicken or beef meat dog food.
- The next step is to see whether the meat protein listed is fresh or not. For example, if you see the top ingredient to be ‘fresh beef,’ it means your dog is going to get only 10-25% protein from the kibble. This is because fresh meat contains 65-75% water, which gets lost during the manufacturing process.
- If the top ingredient is fresh meat, the dog kibble must always have a secondary source of meat proteins. In most cases, this is meat and bone meals.
- Lean meat proteins like chicken and turkey are generally best for dogs with stomach issues. But some dogs might have allergies to lean meat proteins. You can check our list of dog foods that prevent flatulence and stomach issues for reference.
#7- Avoid ingredients that can cause allergies
Some ingredients in dog kibbles might cause allergies in your dog, while most dogs will have no issues with them.
Common ingredients that cause allergic reactions in dogs are:
If you already know the ingredients that your dog is allergic to, you can avoid those ingredients. As a rule of thumb, it’s best to avoid corn altogether.
#8- Fats to consider in dog kibbles
Balanced dog food should contain 10-15% fats. And fats might even provide more energy than carbs and proteins.
So, are all fats healthy?
No. Avoid fat sources from Tallow and Lard.
The fat source should be named like pork fat, chicken fat, etc. A generic name like poultry fat or meat fat is highly questionable, while poultry fat being the better of the two.
Healthy fats in dog kibbles include:
- Chicken fat
- Duck fat
- Canola oil
- Flaxseed oil
- Fish oils
- Pork fat
- Sunflower oils
- Safflower oils
#9- Animal byproduct and meat meals- should you avoid it?
If your dog kibble lists animal byproducts or meat meals in its ingredient list, you need to keep few things in mind:
- Byproducts are generally animal carcasses or leftover animal parts from the meat processing industry. They may or may not contain healthy proteins.
- Look for meat meals or byproducts that have names like a chicken meal. This helps you to identify that the meat meal is not from any dead or unwanted animals. Totally avoid any dog kibble that has a generic name like simply ‘animal by-product’ or ‘meat meal.’
- Some by-products contain healthy parts like the liver or gizzard, which gives real protein to your dogs. Look for these.
- Meat meals like chicken meals have, in fact, more protein than the main meat protein in the list. So, you cannot avoid it altogether, especially in kibbles.
#10- Flavoring, coloring, and preservatives in Dog kibbles
You should look for dog kibbles that have natural preservatives like tocopherols, vitamin C, rosemary extract, and ascorbate.
Some manufacturers use artificial preservatives like Ethoxyquin. This is a toxin and has been banned in all Australian dog foods. Don’t buy dog food that has this toxic substance.
All dog kibbles are colored to make it look appealing. That shouldn’t be a problem unless the dog food looks yellow or red.
Some unethical manufacturers use Blue 2, Yellow 5, Yellow 6, and Red 40 dyes to color dog kibbles. And these are highly toxic to animals.
Flavorings are not mandatory, but they are needed in dog foods designed for older dogs. If the label says it’s made from natural flavors, it’s safe to feed your dog.
#11- Identifying Mycotoxins and potentially harmful ingredients
In any grain-based dog kibble, there is a high chance of mycotoxin contamination.
In fact, grains are never a problem. The problem is how they are grown and stored.
Due to dampness, poor ventilation or insect manifestation molds grow in grains. And the byproduct of these mold growth is mycotoxin.
In a study spanning from 2004-2013, it was found that 76% of all the grain sample used in animal foods had mycotoxin contamination.
These types of toxic substances can cause kidney failures and other deadly diseases.
You can’t really check this out from ingredient list of any dog food.
To make sure your dog food has below average mycotoxins, you can skip the corn and other grains and look for the recall history of the product or brand.
#12- Choosing the right dog kibble brand
Most dog owners think big dog food brands means more recalls and lots of fuss under the roof.
But that’s not true.
In fact, Dog food advisor found that out of 73 of 88 recalls in the last 5 years are from smaller brands.
Larger dog food brands have a big budget to maintain quality, raw material testing, employ food scientists and operate their own manufacturing facilities.
So, I don’t usually buy any dog food from unpopular brands.
Studying the recall history of a brand and ingredients it uses can help you to find the right dog kibble brand.
Finding the best kibble for your dog can be tricky. But if you invest time in learning the above factors, you should be on the right track.
You can also mix wet dog foods and kibbles known as topping to make the dog food more appealing and complete!