HOW TO IDENTIFY THE BEST POSSIBLE DRY KIBBLE FROM THE WORST
Here is a bit of a different topic for you to read. Yes you know the raw is best but you can’t accommodate your dog’s raw diet needs for whatever reason. And trust me don't let anyone blame you for being a bad owner. But if you got yourself into the dry kibble game don't fall into scummy marketing schemes! So the questions that I often get are: What’s the best dry dog food? What should I feed my dog if I cannot do raw?
Here’s what to look for in good-quality dry dog foods:
You want to see named animal protein sources at the TOP OF THE INGREDIENT LIST. Ingredients in pet food are listed in order of the weight of that ingredient in the formula, so whatever is at the top of the list is present in the food in the greatest amount. You also want that animal protein source to be identified by species, and whether it’s meat, organ, or a meat meal (EXAMPLE chicken meat vs chicken bone meal). HERE IS THE REASON WHY animal proteins contain more of the amino acids that dogs need than plant-sourced proteins (like soy and alike).
So lets go over some most common ingredients that can be found on the kibble packages.
MEAT MEALS Meat meals are made through a process called rendering, whereby much of the moisture (and a lot of the fat) is removed from the meat. Meat meals are a highly concentrated source of protein. Pound for pound, meat meals provide much more protein at a lower cost than fresh meats. But fresh meats add appealing flavors and aromas to the food. Also, they get added to the food mixture just before the food is cooked; rendered meat meals have already been processed and will be twice-cooked by the time the food is extruded or baked (KEEP IN MIND nutrients are lost with each cook so at the end you have a fraction of what the nature intended).
FRESH MEAT When fresh meat is first on the ingredient list, there should be a named animal-protein meal immediately or closely following the meat (EXAMPLE chicken following chicken meal, chicken bone meal). Fresh or frozen (more common) meat contains a lot of moisture (which is heavy), but not that much protein (compering to the meal), so if meat is first on the list, it acts like a diluted protein source. That’s why you want to see another named source of animal protein appearing in the top two or three ingredients.
WHY IT IS IMPORTANT Because some companies use fresh meats supported by plant proteins. Reminder to self, generally, plant proteins are less complete for dogs than animal proteins (hey they are carnivores right?-dogs are not designed to break down and use plant proteins to survive and thrive)
NON-PROTEIN INGREDIENTS You also want to see WHOLE FOOD ingredients in dry kibble. Some not much preferably under at least 20%. When vegetables, fruits, grains such as rice or barley (keep in mind these ones do add to carbohydrate intake), and/or carbohydrate sources such as chickpeas (remember I mentioned plant-based proteins? Well guess what chickpeas just like soy are used for that as well) or sweet potatoes are used, they should be whole. Why whole versus processed? Ingredients that have already been processed, shipped, and stored before they are used in dog kibble will have loos quite a bit of their nutritive value before they are mixed with other ingredients and PROCESSED AGAIN (meaning they will be mixed with other ingredients and then either baked, extruded, dried or coated).
As icing on the cake, look for ingredients that are certified as organic, humanely raised, or sustainably farmed. Companies will use wiggle words to lend the impression that they are using the best ingredients available. Certifications give these claims credibility in the best, healthy dog foods. THIS IS THE BIGGEST MARKETING SCHEME! You can get organically raised chicken in dry kibble food even if it did not pass quality control guess where it will end up?
THINGS AND INGREDIENTS TO AVOID Here are the few major things that you don’t want to see on a dog dry kibble food label.
The lowest price you can find. The cheapest foods contain the cheapest ingredients available to pet food manufacturers, and will not be healthy for your dog at all. FOOD FOR THOUGHT While technically any food that’s labeled as “complete and balanced” is supposed to contain minimum amounts of the nutrients dogs need, with low-quality ingredients, there is no telling how bio-available the nutrients will be. Animal products that are not specified by species. EXAMPLE: Meat meal, meat and bone meal, poultry meal, poultry by-product meal, animal fat, poultry fat (remember poultry is still a very wide term it can be anything from chicken to turkey or even duck and quails). If you have a pet with food intolerance or allergy, you have to know what you’re feeding her/him to identify the problematic ingredient. Animal by-products. This includes meat by-products and poultry by-products, as well as meat by-product meal and poultry by-product meal. These animal protein sources are nutritious, but are handled with far less care than more expensive animal protein sources (i.e., without refrigeration and with less sanitation hey you can even get roadkill thrown in the mix or sick farm animal destined to be utilized).
If you have to choose food that contained meat by-products (like organs, meat trims and alike) over one with meat by-product meal. Also, again, all meals have been cooked once already and will be cooked again after being mixed with all the other food ingredients. Added sweeteners. OH YES, THEY DO ADD SUGARS TO YOUR DOGS FOOD ever wondered why your dog jas a sudden spike of energy or behaves like a kid with ADHD? Like us, dogs like sweets. But they also like meat, especially fatty meats. When food lacks enough meat to make it appealing to dogs, either because the food is carbohydrate-heavy (remember dogs cannot digest carbs properly and naturally won't go for food that is out of their species' digestion) or uses mostly plant-sourced proteins(the same thing as above dogs are not stupid right?), sweeteners are often added to increase the food’s palatability. So here is another added risk of diabetes for your dog not to mention various cancers. Artificial colors, flavors, or preservatives (such as BHA, BHT, ethoxyquin). The colour of the food doesn’t matter to your dog (hey they only see a few colours and their word is predominantly in all the shades of grey). And it should be flavoured well enough with healthy meats and fats to be enticing. Regardless all processed foods will have preservatives but do go for Natural ones, such as mixed tocopherols. They are healthier than synthetic preservatives.
OFF NOTE FACT
The only time you won't mind seeing an artificial preservative is in kibbles that contain a lot of fish. Fish and fish meals are notoriously volatile; the fats in fish go rancid more quickly than other animal fats (have you ever noticed that their shelflife is much shorter?). Artificial preservatives repress the rancidity better and longer than natural preservatives. Pro tip: If buying a fish-based food, check the date code on the bag and try to get the freshest food possible.
Ingredient splitting. This is where it gets tricky. When you see two or more very similar food names appear separately on the ingredients list you getting scammed! A pet food manufacturer can use this technique to make it appear that a high-quality ingredient is represented in the food in a greater proportion than it really is. Remember, the food’s ingredients are listed in descending order of their weight on the label. By using several separate iterations of an ingredient and listing them separately, they will fall below the better ingredient on the ingredients list. EXAMPLE: A label lists chicken meal first on the label, followed by several fractions or versions of an ingredient as separate ingredients (i.e., rice, brewer’s rice, rice bran, rice protein meal). If all the iterations of the “rice” ingredients were combined or reconstituted, they would outweigh and push the chicken down on the ingredients list; it would now read rice first, then chicken. SNEAKY RIGHT?!
And on the finish note TWO MORE FACTORS WHEN CHOOSING THE BEST DRY KIBBLE POSSIBLE
What if your dog is just fine – maybe not ready for a show ring, but without any notable problems, either. How should you select the best dry kibble in that case? One obvious factor to consider is cost. Better-quality foods are considerably more expensive than low-quality foods. The size of your dog, and how many dogs you have, may affect your selection as well. KEEP IN MIND THAT THE MOST EXPENSIVE FOOD IS NOT NECESSARY THE BEST ONE (trust me that 80% or more of that cost goes to marketing and packaging; so are you paying for quality food or a pretty package and a big marketing campaign?). So in another word, high price don’t always reflect the quality of the food ingredients. Keep in mind that some pet food companies maintain large research facilities; others spend a huge amount on advertising and/or sponsorships of dog-related events. And guess who is paying for all of that?- you as a consumer. That said, I must warn you away from the lowest-cost foods. Most of them are more suitable for feeding birds than dogs.
Make sure to check the nutritional adequacy statement (better known as the AAFCO statement) on the label to make sure you are buying a food that’s formulated to meet your dog’s needs. It’s one of the MOST IMPORTANT BITS OF INFORMATION about the food you are buying, and yet it’s almost always listed in very tiny print . Basically, the statement on the package tells you which set of nutritional requirements the food meets: the standards for “growth” (puppies and pregnant or nursing females) or “adult maintenance.” Those two descriptions are sometimes referred to as “life-stage foods.” This is not to be confused with foods for dogs “of all life stages,” which means that the food has been formulated to meet the requirements of dogs of any age or life stage. Some companies also offer what they call “senior” foods, but there are not different standards for senior dogs (here you got scummed by marketing strategies yet again); check the AAFCO statement (the one that is printed in the smallest possible print ever on the package) to see if the food was formulated to meet the requirements for adult maintenance or all life stages. The energy density of the food (use your logic smaller portions with higher calorie count are way better than large portions with lower calorie count! Unless you want to do two things pick up HUGE poops of mainly undigested food and overwhelm your dogs digestion system. So how many calories the kibble contains per portion (and keep an eye on that “recommended portion” is it a cup, two cups; is it per grams or ounces; is it daily porion or per meal portion is something else to consider. EXAMPLE Say you’ve been feeding a product with 300 calories per cup, and your dog, who’s at a healthy weight, gets two cups a day. If you switch to a food with 400 calories per cup, and you keep feeding him two cups a day, you will be giving him 200 more calories a day more than you were. He won’t stay at that ideal weight for long, unless you reduce the amount you feed, in this case, to a cup and a half. ANOTHER THING TO KEEP IN MIND if the size portion is reduced but calorie intake stayed the same as previously will it leave hom/her hungry and disgruntled, leading to raiding the cat food and counter-surf? In this case, he/she may be better off with a lower-calorie food (just because of how his/hers metabolism works).
Wow, that was a LONG READ! thanks for staying all the way till the end like and share if you think you or your fellow dog owners will benefit from this info.
This blurb of my had been almost completely plagiarized (about a good 85%) so all credits go to Nancy Kerns and Whole Dog Journal