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Enhancing Kibble Diets

Updated: Jan 18, 2021

In the age of too many choices when it comes to our woofer's diet, many people are afraid to take the plunge into a raw diet. They turn to commercial kibble diets with the hopes that they are feeding a balanced and optimal diet. With literally hundreds of choices, how do you know you've chosen the best for your pet?

How to pick an optimal kibble diet for your dog:


Look at the whole picture of your dog. Selecting the right food begins with taking a look at your dog’s individual needs. Some factors to consider when looking for the best food for your dog include age, lifestyle, weight, breed, allergies and dietary restrictions.,


Growing puppies and aging dogs have different nutritional needs than adults, and a dog that works will have different needs than a dog that spends most of the day on the couch. These are all important factors in determining what food is best for your dog.


Read (actually read) the entire ingredients list, and question anything you don't know. Ingredients on kibble are listed by weight, but clever marketing tactics can move ingredients up the list when they in fact make up little of the food.

“Ingredient splitting is the deceptive practice of subdividing a more abundant — yet inferior quality — ingredient into smaller portions.

This dubious tactic can be used to artificially raise a meat item to a higher position on an ingredients list — and lower an inferior one.

Being able to divide a dominant ingredient into smaller portions permits any pet food company to trick you into believing there’s more meat in a product than there actually is.” – Dog Food Advisor



For example, in the photo a random bag of pet food was chosen that was labeled Pork and Peas. The pea ingredient has been broken down into 3 different categories: peas, pea flour and pea protein. By breaking them down into different categories, the weight of the peas can be divided into three, leaving the meat ingredient on top of the list.


The peas outnumber the meat, almost a 3:1 ratio. Instead of the bag being called peas and pork, it can now be labeled pork and peas because of this trick.


Some other examples to look for when ingredient splitting can occur:

Corn: corn gluten meal, corn flour, and whole ground corn

Rice: whole rice, white rice, brown rice, rice flour and rice bran

Potatoes: dried potatoes, potato starch, potato protein, and potato flour


Pay attention to the wording on the bag.

Unfortunately, a slight change in wording can mean a serious decline in quality of ingredients. Phrases like "dinner", "platter" and "entrée" means the foods must contain only at least 25% of the named ingredient. If the name states “with” a specific ingredient (such as “with beef”) only 3% of the named ingredient is required. Products that advertise specific “flavors” need to contain only a detectable amount of that ingredient.


By-products are not (always) the enemy!

Pet food ingredients labeled "by-products" include highly digestible and nutritious organs, such as the liver, kidney, heart and lungs. In a raw diet, we often search for the ingredients considered "by-products" as important staples in the diet!

While by-products can actually be very nutritious, where they are sourced from is still important. Pet food companies do not have to specify the type of meat or the parts being used and often cheap companies just list them generically as “meat meal” or “meat by-product meal.”

Look for labels that say exactly what type of meat is being used such as "Turkey by-products" instead of just "Poultry or Meat by-products."


Read the Guaranteed Analysis.

This lists the minimum amount of protein and fat and the maximum amount of fiber and moisture. This can be important for dog's that need lower fat in their diet, or those that need a higher protein percentage. The GA will not tell you the amount of carbs in the food, but there is an easy calculation to figure this out:

To calculate the percentage of carbohydrates in a commercial diet, subtract the percentages of protein, fat, moisture, crude fiber, and ash from 100.


For example,

A dog food contains 29% protein, 17% fat, 10% moisture, 5% crude fibre and 8% ash. What is the % of carbohydrates?


Carbohydrates = 100% – 29% – 17% – 10% – 5% - 8% = 31%

In other words, if you subtract all the “known” nutrients, you’d be left with the missing variable — carbohydrates — which in our example would be 31%.


Excessive carbohydrates can lead to many problems for our dogs and we like to see this number on the lower end. Excess carbohydrates are stored in the liver and the muscles as glycogen and in the body as fat. Low quality kibbles can be upwards of 75-80% carbs! Higher quality kibbles usually keep it around 30-40% for carbohydrates. Healthy raw fed dogs eating a balanced diet typically have 5-20% carbohydrates in their diets.



Check for dyes and unsafe preservatives.

Cheap kibbles will use common dyes to make the kibble more appealing to humans (They certainly aren't making those kibbles coloured for our dog's sake!). Dyes are linked to a number of alarming health concerns, including cancer.

Avoid foods that use BHA/BHT as a preservative as this has been shown to cause tumors in lab rats. Instead, look for natural preservatives such as Vitamin E and Rosemary.


Education is power!

Research your brand. Information on sourcing and quality control in manufacturing is not required on pet food labels. You may be able to find the information on the company’s website but if not, call their consumer relations department and ask where its ingredients are sourced. Any reputable company with a quality product will be happy to engage with its consumers and answer your questions!


Avoid corn and wheat based kibbles. Many cheaper diets on the market are corn and wheat based (though they may initially not look like it....remember ingredient splitting!)

Corn converts to sugar in the body, which has a negative affect on your dog. Sugar puts stress on the organs, and causes GI tract upset. Wheat contains high amounts of gluten, which damages the small intestine, alters gut flora, and causes inflammation.


Finally, remember that your woofer's health is an investment and not an expense. Please spend your time researching your food choice and don't spend money on cheap grocery store kibbles. You get what you pay for, and you'll never be sorry for spending a little extra when it means more quality of life for your dog!


How can we improve on kibble diets when that's what works best?

If you and your woofer have decided that commercial kibbles are what works best for you, that's totally fine! I'm still here to help you every step of the way!


However, we can certainly improve upon our kibble diets by adding in fresh healthy whole food options when we are able. Even dog's primarily on a kibble diet can hugely benefit from what we can give them with fresh foods.


There are some myths surrounding whether or not you can feed your dog raw meat and kibble together in the same meal. One of these myths claims that they shouldn’t be fed together because they each digest at different rates, which could cause the raw meat to get “stuck” behind the slower digesting kibble, putting your dog at risk of bacterial overgrowth. Another myth makes a similar claim that raw and kibble can’t be digested together due to each type of food needing a different stomach pH to digest. However, these myths are perpetrated by people that don’t have a complete understanding of how the digestive system works. A dog’s digestive system isn’t like a traffic jam – it is perfectly capable of handling things that require differing rates of digestion or different gastric pH levels. The fact is, there is no reason not to add some raw to your dog’s kibble. Some raw is better than none at all!


Moisture:

This seems really simple, and it is! Just like in humans, water is the most important nutrient for our body's systems to function properly. Intracellular moisture is extremely important for the digestive tract for the proper digestion and breakdown of food nutrients. Eating a dry kibble is very dehydrating and your dog's system has to pull moisture from other areas in order to digest it properly, leaving your dog in a state of dehydration.

You can add fresh water, bone broths, goat's milk or coconut water to your dog's meals to give them a great hydration boost!


Meat (raw or cooked):

Adding in healthy cuts of meats will provide your dog with fresh, high quality protein and amino acids. Due to heat and processing in kibble, healthy amino acids are damaged so adding a fresh option is a great idea. Good choices that are easily found include ground beef, turkey or pork and beef stew meat and roasts. You can also branch out with different proteins that can be a little harder to find, such as venison, lamb and bison.

Bones (always raw):

Bones should only ever be fed raw. Raw bones can be offered on occasion for feeding and mental enrichment. Bones are great for pulling tartar off teeth and keeping gums healthy and clean and provide mental stimulation when consuming as well. Depending on the size of your dog, you can feed bones ranging from chicken feet and necks, to turkey necks, to femurs and ribs. Never feed cooked bones and always supervise your dog when consuming. If you have a dog with kidney disease, please consider that raw bones will increase phosphorus levels and intake must be carefully monitored.


Organ Meats (raw, frozen or lightly seared):

Organ meats are often referred to as the "multivitamin of the raw diet" and they can add a lot of nutritional benefits to a commercial diet as well! Organ meats are one of the most nutrient dense foods you can give to your dog. They contain significantly more vitamins, minerals and other valuable nutrients than lean muscle meat. In addition to premium quality protein and fat, organ meats are plentiful sources of the vitamins A, B, D and E, as well as minerals like copper, iron, phosphorus, selenium and zinc. Too much organ meat at once can cause diarrhea, so go slow when adding these additions. Some dogs are picky with organ meats so play around with how you serve them - frozen or lightly cooked are options that work well for some dogs.


Omega 3 (Whole fish, oils or GLMP):

Most kibble diets don’t contain proper healthy fats. Even if they’re listed, they are destroyed with heating and processing. In fact, processing can produce hydrogenated or trans fats, which can actually cause health problems in your dog.. Most plant-derived fats provide omega-6 and 9 fatty acids, which are pro-inflammatory, and because of this it is super important that we replenish this short fall with healthy omega 3. We can do this with whole fish, healthy Omega 3 oil or green lipped mussel powder.


When choosing fish, find something that is high in omega-3 fatty acids and low in mercury. Sardines, anchovies, and mackerel are fantastic choices. If you want to use canned sardines, only use the ones canned in water. The general rule is 1oz fish per 35lbs of body weight.


As for fish oil: salmon, sardine, or herring oil are all good choices. Note: cod liver oil should not be added to kibble because it contains extra vitamins such as vitamin A and D, which can cause health issues if overdosed.


Green lipped mussel powder is a great alternative if you can't/don't want to offer fresh fish or fish oils. Not only does it contain our healthy Omega 3's but also provides fabulous joint support. You can also alternate between theses options.


Green Lipped Mussel Powder is superior to fish oil for a few reasons:

  • While fish oil contains two kinds of omega-3 fatty acids – Eicosapentaenoic Acid (EPA) and Docosahexaenoic Acid (DHA) – the green-lipped mussel also contains a third called Eicosatetraenoic Acid (ETA). While all omega-3 fatty acids have the ability to reduce inflammation by blocking the enzymes (lipoxygenase and cyclooxygenase) that contribute to it, ETA is a rare form that goes one step further: it actually works at the gene level to lower the production of cyclooxygenase. This means less inflammation, less pain, and more mobility for your our dogs.

  • ETA found in the green-lipped mussel is hundreds of times more potent than the EPA found in fish oil, you can give your dog a comparatively lower dosage.

  • Studies have shown that extract of the green-lipped mussels are an extremely powerful natural anti-inflammatory even when compared to pharmaceutical drugs like aspirin, ibuprofen, and Metacam without any of the potential side-effects.

  • In addition to its anti-inflammatory properties, the green-lipped mussel is considered a superfood because it contains a wide variety of vitamins, minerals, omega-3 fats, amino acids, antioxidants, enzymes, and many more nutrients.

You can often find GLMP locally at specialty pet stores, but you can also purchase here!



Eggs (raw *preferred* or cooked):

Not only are eggs widely available and cheap, they are one of the easiest most nutritious things you can add to your woofer’s meals!

Eggs are very nutrient dense and easy to digest. They contain fatty acids that benefit your dog’s skin and coat health. They are a great source of B vitamins, phosphorus, and selenium. They are also a great source of protein, and they have a fantastic amino acid profile. This is beneficial because some of the amino acids in kibble get denatured when cooked and processed. Eggs can provide some of those beneficial amino acids like glycine that may be lacking in kibble.

Don't forget the membrane! This is the thin layer you see pulling away from the shell when you crack an egg. This membrane is great for your woofer and primarily consists of substances with known benefits to joint health, including glucosamine, hyaluronic acid, chondroitin and collagen which are all great for managing joint pain. If you are feeding farm fresh eggs, you can feed the whole egg, shell and all but if using store bought eggs, do not feed the shell as they are often bleached and sprayed with wax for shelf stability.


Plant Matter (always cooked/pureed):


If your dog is eating kibble, they already have a large amount of plant matter included in the diet, so it is definitely more beneficial to be adding in fresh meats, organs, bones and fish, however, there is significant evidence that providing fresh fruits and vegetables is also beneficial for our dogs. Healthy plant matter has also been shown to have anti-carcinogenic properties!


Feeding fresh fruits and veggies provide phytonutrients and essential nutrients. These nutrients are very fragile and you get more benefit feeding them fresh than from processed commercial kibbles. Phytonutrients can help manage inflammation, support allergies, and support the gut. Even though many fruits and veggies are not perfectly absorbed by our dogs, compounds found in plants have beneficial effects on the gut mucosa regardless of their absorption.


Fruits and veggies are more easily digested and utilized by your dog after being put through a food processor, pureed, boiled or steamed. Leafy green veggies like kale, spinach, parsley, and broccoli should be the main focus. Some other great choices include zucchini, green beans, carrots, and dandelion greens. Fruits should be limited, since they are high in sugar; focus on berries or bananas. Starchy veggies, like potatoes, and veggies in the cabbage family should be avoided because they can contribute to conditions such as yeast overgrowth.


Lastly (and perhaps the most important!) is to feed your dog's gut with healthy probiotics:


No matter what diet we are feeding, we want to keep the gut healthy and happy for ultimate digestion. You can improve your dog's digestive microflora by adding in probiotics.

All dogs can benefit from probiotics, which aid digestion and modulate the immune system. Probiotics produce short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs), which inhibit the growth and activity of harmful bacteria.


My go-to probiotics are from the Adored Beast Apothecary. They have a range of pre and probiotics, but there basic formula is the Love Bugs, which you can buy here! (also often found at specialty pet stores locally)


We can also provide some probiotics with raw Goat's milk or Kefir:

This is another great way to increase the moisture of your dog’s diet, while also providing another source of great nutrition and probiotics at the same time!


Goat milk has a good calcium phosphorus ratio and is a great source of vitamins, fatty acids, enzymes, antioxidants, protein, and electrolytes. Compared to cow milk, goat milk has 13% more calcium, 25% more vitamin B6, 47% more vitamin A, 134% more potassium, 3 times more niacin, and 27% more of the antioxidant selenium.

Since goat milk has a smaller fat molecule size and a less lactose than cow milk, it is much easier for your dog to digest – even dogs with digestive issues or sensitive stomachs. It is also a good source of probiotics, which further benefits the digestive system and allows your dog to better absorb nutrients. It is also a great way to encourage picky or sick dogs to eat.


If you can’t find goat milk locally, try your nearest specialty pet store!

Primal makes a great goat's milk product for dogs, often found where you buy your raw dog food in the freezer section. The Honest Kitchen also offers a dehydrated goat milk product – just add water and serve! Find it here!


I hope this post gave you some insight into how you can improve your dog's diet with fresh foods, even if they are on commercial kibble. Still feeling confused and overwhelmed? Email me at wooferwellness@hotmail.com today!




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