there can be no complete and balanced pet food that is shelf-stable – Steve Brown, Pet Nutritionist
Most of our customers already know that we carry zero dry kibble products in our store for dogs or cats. When first-time customers come visit our store, looking for a brand of kibble they already use, many are surprised to find that we only carry raw foods and when they ask us, “how come?” we try our best to explain the benefits of feeding a raw diet and the downsides of feeding kibble. Of course, we can not convince everyone to switch over to a raw diet. This article is a Q&A that explains just one of the reasons we urge our customers to switch to, at the very least, a non-kibble diet.
How long does it take for you to go through one bag of kibble?
An average dry kibble product will have a shelf life of about a year. But once you open the bag, you only have approximately 2 weeks to finish it before the oils in the kibble food turn rancid. Oils become rancid by being exposed to oxygen and becoming ‘oxidized’. Rancid oils means that your dog is not able to absorb the important fats that are part of a complete and balanced meal. Studies showed that due to rancid fat, dogs could be deficient in proteins, vitamins and fats and even worse, rancid fats are known to increase risk of heart disease.
So if it takes longer than 2 weeks to go through a bag of kibble, we recommend buying a smaller bag to keep the kibble from becoming rancid and also avoid buying kibble bags that have holes or have been torn.
What about the preservatives?
Most kibble manufacturers will add preservatives, be it artificial or natural, to their product to delay the oxidization. Lower quality kibble manufacturers will use ethoxyquin, BHA, or BHT as a preservative although both BHA and BHT were found to be a carcinogenic chemical. Ethoxyquin is related to liver damage.
Natural preservatives are used by higher quality kibble manufacturers and these are made from vitamins E or C and in the ingredients list, it will read as tocopherols or ascorbate. These are generally considered safe but as soon as oxygen makes contact, they start to degrade slowly until they are completely damaged and the oxidization of the oils will occur.
Do you use a plastic container for kibble?
Some people use air tight containers for their kibble instead of keeping the kibble in the bag that it was sold in. This can be seen as a safer and convenient alternative but we want to remind customers that every time the lid is opened and closed, oxygen will still get in contact with the kibble. Secondly, if the inner walls of the container are not washed thoroughly before each refill, previously oxidized fats will remain on the walls and aid in the oxidization of the new food. To prevent this, we recommend washing the container with a scrub or keeping the kibble in the original bag and putting the bag in the container.
How can I tell if my kibble has gone rancid?
Simply put, rancid oils smell like plastic. Another thing you could do is smelling the food when it is fresh, and taking a whiff each week to make sure the kibble is not rancid.
Why should I be worried if my dog has been fine all this time on kibble?
We don’t enjoy alarming people unnecessarily. We also know many dogs who have lived a long life on a kibble diet. Switching to a raw food diet is not trying to fix something that isn’t broken. It is simply trying to provide the best thing for our loving pets and that includes trying to find the most healthy and nutritious way to feed them. A kibble diet is like a fast-food diet in that it is a made-to-be-convenient food, while making sure that it has the minimal nutritional values that will let a dog or cat ‘survive’ on it, not thrive. Everybody is fine and healthy until they get a cold or perhaps sprain an ankle. Dogs can be fine on kibble too, until something happens that translates to saying “enough kibble! I need meat!”.
What’s so good about raw compared to kibble?
Here is a simplified list that shows why feeding raw food is better than feeding kibble to your dog:
1. Easier to digest – Raw meat is easier to digest for dogs as their digestive system is designed to process raw meat due to their carnivorous ancestry. Kibble takes longer to digest and since dogs have a harder time digesting carbohydrates that kibble has lots of, it takes more energy to digest the food.
2. Cleaner teeth – Since raw meat has very low levels of carbohydrates, it is much harder for cavity causing bacteria to survive in a dog’s mouth. A raw food diet often consist of raw bones as well and bones help to clean the teeth without leaving food stuffs behind. Kibble on the other hand, leaves behind carbohydrates that bacteria flourishes in. When customers come in looking for dental chews or dental treats, we hand them a raw bone, the best toothbrush there is!
3. Less chance of developing a food allergy – Kibble is cooked at high temperatures in a process called ‘extrusion’. In this process, like any cooking process, proteins are changed by heat. One of the reasons dogs and cats show allergic reaction to a certain protein is thought to be because they have been exposed to proteins in cooked kibble foods that is shaped different from a raw protein. This means that a raw chicken protein looks different from a cooked chicken protein. When a dog’s immune system attacks the “different looking” chicken protein, the dog is seen to have an allergic reaction to chicken. We see many dogs who couldn’t eat chicken based kibble change over to a raw chicken food and thriving on it.
To learn more about food sensitivities and allergies, take a look at an article at dogs naturally magazine, here.
4. No additives – Kibble manufacturers will often add artificial vitamins and minerals to replenish the nutrients lost in the extrusion process. Many also add artificial colouring (to look more liek a food to us humans) and flavours to make it more enticing. With raw foods, you need not worry about artificial additives because they require none.
Are there any options other than raw?
There are other types of foods out there that are much healthier than kibble that is also not raw.
- Freeze Dried Raw Foods: Freeze dried raw foods are made by taking a raw pet food and taking all the moisture out. If you have ever eaten backpacker’s freeze dried food or freeze dried ice cream, they are made the same way freeze dried raw pet foods are. No heat is used in the process of freeze drying, which means nutrients didn’t get cooked off. This is as close to raw as you can get without it actually being ‘raw’. To feed this type of food, you must hydrate the freeze dried foods with water and then serve to your dog.
- Dehydrated Raw Foods: Dehydration uses a little bit more heat than freeze drying. Because of this we see this less of an actual ‘raw’ food than freeze dried foods but they still keep their nutrients a lot more than kibble. Most dehydrated foods are also served after it has been re-hydrated with water.
- Canned Foods: Although canned foods are cooked under higher temperatures, we still prefer it to raw because it has moisture. Moisture is very important in a pet’s diet and if we had to choose between kibble and canned foods, we would always pick the latter. And as prices are quite comparable between raw foods and canned foods, if you are doing an all canned diet, we want to recommend that you try raw!
To keep it short, we will talk about other benefits of raw on our other articles. As always, please feel free to contact us or visit us in store if you have any questions or need help in transitioning to a raw diet. If you are feeding kibble but are thinking of trying a raw food, come on by and we may have free raw samples for you!
-The True Carnivores Pack