Is premium kibble good for your dog?
You’ve seen the shiny packets stacked up in the pet food shops, twice the price of the basic supermarket kibble. Your vet may have recommended a particular brand to keep your dog healthy. But what is premium kibble and will it actually give your pup extra health benefits?
What makes kibble ‘premium’?
Premium kibble is formulated to include vitamins, minerals and a complete balance of fat, carbohydrate and protein. It is marketed as the optimal choice for your pupper’s health and may:
- contain less meat meals and more meat.
- be grain free, hypoallergenic, contain superfoods and exotic proteins.
- contain prebiotics, antioxidants and more omega 3
- have a better omega 6 to omega 3 ratio than what is industry acceptable, an important factor in controlling inflammation.
- be tested on laboratory beagles, often doing studies to compare it to standard kibble.
It’s important to note though that there is no industry standard here, any pet food can be labelled as premium and come with a hefty price tag.
What are the selling points of premium kibble?
- Fixed formulation: Some premium kibbles may have a fixed formulation meaning that their meat meal comes from the same source each time. That’s not to say that meat meal is the best option for your dog.
- Human grade: Some premium kibbles use human grade ingredients, which can be safer for your dog.
- Grain-free: For those dogs with an intolerance, grain-free is appealing. Making kibble requires a high starch content so even if the food is labelled as grain-free, it will need to include starch from non-grain sources, such as legumes or beet pulp. Legumes and beet pulp may lead to reduced levels of taurine, which is linked to DCM.
- Hypoallergenic: Many premium foods will describe themselves as hypoallergenic, but this may not mean much to your dog. True allergies are quite rare in dogs, and a hypoallergenic label doesn’t ensure that the particular ingredient your dog is sensitive to won’t be included. It’s more important to look at the specific ingredients in each food and make sure that they’re all something your dog can eat.
- Exotic proteins: Exotic proteins, such as duck and goat, can be useful if your dog is sensitive to other meats, but aren’t necessary in terms of nutritional value.
- Superfoods: We love the multiple benefits that superfoods bring and you might see images of fresh fruit or herbs on kibble packets. However, the amounts added to kibble are usually minuscule, and the high temperature cooking process may further decrease the bioactivity of these low doses of superfoods.
How is premium kibble made?
Whether kibble is marketed and labelled as premium or not, it still goes through the same processing method as any standard dried food. This involves cooking at a very high heat, before being dried and then reheated. This high heat and processing makes the ingredients lose much of their natural nutritional value so artificial nutrients are added in their place.
Is fresh food a better option than premium kibble?
There’s no secret – at Lyka we offer a fresh food diet and of course that means that we prefer to promote the benefits of this way of eating. But to make an informed decision for your pup it’s good to ask yourself these questions.
What does science say?
There is plenty of very interesting research available that points towards a fresh food diet being best for our pups.
- Easier to digest: Earlier this year, a breakthrough study showed that human grade fresh food was actually easier for our dogs to digest than kibble.
- Promotion of gut health: The same study also showed that dogs who ate fresh food had more diverse microbiomes. You may have heard about the microbiome in human health and increased diversity is considered to be a driver of better health. Multiple studies have found that lower diversity is associated with various diseases like inflammatory bowel disease, obesity, type 1 and type 2 diabetes, and psoriatic arthritis.
- Potential to help dogs with Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) According to recent studies, anti-inflammatory compounds found in fresh food can potentially be used for digestive issues like IBD in dogs.
- Higher presence of health-jeopardizing bacteria in kibble-fed dogs: There are studies which show that the Megamonus and Catenibacterium bacteria families, associated with aggression and weight gain, had a higher presence in dogs who were mainly fed kibble.
- High carbohydrate kibble may be difficult for our dogs to digest: Dogs make glucose from protein and wild dogs have eaten 3% carbohydrate diets for millennia. There are no studies on dogs that support the safety of feeding 50% carbohydrate diets. Dogs have evolved some digestive enzymes to deal better with carbohydrates, but this does not mean that they are thriving on a high carbohydrate kibble diet.
Remember, many studies are not peer reviewed and double blinded randomised feeding trails that compare kibble to natural feeding (the holy grail of good research) are almost impossible. The researcher of an article will clearly know if they are feeding a dog kibble or fresh food just by looking at it, which means that a lot of interesting research is dismissed by the veterinary industry.
So, what is happening in human nutrition, then?
Human nutritionists are constantly lauding the benefits of a colourful, whole food, fresh diet. We keep a close eye on human trends and replicate these ideas in our recipes which:
- are rich in omega 3.
- derive antioxidants from whole foods.
- do not rely on synthetic vitamins and minerals.
- avoid highly processed foods.
What does our common sense tell us?
- Nutrition is constantly evolving. What we know about nutrition now is significantly deeper than what we knew a couple of decades ago when premium kibbles started coming on the market. And there is so much that is still undiscovered, including nutrients yet to be determined to be essential for dogs.
- Would you expect to get all your nutrients from something with a two year shelf life? Yes, premium kibble passes all the regulatory body tests and contains many vitamins and minerals but it’s hardly comparable to the varied bountiful diet we can get from fresh food. Think in human terms. Which one seems more beneficial to you? A colourful Mediterranean diet filled with fresh food or a bunch of processed protein bars?
- Seasoned vets may continue to sing the praises of kibble. Vets who have been in the industry for many years may be able to recall stories of rickets in dogs who were fed just mince with no bones in the 1980s and how premium kibble has solved these problems. But, thanks to modern science, we now
- Premium kibble means more antioxidants and vitamins but they are synthetically derived. Remember that nutrients get lost in the cooking process, so kibble manufacturers add synthetic nutrients. An over-reliance on synthetic nutrients is known to be problematic for humans and the same may well be true for dogs.
- Life expectancy for dogs has actually decreased. Premium kibble has been touted as the perfect, convenient package for all our dog’s nutritional needs but life expectancy has actually decreased for our precious pets, according to a survey conducted by the UK Kennel Club. There are no long term studies to show it’s safe to feed this diet to our dogs, day in day out.
- Does your dog feel and behave better on a fresh food diet? While we can’t rule out other factors, if you are seeing first-hand the benefits of a fresh food diet for your pupper then you’ll probably stick to it. We have plenty of stories of pups living their best life eating Lyka.
What are leaders in animal nutrition saying?
There are plenty of supporters of the fresh food diet in the animal nutrition world. You can check out their opinions to help you make an informed decision:
- Leading pet oncologists, Dr Erin Bannick shares her thoughts on processed food.
- Homecooking proponent Dr Karen Becker has some common sense tips to share.
- Check out the articles from pet wellness expert Dr Jean Dodds.
- Rodney Habib is an advocate for pet wellness.
- Sydney-based holistic vet Dr Karen Goldrick has published many articles on finding the right diet for your pup.
- Conor Brady gets his teeth into the debate between raw and dry food for dogs.
What’s the Lyka takeaway?
We’ve done our research, we follow the most up-to-date animal and human nutrition information and we’ve formulated delicious and nutrient-packed fresh food recipes that we believe are the best way to support your pupper’s wellbeing.
- include raw superfoods, not just to be on trend, but in significant amounts for their nutritional benefit.
- are always human grade for digestibility, sustainability and safety.
- are minimally processed, except for the superfoods which are safe to feed raw, including nutrients yet to be determined to be essential for dogs.