It should go without saying that our dog’s diet is just as important as our own. There are more options than ever before for feeding our dogs. Today we will talk to you all about kibble, our favorite brand, what you want in a kibble, and understanding your food label and its ingredients.
Although it is not the most beneficial option for feeding, kibble is usually fast, convenient, very cost effective, and we don’t have to worry about food preparation or meeting proper nutritional standards for our dogs. Kibble also has a long shelf life and it normally won’t go rancid or pick up bacteria. All of the ingredients can be formulated to give a balanced diet and a good one will combine real whole meats and vegetables.
One of our recommended brands here at Peak 9 is Carna 4. The brand has six formulas consisting of chicken, duck, fish, lamb, venison, and goat. You can pronounce every ingredient on the panel and the brand prides itself on increasing vitamins, minerals, enzymes, and omega 3 fatty acids through the food itself. The benefit of getting our nutrients and vitamins from the natural food itself makes it safer. Carna 4 retains much of their nutrients by doing a four minute quick bake before air drying. As a result they don’t have to add a synthetic mineral and vitamin premix.
Many other dog food manufacturers cook at high temperatures that eliminate the natural nutrients found in their kibble. To gain the nutrients back they use a synthetic vitamin and mineral premix.
Sometimes food recalls occur when a vitamin premix is added to the food batch. If the factory has a mis-measurement it can result in too much of a particular vitamin or supplement that can cause severe illnesses in our dogs.
In March of 2023, there was a recall of a leading brand due to increased levels of vitamin D. Too much vitamin D can lead to fatigue, loss of appetite, vomiting and even kidney dysfunction. At Peak 9 we are not endorsed by Carna 4 but we do like it for having all natural ingredients with no synthetic vitamins or minerals.
Regardless of the kibble you choose, you will benefit the most from whole food ingredients. On a label you want to see beef, chicken, mackerel, lamb, etc. at the very top of your ingredient label. Look out and beware of the words “chicken meal” or “beef meal” when you are looking for a high quality food. If these are at or near the top, you may want to search for a different brand that lists whole meats.
The AAFCO defines any type of meat “meal" as the “rendered product form mammal tissues, exclusive of any added blood, hair, hoof, horn, hide, trimmings, manure, stomach and rumen contents except in such small amounts as may occur unavoidably in good processing practices.” Chicken meal often includes ground bone, feet, and even the animals whole head. If your food contains meat meal you want to see it lower down on the ingredient panel. All dog food by law can only have 1% salt so anything past this point on the label is less than 1%. The ingredients encompassing the greater majority of the kibble are at the top and are of a lesser percentage in the mix the farther you go down the label. We like to look for the whole meats dominating at the top and we prefer the meat meal to be lower down on the panel, in a small percentage, or non-existent.
Other concepts to understand are terms such as by-products that are defined as “secondary products produced in addition to the principal product.” This may include the lungs, spleen, kidneys, brain, liver, or intestines of the animal. By-products aren’t bad and can have a lot of nutritional value. We can think of these items in the food as the organs that would surely be eaten by our dogs in the wild.
Before we even look at the ingredients there are clues on the front of the bag. Let’s consider the word “and.” If my food bag says Salmon and Sweet potato that means that the two ingredients have to make up 70% of the ingredients before the cooking process of the food. It could be 65% and 5% but it has to add up to 70%. As for the words “entree,” “dinner,” and “formula” this means that such ingredients make up only 10% of the feed. If my bag says Chicken with rice that means that rice is only 3% of the formula because of the word “with.” If your food brand says beef flavor or chicken flavor it doesn’t have to have beef or chicken and this is most likely a lower tiered food that we would avoid.
We talked about the top ingredients having the greatest weights compared to the lower ingredients in the panel. It is important to remember that any meats are weighed before they are cooked in the food batch. Because meat is roughly 70% water, your grains, vegetables, and other additives are going to have a greater percentage proportionally to your meat than is listed on your bag. That being said, your 9 pounds of meat is actually only 2.7 pounds once it's packed into the kibble and placed in your bag. Because we want meat to predominate this is really something to think about. If you do feed kibble, consider a good meaty food topper like sardines, salmon, ground chicken, ground beef, or a cooked over easy egg as a topper. We recommend cooking all of your dog's food. Although some of the nutrients are lost we want to err on the side of caution and not have your pooch contract e-coli or salmonella. If you do want to go with raw toppers or do a raw diet we recommend that you consult with your veterinarian.
We have talked all about meat in your pups diet, but what about the fruits and vegetables? You can use the following fruits and veggies as a topper and you can look for them in your kibble as well! Just remember that any ingredients that are past salt are less than 1% of the batch so we recommend that such ingredients are right after your whole meats. Apples, bananas, blueberries, brussel sprouts, broccoli, cantaloupe, celery, carrots, green beans, pumpkin, water melon, and strawberries are just some of the things that you can give your dog. Go light on the bananas as they have a bit of sugar. Too many brussel sprouts and too much broccoli can make your dog have gas if given in great quantities so go light on these as well.
You can also find valuable information on your dog’s food through the guaranteed analysis table that will list all percentages of crude protein, crude fat, crude fiber, taurine, omega-3, omega-6, and anything from calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, and other minerals and nutrients.
We hope this informed you a bit on ingredient panels, kibble, and dog nutrition. We recommend whole meat based kibbles with all natural ingredients and no synthetic vitamin panels. Bolster your dog’s dish with natural food toppers for your dog’s extra joy and great nutrition.
Stay tuned! In the near future we will post about all natural meals that you can cook for your dog that are much healthier than kibble.