Facts You Should Know About Dry Dog Food and Cat Food
One of the most common questions I receive is "Why is my pet still getting UTIs, (OR having allergy symptoms, digestive problems, ear infections, etc) when I am feeding a premium grain-free dry kibble for my cat or dog?"
The answer is complex. Depending upon your pet's digestive health, medical issues and your lifestyle, dry kibble, even if it is grain-free, is not necessarily the best choice for your pet.
Is Dry Kibble Good For Your Cat or Dog?
Just as each one of us is unique and has different dietary needs, so do our pets. Dry kibble is convenient, cost-effective and easy to feed. It works well for pet owners who are working full-time or have multiple pet households. But.....is it the best food for your pet?
For some pets, eating dry food may work out ok, even if it is not the optimal choice. But, for many pets, dry kibble is problematic and should be avoided. Here are some reasons why:
- Dry kibble is made using carbohydrates. Yes, grain-free is a better choice of carbohydrates but other carbohydrates such as potatoes, yams, sweet potatoes, garbanzo beans, tapioca, etc are still high in sugars and help bacteria and yeast to grow. If you have a pet with allergies and still getting yeast infections, ear infections or urinary tract infections, dry kibble could be one of the culprits. Keep in mind though that senior pets with pancreatitis, kidney or liver disease need a higher carbohydrate diet but using a canned form is often easier for them to digest.
- Dry kibble is overcooked and over processed. Even kibble that contains vegetables have now been processed so that they no longer resemble the fresh, alkaline food it once was. Why is that an issue? Fresh foods contain enzymes, vitamins, antioxidants and nutrients that frequently get "lost in the cooking". These enzymes help your pet break down the nutrients. Dry food is harder to digest than canned, fresh homemade or raw frozen food. Poor digestion leads to food stagnation and fermentation in the intestinal tract which is what contributes to allergies and other health problems.
- Dry food is also not nearly as well absorbed as other forms of pet food. Ever wonder why dogs that eat dry food leave larger "stool deposits" outside than those that eat a raw frozen diet?" If you haven't tried a raw frozen diet, then you will be amazed at how much less mess there is to pickup! That is because much of the dry kibble is not digested or absorbed by your pet whereas in a raw frozen diet, there is very little left behind.
- Protein sourcing in dry kibble can be misleading. How much of your pet's protein is coming from fresh fish or meat vs potatoes and starches? Many forms of dry kibble are loaded with hard-to-digest grains which are the primary source of protein.
- Dry food, in and of itself, lacks moisture which is problematic for pets with kidney problems or a history of urinary tract issues. Cats, especially, can be water avoiders. Also, dry food can accumulate mold, depending upon how it is stored. This is a problem especially for pets that tend to have yeast.
What's a Pet Owner To Do?
1) Try to slowly introduce a raw frozen diet or some canned food into your pet's diet and if possibly reduce or eliminate the dry kibble. You can also try substituting a small amount of homemade food for the dry kibble.
2) Food forms are not an all or nothing decision. Some pet owners have found the price of raw frozen food to be a challenge, but in an effort to add more nutrition to their pet's diet, use 1 or 2 medallions daily along with some fresh vegetables along with the dry kibble.
3) If your pet has chronic health issues such as UTIs, skin problems, allergies or digestive problems and you have been feeding dry kibble, please read our articles about pet nutrition. You may find that the incremental cost of the raw frozen food far outweighs the cost of the veterinary bills, let alone your pet's well being.
4) Take time to think through all of the issues. Rushing to switch foods isn't ideal as diet changes made too quickly can cause problems. But, becoming educated about pet nutrition and understanding what exactly you are feeding your pet will enable you to make informed decisions going forward. This will hopefully lead to a healthier and happier pet overall!