What is it?
Dry food is kibble, i.e. coarsely ground meal or grain compressed into pellets.
Convenience, long shelf life, affordability, travels well.
As with any dog food, the nutritional value of dry food depends on the quality of the ingredients. That said, highly processed foods are less healthy than lightly processed or unprocessed foods, and as dry food is the most processed kind of dog food on the market, it’s the least natural for your dog. At the same time, it’s by far the most convenient and economical, and may be the only viable option when feeding one or more large dogs. And many dogs do well on quality kibble.
What to know
Commercial dry food can be a dumping ground for waste products from the human food industry. The list of unsavory ingredients includes restaurant grease, slaughterhouse waste, distiller fermentation waste, and by-product meal, both animal and plant-based. Fortunately, increased scrutiny has boosted the market for natural dog food, resulting in more, higher-quality foods being available.
The trick to buying any commercial pet food, dry or wet, is to read the label closely.
What to look for when you shop
- Animal protein first. In all food labeling, ingredients are listed by weight, so choose a food that lists animal proteins among the first one or two.
- A recognizable animal. Many pet food labels simply list “meat” or “meal,” which could be anything. Instead look for named sources: chicken, beef, fish, etc.
- Enough protein. Fresh or frozen meat high in the ingredient list of dry food is great, but whole meat contains too much water for dry food to be sufficiently nutritious without added animal protein meal. Make sure your dry food contains animal protein meal in addition to whole meat.
- Vegetables and grains. Just don’t be impressed by three different kinds of potatoes; that’s more weight and bulk than nutritional bang for your buck.
What to avoid
- Animal by-products. Animal by-products can be of good quality or they can be sweepings from the factory floor. There’s no way for you to know, so avoid them altogether.
- Added sugar or sweeteners. High quality food doesn’t need to be sweetened. What’s more, artificial sweeteners can cause a number of health problems.
- Artificial colors or preservatives. Some chemical preservatives are suspected of causing allergies, kidney disease, immunodeficiency, and cancer. Instead, opt for natural preservatives like vitamin C or rosemary extract.
Want to stay on top of the latest knowledge about dog food? Check out Whole Dog Journal, a monthly guide to dog care and training.