A few weeks ago, in preparation for writing WDJ’s annual dry-dog-food review, we asked readers on our Facebook page what they most wanted to know about dry dog food. We received a lot of good questions, including a great many that revealed a common depth of interest in (and confusion about) feeding dogs. We were somewhat disappointed, however, by the number of people who took the opportunity to criticize dry dog food of any quality – the whole concept of kibble. More than one person asked, “Why would anyone feed such an inappropriate diet to a dog they loved?”
Well, it’s a sign of the times; people will start an argument about anything online, and when it comes to our beloved companion animals, passionate opinions are to be expected.
But we don’t think it’s at all helpful to tell people who have shown a greater-than-average interest in their dog’s health that “Kibble kills!” Especially when there is an awful lot of evidence to the contrary.
The fact is, more people feed dry dog food to their dogs than all the other forms of food put together – and any veterinarian can tell you that the lifespan of the average American family dog has increased, not decreased, since extruded foods were invented in the 1950s. That’s due to a lot of factors – including leash laws, greater rates of vaccination and basic veterinary care, social mores that increasingly regard pets as cherished family members (as opposed to disposable toys), and so on – but if kibble was the “killer” that the most adamant advocates of more “biologically appropriate” diets sometimes say it is, there wouldn’t be so many overcrowded animal shelters.
There is plenty of anecdotal evidence, after all, that dogs can thrive on all sorts of diets, including ones that we would never recommend. One woman who responded to our Facebook inquiry volunteered that she has fed her dogs Kibbles ‘n Bits – what I would characterize as junk food – since the company started making it, and her pit bull lived to 17, and she has two other dogs, ages 12 and 14, who have never had to go to the vet.
Does this anecdotal account mean we should feed all dogs Kibbles ‘n Bits? No.
On the other hand, do we want that woman to stop feeding it to her presumably healthy senior dogs? We do not. What is the use of making someone feel bad for doing something that appears to be working just fine?
If, however, someone has observed that her dog receives only a small serving of dry dog food (which she buys at the grocery store) and yet the dog remains obese, and also happens to be perpetually itchy . . . if the owner notices these things and is motivated to try to improve her dog’s health, comfort, and appearance . . . then we would encourage her to upgrade the dog’s diet and see what happens. We would give her some concrete information about what to look for, and what to look out for, when choosing a new food. We’d want that owner to be successful in finding something that works better for her dog and that she can afford.
Once she sees her dog improve, she will likely be on board for further dietary improvements – whether that’s an even better kibble, or the inclusion of some good-quality canned or frozen raw food, or a well-researched home-prepared diet. Whatever her level of comfort or budget, we will (over the course of the year) be publishing articles that will help her identify the traits of diets in those categories that more commonly produce fit, healthy dogs.
In this issue, we’ll be talking about dry dog food and how to find good ones. In other issues, we’ll discuss other types of diets. We’re confident that if you’re reading this now, you’re already doing more for your dog than most owners. Good job! And keep up the good work!