Is Kibble Bad for Dogs?

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What if I told you that kibble could potentially risk the long-term health of your furry friend?

As dog owners, we spend countless hours carefully reading dry food labels, searching for high-quality ingredients, and avoiding harmful additives.

But are we truly providing them with all the nutrients they need, or is kibble bad for dogs, despite our best intentions? Let’s go over the pros and cons of feeding your dog kibble and explore some alternative options that might be worth considering.

is kibble bad for dogs

How is kibble made?

So what exactly goes into those little nuggets of processed pet food?

It may be shocking to hear, but the truth is that many commercial dog foods on the market today are just as heavily processed as human junk food.

Most kibble is made through a process called extrusion, where a mixture of grains, meat by-products, and other ingredients are cooked at high temperatures and pressures.

This process not only destroys many of the natural nutrients found in the ingredients but also creates a product that’s highly processed and lacking in essential vitamins, minerals, and enzymes.

This means that even if the ingredients used initially were of good quality, they may become significantly depleted during the manufacturing process and have to be replaced with synthetic versions.

Additionally, the high temperatures used in extrusion can cause the formation of harmful substances such as acrylamide, which is known to be a potential carcinogen.

To make the mixture more palatable, some manufacturers add flavor enhancers, sugar, and food dyes.

They also include fillers like corn, wheat, and soy to bulk up the product and make it cheaper to produce. These fillers provide little to no nutritional value and can even cause allergies and digestive issues in some sensitive dogs.

Other common additives found in kibble include chemical preservatives named BHA and BHT which help it stay fresh for longer periods. Unfortunately, they have also been linked to allergies, liver problems, and even cancer.

All of these factors contribute to a pet food product that’s far from ideal for a dog’s health and well-being.

small dog peaking over a bowl of dog food

Plus, the lack of regulation in the pet food industry means that manufacturers can make misleading claims on their packaging.

Phrases like “all-natural”, “grain-free”, or “real meat” may catch the eye of buyers looking for healthier options, but upon closer inspection, these claims might not hold up.

For example, a product boasting real meat may actually have very little actual meat content and be primarily composed of by-products or low-quality protein sources.

In fact, some (but not all) manufacturers use low-quality meat by-products, which can include things such as beaks, feathers, and roadkill.

This means that your dog may be eating questionable or potentially harmful ingredients without you even knowing!

Pros of feeding dogs kibble

While there’s a growing trend toward feeding dogs raw or cooked diets, kibble still remains a popular choice for many pet owners. Here’s why.


One of the biggest advantages of feeding dogs kibble is convenience.

Unlike raw or cooked food that requires careful meal planning and storage, kibble can be easily measured out and stored in an airtight container without worrying about spoilage or contamination.

Kibble also tends to be more affordable and readily available in a variety of brands and flavors.

Complete and balanced nutrition

Another benefit of feeding dogs kibble is that it provides complete and balanced nutrition.

Reputable pet food brands formulate their products to meet the nutritional needs of dogs at different life stages, ensuring they receive all the essential nutrients they require to thrive.

This makes it easier for you to ensure your furry companion is getting the right amount of protein, fats, carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals with each meal.

Dental benefits (?)

Some also believe that kibble offers dental benefits for dogs.

We’re not sure if this claim is entirely true but believe that it’s still important to maintain good dental hygiene by regularly brushing your dog’s teeth and providing them with appropriate dental treats or toys, regardless of the type of food they eat.

Cons of feeding dogs kibble

Not surprisingly, kibble has its fair share of cons, too.

Lack of moisture

In addition to the high temperatures and long cooking times, which can result in nutrient loss, another concern with kibble is the lack of moisture.

Dogs naturally have a low thirst drive and obtain most of their hydration from their food. Dry kibble has a moisture content of only around 10%, while cooked and raw diets can provide up to 75% moisture.

This lack of hydration can put a strain on your dog’s kidneys and urinary system, potentially leading to urinary tract infections and other complications.

High carbohydrate content

The other issue with kibble is that it’s high in carbohydrates.

Dogs are primarily carnivores, and their bodies are designed to thrive on a diet rich in animal protein and fat. Yet, many commercial kibble brands contain high levels of carbs, even the ones that are grain-free.

This can easily lead to weight gain, obesity, and other health issues, just like in humans.

Quality of ingredients

But maybe the most concerning aspect of feeding kibble to your dog is the quality of ingredients used in its production.

When you’re buying fresh dog food or preparing meals yourself, you can see exactly what ingredients are going into your pet’s food. With kibble, however, it’s not always that clear.

Would you eat something without knowing what it is? I know I wouldn’t.

Is there any healthy kibble for dogs?

Obviously, the quality of the ingredients used in kibble varies widely among brands, and there are certainly high-quality kibble options available on the market.

These brands tend to be pricy since they use premium ingredients, including raw meat and whole food sources, while avoid synthetic additives and fillers.

But even with these higher-quality options, there are still concerns about the processing methods used in kibble production.

Luckily, there are some companies, like Carna4, that claim to use a unique and gentle cooking process that preserves the natural nutrients in their kibble.

Nevertheless, many argue that no matter how excellent the food is, kibble is still heavily processed and lacks the freshness and variety of a raw or homemade diet.

Add to that the fact that it contains a high percentage of carbohydrates and a low percentage of moisture, and it becomes clear why some folks are hesitant to solely rely on kibble as their pet’s primary source of nutrition.

Alternatives to kibble

Raw food

Raw food diets typically consist of raw meat (organ and muscle), bones (whole or ground), eggs, fruits and vegetables, and some dairy products (especially yogurt and goat milk).

Proponents of this diet argue that it closely mimics what animals would eat in the wild, providing them with essential nutrients and enzymes.

Consuming raw food is believed to have a positive effect on dental health, digestion, energy levels, and skin and coat condition.

On the other hand, there are concerns about the potential risk of bacterial contamination and the difficulty in ensuring a balanced diet.

It can also be expensive and challenging to accurately provide all the necessary nutrients in the correct proportions when preparing raw food meals at home.

Freeze-dried raw food

Freeze-dried food is made by freezing raw ingredients and then removing the moisture through a process called sublimation.

This allows the food to retain its nutritional value while being lightweight and easy to store. The process also eliminates the need for artificial preservatives and refrigeration, making it a healthier choice that can be easily packed in your backpack or suitcase.

When rehydrated with water, the ingredients regain their original shape and texture, providing a satisfying crunch that dogs love.

This can be especially beneficial for picky eaters who may refuse to eat certain types of kibble.

One popular freeze-dried food brand is Stella & Chewy’s. They offer a wide range of protein options, including beef, chicken, duck, lamb, rabbit, and venison, and their recipes are grain-free and made with real ingredients and no iffy additives.

Home-cooked meals

Home-cooked meals are, in our opinion, the best alternative to kibble. This involves fresh ingredients such as lean meats and organs, eggs, whole grains, vegetables and fruits, and supplements as needed.

Fresh food provides more control over your dog’s diet and allows for customization based on specific dietary needs or restrictions. It also eliminates the concerns of potential bacterial contamination often associated with raw food.

Owners who feed fresh food report that their pets have shinier coats, healthier skin, and improved digestion. They also notice a boost in their energy levels and overall vitality.

Of course, cooking food can be time-consuming and some people may find it difficult to consistently prepare balanced meals for their dogs, especially if they have a busy schedule or lack knowledge about proper pet nutrition.

If you don’t want to go through the hassle of researching and preparing homemade food, there are many commercially available options out there. Nom Nom used to be our favorite, but now we’re obsessed with Ollie.

One of the best things about Ollie is that they create individually tailored meal plans for each pet, taking into consideration their age, weight, activity level, and any specific dietary needs or restrictions they may have.

But don’t just take our word for it — check out some of the reviews on their website, and if you’re still unsure, they now offer a starter box at 50% off so you can try it out before committing to a subscription.

Similarly to Carna4, Ollie also have a line of gently baked dog food that are made with the same high-quality ingredients as their fresh food, and you can even sign up for a mixed plan to enjoy the best of both worlds.

In summary

While kibble is a popular option for feeding dogs, it’s important to consider the potential drawbacks. Whether it’s the use of high temperatures and low-quality ingredients, the lack of moisture, or the amount of carbs.

However, you can still find great kibble options that prioritize the nutritional needs of dogs, but for that price, you might as well explore alternative options like raw food, freeze-dried raw food, or better yet, freshly cooked food.

About the author

Li-ran Bukovza

Li-ran believes that our dogs can teach us more than we could ever teach them. He's fascinated by the dog-human bond and loves researching and writing about new pet trends. With the help of Richie (his trusty Maltese sidekick), he hopes to help as many people as possible understand the beautiful, complex world of canine companionship.