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General Dog Care

Dog Diet Series: Phase 1 – Dry Dog Food

photo of person feeding dog outside
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When trying to decide what to feed our dogs, the choices are overwhelming. First you have to decide what type of diet to feed your pet, then decide the best brands and ways to feed your dog that type of food. I want to help that process just a little bit by going into some of the pros and cons of different types of food. 

When I went to start this article, I was going to put it all into one article. After doing some research I decided very quickly that I needed to break it down into smaller articles to be able to have shorter posts but also give a little more information on each type of diet. 

The first in my dog food series is dry food, also known as kibble. 

Kibble is made using dried up ingredients that are then ground and processed into small bite size pieces for dogs. It typically includes a form of protein, vegetables, and a binder (more about these a little later). Each brand will make their kibble look different and have different ingredients. Before we break down what is inside of kibble, I want to go over a few things outside of the contents of the food itself. The pros and cons so to speak.

dog eating food

Kibble is the easiest for storage and has the longest shelf life, if stored properly. In an article I read (check references at the end of the article), they suggested moving your entire bag into a storage container instead of dumping the contents out of the bag into the container. Dry dog food manufacturers have developed quality bags that help keep the food fresh. Your storage container will help keep out the bugs and small critters! You can easily find these containers at pet supply stores, and online retailers as well.

Kibble is also the most cost effective form of feeding our dogs. It is relatively easy to find a brand within almost any budget (but be warned what those cost saving kibbles have inside of them). Along with the variety of budgets that it covers is a wide variety of formulas. These formulas can focus on issues like joint and gut health, or be a different style like low calorie and limited ingredients. Always be sure to be checking the ingredients to make sure that what is inside matches the claims that the package is making, more about that later on in this article. 

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Now for the not-so-good parts of feeding our dogs kibble. Something I addressed a few times in the last couple of paragraphs is what is actually inside the food itself. A lot of makers of these foods include unnecessary ingredients like dyes that are only included to make the kibble look more attractive to the pet parents. There have also been numerous recalls made by the FDA to various well known brands of pet food, with a range of different issues. The FDA has a list of all open warning letters against these manufacturers so you can keep up if you so choose. 

There is an organization named the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO), which is a group of members dedicated and committed to making sure the quality of pet food is continued to be elevated and monitored. Finding packaging with their stamp means that it has been tested to make sure it is a quality food that does not contain any harmful ingredients or chemicals. Wait, did she say chemicals? Yes, I did! There is a list of harmful chemical additives that some manufacturers use that extends the shelf life of the kibble but is horrible for the health of your pet. The references at the end include an article that has a list of these chemicals. 

Another area of concern is that when it comes to advertisement of these different kibbles, manufacturers are held from little to no accountability as to what they put on their package. There are many foods in the pet industry (along with supplements and additives) that say that they will help with joint pain or anxiety, as a couple examples, but have gone through zero testing to prove these statements are actually true. The best way to tell if it will actually help the intended purpose is to look at the ingredients list. Let’s say that your dog’s food claims to help with gut health, but the list of ingredients includes ‘chicken by product meal’ as the second ingredient and you see carrageenan as the preservative. It may be time to start looking for a new brand/manufacture. Again, the list of articles at the end of this one will help you dive deeper into your knowledge of the dog food industry. 

a person looking at a dog s teeth
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Now, there is also some controversy on whether or not dry kibble helps with cleaning teeth. I have written another article where I cover this topic and I personally believe that it does not help with dental care, unless you are getting kibble specifically made to help with their teeth. Plaque and tartar will still build up, so make sure you have a good dental routine for your dog. Check out my article about dental health for some great tips to care for your dog’s teeth!

Now that you are armed with the general knowledge about dry dog food, you may still be a bit confused. Mostly as I kept saying ‘check the ingredients list’ but you don’t really know what you’re supposed to be looking for or maybe even what you are looking at. Personally, when I am choosing my dog’s food I look firstly at the top 5 ingredients of the food. The reason being is that dog food ingredients are listed by weight, so this tells me what the main composition of the food is made of. Secondly, I look for that list of harmful preservatives to make sure they do not appear on the list. 

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When looking at the top 5 ingredients in your dog’s food the first ingredient you will typically see is some form of meat: Chicken, beef, etc. Keep in mind one thing, this meat is weighed before the dehydration process. Meaning all that moisture is still in the meat. The main ingredient adds an aroma for the pet, but is mostly a selling point to pet parents. However, some dogs do have a preference for how their kibble smells so it is still something to keep in mind! The second ingredient is when you will start to see the word ‘meal’. Meal is basically what is left after the protein has been dehydrated and ground down. Because pet food ingredients are listed by weight, Meals are important! I like to see a combination of vegetable and protein meals, to help keep the diet more balanced. I mentioned this above, but stay away from ‘by-product meals’. This is made up of the parts of the animals and plants that are not quality enough to make it into the ‘meal’. This includes all the parts of the process that are put to the side that are deemed ‘unworthy’, so to speak. These act as fillers to the kibble, and simply save the manufacturers money. 

One ingredient I did not touch on is corn. During my research I came across a ton of articles and they all seemed to go back and forth as to whether or not corn is bad or good. I leave this one to you, the reader, to decide. Many articles at the end that are listed go into their opinions of corn, and I hope they help you decide if it is something you wish to be in your pet’s diet or not. 

black and white dalmatian dog eating fruits
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If you’ve made it to the end of this, I hope that you have learned a good deal about your dog’s food. To most dog owner’s, myself included, kibble is a staple part of their diet. My parting words to you, are to consider additives to your dog’s diet. Many dogs love vegetables, and there are lots of healthy additives to put on top of their bowls. Each brand lists the amount of protein, vitamins and minerals in each bag. However, these are actually ranged and not always spot on. Adding vegetables to your dog’s diet helps add a little variety to their palate while also ensuring they are receiving natural forms of their vitamins  and minerals. Ask your vet for a list of dog safe vegetables, or if they have a reference to a trust source. 


(n.d.). The Association of American Feed Control Officials > Home.

Coile, C. (2022, July 29). The truth behind 8 dog food myths. American Kennel Club.

Kerns, N. (2019, March 21). 10 dry dog food shopping tips. Whole Dog Journal.

Palmer, J. (2022, August 22). 10 surprising myths about dry dog food.

Union Lake Veterinary Hospital. (2022, March 31). Ingredients to avoid in dog food, treats, and bones – Union lake veterinary hospital.

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