Short answer - Yes!
As a Canine Nutritionist, I get this question all the time and I often see statements (from dog owners mainly) that kibble should not be fed to their dog, that it doesn't have any nutritional value, that it's pumped full of crap, etc, etc. This isn't true!
What is kibble?
Kibble, or dried food, is ground up ingredients formed into a pellet type shape. The kibble usually consists of ingredients such as meat & fish, vegetables, fruit, grains, cereals, vitamins and minerals. Kibble has a low water content, usually around 10%, unlike tinned dog food which contains around 80%. If your dog is fed solely kibble, they will tend to drink more water.
Kibble can come in all sorts of shapes and sizes and can be breed/size dependent, so if you have a great dane, the kibble can be a lot bigger in size than kibble for puppies or chihuahua's, for example.
How is kibble made?
Pet food production is regulated by law, just the same as human food is. Typical pet food contains ingredients such as poultry, beef and fish as well as fruit, vegetables, cereals, grains, vitamins and minerals, for a complete and balanced diet. Some foods will contains animal by-products, which again, are strictly regulated. Animal by-products can be the whole or parts of an animal which is not used for human consumption.
All the ingredients are carefully weighed, measured and mixed together. Water and steam are added to produce a dough and increase the temperature of the mixture. The mixture then goes through an extruder where it is fully cooked, then passed through the cutting machine where it produces kibble of all shapes and sizes, known as kibble.
The kibble is then dried out to reduce the moisture content. Often the kibbles are coated in an oil, made from animal fats, or gravy to increase palatability. The kibbles are then cooled and packaged.
Which kibble is best for my dog?
As a Canine Nutritionist, my answer is "there is no particular best food" - I know, this answer really doesn't help, does it? It's quite a complex question and certainly requires a complex answer. Choosing food for your dog isn't as easy as walking along a shop aisle and picking something up because the packaging looks nice, chances are the food inside will be terrible!
So, when it comes to choosing a kibble for your dog you need to think of the following:
1. Your budget - what can you afford to spend each month on dog food. Once you know that, you can narrow down your choices. However, you then have to work out that the 5kg bag of kibble at £15 may last 2 weeks, where as the 5kg bag at £5 bag may only last 2 days. Why? Because of the ingredients... we'll get to this in a minute.
2. Are you getting a puppy? If so, carry on with the food the pup is leaving the breeder with. If this food is not within your budget, change gradually over the course of a few weeks. Sudden changes in food can upset a dogs stomach.
3. If you're just looking at what kibble to feed your dog, you need to consider your dogs breed, weight, age and any health issues like heart or lung problems, obesity, joint problems, allergies and intolerances.
Let's look at ingredients. The most expensive foods will contain the best ingredients and will list their primary ingredient first, usually protein at around 30% or higher. The cheaper foods (supermarket ones or the likes of Bakers or Pedigree) will contain basic ingredients and will mostly use animal derivatives (by products) containing only 4% protein. So whilst the cheaper bags may fit your weekly or monthly budget, they will not last as long because you need to feed more than the more expensive brand, and it's not as good for your dog.
Foods marketed for breed specific aren't always a marketing gimmick - smaller breed dogs usually prefer a smaller kibble, where as large breed dogs, like great danes, will need a bigger kibble and more protein, plus, they will need joint care, which can be included in most kibbles.
Kibbles that contain grains, wheat, cereals, eggs, pork and beef may not be suitable if your dog has a sensitive stomach. White protein is more easily digestible than red proteins. White dogs tend to have more skin and stomach sensitivities, so avoid the grains. Salmon oil can often cause skin irritation, so opt for cod liver oil instead (usually listed as Omega 3 &, so you will need to check if Salmon is listed).
If your dog is a senior, usually from age 7 upwards (or 5 if a giant breed), you will need a senior kibble which will contain joint supplements such as glucosamine and chondroitin, as well as less protein (because your dog may not be as mobile) as well as other vitamins and minerals to help with the aging process - the same counts for puppy food - additional and extra ingredients will be found to help with puppy's development.
So, in general....
Yes, your dog can eat kibble! Choosing the right food for your dog can be a minefield, so if you do need any help and advice, please reach out.