Health

Feeding Your Pets Kibble Could Be Making Them Sick

By Gwen Farrell··  5 min read
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Feeding Your Pets Kibble Could Be Making Them Sick

I’m not a pet owner (though many of my friends and family are), but I have to admit I’m always bowled over at the heavy handedness of marketing campaigns targeting pet owners.

Run-of-the-mill kibble brands always portray happy, healthy pets as the most important members of the family, and glossy, organic-this, organic-that brands usually have a high markup and “all natural,” toxin-free, gluten-free, vegan ingredients (I exaggerate, but only just a little). Whatever type of pet food buyer you are, you might be unaware that your pets’ food is likely making them sick.

Humans are, for the most part, pretty cognizant about what we put in our bodies. But apparently, we’re not very vigilant about what we feed to our furry loved ones.

Problematic Ingredients

Did you know both cats and dogs are low-carb carnivores? (I didn’t.) And even though 68 million American households (with a projected 4% increase during quarantine and lockdown) have pets, you might not have known it either.

However, traditional kibble – or what you’re probably feeding your pets – is extremely high in carbohydrates, and even more in other heavily processed, problematic ingredients. 

Cats and dogs are low-carb carnivores, but traditional kibble is extremely high in carbohydrates.

Because the FDA doesn’t require pet food brands to disclose whether or not the feed contains “diseased animal” material, this leads to the materials being heavily processed, which supposedly kills the harmful bacteria that might be contained in the material.

Overprocessing the food leads to a lack of colors and nutrients, so colors are added, along with synthetic nutrients to “replace” what’s been lost in the process. Overprocessing can also lead to carcinogens, which are harmful to the long-term health of your pets.

Ingredients in traditional kibble are usually genetically engineered – even brands which advertise “grain free” or starch free kibble contain starch-heavy carbohydrates, which cats aren’t even able to process. Dry pet food also goes rancid quickly, and can lead to bacteria growth including mycotoxins, which are a common contaminant in kibble and cereal brands.

Consequential Health Problems

All of this information is already pretty serious, but what’s even more disturbing is how it can harm your pets.

Because kibble is a low-moisture product, its lack of hydration can lead to several severe consequences in pets, including low energy levels and lethargy or fatigue, dry gums and nose, loss of skin elasticity leading to sunken eyes, and loss of appetite overall. 

Mycotoxins, mold, and other bacteria can grow in kibble and cause itchy skin and hair loss.

As a result of the mycotoxins, mold, and other bacteria which can grow in kibble, mites can develop which can lead to itchy skin and inflammation, ear infections, and hair loss in your pet, as attested by registered holistic nutritionist Kaleigh Erin Mason (whom you can find on Instagram @nutrition.elements).

Additionally, because cats are carnivores that aren’t meant to consume carbohydrates, their health can face serious problems when confronted with carb-heavy diets day after day. Specifically, according to a specialized study from the  UT Knoxville College of Veterinary Medicine, they can develop feline obesity, urinary tract disorders, diabetes, pancreatitis, and inflammatory bowel disease.

Would You Feed Fast Food to Your Pets?

Many experts agree that feeding kibble and other traditional dry feed to your pets is the equivalent of a purely fast food diet, which as we all know, isn’t beneficial to the health and wellbeing of some of the most special and well-loved members of our households.

Wet food and raw diets can be expensive, yes. However, many would argue that in the long-term, these diets are more beneficial to the health and longevity of your pets.

Healthy dry food brands do exist, but it’s important to research their dehydration process.

If we love our pets and want what’s best for them, we have to investigate the diets and foods that are most beneficial to their lifestyles. Raw diets, specifically heavy in minimally-processed feed and more whole foods, are proven to result in cleaner teeth, calmer energies, improvements in skin and fur quality, and more muscular, leaner builds. Healthy dry food brands do exist, but it’s important to research beforehand what their dehydration process looks like, aside from just the ingredient list. It’s also extremely important, according to Dr. Julie Churchill, a veterinary professor at the University of Minnesota, to read the fine print on most dry food labels – especially if that fine print describes the product as balanced or complete, which meets the pet regulations from the Association of American Feed Control Officials.

Closing Thoughts

Marketing campaigns do a really good job in their advertising, especially when it comes to pet owners and appealing to either their wallet or using buzzwords like whole and organic. Run-of-the-mill kibble has been the go-to of pet owners for decades now, but it’s probably not lengthening the life or benefitting the health of your beloved dog or cat.

You probably don’t need to shill out $40 for a small bag of dog food every time you go to the grocery store, but it also wouldn’t hurt to look into other brands that are available, aside from the ones that are the cheapest. Assuming we feed our kids and other family members as best we can, why wouldn’t we do the same for our pets?

Many of us know how quickly unexpected health problems can arise in our pets, and we know even better how expensive and frightening they can be. If you notice that your favorite reading pal or running buddy is shedding or itching, sleeping a lot more than is normal, attitude changes, cloudy or dry eyes, digestive issues, or any other abnormal signs, what you’re putting in their bowl every day could be the culprit. 

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