Is premium kibble bad for your dog? What vet experts want you to know

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Reviewed by our experts. More info
Louise Hawkins
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When your pup is your world, you want to give them the best you can.

But with so many shiny packets stacked up in pet shops, some twice the supermarket price, it’s tough to know what to opt for.

Premium kibble is marketed as top-tier dog food that gives your pup quality nutrition, but there’s more to it than meets the eye. When there’s no real regulation or industry standard on what’s considered premium, any pet food can add this label (along with a hefty price tag).

So, how is premium kibble any different, and does it really have extra health benefits?

What makes kibble ‘premium’?

Premium kibble claims to be formulated to include more vitamins, minerals and balanced fats, carbohydrates and protein.

Some consider premium to be a better nutritional choice for dogs, as it may:

  • Contains fewer meat meals and more meat

  • Can be grain-free, hypoallergenic, contains superfoods and exotic proteins

  • Includes prebiotics, antioxidants and more omega-3

  • Has a more balanced omega 6 to omega 3 ratio than what is industry-acceptable to help control inflammation

  • Is tested on laboratory beagles, often studies to compare it to standard kibble

Given the industry is self-regulated, there’s no real way to guarantee these claims are true — we can only take them at face value.

What are the "selling points" of premium kibble?

Fixed formulation: Some premium kibbles may have a fixed formulation meaning that their meat meal comes from the same source each time. Don’t get meat meal confused with real meat — it’s the rendered product of animal muscle meat and often includes parts like blood, hair, manure and stomach contents.

Human-grade: Some premium kibbles use human-grade ingredients, which is safer for your dog than meat meal.

Grain-free: Grain-free can be appealing to dogs with intolerances, but simply being grain-free isn’t enough to ensure your pup’s food is healthy — many grain-free foods substitute grains with other ‘non-grain’ ingredients like legumes and beet pulp, which may offer little to no health benefits.

Hypoallergenic: Many premium foods are described as hypoallergenic — true allergies are quite rare in dogs, which means a hypoallergenic diet may not resolve your dog’s sensitivity. Try looking at the specific ingredients instead to make sure that they’re all something your dog can eat.

Exotic proteins: Exotic proteins, like duck and goat, can be useful if your dog is sensitive to other proteins.

Superfoods: Superfoods have amazing benefits like preventing nutritional deficiencies, but the amounts added to kibble are usually minuscule. Kibble’s high-temperature cooking process also decreases the bioactivity of these superfood ingredients, which can limit nutrient retention.

Need more help to understand the confusing world of dog food ingredients? Check out our glossary of common label terminology.

How is premium kibble made?

It doesn't matter if kibble is marketed and labelled as premium, it still goes through the same processing method as any standard dried food.

This involves cooking at a very high heat, before being dried and then reheated. This high heat and processing makes the ingredients lose much of their natural nutritional value so artificial nutrients are added in their place.

How does real, fresh food (like Lyka) compare to premium kibble?

There’s no secret — we’re passionate about fresh, gently cooked dog nutrition. If we won’t eat it, we won’t serve it!

Choosing the best diet for your dog can be overwhelming, but weighing up the facts can help guide your decision in a way that suits your dog’s needs.

What does science say?

There is plenty of very interesting research available that points towards a fresh food diet being best for our pups when compared to kibble.

  • Easier to digest: A breakthrough study showed that human-grade fresh food was easier for our dogs to digest than kibble.

  • Supports gut health: The same study also showed that dogs who ate fresh food had more diverse microbiomes. You may have heard about the microbiome in human health and increased diversity is a driver of better health. Multiple studies have found that lower diversity is associated with various diseases like inflammatory bowel disease, obesity, type 1 and type 2 diabetes, and psoriatic arthritis.

  • Helps with Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD): According to recent studies, anti-inflammatory compounds found in fresh food can potentially be used for digestive issues like IBD in dogs.

  • Higher presence of health-jeopardising bacteria in kibble-fed dogs: Some studies show that the Megamonus and Catenibacterium bacteria families, associated with aggression and weight gain, had a higher presence in dogs mainly fed kibble.

  • Difficulty digesting high-carb kibble: Dogs make glucose from protein and wild dogs have eaten 3% carbohydrate diets for millennia. There are no studies on dogs that support the safety of feeding 50% carbohydrate diets. Dogs have evolved some digestive enzymes to deal better with carbohydrates, but this does not mean that they are thriving on a high-carbohydrate kibble diet.

“Each day in my clinic, I see the results first-hand that a fresh food diet has on our pets, and I’m pleased to see so many Australian dog parents embracing whole foods thanks to Lyka’s human-grade recipes.”

Dr Matthew Muir, Integrative Veterinarian and Lyka Co-founder

What does our common sense tell us?

Nutrition is constantly evolving.

Modern dog nutrition knowledge is so much deeper compared to when premium kibble came to market a couple of decades ago. There’s still so much unchartered territory, especially looking at essential nutrients for dog health.

Premium kibble has been touted as the perfect, convenient diet for all our dog’s nutritional needs, but it has flaws. Lots of nutrients get lost in the high-temperature cooking process, which means over-reliance on synthetic nutrients — known to be problematic for humans and the same may well be true for dogs.

According to a survey conducted by the UK Kennel Club, life expectancy has decreased for our precious pets. There are no long-term studies to show it’s safe to feed this diet to our dogs, day in and day out.

Although premium kibble passes all the regulatory body tests and contains many vitamins and minerals, it just can’t compare to the benefits of a varied fresh food diet.

Like us, dogs need a considered fresh diet full of variety. A fresh, colourful meal full of fresh food can bring on energised and satisfied feelings, while daily processed takeout can trigger sluggish feelings. It’s the same for your pup!

Your pup’s diet needs to be made up of at least 50% protein, as well as balanced ratios of fruit, vegetables and superfoods to be nutritionally complete.

home cooking food pie chart with protein, fruit and veggies and superfoods and supplements ratios

Our fresh takeaway

We love research — we follow the most up-to-date animal and human nutrition information and use these insights when formulating nutrient-packed fresh food for healthy pups all over Australia.

At Lyka, we:

  • Include 100% human-grade protein sourced as ethically and sustainably as possible.

  • Create our recipes in Aussie-based kitchens with controlled production processes.

  • Design vet-formulated meals in collaboration with our in-house Integrative Veterinarian, Dr. Matthew Muir, alongside board-certified veterinary nutritionists and Animal Nutrition Expert, James Prendergast.

  • Use a gently cooked method that promotes easier digestion and nutrient absorption.

Processed food isn’t great for pups.

Yours deserves the absolute best, and with Australia’s pet food industry largely self-regulated, we’ve set our own standards of excellence.

At Lyka, a human-grade diet is the future of dog food. Dogs feel and live better when they eat fresh, wholefood ingredients.

We’ve seen so many pups have life-changing experiences after switching to wholefoods — is your pup ready to start eating fresh?

This article was reviewed by Lyka's veterinary and nutrition experts

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