When it comes to your dog’s mealtime, do you fill Fido’s bowl with kibble? Despite many puppy parents switching their canine companion to a fresh food diet, there are still a lot of people who rely on kibble. I get it – dry dog food can be more affordable and convenient. If your furkid chows down on crunchy kibble as his main meals, there are some important tips to consider. Let’s start from the beginning … in the pet store.
How to Buy Kibble
I know what you’re thinking: “Buying kibble is a no-brainer. I just have to swing by the pet store, grab a bag of food, hand over the cash, and I’m good to go.” On the surface, yes, that’s true. But, let’s back up a bit. Here are some things you should consider when picking out a bag of pet food:
- Size Does Matter – If you have a 5-pound dog then you don’t need a 40-pound bag of kibble. Instead, only purchase bags of food that you can use up within about one month. I know larger bags appear cheaper when looking at the sticker’s unit price. But, at the end of the day, the small savings aren’t really worth it because the longer a bag of kibble sits open, the fewer nutrients it retains. Plus, the longer a bag of kibble sits open, the greater chances of contaminants. Keep reading and I’ll tell you why below.
- Expiration Date – Check the expiration date and try to choose a bag that has the latest date. The further away from the expiration date, the fresher the bag of kibble (well, as long as the bag is sealed and totally intact). It’s important to note: The expiration date only counts toward a bag that’s sealed and intact. So don’t buy any ripped or torn kibble bags. Once the bag is opened, the expiration date is no longer accurate. As soon as you open the bag, air and oxygen hit the kibble and the oxidation process begins. Oxidation is where a chain of chemical reactions oxidizes the fats and turns them rancid. Rancid fats decrease the nutritional quality of the kibble, as well as make the food potentially toxic. That’s why it’s so important to store kibble properly. The least amount of oxygen that gets to the kibble, the longer it will last.
The Effects of Rancid Fats in Kibble
As fats in (and sprayed on) kibble turn rancid, the nutritional value decreases. If your dog continues to eat this food, his tummy may get full, but he won’t get the nourishment you had intended. Rancid fats reduce the protein content, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants in kibble.
Additionally, long-term consumption of rancid fats can make your dog sick. They’ve been known to cause gastric upset, diarrhea, kidney and liver disease, and even cancer.
How to Know if the Kibble is Rancid
How long your kibble will last once the bag is open depends on how you store it (we’ll talk about that in a second) and the fat source. Beef sources reportedly last longer than chicken or poultry. The fats found in fish oil are very fragile and can turn quickly. That’s why many pet food experts recommend buying dry kibble without fish oil or omega-3 fats already added. Since these are healthy fats for our pups, though, your better bet is to add them after the fact (at mealtime).
In general, rancid fats have a distinct smell. Many describe it as a plastic odor. The best thing you can do is get familiar with how a fresh bag smells when you bring it home so you’ll know what it should smell like. I must admit, I’ve never smelled a bag of kibble that made me say, “Yum.” But I am familiar with what’s normal and what it’s supposed to smell like when it’s fresh.
It’s also a good idea to inspect the kibble for anything that looks off-color, moldy, or that you would consider abnormal. Keep an eye on your pooches stools and be aware that spoiled food may cause diarrhea.
Proper Storage: Keep the Kibble in its Original Bag
The original bag is designed specifically to help keep kibble fresh for as long as possible, and to safeguard it from the effects of moisture and oxygen. Higher quality kibbles use higher-quality bags in their packaging.
Never leave a bag of kibble open to the air. Roll or fold down the top of the bag, while pressing out as much air as you can. Use a clip to secure it closed. Remember: In the case of kibble storage, the goal is to keep the air and moisture out. Every time you open the bag, the amount of oxidation increases.
Another benefit of keeping kibble in its original bag: The bag also has the identifying manufacturer’s information, such as UPC codes, Barcodes, ingredients, etc., that you will need if there is a recall of any kind.
Want to Store Your Kibble in a Plastic or Tin Container?
A lot of places sell plastic or tin containers, advertising them as a great way to store kibble. If you want to use one of these containers, that’s fine. But there are some things to consider:
- Make sure the container is an airtight food-grade container.
- Don’t just pour the kibble into the container. Rather, keep the kibble in its original bag and then place the entire bag into the container. Why? Well, the fats from the kibble can seep into the plastic container’s walls and contaminate the kibble as it’s turning rancid.
- Every time you change to a new kibble bag, thoroughly wash and dry the storage container, just in case there is any fat residue left on the walls. You don’t want to risk contaminating a new bag of food.
Finding The Right Home For Your Dog’s Kibble
Store kibble in a cool, dry place – preferably in the pantry.
You never want to store your kibble in places like the garage or basement where the temperature and moisture are not as controlled. Kibble stored in a garage or basement is also more prone to contamination by rodents and mice.
When It Comes To Filling Your Dog’s Bowl …
If you free-feed your dog (which I don’t recommend) then make sure to only fill the bowl with enough kibble for one day. Don’t let it sit out for multiple days if your dog doesn’t finish it, because, as I mentioned above, when oxygen hits kibble, the nutritional value decreases.
Additionally, don’t force your pooch to eat what’s in the bowl if he’s turning his nose up to it. If your pooch always eats his kibble and all-of-a-sudden doesn’t want to (as long as he isn’t sick, of course) then he may be smelling that something isn’t right with it. Fido’s sense of smell is much keener than yours, and he may detect that the food has spoiled. Don’t just leave it there for days on end figuring, “Oh well, he has food.” Instead, it may be time to get a new bag of food.
Extra tip: Don’t forget to wash his food bowl daily to remove any residue that’s been left behind. Check out my dog bowl cleaning tips HERE!
I’m a huge advocate for feeding dogs real, fresh food! I personally ditched kibble several years ago and have noticed a huge difference in my dogs’ body weight, energy level, digestive health, and the list of benefits goes on. In THIS post, I share more about why I’m a fan of fresh dog food.