Dogs, just like humans, have a complex set of dietary and nutritive requirements. Kibble can be a good way for dogs to get the nutrition they need to stay healthy and active. While kibble has become inexpensive as easy to acquire in a multitude of brands, flavors, and types, some dogs just won’t have it. You spend your money on kibble you expect your dog to love. After all, it tastes like chicken, lamb, or beef, right? But you pour their serving into their bowl and suddenly, they are not interested. What can you do when your dog declines dry food? Why don’t dogs like kibble?
The Root of the Behavior
Dog food like kibble has been a staple of most dogs’ diets since it was popularized during the industrial revolution. Kibble made feeding your dog much easier, which in turn paved the way for the increase in pet ownership. Prior to then, dogs were primarily used on farms, ranches, and for work. Food was more expensive and time-consuming. Most people owned dogs for an important, work-related reason, and fed their dog only what they could afford or spare from their own tables, which was usually scraps and the occasional bone. It wasn’t uncommon for dogs to forage or scavenge food for themselves, resorting to dead animals and garbage sometimes (ick!). During the Great Depression, especially, meat was highly expensive so commercial dog food resorted to plant-based proteins in their kibble to save money.
Dogs have been surviving off the same kind of high-carb kibble for almost a century, but they weren’t designed to thrive from it. Domesticated dogs might share some genetic similarities with their wild cousins the wolves, but you don’t see domestic dogs hunting down deer. But that doesn’t mean dogs aren’t carnivores; they are. A quick glance at a dog’s mouth will confirm it—dogs have sharper teeth designed for tearing meat, not for grinding dry bits of kibble. But since more than 90 percent of dog owners feed their dogs kibble, the aftermath of this behavior has been an increase in a number of different chronic diseases. The evidence is clear: dogs are not meant for a diet reliant on carbs and plants.
Luckily, we’re entering a cultural era of spending a little more on our pets. Part of being a responsible pet owner is feeding your dog the best you can. Not every dog will thrive on the same food. Puppies need different food than adults, and senior dogs need different food as well. Certain breeds or conditions require a different diet as well. You can find a brand of high-quality kibble that better solves your dog’s nutritional needs, like grain-free varieties. There is no brand of kibble that is 100 percent perfect. The fact is, any processed foods, while inexpensive and cheap to make and purchase, are not good for humans or dogs.
Encouraging the Behavior
If you have a picky eater, you can try switching brands to something better for your dog’s needs. Consult your vet for advice on the best foods. Alternatively, if you have the money, you can try enticing or spicing up your dog’s dinnertime. Some tasty things you can add to your dog’s bowl include boiled chicken, cooked rice or sweet potato, or store-bought wet foods. Not all wet foods are good for your dog. Consult a vet before adding other things to your dog’s diet. Too much fat or protein may upset their digestion and cause additional problems.
Another thing you can do, after discussion with your vet, is trying a raw diet. Since processed foods are harder for your dog’s body to digest and process nutrients from, a raw diet can extend your dog’s lifespan and improve their eating habits and overall health. But it is important to do it right—talk to a vet and do your research first. Giving your dog nothing but scraps from your dinner will do more harm than good. There are some companies that offer meal-delivery for pets, or you can do it yourself. Just be careful not to give your dog toxic foods or junk. Even seemingly innocuous foods like sugar, salt, yeast, fruit, nuts, dairy, and even beef or pork bones or fat can cause more harm to your dog than you realize. It is a good general rule that your dog should not eat anything that you are eating. Apart from the risk of toxicity, eating “people” food is also a quick way for your dog to become obese or develop other health issues.
Other Solutions and Considerations
There are a lot of things that may cause your dog not to eat. Stress can make your dog lose their appetite—if something in your dog’s routine or environment has changed (like a new puppy or a new home), start there and try to find a way to keep their eating routine as comfortable and familiar as possible. Also, check your dog’s food and make sure it hasn’t expired. Dog food can go bad, and dogs can tell. No one wants to eat spoiled food. If your dog suddenly stops eating their usual kibble or starts exhibiting other symptoms or acting differently, you should make sure there aren’t any other serious health issues going on with them. Consult your vet and have your dog checked out.
Dogs are our best friends for a reason; they love us unconditionally. They are a steadfast companion and an important part of their household and family. But giving them unhealthy, cheap, processed kibble is not treating them the way they deserve. Try a higher quality chow, or other, fresher foods to liven up their diets and protect their health. You may notice an immediate effect on their happiness and energy. After all, when you eat good food, you feel better, right? Our dogs are no different.
By a Border Collie lover Charlotte Perez
Published: 03/06/2018, edited: 01/30/2020