Pandemic: Raw food Affordability & Considerations for Switching to Kibble

Many pet owners are facing shrinking budgets due to job losses, layoffs, and minimal hours. A lot of raw and canned petfood feeding households are making the switch to kibble or supplementing with kibble. For many avid raw feeders, this is a tough thing to consider. However, it doesn’t have to be stressful. Here are some things to consider:

  • Look for a lower carbohydrate kibble.  To calculate the percentage of carbohydrates, add together the percentage of protein, fat, moisture, fiber, and ash.  Commonly ash is not listed on the label, so you can estimate it to be at about 6-8%. Subtract the total from 100, and the answer is your carbohydrate content. 
  • A low carbohydrate kibble doesn’t automatically mean adequate or high-quality protein is supplied. Your dog or cat relies on total grams of protein consumed rather than an overall percentage. If you’re switching from raw to kibble or adding kibble to your pets’ raw diet reach out to pet food companies and request the following:
    • 3rd party digestibility data for the specific formula you are considering feeding. Do they conduct digestibility testing for all of their formulas? Just one? Or none?  This is important because if the food is not highly digestible, then the amount of protein is irrelevant since the animal may not be able to utilize it.
    • Typical AAFCO nutrient analysis which will tell you if they routinely analyze their formulas for adequate nutrition that meets or exceeds AAFCO standards. Over time companies average these analyses together (typical) in order to provide a profile of that food over time. Most companies don’t conduct these tests and will instead provide a “targeted analysis” which represents the nutrition of that food as formulated on paper. It may not actually represent what is in the final product – AND if the company does not provide digestibility data it may mean that those nutrients may not be absorbed or metabolized adequately.
    • Calorie ratios: specifically, protein to calorie, carbohydrate to calorie, and fat to calorie ratios. This tells you where the calories in the food are coming from and will help you determine if that food is adequate for your pets’ particular needs. This may also hint to the validity of claims on the front of the packaging.  
  • Add fresh food! Adding in fresh fruits and vegetables to your pets’ bowl, whether you feed kibble or raw can provide a lot of health benefits. Utilizing foods that may be otherwise thrown out can help to cut costs and waste as well! Fresh fruits and vegetables contain antioxidants. Antioxidants are beneficial molecules that neutralize toxic free radicals floating around in your pet’s body before they can harm healthy cells and tissue, thereby reducing oxidative stress and DNA damage.

A lot of us raw feeders choose to feed raw due to health conditions, disease prevention, and/or personal choice. While much of the evidence supporting these diets is anecdotal, there is a lot of research emerging to support these diets. Regardless, we do know there is sufficient published evidence to show the detriments of processed kibble and canned foods. For this reason, many of us worry about transitioning back. The good news is the researchers at the University of Helsinki DogRisk group have shown that feeding just 20% fresh food with processed food (i.e. kibble and canned food) reduces the incidence of inflammatory biomarkers quite significantly. 

In addition, another option to consider is the use of freeze-dried foods. Traditionally these foods have been cost-prohibitive. However, if you’re feeding commercial raw there are highly digestible and affordable brands of freeze-dried such as Nobl Pet Foods and K9 & Feline Natural. These also offer the additional benefits of shelf stability, are lightweight and easy to store or transport. 

*This article is for informational purposes only. It is not meant to provide medical advice or replace the advice of a qualified veterinarian.

Nicole Cammack

Nicci is the owner of award-winning NorthPoint Pets & Company, in Connecticut. She is also the Founder & CEO of Undogmatic Inc. Her undergraduate and graduate education includes biology, chemistry, business, and nutrition. She has worked in the pharmaceutical industry on multiple R&D projects and has had the privilege to learn from leading international figures in the human and pet health industry. She regularly lectures at national conferences, including federal, state, and municipal K9 events. Her current research involves identifying pathogenic risk factors and transmission among raw fed pets through a comprehensive worldwide survey.