How to safely combine raw and kibble to achieve a healthy balanced diet.
Most pet owners, brand new and experienced alike, struggle over choosing what diet to feed their pet. There are so many brands and types of diets, and on top of that so much marketing telling parents what they should and shouldn’t do! One big ‘no-no’ people hear about all the time is mixing kibble and raw food. But is it really as bad as the generalized information makes it out to be?
While there are valid concerns surrounding the safety of feeding your pet a partial or supplemental raw food diet, our animal nutrition expert explains how this feeding method can, in fact, be an excellent step in the right direction. We know that choosing the processed option is very appealing both for convenience and financial reasons, particularly for those finding it difficult to achieve an entirely raw fed diet. However, adding at least 20% fresh vegetables and raw meats to our pets’ daily meals can significantly improve their health. There are lots of pet parents having great success feeding their pets in this way so there should be no feelings of guilt attached to feeding a partial raw diet!
This study found that only adding broccoli to a commercial diet reduces instances of canine cancer.
So, let’s get right into talking about things you need to consider when thinking about a half kibble and half raw meal plan for your pet…
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Does Kibble Take Longer to Digest Than Raw?
The main argument against feeding your pet a partially raw diet is that the two different types of food do not digest properly together because dry food takes longer to digest than raw. Many sources claim that this combination causes gas, vomiting or diarrhea. However, there is no scientific evidence that proves foods with different digestion times will cause GI issues. In fact, your pet's ease of digestion is relative to the health of their gut biome and individual digestive tract composition rather than length of time to digest. An ongoing digestion issue in response to feeding both raw and kibble may indicate an underlying issue with gut health since animals have strong digestive systems.
Feeding Kibble and Raw to Pet’s With Sensitive Stomachs
If your pet is experiencing GI issues when being fed both kibble and raw, you can aid their digestion by feeding dry kibble and raw food separately and at least 6 hours apart. Another good thing to try is soaking dry foods in commercial or home-made bone broth, or alternatively soaking in water. This is a particularly effective way to relieve digestive stress. Everything gets digested better once you add moisture to dry food. Water is an important and forgotten ingredient in the diet of all mammals. We do know that the microbiome of a raw fed pet compared to that of a kibble fed pet is different, primarily because raw is more digestible and creates a healthier gut environment.
Importance of Exercise for Digestion
The last component we want to highlight is exercise! Exercise is very underrated in aiding digestion as it can regulate blood glucose and mitigate any extra starch consumed from dry food. So take your dog out for an extra hour a day, it’s going to be good for you too!
Why Do I Need to Add Fresh Foods if Kibble Is Already Balanced and Complete?
Dry foods are made to AAFCO standards, which defines a pet's minimum daily nutrient requirements for vitamins and minerals etc. Any meal that meets this nutritional standard is considered “complete and balanced” by AAFCO. Is this really an effective measure of a healthy diet? For instance AAFCO is missing some essential nutrients, like moisture and essential fats (Omega-3, 6 and 9) and many more. In fact, scientists are still learning exactly what is essential in animal diets and what is not. Furthermore, the AAFCO requirements are based on what is necessary to survive vs. thrive! We want pets to do more than just survive, we want them to live their best lives for as long as possible! The processed grain and legumes in kibble are also full of starch which is easily converted into sugar. Continuous spikes to blood sugar is a real insult to the body. It is a major contributing factor to most diseases but notably obesity, diabetes and pancreatitis. Sugar also contributes to systemic inflammation and cancer growth in animals.
Importance of Feeding A Quality Food
Animals are just like us in that when we are eating a variety of fruits, vegetables and meats, we don't necessarily have to take a certain amount of supplements to maintain our health. We also know that the quality of the ingredients we eat is just as important as the quantity. As long as there is a variety of fresh food and protein being rotated, with kibble being fed in moderation as much as possible, your pet’s health will still benefit. If your pet needs additional support for their age, breed or health conditions, then you support them from there with extra supplements as required.
Partial Raw Diet For Cats - Mixing Raw Food and Kibble for Cats
Cats are a lot more sensitive than dogs when it comes to kibble, and we adamantly oppose feeding dry foods to cats. Since cats are less inclined to drink water than dogs, dry foods can heavily contribute to a lifetime of dehydration. Long-term dehydration can cause many issues, most commonly the development of pancreatitis and kidney disease.
Mixing Raw and Canned Cat Food
That’s why if you choose to feed a partially raw diet to your cat, we highly recommend feeding cats a combination of raw and wet canned food, instead of raw and dry kibble. Cats need foods with a high moisture content otherwise they could suffer from a variety of health complications.
Mixing Raw and Kibble: Partial Raw Feeding Methods
1. Separate Feeding - Should You Feed Raw In The Morning And Kibble At Night?
This is a better partial raw feeding method for pets with sensitive GI issues, as feeding kibble and raw at least 6 hours apart ensures the foods are not sitting in the same part of the digestive tract and may be more easily digested separately. The order in which you choose to feed, whether that's kibble in the morning and raw at night, or raw in the morning or kibble at night, does not matter as long as there’s a long enough window of digestion.
2. Combined Feeding: Can I Mix Half Raw Half Kibble In Each Meal?
If your pet has no GI issues, they can safely use any partial feeding method so for you it will just come down to preference. It is possible to feed a 50 / 50 ratio of both raw and kibble in the same meal; however, the ratio needed may vary depending on your pets body condition or body score (a score similar to a BMI in humans). This body score roughly dictates how many calories your pet should be consuming each day. You can get an average calculation using our online feeding calculator. It is also important to note whether your pet has a particularly active day, as this will impact their caloric needs - ie. When they’re more active they will need more calories.
In a perfect world, every animal would have access to a fully balanced fresh food diet containing a variety of vegetables and meats. However in reality, it’s even hard for us humans to achieve this for ourselves. If you and your pets are eating a variety of fresh foods, while eating processed foods in moderation, we’re all going to be okay! Getting too obsessed with our diets is not good for our health either. No matter what way you choose to feed your pets, it really is an individual choice and what we really want people to learn is ‘how to assess your pet' in order to determine their individual needs. If you are interested in learning more about building a healthy diet for your pet, Steve Browns 'Unlocking the ancestral diet for dogs’ teaches you how to add fresh food while still feeding dry food.
“Taking care of your pet to the best of your ability is all you can do, the best that you can do is awesome. There's no guilt in that” says RDBK animal nutritionist Sarah G.