Mixing Kibble With Raw or Homemade Dog Food: (The Right Way)
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There is much debate around the best type of dog food for your dog and how to feed that food. One commonly repeated line in raw dog feeding circles is that mixing kibble with raw or homemade dog food will cause the dog to have digestion problems. We’ll take a look at what the science actually says about mixing raw or homemade dog food with kibble so you can determine if mixing them is suitable for your dog or not.
When we consider homemade dog food, it can usually be divided into two types: cooked or raw. The specifications of each type may vary, from the ingredients used to whole prey VS ground, and more.
However, the two broad overall categories remain, so we will look at each of them – cooked and raw – in further detail separately.
But first here is a video of me talking about this subject:
Can you mix cooked dog food with kibble?
What someone refers to as cooked dog food can vary from a bland diet of rice and chicken used temporarily to help dogs with an upset digestive tract, to a complete and balanced meal formulated by a veterinary nutritionist.
Most dogs won’t have a problem mixing cooked dog food with kibble. There are a few important considerations, though, to ensure you prevent any problems from occurring.
There are three things to consider when mixing cooked dog food with your dog’s kibble:
The nutritional balance of the food
The amount of homemade cooked food you are adding to your dog’s kibble
Discussing any health concerns with your dog’s veterinarian
Once you have confirmed these three aspects, you can mix the appropriate amount and type of homemade cooked dog food with kibble without concern. Let’s look at each one.
Is the homemade, cooked dog food nutritionally balanced?
There is an important distinction between adding some cooked chicken, veggies, and rice to your dog’s kibble, and adding cooked food that consists of ingredients forming a complete and balanced diet.
If you are adding in large amounts of cooked food without talking to a veterinary nutritionist (to ensure the food is balanced and healthy) your dog may not be getting enough of the nutrients they need.
How much cooked food are you adding to your dog’s kibble?
If the cooked food makes up a substantial proportion of your dog’s diet, there is a greater risk to your dog if the food is not nutritionally balanced.
For most dogs, adding veggie fillers to help them feel more full (and lose more weight) or adding a sprinkling of cheese or meat to encourage them to eat will not be enough to harm their diet.
However, if you are adding an entire cooked chicken breast to replace some of their usual kibble, they will likely end up in a nutritional deficiency due to the fact that chicken is not a complete and balanced meal for dogs on its own.
Has your dog’s veterinarian recommended a specific diet to help with a specific health problem?
Some dogs require a certain type of kibble (or a certain type of homemade diet) to thrive. If your dog has been placed on a specific diet for health-related reasons, you shouldn’t change the diet without consultation with your dog’s veterinarian (or a board-certified veterinary nutritionist).
The biggest consideration for mixing kibble with cooked food is the nutritional balance of the overall diet. However, one other consideration is cooking their food so it would be safe for human consumption, which greatly reduces the risk of pathogens.
Can you mix raw dog food with kibble?
Yes, you can mix raw dog food with kibble. It will unlikely lead to digestion problems for your dog as long as nutritional needs are met. It’s also important there are no pathogens in the raw food, so careful preparation must be carried out to ensure it’s safe for the dog to consume.
Of the many myths that can exist among people who feed raw dog food, one of the easiest to debunk is that mixing raw and kibble will lead to digestion problems within your dog.
It is commonly claimed that the starches and carbohydrates within kibble cause the pH of a dog’s stomach acid to rise – making it more neutral – and thus making the environment of the stomach unsuitable for digestion of raw protein.
This claim is simply not backed up by scientific evidence. In fact, studies on digestion in dogs have found that the pH of a dog’s stomach was actually lower after eating dry dog food, not higher as the myth claims.
Turns out that a dog’s body does a pretty good job of regulating things like digestion, including creating the appropriate acidic environment for enzymes to do their job to break down their food.
The myth that dry kibble creates a less acidic environment isn’t the only claim as to why you shouldn’t feed raw and kibble together, though. Another common myth is that kibble takes longer to digest than fresh, raw foods.
The thought is that if kibble takes longer to digest than raw, mixing the two could lead to the raw meat (which has pathogens and bacteria) sitting in the stomach longer than necessary and increasing the risk of the dog becoming sick.
This simply doesn’t hold up when we look at digestion in dogs. In fact, one raw feeder conducted an experiment where they took the same dog and fed kibble for one meal, and raw for another, mixed with barium to allow x-rays to show where the food was within the digestive tract after eating.
In the end, the kibble meal actually left the stomach significantly faster than the raw meal. Both meals were the same size. The kibble had completely left the stomach 3 hours after eating, while the raw food took 4-5 hours, and small bone fragments still remained in the stomach 5.5 hours after eating.
This logically makes sense when we consider digestion. The stomach is not “all or nothing” in terms of when food leaves the stomach to continue on towards the intestines. Food that is digested more quickly and food that is more liquid in nature often moves through the stomach faster.
If you’re looking to switch from raw or homemade to kibble, be sure to read our post about it here.
Should you mix raw and dry dog food together?
The answer is it depends. There is nothing that indicates mixing raw and kibble will cause digestive upsets because of the two separate types of foods – those claims are myths.
However, there are still some potential dangers to raw food you will want to consider. Raw food is often not recommended by veterinarians due to the risk of pathogens on the food (there’s a reason humans cook their food before eating it) as well as the risk of an unbalanced diet.
As with cooked homemade dog food, it’s also critical to ensure that raw food is nutritionally balanced if being mixed with your dog’s diet – as any substantial part of their meal.
In the end, if you want to feed raw, you should carefully consider the risk of pathogens (both to yourself and your dog) as well as how you can keep the diet nutritionally balanced. Commercial diets are available as well, rather than creating a diet from scratch yourself, which can ensure a safer feeding practice.
What can I mix with dry dog food to make them eat it?
If you’re looking for ways to encourage your dog to eat their dry dog food, there are a few things you can consider mixing into their food.
As with most things that could be health-related, it’s also recommended that you visit your dog’s veterinarian to ensure there isn’t a medical cause for their lack of appetite.
First, if you are dealing with a picky dog, you should consider the way you feed them. If your dog regularly has access to their food, they may not eat their meals as quickly because the food is always available.
Instead of bribing your dog to eat with a tasty meal topper as your first choice, start to offer your dog their food for just 5-10 minutes at a time. If they don’t eat breakfast, the food should be picked up and not offered again until the next mealtime.
Most dogs can skip a meal or two and be just fine, so this practice of offering food for a limited time period can be a great way to encourage your dog to eat.
If that doesn’t work, and you’re working with your veterinarian to rule out medical concerns, there are a few additional things you can try.
First, it’s important to note that dogs often decide which food is desirable to eat based on the smell. For the science behind this be sure to read our post: Do Dogs Like the Taste of Kibble? Dogs have fewer taste receptors than humans and also gulp – rather than chew – their food. The decision to eat has a lot to do with scent.
So, for some dogs, mixing kibble with warm water is enough to get them to want to eat their food. For information on soaking kibble, then you can read more on this subject here.
Other dogs do best when fresh dog food – such as pieces of chicken – is mixed with the kibble. Just be sure not to add too much that it will cause the food to be nutritionally balanced.
Mixing in wet dog food can also help get a dog to eat kibble, and varying the mixture rates, such as 50/50 or 70/30 can be useful.
In addition, there are food toppers available to entice picky dogs to eat, like this one here. While I don’t often use toppers to get my dogs to eat their meals, I have had good success using them mixed with kibble to create a higher-value treat, or to get a dog to eat medication with their meal.
Can you mix freeze-dried with kibble?
Mixing freeze-dried food with kibble is safe, as long as the nutritional balance and other concerns presented earlier about cooked and raw food are considered.
Studies on freeze-dried foods have found the risk of pathogens to be much lower than what is found in a traditional raw diet, which also addresses the bacterial contamination concern associated with mixing raw, fresh dog food with kibble.
There are foods available that are entirely freeze-dried and sometimes meant to be rehydrated before feeding them to dogs.
If you’re searching for food to mix with your dog’s kibble, without the risk of pathogens and bacteria found in traditional fresh or frozen raw food, freeze-dried food is a happy medium in many cases.
Do dogs prefer homemade, raw food or kibble?
As with humans, each individual dog will have their own individual preferences on the type of food they prefer. Food preference tests can be conducted to determine a dog’s favorite type of food or treats.
Preference testing is often done by pet food companies to determine which formulas dogs prefer, as well as to determine the value of treats when training dogs.
I recently attended Geek Week, a virtual conference hosted by The Pet Professional Guild. One of the presentations I watched was given by Dr. Mindy Waite on preference assessments in dogs. She has graciously included the steps to her preference testing protocol on her website, which can be viewed here if you are interested in conducting preference assessments with your own dog.
However, this type of testing might not be the best to determine which diet you should feed your dog. Preference assessments are wonderful tools to determine the types of treats that your dog prefers the most – which can be extremely helpful information for dog training purposes.
When considering a healthy diet, though, what a dog prefers may not be what is best for the dog. Dogs can be subject to the same love of “junk food” as humans!
Instead, consider feeding your dog the food they do best on, whether it is cooked, raw, or kibble, and homemade or purchased.
The best type of dog food is the one that your dog is the healthiest on, not necessarily the one they would prefer for the taste or smell of it.
Is your puppy eating the correct dry food? Breed and size are important. In our Dry Food Choosing Guide, we give you the best dry food for your puppy: