How does your dog’s food change when heat is applied? Is it true that kibble has carcinogens? These are questions to ask if dog nutrition is vital to you.
As a dog owner of two allergy-prone dogs, this topic is of high interest to me. I’ve had to research this for my Canine Nutrition course with CASI.
So I’ve rounded up different scenarios so you can learn and make an informed decision on how to feed your own dog.
Keep in mind, I’m not a vet. This article is presented for informational purposes and you must make your own decisions for your dog.
COOKING ISN’T INHERENTLY BAD.
There are benefits to cooking food. It can:
- Make food safer by cooking off any salmonella
- Reduce. spoilage
- Soften tough foods
- Break down starch molecules into more digestible fragments.
I’m a fan of cooking my dog’s food – in fact I did so for three years. However, I question whether cooking kibble at temperatures above 200 degrees is safe.
Here’s the conundrum I’ve always been in. If I love my dogs as much as I do, shouldn’t I want to feed them food that contributes to their overall health and well-being?
BUT IS KIBBLE REALLY FOOD?
I’ve always wondered this because the end product no longer resembles the initial ingredients. I’ve soaked kibble in water, and it just became a pile of brown mush. And yes, I’ve even tasted it, and it tasted like dirt.
KIBBLE IS HEATED SIX TIMES
I recently learned that heat is applied 6 times when kibble is made:
Meat is added into a vat to render it down to a powder. Then, heat is applied at a temperature of 220 degrees up to 390 degrees.
This powder is then sent to the hammer mill. This is the first time the plant starts to cook the material. Next, the ingredients are cooked together. Heat is involved in this process.
All of the ingredients are preconditioned – hot water and pressurized steam are used to cook the ingredients into a gloopy doughy material.
This dough is pushed through an extruder. The walls of the tubes are heated to high temperatures, and high pressure as the dough passes through. It is squeezed out the other end and cut into shapes. As the dough hits the air and the pressure is released, it puffs up. The kibble is hot and soft at this point.
All of the kibble is baked in an oven to dry.
A second round of enrobing. Heat is applied … and the hot kibble is dried and sprayed with synthetic vitamins, minerals, and flavor enhancers. The flavor enhancers are typically rendered liquid fats or powders.
WHAT RESULTS WHEN HEAT IS APPLIED TO MAKE KIBBLE? MOST INGREDIENTS ARE DAMAGED
The protein (let’s just say it’s beef, chicken or turkey) loses nutritional value because most amino acids, vitamins, and minerals are destroyed during the cooking process.
Protein is the building blocks for your dog. Low protein and lower digestibility due to the way kibble is cooked means your dog might potentially not get all the nutrients they need.
So how can we call this food if nutrients are cooked off?
Because grains and cereals, which, instead of losing nutritional value when cooked, increase in digestibility. And carbs, although it’s not necessary in your dog’s digestion, become the source of energy for your dogs.
Imagine a piece of steak you left on the grill for two hours at high heat and what condition it is in after. Then imagine flour and grains (like if you made bread) baking … it turns into food (or bread).
BUT DON’T WORRY, THEY SPRAY MOST OF THE MISSING NUTRIENTS BACK ON
That’s why kibble has an “enrobing” process where the dried kibble is sprayed with synthetic vitamins, minerals, and flavor enhancers to add back any lost nutrients during the cooking process.
DIGESTIVE ENZYMES ARE MISSING
Kibble-fed dogs will often have lower digestive enzymes than fresh food-fed dogs. The reason why is cooking and applying heat forces the stomach, pancreas, and small intestines to produce these digestive enzymes that naturally occur from raw food.
HETEROCYCLIC AMINES: CARCINOGENIC COMPOUNDS
According to the NCI (National Cancer Institute), using high cooking temperatures creates chemical reactions between amino acids, creatines, and sugars. These reactions produce dangerous carcinogens and mutagens that may damage both humans and pets.
Heterocyclic amines (HCAs): Meats cooked at high temperatures, especially above 300 ºF, or cooked for a long time tend to form more HCAs.
Studies have shown that exposure to HCAs can cause cancer in animal models.
This isn’t new news, we’ve known this since the 1970s, and HCAs are genotoxic, which means they work at the DNA level, causing mutations, deletions, and insertions. Not good.
ADVANCED GLYCATION END PRODUCTS (AGES) AND ACRYLAMIDE
A Maillard reaction occurs when sugars and proteins in the food react together with heat.
Think back to the steak at the grill. When it’s cooked, it forms a toasted outer layer; that caramel flavor makes it more appealing. However, this reaction can lower the nutritional value and create toxic/carcinogenic end products, including advanced glycation end products (AGEs), also known as glycotoxins.
That’s not all cooking creates.
The Maillard reaction also creates another compound that is concerning. Acrylamide is a cancer-causing and potentially neurotoxic chemical created when primarily carbohydrate foods are cooked at high temperatures so all the grain added to the kibble can create Acrylamide.
FATS ARE UNSTABLE AT HIGH HEAT
Good fat is crucial as an energy source for your dog. But it doesn’t withstand the heat applied when cooking kibble. That’s why a variety of synthetic chemicals are used to prevent fat breakdown.
Unfortunately, dogs do not digest synthetic chemicals and nutrients the same way. That’s why a fresh food diet (cooked or raw) will offer a diet that is more nutritious and bioavailable.
SO WHAT ARE YOUR OPTIONS
Ultimately you need to make the best decision for your own dog. Now that you have the information, you can decide if you want to feed kibble or a lightly cooked or raw diet
Each diet will have different risks associated with it, but a cooked diet (cooked below 200 degrees) is more nutritious, lacking carcinogens from cooking at high temps and greater bioavailability.
A raw diet is also an option for you. In this case no heat is applied and the nutrients will be more bioavailable than dry kibble.
In each case, you can buy meals pre-made to shorten the learning curve. There are also dog nutrition specialists that can guide you in formulating a diet for your dogs.
Every dog is different – feed the dog in front of you. Your dog’s health will answer your questions.
No matter what it is you feed, monitor their:
- Negative reactions like regurgitation, vomiting, or diarrhea
- And have your veterinarian conduct routine urinalysis and bloodwork
These health markers will provide you the data to know if what you are feeding is improving your dog’s health and allowing them to thrive.
At the end of the day, let your dog and their health determine what’s best for them.
Thank you for reading this far, dear friends. To your own dog’s health and happiness. Best of luck in your information-seeking journey.
Stay steadfast and curious as you gather your own information and form your own opinions on what’s best for YOUR dog.
Drying food at high temps decrease nutrients:
Raw food helps increase gene expression mostly associated with the immune system: