What sized kibble should I feed my dog?

Care Nutrition

Speak with ten different dog owners and you will probably get ten different answers to this question! So, who is right and who is wrong?

It appears there is almost a national belief syndrome that determines for many dog owners, the question of the correct kibble size to feed. Here at LifeWise we are constantly told by dog owners in Japan that the kibble size is too big, whilst our Australian dog owners constantly tell us the kibble size is too small. But the really confusing aspect of these reports is, that in both cases, the owners are talking about the same breeds and similar sized dogs.

Perhaps a better way of determining the correct kibble size is to examine the anatomy of the dog and see if that will provide some clues as to what is the correct kibble size.

In parallel to this question is the age-old debate as to whether a dog is a carnivorous animal (meat eater), or an omnivorous animal (eats meat and vegetables) such as us humans. The starting point must be the structure of the mouth and teeth. The canine jaw structure consists of many sharp and interlocking teeth but few molars or grinding teeth. Furthermore, the canine jaw is incapable of a sideways grinding motion that is typical of human teeth and even more pronounced in herbivores such as cattle who will sit for hours grinding the grass and other cellulose based food. This means the dog can only bite, cut, sever and tear, and crush its food between the few molars at the rear of the mouth.

Compare this to the way we eat and you can see the biting and grinding action we employ when eating is totally different to that of our canine companions.

Another ramification of the jaw structure of the dog is that it is not designed to chew other than to crush bones, with the usual manner of eating being to bite or tear some food, and gulp it down in one whole piece.

This mode of eating was a great source of entertainment with one of the LifeWise dogs, Meg the Australian Kelpie. Meg was a great gulper and loved eating the rawhide chews we fed her in an attempt to keep her teeth clean and her gums healthy. The only problem was she would crunch the chew twice, then swallow it whole. Now the rawhide chews she ate are flat strips of hard, dried rawhide measuring approximately 15cm long by 5cm wide, and two chomps did little to clean her teeth or soften the rawhide. But the intriguing aspect of her feeding habits was that she would then regurgitate the chew, chomp it twice, and re-swallow the offending piece. This process was repeated often until the rawhide softened sufficiently to get down into the stomach and be digested.

Whilst Meg’s manner of eating may seem a little gross, her habit reflects a dog’s ability to consume large chunks without chewing, and is in keeping with the anatomical structure of their mouth and teeth.

Another aspect of canine digestion relates to the structure of the dog’s stomach. Dogs secrete higher levels of acid than humans, and food stays in the dog’s stomach for a longer period of time than that compared with human digestion. This extended retention allows time for bones and large lumps to be broken down by the action of the stomach, before the partly digested food finds its way into the small intestine for further processing and nutrient absorption.

Do these differences help us to determine the correct sized kibble to offer our best friends? Well, yes and no.

There are definitely design aspects to the teeth and jaws of our pets that not only allows them, but often dictates, they consume large lumps. And there is scant ability to chew food in the manner we understand; most of that work is done by the dog’s stomach. So, it would seem there is little to be concerned with when considering kibble size. Some owners express dismay and alarm at the speed some large dogs can scoff small kibble, and in those situations feeding the dog from a muffin tray where their food is distributed over a number of receptacles, or purchasing one of those specially designed bowls with posts will certainly slow down the consumption rate.

But apart from this consideration, there doesn’t appear to be any other factors with which we should be concerned. Basically, if the kibble will fit in the dog’s mouth, it should be fine.

We trust you enjoyed this article. Should you like to add to the discussion, or seek additional information, please email us using the form below.

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