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Protein is an essential part of any healthy dog’s diet. And while you’re probably used to seeing certain proteins on your dog food ingredient list (like chicken, beef, or lamb), there’s one you might not be so accustomed to—kangaroo.
So what, exactly, is kangaroo dog food? Is it healthy? And could your dog benefit from introducing this alternative protein source into their diet?
We asked Leslie Brooks, DVM and veterinary advisor at Betterpet—an online resource promoting responsible pet ownership set to launch in April 2020—for her insights about this exotic dog food (and included some of our picks for the best options available in 2020).
Brooks explains that some dogs can develop allergies to common dog food proteins such as chicken or beef, and that a novel, or new, protein introduced into their diet could help.
“When dogs develop food allergies, it is usually due to the protein source—most common being either chicken, beef, or pork,” Brooks says. “So, doing a food trial with a novel protein—a protein source the dog has never been exposed to before—is [a] way to find out if the dog improves on the new food.”
And for most pet moms and dads, kangaroo protein is novel indeed, because, as Brooks succinctly states: “This food is dog food that has kangaroo meat as its primary source of protein.”
OK, but: Is kangaroo healthy for your dog?
Brooks says kangaroo-based dog food isn’t necessarily more or less healthy for dogs than other sources of protein, such as chicken or pork. “However, when it is recommended for a dog to switch to a kangaroo-based dog food, it is usually because the dog has some underlying food allergy that is trying to be resolved.”
Kangaroo dog food isn’t for every dog. The best candidates for this special diet are dogs who are suspected to have a food allergy, or are known to have one. These are dogs “who have food allergies to chicken, beef, or pork and are needing to do a food trial to see if they can tolerate kangaroo as a protein source,” says Brooks.
If your dog doesn’t fall into that category, it’s best to avoid this type of dog food—in part because there’s a chance your dog could fall into the allergy category sometime in the future.
“Generally speaking, dogs don’t necessarily need to be fed kangaroo,” says Brooks. “It’s best to not jump to feeding these exotic meats unless there is a reason, such as food allergy, so as not to decrease the availability of protein sources available to one’s dog in the case they do develop a food allergy.”
It goes without saying that exotic, specialty dog foods can be difficult to find, and are more costly as well.
When you’re shopping for any food for your dog, it’s important to make sure you’re buying from reputable brands. (Our article, Decoding Dog Food, has lots of useful information to help guide you through the dog food aisle.)
While it’s important to make sure your kangaroo dog food consists of healthy ingredients, it’s just as important to research the brand behind the dog food—and make sure the company’s formulations are balanced, nutritious, and vet-approved.
“More than inspecting the dog food bag for specific ingredients, [pet owners] should investigate the manufacturer and make sure they have a veterinarian or nutritionist on staff to make sure the food’s minerals, proteins, and carbohydrates are prepared in a balanced way,” says Brooks.
It’s also important to keep up with the current research on dog foods with exotic meats, and this includes kangaroo. The FDA is currently investigating a potential link between grain-free diets with kangaroo protein and a kind of canine heart disease. We explored the issue in-depth with veterinarian Dr. Ari Aycock-Williams in our article, Should I Be Worried About Grain-Free Dog Food?
As always when introducing new food to your dog, consult with your veterinarian for their advice about the specific nutritional needs of your pet.
Does your dog struggle with other proteins—and you want to give kangaroo a try? Here are some of our picks for the top kangaroo dog foods for 2020.
Does your dog prefer wet food? No problem! The Zignature kangaroo formula also comes in canned dog food form—a pack of 12 13 ounce cans—perfect for allergy-prone pups who prefer wet food over dry kibble.Shop Now on Amazon
Does your dog have a bit of a sweet tooth? Then this dry food from Addiction, which balances kangaroo with apple, could be a great option. In addition to kangaroo and apple, this formulation is packed with additional fruits, veggies, and other nutritious ingredients to support your dog’s overall health—and is free from grains, fillers, and artificial colors and flavoring.Shop Now on Amazon
If your dog can tolerate chicken, this superfood blend from Billy + Margot—which is 70 percent kangaroo and chicken and 30 percent superfood and other nutritious ingredients including kale, spinach, carrots, pumpkin, blueberries, ginger root, turmeric, and manuka honey—could be a solid choice.Shop Now on Chewy
Available in a case of 12 13 ounce cans or 24 six ounce cans, this wet food lists kangaroo as its first ingredient and is grain-free, fortified with Omega-3 and -6, and full of vegetablea including green beans, sweet potato, and peas.Shop Now on Chewy
Does your dog love wet food? You’re in luck! The Billy + Margot kangaroo dog food also comes in a canned formula with this pack of 12 14 ounce cans. Packed with the same superfood blend, this formulation will deliver the same nutrition punch as the dry formulation—only without the texture of dry kibble.Shop Now on Chewy
This kangaroo dry food from Zignature comes straight for Australia—and, in addition to kangaroo meat, is packed with a variety of healthy, nutritious ingredients for your pup (including veggies and omega-3 fatty acids). It also is free of corn, wheat, soy, dairy, chicken, chicken eggs, and chicken by-products—making it a solid choice for dogs with allergies.Shop Now on Amazon
If you’re thinking about getting kangaroo dog food for your pet, you’ve got a lot of great options to choose from on this list. But before you introduce any new foods into your dog’s diet—including kangaroo dog food—it’s important to talk to your vet. Because your vet knows the full scope of your dog’s health history, they’re the best ones to advise you on the best, healthiest food options for your pet.
For more information about specific dog diets and the wide range of dog food and treats available, check out one of the articles below.