The term kosher derives from kashrut, the part of Jewish law dealing with permissible and forbidden foods. Keeping a kosher house can certainly extend to pets. Dog foods' individual and combined ingredients, as well as preparation and handling, determine if they are permissible or not.
Looking at Ingredient Labels
In order for a food to be kosher, it must meet certain guidelines regarding slaughtering of animals, avoiding certain ingredient combinations, and not allowing kosher foods to touch nonkosher foods. When it comes to buying prepared dog food, choosing one that is certified kosher is the most effective way to know for sure that your dog's food is permissible. If that's not feasible, you will need to examine the ingredients themselves, along with their preparation and their exposure to nonkosher foods.
Distinguishing Among Permissible Meats
Meats must come from specific species slaughtered according to Jewish law, which requires a rapid kill and complete draining of blood. If you find a line of dog food meeting these requirements, you can turn to choosing among the line's offerings for acceptable ingredients. Since meat is one base of the dog diet, it's vital to focus on kosher meats. Kosher species include venison, bison, goat, beef, mutton, chicken, turkey, duck and goose. Many fish species are kosher, but shellfish are not; avoid dog foods with shellfish.
Checking Additional Ingredients
Dog foods containing plant materials shouldn't cause concern, as Jewish law states that anything that grows in the soil or on plants, bushes or trees is permitted. However, plant products within your dog's food must be inspected for bugs, which are not kosher. Additionally, eggs are permissible if they are from a kosher animal, but they must be inspected for blood, which is not kosher. Dairy is also acceptable if from a kosher animal -- but you can't mix meat and dairy, even in dog food, as this combination is forbidden.
Handling Dishes and Utensils
A kosher house keeps separate pots, pans, utensils and other items to keep certain foods separate, such as meat and dairy. If a dog's food isn't kosher, for example, it shouldn't be washed with the kosher dishes. Although the Torah may state it's permissible to feed nonkosher meat to animals, many Jewish people who keep kosher all year believe that using permissible foods and avoiding forbidden ones also applies to what they feed their household pets.
Sarah Whitman's work has been featured in newspapers, magazines, websites and informational booklets. She is currently pursuing a master's degree in nutrition, and her projects feature nutrition and cooking, whole foods, supplements and organics. She also specializes in companion animal health, encouraging the use of whole foods, supplements and other holistic approaches to pet care.