Working as a high end pet store manager I helped find the perfect food for customers and pets on a daily basis. I received training from premium pet food companies as well as doing research on my own. Different types of food have various attributes that make each one more suitable for each set of dogs and owners. What may suit one dog may not work well for another.
If your dog is “average”, a senior, has allergies, or your budget is tight, that will affect which type of food is best. Take a look at different types of food: kibble, canned, raw, and dried, and the pros/cons of each one.
Kibble is the most common type of food used because it is the easiest to manage.
Cost Effective: Kibble prices range anywhere from $10 for 30lbs up to $130 for 30lbs. If you’re going with a middle of the road to high quality kibble, you usually get more bang for your buck.
Ready to Eat: There is no preparation for kibble, put it in a bowl or a food toy and your dog is ready to eat.
Easy to put in food toys: Kibble works for almost all food toys. Putting your dog’s food into a toy is highly recommended because it helps work out their brain for the day. Dogs do not have computers, TV, or much else to occupy and stimulate them like we do when we’re bored. So, this is their version!
Dry: Kibble is very dry. Just like humans, dogs can absorb water from their food, when their food is very dry, it can actually remove water from their system to process it. A dog that drinks a lot can still be slightly dehydrated because water moves through the body more quickly than moisture found in food.
Binding Agent: Making food into tiny, dry, kibble pellets requires something that helps it all stick together. Even the top quality foods have to use a binding agent. This can range from the diet being mostly corn and wheat (like a baked cookie) to potatoes, lentils, chickpeas, and more. Binding agents are not all bad for dogs, but they are not necessary for a dog diet either.
Digestion: Kibble takes a very long time for digestion to occur. Has your dog ever thrown up 6 hours after eating and you’ve seen full formed kibble still in there? Mine has. It takes work to digest kibble, so it can be hard some digestive systems, especially those of older or sick dogs.
Canned food is the next most common type of food fed to dogs. There are 2 types of canned food, pate’ (the “loaf” form) and stew (shredded or cubed in liquid).
Cost Effective: When you’re on a budget and looking for food with moisture, canned is a great option. Mid range up to premium range cans are anywhere from $1.25 – $5.00 each.
Moisture and Digestibility: These two go hand in hand. Because canned food isn’t so tightly bound together and has a lot of moisture, digestion is much easier. This is great news for dogs whose systems may not be working as efficiently and effectively as before.
Allergies: It’s easier to find a truly limited diet in canned food because, again, you don’t need anything to bind it together. There are many cans out there with a single protein and added vitamins and minerals. These work especially well for elimination diets when you are trying to figure out what they are and are not allergic to.
Food toys: Canned food can be used in some food toys. I have rubber toys that you can stuff with food for my dogs and I use pate’ style canned food in them. After stuffing them, I freeze them for a long lasting treat/meal. They usually last for 45 minutes to an hour.
Size: Cans are small. A large dog may eat multiple cans of food per day.
Storage: Once a can is opened it must be covered and refrigerated. This can be limiting, particularly if you like to travel with your dog/s. You’ll collect can lids or Tupperware for your pooch.
Preparation/Cleanliness: There is a small amount of prep time. You have to scoop out the correct portion into a bowl. The other downside is the bowls need to be washed between feedings because there is a meaty residue left over.
Frozen raw food is an increasingly popular type of dog food. It causes many heated debates between dog owners.
While there have not been any truly reliable studies on raw food yet, the theory is that because it is the most natural version of food that was intended for dogs in the wild, it is also the healthiest. I am not completely convinced that this is true, however, I also do not necessarily think it’s incorrect or that people are doing a disservice to their dogs either. It’s scientifically inconclusive at this time and that’s how I base my recommendations on it.
I always recommend that you get a food that is labeled as a “complete diet”. This means the food contains everything your dog needs to sustain him. Home made diets can easily be missing key ingredients, resulting in a deficiency.
Minimally processed: Going with a high quality raw food gives your pet the freshest meat source. It is very minimally processed, usually just ground and mixed with any additional ingredients or a vitamin/mineral pack and then flash frozen.
Moisture and Digestibility: Again, moisture helps make digestion easier and quicker. Moisture from food moves more slowly through the digestive system and has a longer amount of time to be absorbed.
Bacteria: Raw dog food, just like meat meant for humans, can contain various dangerous bacteria. This includes salmonella, listeria and e coli. Usually this is not harmful to dogs, but in high amounts it can cause issues. Humans handling the product, or the dog eating the raw food, are at risk.
Preparation: This food must be thawed, and often cut, measured, or weighed. Once the dog eats, the bowls must be washed. You’ll need containers for storage/thawing out meals. Raw dog food must be handled with care, just as you would handle raw meat for yourself.
Travel/Kennels: It’s harder to travel with food that needs to stay frozen. Most commercial kennels will not feed raw food because of the storage and preparation time. Risk factors for employees may play a role as well.
Cost: If you have a small dog, the cost is not so bad. However, if your dog is larger, you will be paying a good amount for dog food. For a large dog, you could be looking at $40-50+ per week.
This type is growing in popularity. Both dehydrated and freeze dried foods should be re-hydrated, by adding water, before feeding.
Portions: The great thing about these types of food is you only have to re-hydrate what you need. Until you re-hydrate it, the food does not have to be refrigerated.
Travel: Easy to travel with, all you’ll need is a water source to re-hydrate the food. You can split portions into little bags for quicker feeding.
Moisture and Digestibility: When re-hydrated, it’s also more easily digested than kibble.
Cost: The freeze dried raw tends to be more expensive than dehydrated food. Freeze dried is a little more expensive than the frozen raw food. Dehydrated food is more comparable to canned food. Freeze dried raw is a great option for small dogs. Dehydrated can be reasonable for all dogs.
Water: You need a water source to be able to use both. When at home or traveling this is normally not an issue, but if you happen to be camping it could pose a problem.
Preparation: There is some preparation involved. Depending on the brand and type, it can be as easy as just mixing in some water and letting it sit for a few minutes to soak. Or, you may need to break up patties to get the food ready to soak up more water.
What does all of this mean?
As I’ve said before, there are top options out there for you and your pet. Each one has its benefits and downsides. No matter which type of food you go with, find the best quality that you can afford. Small pet retail stores can and most often do have affordable food and most have free samples!
My personal hierarchy that works best for me and my dogs:
- Dehydrated (my senior dog eats)
- Kibble (my young, active, healthy, adult dog eats)
- Canned (an occasional treat)
- Raw (rarely – cost, risk factor, and my dogs are thriving on the other, more cost effective, options)
Tell me, what do you feed your dogs? How is it working for you? What’s your personal hierarchy?
Feel free to ask me about you dog’s food!