When it comes to nourishing our beloved furry companions, choosing the right type of dog food is of paramount importance. With a plethora of options available in the market, it can be overwhelming for pet owners to make an informed decision. This guide aims to shed light on various types of dog food, their manufacturing processes, and their respective advantages and disadvantages, enabling you to select the most suitable option for your furry friend's dietary needs.
Dry Dog Kibble: Crunchy and Convenient
Dry kibble is one of the most popular and widely available forms of dog food. Comprising a balanced mix of protein sources, carbohydrate sources, fats and essential micronutrients, dry kibble is manufactured through a process called extrusion. Raw ingredients are combined, cooked, and then extruded through a machine to form the familiar small, dry pellets. This type of dry dog food boasts a longer shelf life, making storage a breeze, and it's also a convenient option for pet owners on the go.
- Portability: Dry kibble's lightweight and non-perishable nature make it an excellent choice for travel and on-the-go feeding.
- Economical: Compared to some other options, dry kibble often comes at a more affordable price point, making it a budget-friendly choice.
- Variety: The market offers an extensive range of brands, flavours, and formulations to cater to various dietary preferences and sensitivities.
- Limited moisture content: Dry kibble typically contains lower moisture levels compared to other types of dog food, potentially leading to inadequate hydration, especially in dogs who do not drink enough water.
- Additives and fillers: While there are high-quality options available like the ORIJEN Original Dry Dog Food, some lower-quality dry kibble products might contain fillers, artificial additives, and preservatives that can be less beneficial for a dog's overall health.
- Palatability: Some dogs may find dry kibble less appealing, preferring fresh food over dry dog food, and this can potentially lead to issues with meal consumption.
Wet Dog Food: Palatable and Moist
Wet dog food is available in cans or pouches. These dog foods are moisture-rich and are often more palatable for dogs who are finicky eaters. Due to its moist, softer texture, wet dog food can be helpful for dogs requiring softer food. It is made by combining cooked meat, vegetables, and grains may be added in some formula. Essential micronutrients may be added to make a nutritionally complete and balanced meal. The can is then sealed to preserve freshness.
- High moisture content: One of the standout advantages of wet dog food is its significantly higher moisture content compared to dry kibble. This can be especially beneficial for dogs that may not drink enough water throughout the day.
- Attractive smell, taste and texture: Wet dog food often boasts a stronger aroma and comes in a variety of mouth-watering flavours. They come in different textures from creamy pates to chunky stews like this Wellness Complete Health Grain-Free Turkey & Duck Stew with Cranberries & Sweet Potatoes in Savory Gravy Canned Dog Food. This sensory appeal can make it an excellent choice for dogs with finicky appetites.
- Soft texture: Dogs with dental issues such as missing teeth, gum sensitivity, or oral pain may struggle with chewing hard kibble. Wet dog food's soft and moist texture is gentle on their mouths, allowing them to consume their meals comfortably without the discomfort associated with chewing.
- Shorter shelf life (once opened): Wet dog food comes in sealed containers like cans or pouches, but once opened, it has a significantly shorter shelf life compared to dry kibble. Exposure to air can lead to spoilage or bacterial growth if not consumed promptly.
- Can be more expensive: Wet dog food's higher meat content and moisture levels contribute to its increased production and packaging costs. As a result, it's generally pricier per serving than dry kibble.
Freeze-Dried Raw Dog Food: Nutrition Preserved
Freeze-dried dog food is created by removing moisture from raw ingredients through a process called freeze-drying. The raw ingredients are frozen and then dried, with the ice turning directly into water vapour, bypassing the liquid stage. This method helps retain nutrients while removing moisture to ensure a longer shelf life. There’s almost no nutrient loss in freeze-dried dog foods. The result is a dog food that is lightweight but still nutrient-dense that can be rehydrated before serving.
- Nutrient retention due to minimal processing: Freeze-dried dog food is celebrated for its minimal processing method, which helps preserve the nutritional integrity of the ingredients. Unlike traditional cooking methods freeze-drying does not degrade nutrients. There’s almost no nutrient loss in freeze-dried foods. However, not all freeze-dried dog food is created equal. There are higher-quality freeze-dried dog food that uses better ingredients and Bailey+Co is one such brand. Bailey+Co is a New Zealand family-owned company specialising in freeze-dried raw pet food and treats. Their freeze-dried raw dog foods use only fresh meats that are antibiotics and hormone-free. Do checkout their Bailey+Co New Zealand Freeze Dried Raw Dog Food that is completely free from rendered meals and by-products. If you’re still unsure, go to Try & Buy for a Bailey+Co trial pack before making a full purchase.
- Lightweight, compact and easy to store: Freeze-dried dog food has an extremely low moisture content, resulting in a lightweight and compact product; an advantageous for those with limited storage space at home.
- Suitable for home and travel: At home, it can be rehydrated to its original form, providing a convenient and nutritious meal. When on the go, freeze-dried food can be carried easily without the need for refrigeration, making it a convenient option for camping trips, road trips, and vacations.
- Can be expensive: Freeze-dried dog food's unique production process contributes to its higher cost compared to conventional kibble or wet food. This expense can be a deterrent for some pet owners with multiple dogs.
Air-Dried Dog Food: Slow and Gentle
Similar to freeze-drying, air-dried dog food is prepared using a process that involves minimal heat to retain nutrients. Raw ingredients are gently air dried over a longer period of time, preserving flavours and essential nutrients. One of the best air-dried dog food available is the ZIWI Peak Daily Dog Air Dried Dry Dog Food. The ZiWI Peak Air Dried dog foods are made using a gentle twin-stage air-drying process to naturally preserve ingredients and eliminate pathogenic bacteria. There are no preservatives added, and the food is safe, clean, and easy to handle. Trial packs are also available on Try & Buy.
- Nutrient retention through gentle air drying process: Air-dried dog food is manufactured using a gentle drying process that involves minimal heat. This method helps preserve the natural nutrients present in the raw ingredients, including vitamins, minerals, and proteins.
- Lightweight and easy to store: Similar to freeze-dried dog food, air-dried dog food has a low moisture content, resulting in a lightweight product. This feature makes it a convenient option for pet owners who need to store or transport dog food with ease.
- Can Be pricey: Just like other forms of minimally processed dog food, air-dried dog food can come with a higher price tag due to the specialised manufacturing process. This cost might be prohibitive for pet owners with multiple dogs.
- May not be as widely available: Compared to more traditional forms of dog food like kibble and wet food, air-dried options might be less prevalent in stores. This limited availability could make it more challenging for pet owners to find a wide variety of brands and flavours to choose from.
Frozen Cooked Dog Food: Home-Cooked Convenience
Frozen cooked dog food offers the convenience of ready-made meals with the nutritional benefits of home-cooked fare. Ingredients are gently cooked at a controlled temperature and frozen to maintain freshness and nutrients. This type of food can be thawed and served, making it an attractive option for busy pet owners wanting freshly cooked foods for their pups.
- Nutrient retention through gentle cooking: Frozen cooked dog food maintains most of the nutrients through it’s gently cooking and freezing process. These dog foods are cooked at a lower, controlled temperature to ensure that nutrients are preserved. Freezing helps to further maintain vitamins, minerals, and proteins, ensuring that your dog receives a nutritious meal.
- Convenience of pre-cooked meals: Frozen cooked dog food provides the convenience of ready-made meals and can be particularly advantageous for busy pet owners who want to provide their dogs with high-quality cooked food but might not have the time to prepare meals from scratch.
- Variety of recipes available: Many brands that offer frozen cooked dog food provide a wide variety of recipes and formulations. This variety allows you to cater to your dog's specific preferences, dietary restrictions, and potential allergies, ensuring that your pet's nutritional needs are met. Here’s a gently cooked, novelty protein meal for dogs with common protein sensitivities - The Grateful Pet Cooked Dog Food (Wild Kangaroo).
- Requires freezer space: Frozen cooked dog food requires adequate freezer space for storage. This might pose a challenge for pet owners with limited freezer capacity.
- Can be pricey: The convenience and higher nutritional value of frozen cooked dog food often come at a cost. It is generally more expensive compared to traditional kibble or wet food options.
- Thawing time: Frozen cooked dog food needs to be thawed before serving, either in the refrigerator or in cold water. Thawing can take some time, which might not be ideal for dogs that are accustomed to immediate meals or for pet owners with busy schedules.
Frozen Raw Dog Food: An Evolutionary Approach
Raw dog food, also known as a "BARF" (Biologically Appropriate Raw Food) diet, harkens back to a dog's ancestral diet. This diet typically includes raw meat, bones, organs, and vegetables. Proponents believe that it closely mimics what dogs would have eaten in the wild, promoting overall health and vitality.
- Emulates natural diet: Proponents of raw dog food argue that it closely mimics the diet of dogs' wild ancestors. Raw dog food typically includes raw meat, bones, organs, and sometimes vegetables. Advocates believe that this diet aligns with a dog's evolutionary needs and can promote overall health and vitality.
- Potential for improved health: Some pet owners who feed their dogs a raw diet report improvements in their pets' coat condition, skin health, and energy levels. The natural nutrients present in raw ingredients, such as omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins, and amino acids, are believed to contribute to these positive changes.
- Supports dental health: Chewing on raw meaty bones is thought to provide a natural way for dogs to clean their teeth and gums. The abrasive action of chewing on bones can help remove plaque and tartar buildup, supporting dental health.
- Risk of bacterial contamination (if not handled properly): Raw dog food carries the risk of bacterial contamination, such as Salmonella and E. coli. Both dogs and humans can be affected by these pathogens. Proper food handling and hygiene practices are crucial to minimise the risk of infection. This is especially important for households with children, elderly individuals, or immunocompromised individuals.
- Time-Consuming Preparation: Preparing a raw dog food diet can be time-consuming and requires careful planning. This involves sourcing high-quality ingredients, properly handling and storing raw meat, and ensuring nutritional balance. Unless you are well-versed in pet nutrition, it’s best to feed commercially prepared frozen raw dog food that has been carefully formulated to be nutritionally complete and balanced. There are plenty of options available and one good brand that you should consider is Big Dog. The Big Dog BARF Raw Dog Food offers a variety of proteins and formulas including this for sensitive skin - Big Dog Barf Raw Dog Food (Sensitive Skin). Do visit Try & Buy for Big Dog’s single patty trial packs.
- Requires freezer space: Frozen cooked dog food requires adequate freezer space for storage. This might pose a challenge for pet owners with limited freezer capacity. Thawing time: Frozen cooked dog food needs to be thawed before serving, either in the refrigerator or in cold water.
- Thawing can take some time, which might not be ideal for dogs that are accustomed to immediate meals or for pet owners with busy schedules.
In conclusion, each dog food option comes with its own set of advantages and disadvantages, and the decision should be based on factors such as your dog's specific dietary needs, health considerations, and personal preferences. If you are unsure which is best for your pet, do consult with a veterinarian and check out the Try & Buy section for smaller trial packs before making a full purchase. Your vet can provide valuable guidance to ensure that your furry companion receives the best possible nutrition for a healthy and happy life.
Katherine is a Pet Nutrition Specialist and GDP’s Pet Wellness Advisor. She is committed to helping pet owners make informed dietary and lifestyle choices in nurturing healthy pets. Katherine is also a practicing Nutritional Therapist (human nutrition) and has been helping hundreds of clients to heal naturally with nutrients.