Imagine this: you’re having a nice dinner, chowing down on some food, when you hear a noise off to your side. There is your dog, begging for some scraps, putting on their best sad dog face in hopes that you give in and toss them a morsel. Maybe you do, maybe you don’t. Either way, I would bet this story sounds familiar to most dog owners. Dogs love food, especially food that they can’t have, and it’s our responsibility as owners to make sure they get the proper nutrition they need; sometimes you need to cut back on the table scraps when Fido is getting a little too chunky. But beyond scraps and treats, owners also need to consider what goes into their dogs’ bowls for mealtime. There are a wide variety of dog foods available on the market now, with many benefits and drawbacks that go far beyond taste (though that is a major consideration too; dogs can only reap the nutritional benefits of food if they are willing to eat it). Below we will discuss the major varieties of dog food on the market today and some general pros and cons for each. These are just generalizations; make sure to look at the company that makes a product and what ingredients go into it to make a final judgement call for yourself.
Kibble, or dry dog food, is probably what most people think of when they think “dog food”. Ingredients are processed into bite sized chunks with the moisture removed. It often lasts for a very long time and is easy to store and travel with. Additionally, Kibble requires no preparation on the part of the owner; just pour it into a bowl when it’s time to feed your dog. It is also one of the most cost-effective dog food options. Kibble has come a long way as pet health technology has improved; modern kibble usually comes with some sort of guarantee of nutritional balance, an assurance from the manufacturer that it will meet all your dog’s health needs. However, not all kibbles are created equal. Kibble is still prone to have more low-quality filler than other dog food types, and many brands of kibble can be carb heavy. While this is true for all commercial dog food options, you need to be especially diligent in choosing a good brand with quality ingredients if you choose to go with kibble as your dog food of choice.
Wet Dog Food
Wet dog food is a type of dog food that is canned with the moisture intact. Many dogs prefer the wetter, more natural taste of wet dog food compared to kibble and are less likely to use fillers or meat substitutes. Wet dog food also often stays for long periods of time if the can remains unopened. However, while wet food often uses less fillers than kibble, this is not true across the board, and cheaper brands may still use those types of ingredients. Also, wet food diets tend to be higher in fat, which may not be suitable for dogs with certain lifestyles or health conditions. Finally, many people find the smell of wet food to be off-putting.
Packaged Raw Dog Food
One of the modern trends in dog health has been the advent of raw dog food or feeding your dog uncooked meat mixed with vegetables to ensure that dogs get all of their vitamins and minerals. While many owners will choose to prepare this style of food themselves, there are pre-packaged options available for delivery or at premium dog store chains that promise a full balanced diet. Proponents of raw dog food say that dogs eating uncooked meat is most similar to their natural state, and these products are usually premium with a very low percentage of filler ingredients, if any. However, there is some debate on the need for the risks associated with raw food. Additionally, this option tends to be more expensive than other dog food types, does not last long in storage and does not travel well.
Dehydrated Raw Food
A new innovation, some companies are packaging their raw dog food in dehydrated pellets that need to be rehydrated before being consumed. These products have all the benefits of raw dog food with the added upside of ease of portability and longer spoilage time. However, these are the typically the most expensive commercially available products on the market, and you will need to weigh the additional cost of this option versus the benefits
Home Made Food
Many more discerning dog owners will make food for their dogs, either raw or cooked. The benefits of this are obvious; you completely control what goes into your dog’s bowl and can ensure that it is only quality ingredients. You can also tailor the meals to your dog’s specific dietary needs. However, you are probably not a dog dietician; before exploring this option, please speak with a qualified person at your vet or elsewhere to make sure that your meal plan includes a proper dietary balance for your dog. Also, this option is obviously the most work as a dog owner; if you go down this route, you will need to set aside prep time for your dog’s food that you otherwise would not have to.