Choosing the right food can be one of the most difficult parts of pet ownership. When selecting the right dog food, it is important to take into consideration your dog’s needs, your budget and input from your veterinarian. In this post, one of our walkers Josh R. breaks down some of the advantages and disadvantages of dry, wet, and raw diets to help you navigate this tricky area.
Dry food can be the easiest, most cost-effective, and nutritionally complete option for feeding your dog. Once you ensure the food quality of the manufacturer, dry food is an appropriate food choice for most situations.
- Typically the most cost-effective
- Travels well and is easy to store
- No prep
- Commercial kibble includes a guarantee of nutritional completeness
- You will find some claims that dry food promotes dental health (but this isn’t settled science)
- Some brands can includes low-quality ingredients like sweeteners, dyes, and preservatives
- Ingredients can be padded with carbohydrates, which can lead to obesity if eaten in excess
- For any commercial food, the information you can learn from the label is limited (even the ingredients list can be deceptive). Because of this, you have to look into the manufacturer to get a full picture of the food quality. Check out the Pet Nutrition Alliance’s Manufacturer report for help here.
Wet foods tend to be a bit more expensive than dry foods (and messier) but are often a good option for adult dogs who would benefit from a lower-carb diet, picky eaters who don’t like kibble, and dogs that may be prone to bloat. Like dry food, it’s important to look into the manufacturer and listed ingredients to get a full picture of the nutrition.
- Dogs often prefer the taste
- Most wet food uses fresh or frozen meat
- No prep
- Typically no preservatives, but still has a long shelf-life
- Less carb-heavy
- Commercial wet food includes a guarantee of nutritional completeness
- Generally more expensive than dry food
- Has a more obvious smell and is messier than dry food
- Can still include low-quality ingredients, so like dry foods, you need to look into the manufacturer to get a full picture of the nutrition
While anecdotes of the health benefits of raw diets aren’t hard to come by, there are potential health risks that can result from mishandling raw ingredients that are well-established from a scientific perspective. Overall, raw diets need greater oversight and hands-on attention than a standard dry or wet diet. While it is currently not AVMA-recommended due to the inherent risks, you can still talk to your veterinarian about responsible steps to take if you want to explore this option for your pet.
- Advocates argue raw diets emulate dogs’ ancestral diet: raw animal meat, with nutrients from the diet of their prey or scavenging
- You have more control over the quality of ingredients
- Fresh, unprocessed ingredients can increase the bioavailability of nutrients
- Most commercial raw foods contain no preservatives, artificial flavors, or colors
- Anecdotal evidence of coat/skin and other health benefits
- Many commercially available raw foods come frozen to prevent harmful bacteria
- Higher risk of nutritional imbalances in homemade raw diets
- Can be the most expensive and hands-on
- Often higher in fat than is ideal
- Associated with some health issues if improperly handled (e.g., constipation if fiber intake is too low)
- High potential for contamination from pathogenic bacteria if improperly handled—can be bad for dogs and humans in the house
- There is currently no scientific study showing any health benefits from raw diets above dry or wet food diets, and in its present state is not AVMA-recommended
There is a lot of information about pet nutrition that can become overwhelming. The breed, size, and age of your dog can change what kind of nutrition and diet they require. For the best information, consult with a veterinarian or a board-certified veterinary nutritionist you trust when deciding upon or making changes to your dog’s diet.
Thank you Josh for breaking down the different food options available to your pet! Windy City Paws is a Fear Free Chicago dog walker and petsitter committed to providing helpful information to Chicago dog owners through its blog.
Written for Windy City Paws by Josh R.