When it comes to choosing dog food, we’re spoiled with choices. There are so many options, from traditional extruded kibble, raw, fresh, and cold-pressed diets. It can be overwhelming to decide what's best for your dog.
What’s worse? There’s a lot of conflicting advice and deceptive marketing that make it even harder to determine the most appropriate diet for our furry friends. That’s why, in this article, we want to give you a comparison of different types of dog food and help you narrow down your options.
Let’s dive in.
Traditional kibble is a popular dry dog food that’s made by combining various ingredients, including a protein source (beef, chicken, fish), grains, fruits, vegetables, and other nutrients. These ingredients are mixed together and then fed into an extruder, a machine that cooks and shapes the mixture under high pressure, heat, and steam.
This process is called extrusion, and it does affect the nutritional value and flavor of the raw ingredients. That’s why some manufacturers add extra vitamins and minerals prior to cooking, knowing that enough will remain after cooking to be nutritionally complete.
Some manufacturers also spray flavoring on the final product so that dogs will become more interested in eating the food. This spray is what gives kibble its distinctive smell.
Pros of Feeding Kibble to a Dog
Below are a few reasons why kibble is popular amongst pet owners:
Kibble is readily available for dogs of all ages and breeds, making it a convenient and accessible option for pet owners. It’s also easy to store, measure, and feed to a dog as it doesn’t require refrigeration or safety precautions while handling.
Kibble is considered a cost-effective option for pet owners because it's a complete and balanced diet. This means that you won’t have to buy extra food supplements if you’re buying good-quality kibble that contains a balance of all nutrients.
3. Promotes Dental Health
Kibble has a hard and crunchy texture that helps in removing plaque and tartar buildup from your dog’s teeth. Chewing on kibble also helps stimulate the production of saliva, which can neutralize the harmful bacteria in a dog’s mouth. This reduces the risk of dental problems, including tooth decay, bad breath, and various periodontal disease.
Cons of Feeding Kibble to a Dog
Here’re some potential cons of feeding kibble to a dog:
1. Harder to Digest
Kibble is made by cooking and extruding food ingredients at high pressure, heat, and steam. As soon as the mixture leaves the extruder, it puffs up, and this form makes it more difficult for a dog to digest. When a dog eats kibble, it typically floats in the stomach, absorbs moisture, and expands.
Most pet parents who feed kibble have seen their dog throw up an hour or so after mealtime with large, bloated pieces of kibble still intact. The bloating of kibble in the stomach further slows down the digestion process and can cause digestive discomfort.
2. Lower Palatability
If your dog is a picky eater, you might struggle to find them a kibble that they enjoy. This is because the kibble industry has created many different flavor mixes to put on the outside of kibble to make it appetizing for dogs. Different dogs prefer different flavors and can also get tired of eating the same thing for an extended period of time.
3. Highly-Processed Ingredients
The extrusion method of making kibble involves using high heat, pressure, and steam, which is enough to break down and alter the natural composition of the raw food ingredients. In fact, some ingredients have been cooked multiple times by the time it is in its final form, further degrading the natural nutrients.
That’s why, in order to make the kibble nutritionally complete for a dog, manufacturers frequently use synthetic additives, such as vitamins and minerals. They add a higher percentage than is needed prior to cooking, knowing that most of them will burn off during the cooking process.
These additives do help in making kibble a well-balanced diet, but many believe that getting those nutrients from a natural source is more beneficial.
Raw Dog Food
In recent years, raw dog food has become increasingly popular as pet owners consider it a more natural and wholesome option that mimics a dog's ancestral diet. However, most veterinarians, the FDA, and the CDC recommend against feeding raw food to a dog due to concerns regarding its safety and nutritional adequacy.
If you still want to feed your dog a raw diet, you can either prepare the meal from scratch with raw ingredients like meat, organs, eggs, bones, fruits, and vegetables, or you can buy commercially available frozen raw food, which usually requires thawing prior to feeding.
Whatever option you choose, you should be careful while handling and storing raw food to prevent bacterial contamination.
Pros of Feeding Raw Food to a Dog
There’re very few studies and scientific evidence that can help in determining the true benefits of a raw food diet for dogs. But there’s some anecdotal evidence that suggests the following health benefits of feeding a raw food diet to a dog:
1. More Palatable
Raw food ingredients like meat and organs are more flavorful and aromatic than processed dry foods or kibble, which makes them more appetizing to dogs.
2. Prevents Allergic Reactions
Unlike kibble or any other commercially produced dog food, raw food diets usually avoid common allergens like wheat, corn, and soy. This can help prevent an allergic reaction in dogs with food sensitivities. It can also help in managing various symptoms of a food allergy, such as digestive issues, skin irritation, and fur loss.
However, you should know that some dogs can still get an allergic reaction from certain types of meat or vegetables included in a typical raw food diet.
3. Improves the Skin & Coat Health
Pet owners who choose to feed their dogs a raw diet claim that they have seen an improvement in their dog’s skin and coat. It’s mainly because raw food contains a high amount of protein, which provides the essential amino acids required for building and repairing hair and skin cells.
Cons of Feeding Raw Food to a Dog
Below are a few cons of feeding a raw food diet to a dog:
1. Risk of Bacterial Contamination
Raw food ingredients, including frozen ones, can contain harmful bacteria like Salmonella and E. coli. This poses a risk to both dogs and humans, as it can cause foodborne illness, which can result in some serious health complications, including vomiting, diarrhea, fever, dehydration, and in severe cases, organ failure.
2. Can Lead to Nutritional Imbalance
Dogs need a complete and well-balanced diet that contains protein, fats, fiber, carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals. Providing too much or too little of certain nutrients, vitamins, or minerals can have negative effects on your dog's well-being.
If you’re feeding them raw food, you might struggle to find the right balance of all of these essential nutrients in their diet. You’ll need a thorough understanding of your dog’s nutritional needs as well as the nutritional content of various raw food ingredients.
Remember that failure to provide a well-balanced diet can have severe consequences, as it can result in nutritional deficiencies or imbalance and various other health problems.
Good-quality raw food ingredients are often more expensive than other food options. Unless frozen, they also have a small shelf life, so if you don’t use them within their recommended timeframe, it could result in spoilage and wastage.
4. Risk of Choking
Raw food diets frequently contain bones, which can be a choking hazard for dogs, especially puppies and small-breed dogs. These bones can also splinter or break into sharp pieces, which can puncture a dog’s digestive system and cause internal bleeding.
5. Inconvenient for Pet Owners
Preparing a raw food diet for your dog requires a lot of time and effort. You need to plan ahead about sourcing the raw ingredients and prepare to handle those raw ingredients to prevent contamination. It also requires proper storage at the right temperature to prevent bacterial growth and maintain freshness.
Fresh Dog Food
Fresh dog food is popular among pet owners who prefer to feed their dog's whole-food ingredients that are free from preservatives, fillers, and other additives. This kind of meal requires minimal processing, and it’s made by mixing and cooking fresh meat, vegetables, grains, and other food ingredients.
Many pet owners prefer to cook their fresh dog food at home, which gives them complete control over the quality of the ingredients and the cooking process, while others prefer to buy vacuum-sealed fresh food packets that have been frozen.
Pros of Feeding Fresh Food to a Dog
Similar to raw dog food, there’s no conclusive scientific evidence that would state that fresh food is better or healthier than any other form of dog food. However, many pet owners claim that they have seen various health benefits of fresh food, including:
1. More Palatability
Fresh food can be more palatable for dogs as it contains minimally processed fresh ingredients that retain their natural smell and taste. It also contains more moisture than kibble, which can contribute to its increased palatability, as many dogs prefer moist food over dry food.
2. Whole Food Diet
Fresh food contains whole-food ingredients that are minimally processed and usually do not contain preservatives, fillers, or other additives.
Additionally, if your dog suffers from food sensitivities or allergies to certain additives or fillers, you can avoid the risk of an allergic reaction by cooking them a fresh food diet.
Cons of Feeding Fresh Food to a Dog
Below are a few cons of feeding fresh food to a dog:
1. Bacterial Contamination
Cooking fresh food at home involves handling raw meat and organs, which can contain harmful bacteria such as Salmonella and E. coli. If not handled properly, these bacteria can cause foodborne illnesses that may result in symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhea, fever, dehydration, and in severe cases, organ failure in both dogs and humans.
2. Shorter Shelf Life
Since fresh dog food doesn’t contain preservatives, it has a shorter shelf life compared to commercial dog food. Depending on the ingredients and preparation method, fresh dog food can last anywhere from a few days to a week in the refrigerator.
Buying good-quality raw ingredients to make fresh food or subscription services that deliver frozen fresh dog food to your doorstep are generally more expensive than commercial dog food.
Cold-Pressed Dog Food
Cold-pressed dog food is steadily gaining popularity amongst pet owners as a healthier and more nutritious food option. It’s a dry dog food made by gently mixing high-quality ingredients and then pressing them together at lower temperatures for just a few seconds. This method helps preserve more of the natural nutrients, flavors, vitamins, and minerals.
As a result, your dog gets minimally processed and nutrient-dense bite-sized pieces that combine the benefits of both raw and dry dog food.
Pros of Cold Pressed Dog Food
Cold-pressed dog food has many benefits, including:
1. Easy Digestion
Cold-pressed dog food is gently pressed for only a few seconds, which allows it to break down quickly and naturally inside the stomach, making it easier for dogs to digest. Also, unlike kibble, cold-pressed food doesn't float or expand inside the stomach, which can help prevent digestive problems like bloating and vomiting. The food breaks down faster to allow for maximum nutrient absorption and minimal waste.
2. More Natural Nutrients
Cold-pressed dog food is prepared at almost 3x lower temperatures than dry kibble. This process helps in preserving the natural nutrients, flavor, and aroma of the ingredients. It also eliminates the need for additional flavors to be sprayed on that are added to traditional extruded kibble to enhance its appeal to dogs.
3. High Palatability
Since cold-pressed dog food is not subjected to high pressure and high temperature, it retains more of a natural taste and scent, making it appetizing to dogs. Additionally, the use of minimally processed high-quality food ingredients also contributes to the palatability of cold-pressed dog food.
Cons of Cold-Pressed Dog Food
While there are many health benefits of feeding cold-pressed food to a dog, the biggest potential drawback to consider is its:
1. Limited Availability
Cold-pressed dog food is relatively new (especially in the US market), which means that it may not be as widely available in stores near your home. However, you should be able to find good-quality cold-pressed food online.
2. Higher cost vs. kibble
The availability of cold-pressed dog food brands is somewhat limited, mainly due to the higher cost of sourcing high-quality ingredients compared to large kibble manufacturers. However, it's anticipated that prices will gradually decrease as cold-pressed food gains popularity.
Final Verdict: Raw, Kibble, Fresh, or Cold Pressed
Ultimately, the best choice of food will depend on your dog’s individual needs. But as a responsible pet owner, it's important that you compare the various food options and evaluate their pros and cons before making a decision.
You can stick to kibble if you prefer the convenience and affordability, but keep in mind that it's heavily processed and may not be as nutrient-dense as other types of dog food. Both raw and fresh dog food can be a better option as they contain more natural nutrients, but they bring the risk of bacterial contamination, and their nutritional adequacy is uncertain.
On the other hand, cold-pressed dog food offers a nutritionally rich and minimally processed alternative for your dog, but it's not as widely available at local stores. Nevertheless, you can purchase cold-pressed dog food online.
If you still have any further doubts about what’s best for your dog, we recommend you consult with a veterinarian.
Let’s answer some frequently asked questions about different types of dog food:
1. Is raw food better for dogs than kibble?
Both raw dog food and kibble have some advantages and disadvantages. While kibble is a more convenient and affordable option for pet owners, it’s made using high heat, pressure, and steam, which breaks down and alters the natural composition of the raw ingredients, reduces its nutritional value, and necessitates the usage of additives for a balanced diet.
Raw food, on the other hand, contains more natural nutrients than kibble, but it also brings the risk of bacterial contamination and nutritional imbalance. It can also be inconvenient to handle and store raw food for your dog.
Ultimately, the decision will depend on your dog’s needs and preferences. In case of any confusion regarding your dog's diet, we recommend you consult a veterinarian for proper guidance.
2. Is cold-pressed food better for dogs than raw food?
Both raw dog food and cold-pressed dog food contain more natural nutrients, flavor, and texture than traditional kibble dog food. But feeding raw food to a dog can be inconvenient for many pet owners, and it also poses a risk of bacterial contamination.
Cold-pressed dog food is a good alternative as it’s made by using a gentle, low-heat process that kills the bacteria but retains the natural nutrients and enzymes in the ingredients and is free of pathogens such as Salmonella and E.coli. It’s also a more convenient option because it’s a dry dog food that doesn’t require refrigeration and is more shelf stable.
3. Do vets recommend a raw diet?
Most veterinarians do not recommend feeding a raw diet to a dog because of the risk of bacterial contamination with harmful bacteria like Salmonella and E. coli. If you are making your own raw food diet, vets could have concerns regarding the nutritional adequacy of the diet.
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