What You Should Feed Your Dog: A Quick 101 on Different Types of Dog Food
Our pets would devour whatever we put in front of them, but it's our responsibility to make sure only the best make it to their bowls. With so many options on the market, from wet and dry food to raw food and more, it isn't easy to know which one to pick—and more so for new dog owners who don't know where to start. Stumped on what to feed your dog? Look no further. We’ve broken down what to keep in mind when you’re shopping around, 5 types of dog food and their differences, plus a few tips that will simplify your search.
What to Keep in Mind When You're Buying Dog Food
Picking the right food starts with knowing your dog's unique nutritional requirements, which, more often than not, is dependent on these 3 factors.
First, it's important to feed your dog a formula appropriate for its age, whether it is a puppy, an adult, or in its senior years. Likewise, your dog's size matters, too. A dog will benefit most from a specifically formulated diet for its size, so it's important to know if it is a small (under 20 pounds), large (20 pounds or more), or medium-sized breed. Lastly, it's important to know your dog's activity level. A working dog's dietary needs, for instance, will differ from a dog that spends most of its days indoors.
Keeping these in mind will narrow down your options, but it is only the first step. The next step is to find out which type of food you want to feed your dog. We've listed 5 major varieties—all with their differences and unique perks—and what you might want to know about them.
5 Types of Dog Food, Plus Their Differences and Unique Perks
1. Dry Food
Dry food or kibble is likely what pops to mind when thinking of dog food—and it’s no question why. The best kibble provides all that a dog needs in a fuss-free format. Plus, it requires no preparation on your part. Just pour it into a bowl and forget it. On top of that, kibble is budget-friendly, long-lasting, and won’t spoil as quickly as other food options.
A quick tip: When picking kibble for your dog, make sure it’s made with dog-safe ingredients and undergo standardized manufacturing processes. You also want to avoid those made with low-quality meat by-products and added sugars.
2. Wet Food
Next to kibble, wet food is the most-fed dog food in the US. It is often more palatable to dogs than regular kibble because it is flavorful and incredibly aromatic. Just a whiff of the stuff is bound to make any dog drool. Many dog parents also prefer to feed their dogs wet food because it’s made with fewer preservatives, but makes it more prone to spoilage, too.
A quick tip: Like dry food, you should buy wet food from a trusted manufacturer. Aside from steering away from options with low-quality ingredients, you should also read the ingredients list (More on that later!) to ensure no BPA is present in your dog’s food.
3. Raw Food
Raw food uses natural ingredients, including organ and muscle meat, bones, and dog-safe fruits and veggies. And because the ingredients are unprocessed, this means optimal nutrient retention for your dog. Owners who’ve subscribed their dogs to the diet say it offers their pets a range of benefits, from shinier fur to improved digestion. For those who want to opt into the diet, it may purchase it premade.
A quick tip: If you and your vet decide raw food is the way, purchase one subjected to a pathogen-reduction process to avert the risk of illness. For the same reason, the manufacturer must manage the food with utmost precaution. Follow these USDA-approved measures to keep your pet safe.
4. Fresh Food
For pet owners who want a natural diet for their dogs but are wary of bacteria in raw food, fresh food is a wonderful alternative. If time is no object, owners may opt to make their dog’s meals from scratch. Otherwise, there are dog food delivery services that do the work for you. Think of it as Blue Apron, only for your dog.
A quick tip: If you’re whipping up fresh dog food, use veterinary nutritionist-formulated recipes that promise your dog a balanced diet. Subscribing to a delivery service? Look for services that uphold the AAFCO standards for pet food.
5. Air-Dried or Dehydrated Food
If neither raw nor fresh food is an option for you, there’s also air-dried or dehydrated food. They both use natural ingredients but use a moisture-removal process to prevent quick spoilage. While the method differs between the two, they’re both incredibly shelf-stable and keep important nutrients intact—all without the use of preservatives.
A quick tip: Though air-dried or dehydrated food undergoes a special process, it may still be laced with pathogens dangerous to pets and owners alike. To prevent this, purchase only from a trusted manufacturer that upholds rigorous safety protocols.
3 Tips and Tricks That Will Simplify Your Search
There are so many ways to feed your dog, and if you still don’t know which option is best, don’t worry—we’ve listed 3 more tips and tricks that will aid you in your search.
Look at the ingredients list.
Just the mere thought of looking at an ingredients list would send anyone into a tizzy, but trust, it is worth the perusal. The ingredients list is one of the most important aspects of store-bought pet food products. It will aid you in determining what your dog needs or doesn’t need in its diet.
At the very least, it should include key nutrients that are needed for a dog to live its best life—namely, protein, carbohydrates, fiber, fats, vitamins, and minerals. The best options will rank these nutrients at the very top of the panel. While these are important, it’s also important to know where the ingredients are sourced from.
Avoid questionable inclusions.
While perusing the ingredients list of a dog food product, you want to keep a lookout for ingredients that may be dangerous for your dog. These include, but aren’t limited to:
- BHA, BHT, and Ethoxyquin
- Propylene Glycol
- Meat Meal
- Food Dyes
- Sodium Hexametaphosphate
If you’re making your dog’s meals from scratch, you must also take precautions to avoid pantry staples that are dangerous for your pet—which is proof that natural doesn’t always mean safe for your dog.
Seek your vet’s approval.
While it’s important to do your own research, it’s best to run potential dog food products by your veterinarian beforehand. They will not only provide you with trustworthy information but also be able to suggest recommendations specific to your dog’s unique nutritional needs.
Once you’ve received a thumbs-up from a licensed vet, you will be well on your way to purchasing the best type of food for your pet. If you’re thinking of switching out your dog’s food with another option, make sure to slowly transition your dog’s food to avoid road bumps and ensure a smooth process.