This article is written and sponsored by VetChef
One of the biggest dilemmas facing new dog parents is how to feed their new companion. With so many different options available, from kibble to raw, it can be hard to know what’s best for you and your dog. And researching different ways of feeding can just add to the confusion as every type of feeding is championed by a set of vocal supporters who would like you to believe that their way is the only way your dog can thrive.
The reality is that dogs are very adaptable animals, having spent many thousands of years evolving alongside their human companions and sharing in the wide range of diets eaten by them. From the largely vegetarian, grain-based diets eaten by many stone age communities and their dogs to the meaty scraps enjoyed by scavenging dogs through the ages, our modern domestic dogs have a long history of thriving on many different types of food.
So, if dogs can thrive on many different types of food, how does that help a new pet parent decide what’s right for them and their dog? The answer is that every different type of feeding has its pros and cons, and some will be more suited to some dogs and their families than others. So, take a read through this brief summary of the main feeding options and hopefully you’ll find the one that suits you and your dog the best:
For the last 40 years or so, ultra-processed brown biscuits called ‘kibble’ have been the most popular way to feed dogs. Cooked at high temperatures in an industrial machine called an extruder, kibble is made by squeezing a gooey mixture of ingredients through holes in a metal plate before they harden and are coated with oils and fats to make them palatable.
Kibble can vary enormously in quality, with some cheap versions being made of industrial food waste and cheap fillers such as maize. At the top end, however, fresh meat, high quality grains and even fresh vegetables are used, which helps increase the nutritional value of the kibble.
The main advantages of kibble are cost and convenience – like processed foods for people, kibble is quick, easy, and cheap. On the downside, highly processed foods have been linked to many health problems in people, and the nutritional value of even the best kibble can be altered by the high temperatures and pressures involved in the cooking process.
So, kibble is great for when time or money is tight, or as part of a more varied diet such as alongside home-cooked meals, but for many modern pet parents it’s not appealing to feed a dog exclusively on kibble.
– Can be very low quality
The term ‘wet food’ is more of a pet food industry term than one used by most pet owners. It refers to processed foods that are high in moisture, unlike kibble which generally only has around 8-10% water content. There are many forms of wet food, from tins to pouches and the recent trend to frozen ready meals for dogs.
In general, the same qualifications that apply to kibble also apply to wet foods. As with kibble, wet foods are cooked in industrial processes making the majority of them ‘ultra-processed’ foods, with all the associated concerns for long term health. However, there are now products which are cooked at lower temperatures and using more gentle processes, with higher quality ingredients. These foods, which are often sold frozen, can provide high quality nutrition, but they tend to be very expensive, come with a significant environmental impact (from the processing, transport, and plastic packaging), and require significant freezer space to store.
High quality wet foods, particularly frozen ‘ready meals’ are a good option for pet parents looking for the convenience of processed food but with higher nutritional value than kibble. However, they are not cheap, and feeding this kind of food every day is only a realistic option for the most affluent of dog owners.
+ Can be high quality
– Generally ultra-processed
– High environmental impact
In recent years there has been a trend towards home-cooked foods for dogs, driven by the increasing recognition of the benefits of freshly prepared foods made at home for people and their pets. There is little doubt that meals cooked at home using high-quality locally sourced ingredients offer the ultimate in nutritional excellence.
This approach to feeding can also play a role in reducing the environmental impact of dog food, with less food miles, packaging, and processing. And using smart recipe planning services such as the free My VetChef online system from home-cooking brand www.vetchef.com allows recipes to be perfectly tailored to meet individual dog’s needs and preferences, and for personalised nutrition to help manage a wide range of health problems.
On the downside, there’s no getting away from the fact that cooking meals from scratch for your dog takes more time than simply scooping kibble from a bag. And whilst much cheaper than frozen ready meals, home-cooked foods can work out more expensive to prepare than kibble or lower-quality wet foods.
For most dogs, the advent of services such as VetChef, mean that home-cooking is a viable option to consider for pet parents with the time and energy required. While it does take commitment, and isn’t necessarily the cheapest option, the benefits of feeding fresh make this approach well worth considering – and it can easily be combined with kibble or wet food to deliver the best of both worlds with quick and convenient food combined with healthy fresh meals in your dog’s weekly diet.
If you are interested in trying this approach for your dog, visit www.vetchef.com and sign up for a free recipe plan for your dog.
+ High quality nutrition from fresh ingredients
+ Can be personalised to suit individual dogs
– Time consuming
– Can be expensive
Alongside home-cooked, raw is another approach to feeding that brings the benefits of unprocessed, fresh ingredients to your dog’s diet. There are many pet owners around the world who passionately believe in the benefits of feeding raw food to their dogs, citing the link to the wild ancestors of our modern dogs who would have survived by scavenging raw carcasses. And for many dogs, this way of feeding can work well, providing high quality nutrition and delivering excellent long-term health.
However, raw feeding isn’t for every dog or every owner. Despite the enthusiasm of raw feeding advocates, many dogs don’t get on well with an uncooked diet of raw chicken necks and meaty bones, suffering from digestive upsets and poor condition. Many owners also find this kind of feeding difficult, particularly the process of dealing with and serving raw meaty ingredients. And then there is the very real issue of the health risks for people associated with handling raw meat, especially chicken.
Raw feeding, when done properly, by committed and passionate pet parents, can undoubtedly work well and there are many dogs who thrive on this approach, so it’s definitely worth considering if you are prepared for the challenges involved. Just be prepared to change course if your dog doesn’t take to raw food, or if you find the process too difficult.
+ Can provide high quality nutrition
+ Many dogs enjoy raw food
– Not suitable for all dogs
– Health risks
Other ways to feed
Kibble, wet, home-cooked, and raw are the main ways the majority of pet parents feed their dogs, but there are other options available. The main alternative options are dehydrated and freeze-dried foods. These are both relatively niche ways of feeding and can be expensive, but the quality of the nutrition can be good, so they are worth researching and considering if more mainstream approaches don’t appeal.
The world of pet nutrition has moved on significantly in recent years, with an increasing recognition of the fact that exclusive ultra-processed diets are not the only way to feed our dogs for long-term health and wellbeing. Instead, most pet parents are now looking at either moving to an exclusively fresh home prepared diet, whether raw or cooked, or combining home-cooked with kibble.
Take your time to consider which of these approaches best fits in with your lifestyle and your dog’s preferences, and don’t be afraid to make changes if your chosen way of feeding isn’t working out. There are no rights and wrongs, provided you are providing your dog with a good quality diet, so don’t feel pressured to go down any particular route and try to find the approach that works best for you and your dog.