Who knew choosing the best dog food for your pup could be so confusing? We're going to make it a bit easier by explaining what the different types mean.
From homemade to human-grade, there are many types of dog food to choose from. Find out which diet is best for your dog based on the ingredients, cooking methods, shelf stability and more.
The most common form of dry dog food is kibble. Homes Alive says that kibble was the first commercially produced dog food and it was made to be the most convenient feeding option. Many dog parents buy kibble because it’s convenient – but it is also very cheap to feed. Kibble may be an affordable type of dog food, but it’s also low quality.
Kibble is harshly processed compared to other types of dog food because it uses a production method called “hot extrusion”. This means that the food is put under extreme heat and pressure to give it a crunchy texture.
Hot extrusion causes any natural vitamins and minerals found in the ingredients to lose their nutrients – that’s why most kibble has artificial nutrients added into their recipes. Even the protein found in kibble is often made of “meat meals” instead of actual meat.
If you are looking for human-grade dog food with high-quality ingredients, kibble may not be for you. But there are many other types of dog food to choose from!
Wet Dog Food
The next most popular doggy diet behind kibble is wet or canned dog food. Similar to kibble, wet dog food is convenient because you can find it at most grocery or pet stores.
Dog parents usually opt for wet dog food over kibble if they have a picky pup. The texture of wet dog food is much more appealing to pups and can often have more flavor than kibble.
Wet dog food does tend to be more costly than kibble since it’s about 75% water. With a high water content, dogs have to eat more food to meet their nutritional needs. Canned dog food might be best for small breed dogs since one can of food can go a long way. But for pet parents with large breed dogs, you may want to pick a more affordable form of dog food.
Air-Dried Dog Food
A healthier alternative to kibble is air-dried dog food like Sundays for Dogs. Since Sundays is air-dried instead of hot-extruded, the natural nutrients and flavor found in the ingredients are preserved while bacteria is killed. The taste is so good that dogs actually think they are getting a treat!
Sundays’ recipes are human-grade – made with 90% meat and 10% superfoods like fruit, vegetables and whole grains. There are no synthetic or artificial additives in Sundays air-dried dog food – it’s all ingredients you can buy at your local grocery store.
Air-dried dog food is a great option for dog parents who want to conveniently feed their pup a fresh food diet. For instance, Sundays combines their ingredients into jerky that is shelf stable and easy to feed. This means you can serve Sundays air-dried dog food just like kibble: pour, serve and watch your pup devour it.
Fresh Dog Food
Fresh dog food has become quite popular over the past few years. It’s no secret that the ingredients in kibble and canned dog food can be unhealthy and artificial. Instead of making homemade food every day, many brands started releasing fresh dog food recipes with better ingredients.
Since more care is put into the production of fresh dog food, it’s much more expensive than your average types of dog food. It’s difficult to find fresh dog food in physical stores – many brands only sell their products online.
The drawback of fresh dog food is that it needs to be refrigerated or frozen before serving. This means you have to plan ahead to defrost and prepare the food before your pup’s mealtimes. If you have a big dog who needs lots of food, make sure you have enough space in your fridge or freezer!
Raw Dog Food
A controversial but all-natural dog food you can give to your pup is the raw diet. Raw dog food consists of just that – raw meat, organs, vegetables and more. Some pet parents prefer raw dog food because the raw form of food preserves the natural nutrients of each ingredient.
There are a few health benefits to a raw dog food diet. Since there are no added sugars, dental health can be improved along with improved digestion. There are also many risks to raw dog food. The chances of illness and infection are much higher with raw ingredients since bacteria is cooked out.
Raw dog food isn’t the easiest or most cost-effective diet. It’s very expensive to buy all the raw ingredients and there is a lot of prep work before feedings. There are freeze-dried raw dog food options that are easier to feed, but the cost is still significantly higher than traditional dog food.
Ingredients and Standards
1. All-Natural Dog Food
The definition of all-natural dog food varies from brand to brand. It’s rare to find a truly all-natural dog food because natural ingredients are more expensive. Since AAFCO has a loose definition of “all-natural”, many brands get away with selling products that aren’t actually natural.
In general, a dog food is considered all natural when ingredients aren’t chemically synthesized and don’t include artificial color, flavor, preservatives, additives or synthetic vitamins and minerals. You can tell if a brand is truly all-natural by looking at their label. If there are ingredients that are hard to pronounce or you don’t recognize, odds are it’s not truly natural.
Look for all-natural dog foods with nutritional labels like a grocery list – you know and trust each ingredient to be good for your dog.
2. Is Grain-Free Bad for Dogs?
A frequent debate between dog parents is grain-free vs. grain-inclusive dog food. Grain-free dog food became popular along with gluten-free and Paleo diets in humans. People started to pay more attention to the ingredients in their dog’s food and wanted to avoid grain allergies – which isn’t a bad thing at all.
But why is grain-free bad for dogs? Most brands use legumes like peas and lentils along with potatoes to replace the grains that dogs need in their diet. These ingredients act as anti-nutrients and block the absorption of essential vitamins and minerals, which can cause major issues for your dog’s health.
In July 2018, the FDA opened an investigation into a potential link between grain-free dog food and a form of heart failure in dogs called dilated cardiomyopathy (or DCM). The FDA even called out 16 popular brands that have been verified to cause DCM in at least 10 to 67 dogs per brand. You can learn more about DCM and grain-free dog food from Dr. Tory Waxman.
The answer to is grain-free bad for dogs truly depends on your dog. Grain-free dog food may be acceptable for pups with grain allergies – but that affects around 1% of the dog population. Instead, try dog food made with healthy whole grains that are good for your pup. That’s why Sundays is made with whole grains like oats and quinoa.
3. Limited Ingredient Diet
If your dog has food allergies or a sensitive stomach, they could benefit from a limited ingredient diet. Veterinarians will often recommend limited ingredient dog food when diagnosing allergies to make it easier to narrow down the ingredient that is causing issues.
Limited ingredient dog food is a very loose term for recipes that avoid common allergens like dairy, poultry and some forms of grains. They usually consist of nontraditional proteins like rabbit, fish, or turkey along with a carbohydrate like rice or sweet potatoes.
There are benefits to limited ingredient dog food for dogs without allergies or health issues. As long as the food provides the required nutrition for your pup, it’s good to feed. For example, Sundays is a limited ingredient dog food that uses only real meat, whole grains and fresh fruits and vegetables. It’s even AAFCO certified for complete and balanced nutrition.
4. Feed Grade vs. Human-Grade Dog Food
Many brands will advertise their food as “human-grade.” This means that the recipe is natural that even humans could safely digest it (if they wanted to).
“Feed-grade” dog food is the opposite – it contains harsh additives and artificial ingredients that might be safe for a dog’s stomach, but certainly isn’t for humans.
You may be wondering why human-grade dog food is important if it’s made for our pups. Human food production is held to a much higher standard than it is for dogs. So even if feed-grade food is safe to give your dog, it doesn’t mean it’s good for their health.
For pet parents who want healthier ingredients for their pup, human-grade dog food is the perfect fit – and it’s not hard to find! Sundays for Dogs is a human-grade dog food that was created by a veterinarian. Both of their USDA beef and all-natural chicken recipes are safe for human consumption – if you’re into that.