Dogs

The ultimate dog food guide (kibble, raw, and dehydrated diets)

Choosing the right dog food is crucial for the health and well-being of your furry friend. Dogs require a well-balanced diet to thrive, just like humans do. Feeding your dog an inadequate or inappropriate diet can lead to a variety of health problems, including obesity, digestive issues, allergies, and nutrient deficiencies.

However, with so many options on the market, choosing the best diet for your pup can be overwhelming. 

And just like with human foods, there are a lot of people who are convinced that their choice is the only right one. If you feed high-quality kibble, I’m sure you met a few of them 😩

But let me tell you,  just like in parenting, no matter what you feed your pup, there will always be people who won’t agree with your choice. They can even make you feel like you’re  “not caring enough”.

My advice? Don’t engage with them. As a pet owner, you have the right to choose what works for you, your family, and your pet, whether it’s a raw diet, dehydrated dog food, or kibbles.

As a veterinarian, let me tell you a little secret – it doesn’t really matter which type of dog food you decide to buy. As long as it’s a well balanced high-quality diet, your pup will be ok 🙂 

So, how do you decide which dog food is best for your pup? And what’s the difference between kibble, dehydrated dog foods, and raw diets? Here is your guide! 🤗


While I am a veterinarian, this article is not intended to replace professional veterinary advice. If you have any medical concerns about your pet, consult your vet immediately. Always seek professional assistance if you are unsure of your pet’s health.




This post may contain affiliate links, which means I may receive a commission, at no extra cost to you, if you make a purchase through a link. Please see my full disclosure for further information.



dehydrated dog food,, kibble and raw diet

Different nutritional needs of domestic dogs

Dogs are officially classified as “carnivora” or meat-eaters. However, their digestive system and dietary needs have developed so much that they are actually omnivores and have digestive tracts close to human digestive systems – they eat meat, fruit, and vegetables. 

When you look closely at a dog’s teeth, the front teeth are sharp and good for tearing and cutting through meat, whereas molars are flat like ours, designed for grinding and chewing plants.

Dogs are masters in adaptation (well, we made them that way 🙂 ) and can be considered “opportunistic eaters” – they will eat most of the foods (including vegetables and fruits) available to them. That’s why dogs love carrots, apples, watermelon…and most of the stuff in your garbage bin 😉

It’s been proven that dogs need a balanced and high-quality diet to thrive. This should include high-quality proteins, grain (yes, I said it. Contrary to new feeding trends and marketing campaigns, there is a medical reason why a meat-only diet can pose a health risk for dogs), fat, carbohydrates, fiber, vitamins, minerals, and other essential nutrients. 

dog eating raw

There are several factors that influence a dog’s nutritional needs:

Canine-specific nutritional needs:

Oh, how often have I heard dog owners say something along the line of “Dogs are basically wolves and wolves eat only meat, it’s natural”.

First of all, dogs are not wolves. Just try to imagine a French bulldog trying to catch his dinner in the forest… 😃

There are many differences between dogs and wolves – in dentition, in the GI tract, in the production of digestive-specific enzymes, etc.

Secondly, studies have also shown that wolves eat vegetables and plants too.

What people often don’t realize is that animals in the wild don’t eat an optimal diet, they eat whatever they can catch or scavenge. They suffer from malnutrition, parasites, and broken teeth. They have a much (much, much 😛) shorter life span (and quality of life) as a direct result of their “natural” diet. Natural is sadly not always a synonym for beneficial 🤷‍♀️

Dogs need certain amino acids in their diet, some of which their body cannot synthesize. This means that food is their only source of these essential amino acids.

One of them is taurine. It’s contained in whole grains and it’s the main reason why dogs need grains. If you feed your dog a grain-free diet, your dog can develop a taurine deficiency, which leads to thinning of the heart walls and a heart disease called dilated cardiomyopathy. This makes taurine essential for your pup’s heart health.

Dogs that are on a meat-only diet usually develop other micronutrient deficits as well – vitamin A, vitamin D, selen…

Now, I’m not saying raw foods or kibbles or other types of dog foods are bad. Actually, raw dog food diets have many benefits. I’m saying that whatever you feed your pup, it needs to be balanced and of high quality.

Age-specific nutritional needs:

On top of that, your pup’s nutritional needs change with time. A puppy has an immature immune system and because of his rapid growth phase, he’s also at higher risk of nutritional deficiencies.

An adult dog needs a different diet than an older dog with slower digestion and metabolism and several health problems.  Senior dogs need different nutrients to help them stay healthy for as long as possible. 

Breed-specific nutritional needs:

But not just time plays a role – nowadays, we also know a lot about breed-specific requirements. 

A Great Dane puppy needs a specialized diet to help him during his growth phase. Large dog breeds like German Shepherds will sooner or later need nutrients and minerals for joint support. French bulldogs are tiny fart machines because of their extremely sensitive digestive tracts 🤷‍♀️

Lifestyle-specific nutritional needs:

A dog’s lifestyle is equally important. 

A pregnant dam needs specific nutrients in her diet to keep her and her unborn puppies healthy. Active dogs like rescue or police dogs need a diet that will enhance their cognitive functions and endurance. If you want to run a marathon with your pup, you should feed him accordingly to protect his joints, and muscles and ensure he has enough energy. A show dog may need specific nutrients for healthy skin and a shiny coat.

dog planner

Health-specific nutritional needs: 

If your dog has a sensitive stomach, food intolerance, or other health issues, he may need a specific diet. There are several brands that produce high-quality veterinary diets for specific health conditions based on the latest research. 

Two of the major companies on the market are Royal Canin and Hill’s. Both have huge research & development departments and their specialized veterinary diets are used by vets all over the world. 

Don’t underestimate how much a diet can help your pet when he has a health problem ☺️

As you can see, veterinary nutrition is a very complex theme, but it comes down to this – your pup needs a well-balanced and high-quality diet appropriate to his age, breed, and lifestyle. 

Dog food 1

Why it’s important to choose high-quality dog food 

Dogs require a specific balance of nutrients, including protein, fat, carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals, to maintain their health. Feeding your dog a diet that is deficient in one or more of these nutrients can lead to health problems, shorter lifespan, and lower quality of life. 

→ To avoid nutrient imbalances and health problems:

As vets,  we often see more-or-less severe nutritional deficits, especially in connection with BARF (Biologically Appropriate Raw Food)  and home-cooked diets. Pet owners who want to feed raw foods to their dogs at home often use recipes that are not in coordination with official veterinary recommendations. 

A home-cooked diet can result in severe nutrient imbalances and the development of pathologies if you don’t know what you are doing. Sadly, stories like this poor Bulldog that had to be euthanized are becoming more and more common. Maybe not to this extreme extent, but nutritional deficiencies from home-cooked diets are something every vet has encountered.

In this guide, I want to focus on commercially available dog diets, but if you decide at any point that you want to cook or prepare food for your pup at home, please make sure that you have enough information on the subject. The best thing you can do is to buy a cookbook from a certified veterinary nutritionist. 

On the other hand, pet owners who decide to feed low-quality food might save some money on the food but risk that their pet will need more veterinary help in the future. Dogs that are fed low-quality food often have nutritional deficiencies, are prone to infections and other health problems, and age more quickly. 

→ To support dental health:

The texture and shape of dog food can also impact dental health. Choosing a dog food that is crunchy or chewy can help clean tour pu[‘s  teeth and reduce the risk of dental problems.

If you decide to feed your pup wet food only, you need to take care of his teeth, as these won’t get cleaned mechanically during chewing. 

But to be completely honest, you should maintain proper dental hygiene of your canine companion, no matter what you feed him.

→ To maintain a healthy weight:

Just like humans, dogs can become overweight or obese if they consume more calories than they burn.

Choosing a dog food that is appropriately balanced in calories can help to prevent obesity and maintain a healthy weight. 

And always follow the feeding guidelines! You can find them at the back of each package. When I tell this to pet parents, there are always a few who get this bewildered look and go “There are guidelines for dog feeding?”. Yes, please follow them ☺️

Obesity is a huge risk factor for several serious diseases, for example, diabetes mellitus or osteoarthritis.

In summary, choosing high-quality dog food is essential for your dog’s health and well-being. By selecting a balanced and nutritious diet that meets your dog’s individual needs, you can help prevent many health problems.

When it comes to the right diet for your pup,’ proper balance’ and ‘high quality’ are the terms you’re looking for ☺️

The difference between kibble, dehydrated dog food, and a fresh diet

There are several types of dog foods available on the market, each with its own benefits and drawbacks. I know that it’s not easy to choose the one that’s right for you and your pup. But you can always try a few out and then decide.  

Also, your situation might change, your pet’s needs might change, and if someone says you have to pick one now and stick with it forever, don’t believe them 🙂

Btw. no matter what you feed your pup, he needs to have an access to water at all times!

Dry Kibble:

This is the most commonly available type of dog food and is typically sold in bags. Dry kibble is convenient and has a longer shelf life than wet dog food. It is also less expensive compared to other types of dog food. 

However, it may not be as palatable as wet or raw food and may not provide the same level of moisture. 

The first step in the manufacturing process is selecting the ingredients that will be used to create the kibble. This usually involves choosing a combination of meat, grains, vegetables, and other supplements. 

The prepared ingredients are then mixed together in specific ratios to create a balanced and nutritious diet. Some manufacturers also add vitamins, minerals, and other supplements to ensure that the diet meets the recommended daily allowances for dogs.

The ingredients are then ground into a fine powder and mixed together. This mixture is then heated to a specific temperature to create a dough-like consistency and extruded through a machine called an extruder. The extruder shapes the mixture into the desired kibble shape and size. This process involves high pressure and high temperatures, which helps to sterilize the kibble and increase its shelf life.

Once the kibble has been extruded, it is then dried, coated with a layer of fat and flavorings to make it more palatable, and packaged in airtight bags or containers.

Throughout the manufacturing process, quality control measures are taken to ensure that the kibble meets certain standards of nutrition and safety. This includes testing for nutritional content, testing for contaminants such as bacteria and mold, and ensuring that the kibble meets certain standards for ingredient quality and sourcing.

Note: there is a recommended “use by” date after opening the vacuum-sealed bag, so it might not be the best idea to buy an 8kg bag for your Yorkie 🙂 

Pros:

  • Convenient and easy to store
  • It is generally less expensive than other types of dog food
  • Chewing on kibbles can help keep your dog’s teeth clean and healthy by removing plaque and tartar buildup
  • Exact feeding guidelines that will help you prevent obesity
  • There are several super premium brands with breed-specific, need-specific, and health-specific products on the market

Cons:

  • Dry kibble has a low moisture content, which can lead to dehydration in dogs if they do not drink enough water
  • Some dogs (especially older dogs) may prefer softer textures
  • Some dogs may not find dry kibble as palatable as wet or raw dog food. But you can still mix kibbles with other types of dog foods to provide variety, just be careful and don’t overfeed your pup
  • High-temperature manufacturing process

It’s important to choose a high-quality brand that provides the right balance of nutrients for your pet and to make sure that your dog has access to plenty of fresh water. 

Some people get nervous when they see that kibbles contain artificial preservatives. This is not the same as harmful substances. For example, vitamin C is often used as a preservative. If you choose a super premium brand, you can be sure that all additives are the same that are used in human foods and are in concentrations that are safe for your dog.

printable puppy planner

Wet Dog Food:

This type of dog food is available in cans or pouches and has a higher moisture content than dry kibble. Wet dog food is more palatable than dry food and provides a good source of hydration for dogs. However, it has a shorter shelf life once opened and may be more expensive than dry kibble.

The carefully selected ingredients are prepared, chopped, and mixed together in specific ratios. Manufacturers also add vitamins, minerals, and other supplements to ensure that the diet meets all nutritional requirements.

The mixed ingredients are then placed into cans, which are sealed to maintain freshness and prevent spoilage. The cans are then sterilized in a high-pressure cooker, which helps to eliminate any bacteria or other harmful organisms.

Once the cans have been sterilized, they are cooled and labeled with nutritional information and other important details. 

Again, quality control measures are taken to ensure that the food meets certain standards of nutrition and safety. 

Pros:

  • Wet dog food is often more palatable to dogs than dry kibble, which can encourage picky eaters to eat more regularly
  • It has a higher moisture content than dry kibble, which can help keep dogs hydrated

Cons:

  • Once opened, wet dog food has a shorter shelf life than dry kibble and can spoil quickly if not refrigerated
  • Wet dog food can be more expensive than dry kibble, making it less budget-friendly for pet owners
  • It may be less effective at promoting good dental health than dry kibble, as it does not provide the same abrasive action that helps to remove plaque and tartar
  • High-temperature manufacturing process

Overall, wet dog food can be a good option for dogs, especially those who are picky eaters or have health issues that require a higher moisture content in their diet. 

However, it may be less convenient and more expensive than dry kibble. 

If your pup prefers wet dog food, make sure he has enough chew toys and things like rawhides, as well as regular dental hygiene, to take care of his teeth. 

It’s important to choose a high-quality brand that provides the right balance of nutrients for your pet and to be mindful of storing and handling it properly to avoid spoilage.

Air-dried Dog Food: 

Air-dried food is a type of dry dog food that is made by removing moisture from the ingredients through a slow drying process. This preserves the nutrients and flavor of the food while also making it easy to store. 

The manufacturing process of dehydrated food typically involves several steps, starting again with a careful selection of ingredients. These are then prepared by washing, and chopping them into small pieces. They may also be cooked or partially cooked to improve digestibility and nutrient availability.

The prepared ingredients are mixed together in specific ratios and placed into a dehydrator (basically a chamber with airflow), where the water slowly evaporates.

This is a more gentle dehydration process, during which gentle airflow and low heat gradually dry the ingredients over a period of several hours.

Once the ingredients have been dried, they are cooled and packaged in airtight bags or containers. Some manufacturers also add an oxygen absorber to the packaging to extend the shelf life of the product.

The final texture of an air-dried product is something between kibble and jerky, that you can scoop up and serve as a complete meal or give as treats ☺️

Pros:

  • Air-dried food is made using low temperatures and airflow. This process ensures that the nutrients don’t degrade as much as during the high-temperature manufacturing process of kibbles and wet dog foods
  • It is often sold in resealable bags and can be stored for a long time without refrigeration
  • It’s usually made with only a few proteins, which can be beneficial for dogs with food sensitivity or food intolerance

Cons:

  • Dehydrated pet food can be more expensive than other types of dog food, making it less budget-friendly for pet owners.
  • Fewer brands to choose from

Again, it’s important to choose a high-quality brand and to ensure that your dog has access to plenty of fresh water. 

If you want to try it, PetLife offers a variety of dehydrated dog foods you can choose from 😎

Freeze-Dried Dog Food: 

Freeze-dried foods are made by freezing raw or cooked ingredients and then placing them in a vacuum chamber to remove moisture. This preserves the nutrients and flavor of the food while also making it easy to store. 

After selecting and preparing the ingredients, they are frozen at extremely low temperatures. Freezing helps to preserve their nutritional value and flavor.

The frozen ingredients are then placed into a vacuum freeze-drying machine, which removes the moisture from the ingredients while preserving their nutritional value and flavor. The dehydration process takes place in a vacuum chamber, which causes the frozen water in the ingredients to evaporate without melting.

Once the ingredients have been freeze-dried, they are cooled and packaged in airtight bags or containers to maintain freshness.  

When you are ready to feed your pet, simply rehydrate the formula by adding warm water to the mixture. 

Pros:

  • Freeze-dried dog food often contains high-quality protein and nutrient-rich fruits and vegetables, making it a healthy and nutritious option for dogs.
  • It is sold in resealable bags and can be stored for a long time without refrigeration, making it convenient for pet owners who travel frequently or who have limited storage space.
  • It’s also often more palatable than other types of dog food, as the freeze-drying process preserves the flavor and aroma of the ingredients.

Cons:

  • Freeze-dried dog food can be more expensive than other types of dog food, making it less budget-friendly for pet owners.
  • It needs to be rehydrated before serving
  • Once it’s rehydrated, it needs to be stored in the fridge
  • Fewer brands to choose from

Overall, freeze-dried dog food can be a healthy and convenient option for feeding dogs, especially for pet owners who prioritize high-quality ingredients and palatability.

Again, Pet Life offers different high-quality brands you can choose from ☺️

Fresh Dog Foods:

Fresh food is, well, fresh 🙂 It is usually made from uncooked raw ingredients, with minimal processing (although some companies may also add a few cooked ingredients). 

If you don’t want to prepare it at home by yourself (please don’t, unless you know exactly what you’re doing), you can get it delivered by specialized companies within a few hours of being made. 

Some companies even offer customized fresh dog food plans based on your dog’s specific nutritional needs, while others offer pre-packaged meals. 

So if you think about feeding your pet a raw diet, finding a reputable company you can trust is the best option. 

Fresh dog food often contains high-quality protein sources, fruits, vegetables, and other healthy ingredients. 

Pros:

  • High-quality ingredients: Fresh dog food is often made with high-quality, whole-food ingredients that are minimally processed.
  • Customization: Some companies offer customized meal plans based on your dog’s specific nutritional needs.
  • Palatability: Many dogs enjoy the taste of fresh dog food, as it often contains a variety of different flavors and textures.

Cons:

  • Cost: Fresh dog food can be more expensive than other types of dog food, especially if you opt for customized meal plans.
  • Preparation time: Some fresh dog food may require more preparation time than other types of dog food, as it often needs to be refrigerated or frozen.
  • Food safety: Because raw pet food is made with ingredients like raw meat, there is a risk of bacterial or parasitic contamination if it is not handled and stored properly.
  • Potential health issues when using recipes that don’t cover your dog’s nutritional requirements
  • Not that many companies provide the service

Frozen Dog Food:

Frozen dog food is made by freezing a fresh diet for preservation. 

Like fresh dog food, some companies offer customized dog food plans based on your dog’s specific nutritional needs, while others offer pre-packaged meals. 

Pros:

  • Frozen dog food is often made with high-quality, whole-food ingredients that are minimally processed.
  • It can be stored for a long time in your freezer, making it a convenient option for many pet owners.
  • Freezing for more than 48h greatly improves the safety of the food. This makes frozen dog food safer than fresh diets

Cons:

  • Cost: Frozen dog food can be more expensive than other types of dog food, especially if you opt for customized meal plans.
  • Preparation time: Some frozen dog food may require more preparation time than other types of dog food, as it needs to be thawed before feeding.
  • Potential health issues when using recipes that don’t cover dog’s nutritional requirements
  • Again, fewer companies to choose from

Fresh and frozen dog foods can be healthy and nutritious options for feeding your dog, especially if you prioritize high-quality, whole-food ingredients. 

However, they may be more expensive and require more preparation time than other types of dog food, and there is a risk of bacterial contamination if they are not handled or stored properly.

It’s important to choose a reputable brand of fresh or frozen dog food and to follow proper food safety guidelines to ensure that your dog stays healthy and happy.

dog eating raw dog food

Overall, the type of dog food that is best for your pet will depend on his individual needs, preferences, and health. If you are not sure which one to buy, ask your vet, I’m sure he’ll be happy to help 🙂

And no matter what you decide to feed your pup, always buy his food from a trusted and renowned manufacturer.

However, if you want to switch your dog’s diet, here’s a guide on how to do it safely ☺️

I hope this guide helped you understand the differences between dog food types and helped you choose the best dog food for your pup! 

Happy pet parenting! 🥰

PS: If you are as crazy about animals as I am and want to get more pet health tips, subscribe to my newsletter! Now you will get a free pet planner as a bonus 🤗

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