Web Only Article June 20, 2018

Which is the Best Type of Dog Food?

We compared the pros and cons of different types of dog food - kibble, homemade, canned, raw, freeze-dried and dehydrated - to make your decision of what to feed your dog a little easier!

dog eating raw meaty bone

ElsBrinkerink via Wikimedia Commons

What is the best kind of dog food? Is canned food healthier than kibble? Does a homemade dog food diet require as much work as it appears to? Whole Dog Journal developed a comprehensive pros and cons chart for various dog food options you may be considering. Remember: no one dog food is best for all dogs! Consider your dog's lifestyle and needs and use this chart to help you decide what kind of food your dog should eat regularly. You might also consider feeding your dog a mix of different food types for greater variety in the diet.

Beneath each table you will find a corresponding Whole Dog Journal article that goes into depth about the kinds of dog foods included here. If you're looking for a quick breakdown of a dog's nutritional requirements, check out this Dogster page.

1. Homemade Dog Food

Creating a homemade diet for your dog, whether cooked or raw, requires detailed planning and dedication. If you are new to the homemade dog food lifestyle, it is important to familiarize yourself with canine nutrition, and your dog's individual dietary needs. Mary Straus offers an exellent start in "How to Make Your Own Dog Food".

Homemade Pros Homemade Cons
Homemade dog food diets provide a wider variety of healthful foods and nutrients It can be easy to neglect certain necessary ingredients to your dog's health when making his food at home - putting him at risk of nutritional deficiency if you're not vigilant
Homemade dog food puts you in control - you know exactly what your dog is eating Home-prepared dog diets require special attention to meeting the "complete and balanced" recommendations regularly; you will need to use supplements
Dogs often prefer the taste of homemade meals to commercial dog food Cooking for your dogs is a definite time investment for you
When you make your dog's food from scratch, ingredients are minimally processed and fresh Feeding homemade dog food is potentially more costly than buying commercial food
Homecooked meals result in marked health improvements for many dogs -

2. Dry Dog Food (Kibble)

The benefits of feeding your dog dry food are many, which explains why so many people buy kibble - and only kibble - for their dogs. Whole Dog Journal has a yearly tradition of taking hard looks at the virtually endless variety of dog foods on the market, breaking down why certain foods are good choices, and why you want to avoid others. Find those reviews here

Kibble Pros Kibble Cons
Dry dog food is generally the most cost effective diet you can give your dog When feeding dry dog food, you must trust the company and manufacturer (if different) as to ingredient quality and safe food manufacturing processes - your dog is at the mercy of the pet food manufacturers' diligence
Dry dog food travels and stores well (for a specific period of time) Kibble often includes low-quality ingredients like meat by-products, sweeteners, and preservatives
Commercial kibble includes a guarantee of nutritonal completeness - you don't need to worry about deficiencies Dry dog foods are typically carb-heavy
Dry dog food is available in a wide range of choices in flavor, sourcing and cost Dry dog food ingredient quality varies – and it's almost impossible for consumer to differentiate
Kibble requires no preparation Dog food exiration dates matter! Dry food shouldn't be more than half-way to the end of its "best by" date, as vitamin levels and preservation diminishes with time

3. Canned (Wet) Dog Food

Next to dry dog food, canned food may be the most widely fed kind of dog food in the U.S. Dogs tend to enjoy the taste of wet food noticeably moreso than kibble, and the canning process allows you to avoid preservatives and ultra-processing. Like our dry foods, we review the best canned dog food every year.

Wet Food Pros Wet Food Cons
Canned dog food is more appetizing to dogs than dry food When feeding canned dog food, you must trust the company and manufacturer (if different) as to ingredient quality and safe food manufacturing processes - your dog is at the mercy of the pet food manufacturers' diligence
Most canned foods use fresh or frozen meats, rather than rendered (more processed) meats  It is common to see meat byproducts in lower-quality wet dog foods
There are no preservatives used in wet dog food, yet it is shelf-stable for a long time Canned dog food is generally more expensive than dry food
Wet dog food tends to be less carb-heavy than dry food BPA may be present in dog food cans - need to look at labels carefully
No preparation required with canned food Wet dog food smells bad to humans
Commercial wet dog food includes a guarantee of nutritonal completeness Wet dog food may contain too much fat for some dogs

4. Store-Bought Raw Dog Food

For those who want both the health benefits of raw dog food and the convenience of a packaged, nutritionally complete diet, commercial raw dog foods may be an option worth exploring. Let editor Nancy Kerns help you make a decision about feeding raw in "The Evolution of the Raw Dog Food Diet".

Raw Food Pros Raw Food Cons
Store-bought raw dog food uses fresh, unprocessed ingredients, which means maximum nutrient retention for your dog If feeding commercial raw food, consumers must still trust pet food company as to ingredient quality and safe food manufacturing processes
Dog diets that include raw meat are closest to the evolutionary, biologically appropriate diets of wild and ancestral dogs  Raw diets are not good for sick or old dogs because raw meats may contain pathogens - it is a risk for immunocompromised dogs
Most commercial raw foods contain no preservatives, or artificial flavors or colors at all Raw dog food is difficult to travel with
Raw food diets show marked health improvements for many dogs Raw food must be bought frequently, or it takes up a lot of freezer space
Commercial raw food includes guarantee of nutritonal completeness Some raw dog foods contain too much fat for some dogs
- Raw dog food must be maintained at safe temperature (no thawing until consumption)

5. Dehydrated Dog Food

Dehydrated Food Pros Dehydrated Food Cons
Most manufacturers of dehydrated dog food use fresh, minimally processed ingredients Like any store-bought dog food, packaged dehydrated food requires you to trust company and manufacturer (if different) as to ingredient quality and safe food manufacturing processes
Dehydrated food retains maximum nutrients after processing - only the moisture is removed Dehydrated dog food is often extremely expensive type
No preservatives are used in dehydrated dog foods, yet they are shelf-stable for a long time Dehydrated raw foods may still contain pathogens - not good for immunocompromised dogs
Commercial dehydrated dog food includes guarantee of nutritonal completeness -

CLICK HERE for more information on dehydrated dog foods.

6. Freeze-Dried Dog Food

Freeze-Dried Dog Food Pros Freeze-Dried Dog Food Cons
Freeze-dried dog food is portable, lightweight and extremely shelf stable Freeze-dried dog food is by far the most expensive kind of dog food; it is actually unaffordable to many
Freeze-dried dog food is minimally processed or raw Some freeze-dried dog food is meant for supplemental or intermittent feeding only; always check the label for "complete and balanced diet"
Highest quality ingredients are the rule in freeze-dried dog food A complete and balanced freeze-dried dog food may not be available in all pet stores
Good for dogs with poor appetite; the taste of freeze-dried dog food is generally irresistible to dogs -

CLICK HERE to read Whole Dog Journal's review of the best freeze-dried dog foods - and find out how they are different from dehydrated foods.

types of dog food

MarianneBirkholz via Wikimedia Commons

You can even combine kibble, canned food and raw organs like turkey necks for added nutritional value. (In much smaller quantities than shown here.)

Comments (4)

I am the mom of Labrador Retrievers, Megan my yellow lab was 3 when she was diagnosed with Epilepsy, she lived to be 13 and she was 90 lbs. My learning curb was the first year and a half before I took control. Megan was put on so much medicine because of her size that she was a walking zombie with no quality of life and I decided it was no way for her to live.
So, over the course of 2 to 3 months I weaned her down to about 100mg of Phenobarbital 2 x a day (I adjusted based on her weight) 100mg @ 5:00am & 100mg @5:00pm.
She leveled off and regained quality of life I was religious about her getting medicine every 12 hours until the day she died because of the way dogs process medicine. I also gave her liver supplements because I knew the Phenobarb would be hard on her liver, my vet laughed at me for giving her the supplements but I said "how many 90lb dogs do you have that live 10 years on Phenobarb without liver problems??????? NONE!
Martha lived to swim and swam almost every day no matter what the weather was, this was therapeutic for her and over the years though she never completely stopped having seizures, there were very few.
I always knew when she was going into a seizure because she'd come to me and lean against me, we'd sit down or if we were in the pool go to a step, she'd go through the seizure knowing I was with her the whole time and when she came out of it, it was as if it had never happen and she'd return to whatever she was doing.
The only thing I could never let her do again is "bolt" to run after birds because every time she did, that triggered a seizure...I hope this helps:-)

Posted by: Megan's Mom | January 26, 2019 8:50 PM    Report this comment

I have had my mini poodle for seven years. She got all her vaccines when she was a puppy besides being treated for kennel cough. She recovered and has become the most wonderful roommate. I am concerned because now the vet wants to give her the same vaccinations she had when she was a pup. I've read so much about how too many vaccinations can be bad for a dog. But, should I have her vaccinated again now and for what? Which vaccines should she have. I'm so confused and don't want any bad response to her being vaccinated. I need some good advice as to what I should do. Thank you.

Posted by: iammax | January 24, 2019 10:24 PM    Report this comment

I have an 8 year old rat terrier dog that has recently been diagnosed with epilipsy and put on phenabarb for her sezures. Any feeding advice for me? sybilray

Posted by: sybilray | December 6, 2018 11:18 AM    Report this comment

I have a tiny toy who is 3.4 lbs. at 4 mo. He is healthy but I have not had one so small before I am concerned that I may not be familiar enough with any special needs. He doesn't like his Solid Gold Teeny Bits kibble very well, and I've added a little Pristine canned for tiny dogs and wet the kibble with Pristine bone broth. The breeder said not to give him wet food because his teeth will get bad faster. I don't think I agree. I don't know how much he should gain per week. I want him to get as big as he can.

Posted by: BiewerDee | November 10, 2018 7:00 PM    Report this comment

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