Which Type of Dog Food is Best?

Which Type of Dog Food is Best?

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.

Related: What Vegetables Can Dogs Eat?

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 excellent start in “How to Make Your Own Dog Food“.

Homemade ProsHomemade Cons
Homemade dog food diets provide a wider variety of healthful foods and nutrientsIt 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 eatingHome-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 foodCooking for your dogs is a definite time investment for you
When you make your dog’s food from scratch, ingredients are minimally processed and freshFeeding 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 ProsKibble Cons
Dry dog food is generally the most cost effective diet you can give your dogWhen 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 deficienciesDry dog foods are typically carb-heavy
Dry dog food is available in a wide range of choices in flavor, sourcing and costDry dog food ingredient quality varies – and it’s almost impossible for consumer to differentiate
Kibble requires no preparationDog 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 more so 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 ProsWet Food Cons
Canned dog food is more appetizing to dogs than dry foodWhen 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) meatsIt 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 timeCanned dog food is generally more expensive than dry food
Wet dog food tends to be less carb-heavy than dry foodBPA may be present in dog food cans – need to look at labels carefully
No preparation required with canned foodWet dog food smells bad to humans
Commercial wet dog food includes a guarantee of nutritonal completenessWet dog food may contain too much fat for some dogs


Related: 5 Steps to Enhancing Your Dog’s Store-Bought Dog Food

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 ProsRaw Food Cons
Store-bought raw dog food uses fresh, unprocessed ingredients, which means maximum nutrient retention for your dogIf 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 dogsRaw 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 allRaw dog food is difficult to travel with
Raw food diets show marked health improvements for many dogsRaw food must be bought frequently, or it takes up a lot of freezer space
Commercial raw food includes guarantee of nutritonal completenessSome 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 ProsDehydrated Food Cons
Most manufacturers of dehydrated dog food use fresh, minimally processed ingredientsLike 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 removedDehydrated dog food is often extremely expensive type
No preservatives are used in dehydrated dog foods, yet they are shelf-stable for a long timeDehydrated 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 ProsFreeze-Dried Dog Food Cons
Freeze-dried dog food is portable, lightweight and extremely shelf stableFreeze-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 rawSome 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 foodA 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.

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