How do you know your dog food is healthy?

Confused? You're not alone. Let's demystify dog food together by looking at...

Dry Kibble

Advantages of dry kibble:

  • Affordable
  • Convenient
  • Easy to store (no fridge/freezer space required)

Disadvantages of dry kibble:

  • Cheaper options typically contain fillers, preservatives, and synthetic ingredients
  • Picky dogs may not eat (depending on quality/taste)
  • Not great for dogs that don't naturally drink much water

Dry kibble is the most popular type of dog food. While it's usually the leasy expensive, there are higher quality, premium dry kibble options.

When selecting a kibble, you'll want to look for high-quality ingredients, particularly in the type and format of protein and in whether the fruits, vegetables, and other ingredients are natural whole foods or synthetics or fillers (like corn).

The cooking method of kibble is also very important.

Just like with human food - if you cook spinach in the oven vs boil it vs sauté it vs eat it raw, the nutrients can be "cooked out" to varying degrees based on your cooking method.

The same is true with dry dog food. The way it is cooked impacts how many nutrients remain, which is often referred to as the nutrient-density.

Almost all kibble is made by combining all the starting ingredients, grinding them to the same consistency, and then mixing to evenly distribute nutrients.

The next steps in the cooking process, though, can cause big differences in how much nutrient-density is retained.

All kibble will be heated. The ingredient mixture is heated at a high temperature to kill bacteria and pathogens. Heating also helps to denature the proteins (break apart) so that they can be more easily digested.

Heating methods can vary greatly, though.

Much of the mass-market, cheaper kibble that you see in grocery stores or on Amazon will be cooked through extrusion. Extrusion is the process of forcing the ingredient mixture through a machine that applies additional high-heat and high-pressure to further cook, shape, and cut the dry food into it's final form.

This process is very efficient and is generally safe, as the mixture reaches a very high temperature that kills potential harmful agents. But, as it is heated so intensely for a relatively long time, many nutrients are cooked out in the extrusion process.

Extruded food will also often be coated as a final step, usually by spraying on a layer of fat and synthetic flavorings and vitamins to make up for the natural nutrients lost during extrusion.

Baking is an alternative heating method that generally results in more nutrient retention from the original ingredients. This is a good thing, as your dog ends up with more natural nutrients in their food instead of sprayed on synthetic nutrients.

Baking is just what it sounds like - the raw ingredient mixture is formed into small pellets and they are baked in a large oven. Baking can accomplish the necessary heating to cook off pathogens and bacterias without stripping nutrients.

Baked kibble can also be air-dried, which further increases the retained nutrients. However, as baking and air-drying take more time and require a smaller-batch approach, these methods generally cause a significant price increase compared to extruded kibbles.

As a general rule of thumb, kibbles that are more nutrient-dense will often require smaller serving sizes for the same weight of dog. This is usually due to a combination starting with higher-quality ingredients, not using fillers, and cooking and then drying in a gentle method that preserves nutrients.

It's a good idea to look at the cooking method used in the kibble and, if that information isn't available, comparing the recommended serving sizes can be a great quality clue!

Wet Canned Food

Advantages of wet canned:

  • Moist and flavorful
  • May be more appealing to picky eaters
  • Can be lower in carbohydrates than dry kibble

Disadvantages of wet canned:

  • Often more expensive than dry kibble
  • Needs to be refrigerated once opened
  • Typically utilizes preservatives and synthetic ingredients
  • May contribute to dental issues

Wet canned dog food is made by blending the ingredients together and then cooking them in the actual can to preserve freshness.

When choosing a healthy canned food, look for high-quality protein sources like whole meats or specific meat meals, whole food ingredients like fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, and a complete and balanced nutrient profile that meets AAFCO guidelines for your dog's life stage and individual needs.

Given the particular ingredient mix and moisture content, canned food can also contribute to dental issues. If feeding canned food, it's extra important to provide your dog with regular dental care.

It also tends to be more expensive than dry kibble as well as less convenient, as it does need to be refrigerated after opening and can spoil more quickly than dry kibble.

Overfeeding or underfeeding are also risks, as measuring a precise amount out of a single can of food can be tricky.

Lastly - look out for fillers, artificial additives and preservatives, and/or fake flavorings that can be used in lower-quality canned food to make it appealing to dogs.

Freeze-Dried / Dehydrated

Advantages of dehydrated:

  • Nutrient-dense
  • Convenient with a longer shelf life than fresh food
  • Can be rehydrated with water to provide a fresh food-like texture

Disadvantages of dehydrated:

  • More expensive than dry kibble
  • Requires additional preparation time
  • May be less appealing to some dogs

Freeze-dried and dehydrated dog foods usually represent a more natural option, as they often undergo minimal processing which helps preserve more of the ingredients' inherent nutrients.

As with all food types, it's important to look at the quality of the original ingredients. Specific to freeze-dried or dehydrated food, you'll also want to consider the specific preservation technique, any additional processing along the way, and what steps may be required to "re-activate" the food before feeding.

Freeze-drying and dehydration are preservation techniques that remove moisture from the ingredients, extending their shelf life and inhibiting the growth of bacteria and mold. Both methods help maintain the nutritional integrity of the raw ingredients better than high-heat cooking processes like extrusion or baking.

Compared to high-heat cooking techniques like extrusion or extreme baking, both approaches contribute to improved nutritional integrity preservation of the raw materials.

Dehydrated dog food is created by removing moisture from the ingredients through the use of low heat and air circulation over a much longer time than extrusion or baking. While this process does help retain the original nutrients, it may not be as effective as freeze-drying in preserving certain heat-sensitive nutrients. However, dehydrated dog food is often more affordable than freeze-dried options.

In the freeze-drying process, the raw ingredients are rapidly frozen and then placed in a vacuum chamber. The frozen water in the ingredients sublimates (changes directly from a solid to a gas), leaving behind a dry, nutrient-rich product. Freeze-drying preserves the food's natural enzymes, vitamins, minerals, and flavor, making it a highly nutritious option for dogs.

Freeze-dried food is generally one of the more expensive options and can be less convenient than other options as it can require manual rehydration before feeding. This process of re-adding some moisture is often required for the food to have the flavor and texture reactivated to a level your dog will find desirable and properly digestible.

Fresh Dog Food

Advantages of dehydrated:

  • Typically high-quality, whole food ingredients
  • Minimal processing
  • Natural sources of nutrients

Disadvantages of dehydrated:

  • Significantly more expensive than kibble or canned food and usually more expensive than dehydrated/freeze-dried
  • Takes up fridge / freezer space
  • Tends to have a shorter shelf life (spoils sooner)

Fresh dog food has emerged as a popular alternative to traditional dry kibble, as it is generally very high-quality and nutrient-dense. These fresh dog food options are made using minimal processing, ensuring a more wholesome and natural final product.

However, as you'd imagine, fresh food tends to be more much expensive than dry kibble, canned food, and even than dehydrated or freeze-dried options.

It can cost well over $300 per month to feed a full fresh food diet for a single medium or large sized dog. 

The cooking method of fresh dog food is crucial in maintaining the integrity of the ingredients and maximizing nutrient-density. Fresh dog food is often gently cooked at lower temperatures compared to dry kibble, preserving more nutrients in the process. This gentle cooking method helps retain the natural flavors, textures, and nutrients of the ingredients, providing a more appealing and healthy meal for your dog.

Fresh dog food options also usually offer customizable meal plans tailored to your dog's specific needs, including age, weight, activity level, and dietary restrictions. While there is debate over the necessity of these types of personalizations, it can be comforting to know that your daily meals were mixed with your specific dog in mind.

Fresh dog food may also be found to be tastier for dogs with a preferable texture compared to traditional kibble, making it more appealing to picky eaters. The texture may also help create more digestible nutrients.

Lastly, fresh dog food does require refrigeration or freezing to maintain its freshness, which can be a consideration for pet owners with limited storage space. It also makes traveling or leaving your dog with a caretaker a bit more complicated.

Commercial Raw Food

Advantages of dehydrated:

  • Typically high-quality, whole food ingredients
  • Minimal processing
  • Natural sources of nutrients

Disadvantages of dehydrated:

  • More expensive than kibble, canned food, and (usually) dehydrated/freeze-dried
  • Typrically requires refrigeration or freezing
  • Tends to have a shorter shelf life (spoils sooner)

Raw dog food has gained popularity among pet owners who want to feed something that may closely resemble the "ancestral diet" of cannines.

Although wolves are scavengers who will eat a wide variety of foods, raw dog food aims to mimic that diet by primarily utilizing raw meat, bones, organs, and small amounts of fruits and vegetables.

Some raw food options may also incorporate additional supplements, vitamins and minerals.

One of the key benefits of raw dog food is that it undergoes minimal processing. This can help preserve the nutrients and enzymes naturally present in the raw ingredient and improved digestibility.

However, there are risks and challenges associated with feeding a raw dog food diet.

First and most seriously, there can be major food safety concerns with raw dog food. It can carry a higher risk of harmful pathogens or bacterial contamination, such as Salmonella or E. coli, which can pose a threat to both pets and humans. It's crucial to handle and store raw dog food properly to minimize the risk of contamination and make sure you are ordering from a reputable company with high quality assurance standards.

Also, if your raw food contains whole bones, you'll want to monitor your dogs to make sure they do not present a choking hazard.

Ensuring a proper balance of nutrients in a raw dog food diet can also be challenging, especially for pet owners who are new to this feeding approach. 

Most dog feeding experts insist on incorporating guidance from a trusted veterinarian or dog nutritionist if you choose to feed raw, as feeding raw incorrectly can be much more harmful to your dog than feeding the cheapest balanced dry food.

And lastly, raw dog food is usually the most expensive option.

It is much more costly than dry kibble and often even more than fresh cooked dog food due to the higher-quality ingredients and specialized production process. It needs to be cold-shipped (frozen or refrigerator) and delivered very quickly, both of which are costly (and not very environmentally friendly).

Homemade Raw Food

Advantages of dehydrated:

  • Typically high-quality, whole food ingredients
  • Minimal processing
  • Natural sources of nutrients

Disadvantages of dehydrated:

  • More expensive than kibble, canned food, and (usually) dehydrated/freeze-dried
  • Typrically requires refrigeration or freezing
  • Tends to have a shorter shelf life (spoils sooner)

Homemade raw dog food has become increasingly popular among pet owners who prefer to take a more hands-on approach to their dog's nutrition.

This option seeks to capitalize on the previously mentioned benefits of commercial raw dog food but with more opportunity for personalization. While it is often just as expensive as commercial raw food given the need for very specialized and unique ingredients, if you have a good system down it could present slight savings over commercial options (yet still being one of the most costly ways to feed your dog).

One of the main benefits of homemade raw dog food is that it allows for complete control over the ingredients and quality, which can lead to increased nutrient density, improved digestibility, and enhanced overall health for your dog.

However, as with commercial raw food, veterinarians and dog nutrition experts nearly unanimously issue very strong warnings against making your own homemade raw food diets.

It is not a simple task to ensure that your dog is consistently getting the needed nutrients with your own home food plan.

While there can be real nutritional benefits, please make sure you are undertaking a raw diet plan with strong intention, lots of research, and ideally the support of a professional.

Preparing a homemade raw dog food diet can be time-consuming and labor-intensive, as it involves sourcing high-quality ingredients, properly portioning and balancing the diet, and safely handling raw meat and bones. Pet owners should consider whether they have the time and resources to commit to this feeding approach.


Advantages of Kibbies:

  • Natural, whole food ingredients
  • Convenience of dry kibble format
  • Less expensive than fresh food with similar nutrition profile

Disadvantages of Kibbies:

  • More expensive than cheaper dry kibble options
  • Only available online (for now)
  • Dogs who don't naturally drink water may need more moisture in their food

Top three ingredients:

  • Real Salmon
  • Real Trout
  • Real Sweet Potato

Plus, lots of real vegetables, fruits, and other natural ingredients to create a balanced diet for your pup! Kibbies are organic, preservative free, and AAFCO approved for all breeds and all stages of life - puppy, adult, and senior.

There are lots of reasons to buy different types of dog food other than Kibbies. Our goal, though, is to combine the convenience of dry kibble with the quality ingredients of fresh or raw food while focusing on affordability and sustainability. If that aligns with you, we invite you to try a sample of Kibbies.

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