Healthy Eating for Dogs: Raw vs. Kibble vs. Wet

Jean & Leslie Kessigner, Owners Three Dog Bakery


As a dog owner, sometimes it’s difficult to know what type of food is best for your pup. You need to be well informed and consider your budget, lifestyle and the type of dog you own — for starters. In this week’s issue of Healthy Eating for Dogs, we examine raw, wet and dry dog foods so you can decide which type is the most appropriate choice for your Best Buddy.

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Dry Food – ‘Kibble’

According to Leslie Kessinger, co-owner of Three Dog Bakery in Franklin, dry kibble is the most processed form of dog food, followed by wet, freeze-dried raw and frozen raw in that order.

Most people purchase dry kibble for their dogs because it’s cost effective and convenient. It’s also said to keep a dog’s teeth cleaner because of the scraping action when chewed. However, that’s not necessarily the case, as you will see below.

Dry kibble is easy to serve, simple to store and has a long shelf life. It’s also easy to transport if you are traveling because it doesn’t require refrigeration. As we have covered in previous articles, however, the quality of kibble varies greatly from brand to brand.

“Kibble is either a baked or extruded product. Extruded means that it is pushed through a die plate to create a uniform plate at a high temperature to protect from pathogens — much like how ready-to-eat cereals and pastas are made,” explains Kessinger. “Baked usually means that the product is cooked slowly over a longer period of time. Depending on the cooking time, temperature and cooking method, kibble can have a wide range of nutritional density when the cooking process is completed,” she adds.

Kessinger says usually when food is extruded at an extremely high temperature, much of the nutrients are destroyed. Pet food manufacturers will compensate for this by adding a coating of vitamins and minerals to the dog food after the cooking process. In addition, extrusion can cause flavor in the food to be diminished. Therefore, a coating is adding to the kibble to make it palatable for dogs.Acana Dog Food

“Not all extrusion is bad,” notes Kessinger. “Companies with innovative technology like Champion Petfoods, the producer of Acana and Orijen, have figured out how to avoid cooking at the highest temperatures to retain palatability and nutrient density while still maintaining high safety standards that eliminate pathogens.”

All in all, kibble is the most popular food for dogs for good reason. “Kibble is convenient, shelf stable, and often more affordable than alternative diets. It can be wonderful diets for your pet if you make sure to buy a brand with high quality food standards, appropriate cooking methods, and fewer synthetic additives, like vitamins and flavoring,” adds Kessinger.

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Wet Food

“Wet food is the misunderstood food product in the pet world,” says Kessinger. “It has a bad rap as a contributor to dental plaque, but it’s generally unfounded. Most people make the mistake of assuming that kibble helps scrape and clean teeth as its eaten because of its texture. Truthfully, the carbohydrate component of dry food directly contributes to plaque buildup and the scraping action is nearly non-existent.”

Adult dogs benefit from diets that are low-carb, but high in animal proteins and fats. On the whole, wet food is more nutritious than kibble because canned food has almost twice as much protein and animal fat. However, an ounce of dry dog food still contains nearly four times as many calories as an ounce of wet food.

“Wet food retains its moisture because it does not need to be dried out to become shelf stable, and generally has fewer additives because they can be cooked at lower temperatures, maintaining nutrition and palatability,” notes Kessinger.

Kessinger says wet food can be a good choice for breeds like German Shepherd, Boxer and Great Dane who are prone to a condition called bloat. She explains, “Bloat can be a deadly condition in a dog, and results when the stomach fills with food, air, or liquid and puts pressure on other organs, causing decreased blood flow to vital organs or difficulty breathing.

Zignature Canned Food Fish“Wet food does not swell in the stomach because of its moisture content, which makes it excellent for bloat-prone breeds. The moisture content can also be good for dogs that suffer from urinary tract or kidney issues. The water content of the food helps hydrate the system and flush out toxins. We love diets like our Evangers Grain Free protein line and Zignature foods which contain a single quality protein source and limited ingredients for sensitive tummies.”

Wet food is more expensive than dry food; it’s messier and cannot sit in your dog’s bowl for hours. It also must be covered, refrigerated and used a few days after the first serving. However, the high moisture content in wet food helps dogs feel fuller faster, and can even provide additional hydration for the dog that doesn’t drink much water.

Raw Food

Raw diets emphasize raw meat, bones, fruits, and vegetables. “Raw food is virtually unprocessed, meaning it contains the natural nutrient composition of its raw materials, making the nutrients more bio-available. They are also biologically appropriate diets for dogs because they contain higher protein and lower carbohydrate content,” says Kessinger.

Raw food can have many advantages for your pup — like a shinier coat, better breath, cleaner teeth – however; it comes with risks as well. In order to provide your pup with a healthy raw diet, you must ensure that it’s balanced. Also, if part of that diet includes giving your dog bones, you must be sure he doesn’t choke, break a tooth or sustain a puncture.

“Raw-diet feeders often comment on the reduction of gas and more compact stool in their pets, made possible through the lack of complex carbohydrates and the live enzyme inclusion,” adds Kessinger. “Raw products, particularly poultry, typically go through High Pressure Processing, a method by which the pressure is raised to a degree that bacteria cannot survive. It is a necessary processing method to ensure that harmful pathogens are not passed to an animal when food is consumed.”

You can also purchase frozen raw or freeze-dried raw diets. The only difference is that freeze-dried products have the moisture component evaporated from the product so that it can be stored at room temperature, which makes it a convenient for travel. “The product retains all of its nutrient density, and when rehydrated, it has a similar impact on the system to frozen raw. The downside of raw is that it is generally more expensive, is more difficult to transport, and has a shorter shelf life than other food options,” Kessinger explains.

You can always find great dog food choices at Three Dog Bakery, located on West McEwen Drive, adjacent to Whole Foods in the McEwen Shopping Center in Franklin.

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If you have health concerns about your dog, consult your veterinarian. This article is not meant to substitute or act as medical advice for pets.

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