There is certainly no shortage of options when it comes to food for your dog. With the variety of brands and advertising out there, it’s often difficult to choose what the most suitable option for your dog is.
We have looked at Dry Foods before which are a popular choice for many due to the easy storage and little preparation needed.
In the recent years there has been a surge in wet, fresh and of course raw feeding. In this article we will be looking at the pros and cons of some of the more natural options.
What about Wet Food?
Wet Foods have been losing some market share over the years but they remain a popular choice. They most often come in tins, trays, pouches and chubb rolls. Ingredients are blended and cooked before being vacuum sealed into their containers. They are then heat sterilised. The temperatures and durations of both cooking and sterilising can vary considerably but typically sterilisation involves temperatures in excess of 100oC for periods of up to 90 minutes.
Raw feeding advocates believe that such high temperature levels are likely to damage some of the natural nutrients contained within the food. The vacuum sealing and sterilisation do, however, ensure a long shelf life without the need for any added artificial additives.
Wet foods, naturally, contain much more water than their dry counterparts. For some this makes wet foods a more 'natural' choice, at least compared to some dry food types like extruded foods. The high moisture content might also be beneficial for dogs that don't drink very much or those with a history or urinary problems, for example. The high water content does, however, mean that you have to feed much more of a wet food than you would of a dry which often makes wet foods a relatively expensive option.
Raw Foods - are they for you?
If you have noticed the growing number of freezer units popping up in pet shops, Raw Foods are the reason. Raw feeding is regarded by many as the most natural way to feed a dog and over the past decade or so it has become the fastest growing feeding trend in the UK. Many raw feeders prepare their own diets for their dog’s but a growing number of companies are developing pre-prepared complete raw` foods, usually in the form of frozen blocks or nuggets, which provide all of the benefits of raw feeding with all the convenience of a conventional dog food.
Ok, maybe not all of the convenience - transporting frozen foods for extended periods (for holidays and so on) can be tricky and having to thaw them over-night before feeding isn't as easy as opening a bag or a tin, but most raw feeders agree that it is a small price to pay. However raw feeding is by no means free from criticism. Many vets and industry experts have raised concerns over the safety and nutritional balance of raw foods. Like wet and dry foods, pre-prepared raw foods come in both complete and complementary forms.
One other category of pet foods has just started to emerge - Fresh Complete Foods. The idea is that they provide a convenient version of home cooking so they tend to include a balanced selection of high-end fresh ingredients, cooked and packed in trays or pouches. With fresh ingredients and a low level of processing, fresh complete foods are likely to retain a high proportion of their natural nutrients, at least compared to conventional dry and wet foods. However, since no preservatives are added and since the food hasn't been sterilised like standard wet foods, fresh foods don't stay fresh for as long as we have come to expect from our pet foods. For this reason, fresh pet foods need to be kept refrigerated even when sealed. In the fridge they typically last up to 14 days from the date of manufacture but they can also be frozen and defrosted later before feeding.
What's right for you?
With so many options available, it's easy to see how many pet owners feel overwhelmed by it all. Every type of food described above has its own pros and cons and no one category is 'best' for all dogs or all owners. While you will certainly encounter all sorts of opinions about what you should feed, the final decision has to come down to what's best for you (personal preferences, budget, convenience, ethical considerations etc) and your dog (their individual health and their personal preference).