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Different Types of Dog Food – Dry, Semi-Moist, Canned, Raw & Homemade

Written by Khalil
Khalil is passionate about all sorts of domesticated pets. They have written dozens of articles across the web.
Published on
Monday 16 December 2019
Last updated on
Tuesday 9 May 2023
types of dog food
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There are so many types of dog foods out there that it’s hard to choose one for your dog. I mean, what should you do; go with dry kibble, a canned diet, homemade recipes, or raw dog food? The answer is simple: do your research and learn what your dog specifically needs.

Like all commercial products, many types of food for dogs are marketed in a way that makes them sound a lot grander and necessary than they really are. Often, dog owners buy those diets only to prove that they really go the extra mile for their pooch.

But before you decide on a certain type of dog diet, you’d want to completely understand its pros and cons. Knowing these benefits and drawbacks will help you to make an informed decision on what type to feed your dog. Remember: if a dog food works for one dog, then it doesn’t entail the same results for others. All dogs are different, so you’d want to first understand your own furball and then decide on a food type that suits it best.

What are the different types of dog foods?

There are many different dog food options available in the market. But not all of them would suit your dog. While deciding a food option for your pooch, you need to consider its:

  • age,
  • activity levels,
  • gender,
  • health issues, and
  • history.

You’d also want to make sure that the food you’re choosing is good for your dog’s breed. For this, you’d need to consider your dog’s size to better understand the number of calories it requires. So, without further ado, here’s our dog food guide for the different types of dog foods.

Remember that if you are a very busy pet parent but still want your dogs to enjoy homemade-quality bespoke dog food, you can sign them up to a fresh dog food delivery service like Ollie.

Dry Dog Foods

Dry dog food, also known as kibble, is one of the most famous and the most convenient of all dog food types. In this type, the manufacturer grinds the ingredients and creates a solid mix. This mix assumes the shape of a pellet by the end, which is then fed to dogs. Most dog food brands offer age-appropriate products.

The dry type further contains many subdivisions that are famous in the dog world. Here are the types of dry dog foods in the market.

Commercial Dog Food

No products found.

This type is the one you see everywhere in local supermarkets and online. And naturally, commercial dog foods have a number of benefits.

You see, most high-quality commercial dog foods are designed by professionals. So, you can rest assured that the diet you’re feeding is actually a fulfilling one for your pooch. Buying these dog foods is also a lot more convenient as you’ll have a plethora of options available to you. The options are so vast that they even get overwhelming at times…but that’s a separate story.

Commercial dry dog foods also have another benefit which is their natural cleaning action on teeth. Feeding these to your dog would ensure that there’s minimum tartar buildup which reduces tooth problems and bad breath.

On the contrary, there are lots of problems that come with commercial dog foods as well. First and foremost; the quality. A lot of low-end dog foods don’t offer much quality to their customers. Some of them are even not that well-balanced and might lead your dog to nutritional imbalances later on in life.

With that said, if your dog is allergic to grains, then you’d want to stay away from commercial dog foods that use them or go with grain-free dog food. Many manufacturers also add a ton of preservatives in their food which can cause a number of health disorders.

Now, here are some pros and cons of dry commercial dog foods.

Pros of commercial dog foods:

  • Convenient to buy
  • Balanced nutrition in high-quality recipes
  • Help reduce tartar buildup on teeth

Cons of commercial dog foods:

  • May contain fillers and artificial flavors
  • Cheap dog foods often do not provide complete nutrition for dogs

There are a number of manufacturers that have a great dry kibble line, including Hill’s Science Diet and Royal Canin. Some brands offer vegan dog diets (read on whether that’s a good thing), others have limited ingredients.

Premium Dog Food

This one can be expensive but it’s certainly worth the money. Now, as we mentioned before, dry commercial dog foods have the problem of containing low-quality ingredients at times. These ingredients include artificial flavors, preservatives, indigestible proteins, etc. But premium dog food combats all of these issues by using “premium” ingredients.

This type of food for dogs uses highly energetic and digestible protein sources. It also uses no fillers and is often GMO-free and considered as natural dog food as well. What’s GMO, you ask? Well, farmers at times use Genetically Modified Organisms to increase the yield of crops. These crops may be harmful to dogs if used in dog foods. Now, being GMO-Free isn’t a basic necessity, but when you’re going premium, you’re pretty much eliminating all possible threats as well.

You’ll also find the highest quality carb and fat sources in these dog foods. These sources would yield the highest amount of readily available energy for your dog. But not just that, premium dog food is also great for weight management as its ingredients readily pass through the digestive tract.

These are the pros and cons of premium dog foods.

Pros of premium dog foods:

  • Nutritionally rich in proteins, carbs, and fats
  • High-quality ingredients
  • No preservatives

Cons of premium dog foods:

  • Can be quite expensive

Nutro is a big name in the premium dog food industry.

Prescription Dog Food

Prescription dog food is a category of dry dog food types. These formulas are specifically designed for dogs with a particular disease or health problem. For example, you’ll find prescription dog foods for kidney problems, gastrointestinal diseases, and urinary tract infections.

However, you can’t buy these vet-recommended dog foods without a prescription. Even if you purchase them online, you’d need to provide evidence of a prescription and some details about your vet. But with that said, you need to understand that this barrier is placed for your own safety. If you self-diagnose a disease and feed prescription dog food, then things could quickly turn ugly. We’re talking about nutritional deficiencies and allergic reactions that could even prove to be fatal for your dog.

Vet-recommended dog foods have nutrients in specific proportions for dogs facing a particular disease. For healthy dogs, this nutrient mix would probably be quite unhealthy. So, make sure you only buy these foods with a prescription and have a thorough diagnosis of your dog’s disease before buying prescription dog food.

Here are some benefits and drawbacks of this dog food type.

Pros of prescription dog foods:

Cons of prescription dog foods:

  • A lot more expensive than commercial dry dog food

If your dog is facing health issues, consult with your vet about trying one of Royal Canin’s veterinary diets.

Freeze-Dried Dog Food

This is a great type of dog food for a number of reasons. Firstly, freeze-dried dog food mainly consists of real meat and is healthier than kibble. Manufacturers use a number of different dehydration processes for making their recipes. However, the most common dehydration method involved in freeze-drying is evaporation followed by a vacuum at high pressure for removing the remaining water molecules.

Now, this provides us with fresh dog food that’s extremely light due to the complete removal of water molecules. Not just that, but this also increases the shelf-life of these recipes so you won’t have to refrigerate them for long. Simply dehydrating the dog food won’t prove to be as beneficial as freeze-drying as the latter retains more flavor and nutrition while removing water more efficiently as well.

So, it’s safe to say that dogs love freeze-dried dog food. When feeding this type of food, all you need to do is add some water, stir, and let your dog enjoy. It’s an extremely healthy alternative to raw diets. However, once you open the packaging, you won’t be able to use it for extended periods of time. So, store these types of foods for dogs in a cool, dry place. Also, you would want to consider the price factor of this dog food before you buy one as these can be quite expensive.

If you’re looking for the pros and cons of freeze-dried dog food, then here’s a list that might help.

Pros of freeze-dried dog foods:

  • Portable, lightweight, and have a long shelf-life
  • Mostly raw with zero to no processing
  • Retains the most important nutrients and doesn’t cause spoilage

Cons of freeze-dried dog foods:

  • Slightly more expensive than other types of dog foods

If you wish to buy this type of dry dog food, then you might want to check out Stella & Chewy’s freeze-dried dog food line.

Dehydrated Dog Food

Although the end product of dehydrated and freeze-dried dog foods appears to be similar, there are some fundamental differences in both. For dehydrating freshly-made dog food, manufacturers evaporate water from it. This helps reduce the water content and increases the shelf-life of the dog food.

Dehydration also retains the nutrients in the recipe without greatly affecting its taste. So, the only component reduced in the dog food is water; nothing else. Bacteria like salmonella can only grow in dog food if it contains water. So, by removing most of it, you reduce the chances of bacterial infection as well.

These are some pros and cons of dehydrated dog foods.

Pros of dehydrated dog foods:

  • Eliminates pathogens from raw foods
  • Contains fresh ingredients

Cons of dehydrated dog foods:

  • The texture might be leathery or stiff after reheating it
  • Slightly more expensive than dry dog foods

The Honest Kitchen offers some top-of-the-line formulas in the dehydrated dog foods category.

Insect Kibble for Dogs

While it might sound weird, dog insect kibble makes a lot of sense. And it may also be the next big trend in the pet food industry. Meat-based pet foods are not sustainable in the very long term. Insects have a simpler and much faster lifecycle so they are a valuable solution.

insect as a protein source in dog food
Insects are an amazing alternative source of bioavailable proteins.

Insect kibbles would be based on a variety of bugs (e.g. black soldier fly, crickets, cockroaches), just like today’s meat comes from various sources (e.g. chicken, beef, lamb). It is also high in protein making it a perfect replacement.

But don’t try to find some, insect kibble is hard to come by today. Manufacturing equipment is not yet fine-tuned, and the demand is still low.

Semi-Moist Dog Food

In-between dry and wet dog food is the semi-moist kind. This type of dog food contains around 65% moisture content. As it has more water, the food is a lot softer as well. This texture is a lot easier for many dogs to consume. Also, semi-moist dog food is more appetizing for picky eaters.

With that said, it’s important to remember not to overfeed semi-moist dog food. Even though he might love its taste, semi-moist dog food isn’t the healthiest option for your pooch. That’s because these dog foods often contain a very high amount of salt and sugar content. So, they can be potentially damaging to your dog’s gut. But not just that, low-end manufacturers also load these recipes with artificial preservatives to avoid bacterial growth due to high moisture content.

Also, before you buy semi-moist dog food, do read its label and notice if it has any sort of artificial colors and flavors listed on it. If it does, then you’re better off not buying the product. Another major drawback of this type of food for dogs is that due to its soft texture, it doesn’t have any cleaning action on the teeth. So, over time, your dog can face dental issues as well as bad breath.

Usually, semi-moist dog food is used in different types of dog treats and not as a stand-alone diet.

Here’s what you get with semi-moist dog foods:

Pros of semi-moist dog foods:

  • Dogs love the taste
  • Soft texture
  • Good for dogs that face dehydration issues

Cons of semi-moist dog foods:

  • High sugar and salt content
  • No cleaning action on the teeth

Dogs nowadays are raving about Raechel Ray’s semi-moist dog food.

Canned Dog Food

I’m sure that if dogs ever had to choose only one type of dog food, they’d go with this one. That’s because canned and moist dog foods provide the best flavor in town. And that partly has to do with about 75% water content in their formula. Having that much water in the recipe, however, has both benefits and drawbacks.

With high water content, dog food becomes a lot easier to digest. It’s also perfect for dogs that don’t like drinking water directly. Wet dog foods are also easily consumable for dogs that have digestion problems. Also, the ingredients used in canned dog foods are usually fresh, including meat as well as fruits and veggies.

With that said, the caloric content in canned foods is a lot lower than dry kibble. So, your dog would have to consume more of it to meet its nutritional demand. But don’t forget: eating more means pooping more. So, you might get some smelly surprises from your dog if you feed too much of this. But even worse, your dog might need to go outdoors in the middle of the night just to relieve itself. Wet dog foods also aren’t the most budget-friendly option.

But with this one, you’ll just have to go with the option that suits you best: buy something your dog would love to eat or save money? Regardless, if you decide to go through with buying canned dog food, here’s what you can expect.

Pros of canned dog foods:

  • The best dog food in terms of taste
  • Low carbohydrate content
  • More consumption of food

Cons of canned dog foods:

  • Low caloric content, so your dog would need to eat more of it
  • Slightly expensive

Cesar makes some great gourmet wet dog foods that you might want to try out.

Raw Dog Food

In the wild, dogs have to hunt to find food and they eat raw meat instead of processed diets. That helps them maintain weight and remain healthy. The modern paleo diet for dogs mostly follows these principles.

If you own a puppy, there are additional precautions to be aware of in order to feed a puppy raw food in a responsible and healthy manner.

raw dog food
Raw feeding is allowing dogs to eat like they would in the wild.

So, believers of raw dog food suggest that instead of finding the right mix of nutrients to mimic your dog’s natural diet, you should just feed their natural diet. There are clear benefits of doing so, but this approach can also have some drastic effects as well.

For starters, dogs absolutely love raw meat and offals. In fact, there’s nothing more they’d rather have than a nice, uncooked beef steak. Raw meat also helps create toned muscles for your dog which keeps it strong and in shape. Such a diet can also relieve dogs from digestion issues as it would contain no fillers. If you’re looking to reduce weight in dogs and maintain muscle mass, then this might be your best choice.

With that said, there’s also no denying the fact that dogs in the modern era are not “wild” at all. In fact, they’re domestic animals that can easily be labeled as omnivores instead of carnivores. So, a meat-only diet is not a necessity for them. However, feeding raw meat can expose them to a number of bacteria that can then cause dangerous diseases. Also, there’s no way you can tell if a raw diet completely fulfills your dog’s nutritional requirements — neither can you calculate the number of calories your dog is ingesting. So, there’s a lot of guesswork involved in this approach.

Here are the pros and cons of a raw diet for dogs.

Pros of raw dog foods:

  • Creates toned muscles and improves skin health
  • Improves digestion
  • Great for dogs that need to lose weight

Cons of raw dog foods:

  • Can expose dogs to harmful bacteria

Homemade Dog Food

For many health-conscious dog owners, homemade dog food is the way to go. It provides them complete control over what they’re feeding their pooch and also reduces the chances of bacterial contamination. When you know what you’re feeding, it brings with it a lot of mental satisfaction.

However, homemade dog food can lead to lots of hassle as well. Not everyone has the time to make dog food regularly. Also, since homemade food doesn’t contain preservatives, its shelf-life is only about a day or so. That means you’ll have to make more food almost every day for your dog.

Using a homemade feeding plan, you can experiment with low-carb diets such as the ketogenic diet for dogs, and add superfoods that can give a nutritional boost to your pet.

Video recipe of a homemade dog meal that is healthy and delicious!

Here’s a breakdown for people who’re interested in preparing homemade dog food.

Pros of homemade foods:

  • Complete control over ingredients
  • Healthy and clean cooking
  • No added preservatives or flavors

Cons of homemade dog foods:

  • A lot more hassle than other types of dog food
  • Shelf life unless you’re freezing in batches

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