Dog Food: Dry Kibble or Raw? (Part 1: Pros & Cons)

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Photo Credit: S&S Productions

The past few years I’ve been doing a fair bit of research into dog food, learning about proteins and essential nutrients and it’s a topic I didn’t want to write about until I could get facts and opinions from both sides of the ‘debate’. That is, to feed raw or not to feed raw?

I understand this is a very controversial subject many dog owners are rather passionate about, some on the other hand may never have heard of raw diets at all. I’m not looking for a concrete answer but I’m genuinely interested to hear your thoughts and opinions on the matter because part 2 of this feature will include a poll and discussion page so everybody can have their say.

Before I go into my thoughts on the matter, I’ll briefly go through some of the pros and cons of raw and kibble  along with some interesting statements. These points are based on the testimonies of four people with different material interests in different diets as well as things which I was taught during my apprenticeship. However, this is NOT a scientific list and includes just a few opinions to get us started. As it stands, and as far as I’m aware, there is no conclusive scientific research. I would love to hear from anybody but particularly people who are trained in nutrition or who can present a relatively unbiased view!

At the bottom is a gallery of everyone’s submitted pictures of their dogs eating. I needed one for a featured picture and the response I got was overwhelming so I wanted to show everybody off!

I’ll try and not get technical here and hopefully I won’t make too much of a dogs dinner out of this. (Excuse the pun…)

Hold tight, we’re going in!

Dry Kibble 

Pros

  • Different selections and formulas depending on the development stage of the dog Kibble(puppy, adult, senior, pregnant etc.)
  • Many regard it’s much easier to measure out
  • Easily found in shops like supermarkets
  • Easy to store, can be purchased in bulk amounts
  • Price of feed is often cheaper
  • Dry food rarely goes bad as long as used within the expiration date.

Cons

  • The heating process can often cause some important nutrients to be lost, especially in the cheaper brands
  • Many dogs (especially working dogs) require high amounts of protein and nutrients that are often lacking in dry foods
  • Not as appealing as wet food, especially with fussy dogs
  • Dry kibble brands are often lacking in quality to save costs to the manufacturer
  • They  can leave the dog thirsty, fresh water must always be available for the dog
  • Often high in carbohydrates which have been reported to cause allergy and digestive problems

Opinions

“At Eden we have tried to create a food which is as close to a dog’s ancestral diet as we can, dogs are carnivores which means they would have eaten prey animals and some fruit and vegetables. Eden is nutritionally aligned to this natural diet with 80% quality meat content, 20% fruit and vegetables and just as importantly none of the nasties such as Grains including Wheat, Maize, Corn, Rice, Beet Pulp, colourings, flavourings and artificial preservatives which are linked to allergies and many illnesses. Eden is therefore naturally hypo-allergenic.

To retain as much of the nutritional content as possible, Eden is gently steamed cooked at 90 Celsius locking in all the natural flavour of the meat whilst still ensuring the food is safely cooked.”

Paul Conquest, Nutritionist & Proprietor of Eden Holistic Pet Foods

“I like to ensure that my puppies are getting not only the protein but also the other vitamins and minerals they need so that their muscle and bone structure develops just as it should.

The dry food I use is grain free to avoid the usual ‘bloating’ that can be associated with a dry diet, and provides a strong balance of 65% protein from free run animals alongside 35% fresh vegetables and botanicals. As the owner of a rescue pup with joint problems, my dry dog food also includes joint care, helping to ensure his legs stay strong for as long as possible.”

– Laura, Editor of The Puppy Tails

Frozen/RAW Diet 

Pros

  • Higher moisture content doesn’t dehydrate the dogFeeding 3
  • Very tasty and desirable
  • High quality ingredients, many of which are human grade foods
  • Higher protein content which gives more energy and is excellent for active and working dogs
  • Very low in carbohydrates
  • Many owners report better eating habits, fewer allergies, shinier coats, healthier teeth and fewer trips to the vets

Cons

  • Can often be very expensive
  • Will require to be stored in a freezer
  • Airway obstruction and choking from uncooked bones
  • Preparation can be time consuming
  • Raw meat can contain high bacteria such as E. coli and Salmonella if not prepared properly
  • Can be awkward to use when travelling with your dog

Opinions

“I have always believed the lies that commercial pet food companies have told us about how healthy & balanced their food is for our dogs until I started looking into the ‘truth’ behind commercial pet food and was quite frankly sickened. I began to realise that the diet our dogs were on was in fact poisoning them!! I changed them over to a raw diet Its not complicated, our hounds are happier, healthier, their coats shine and they are full of vitality, the transformation has been nothing short of miraculous. I would ‘Never’ go back to commercial pet food again.”

Donna Saunders, show Basset handler & breeder. www.houndsbaybassets.co.uk

“The difference with the raw diet is that it acts to encourage the dogs bodies own rebalancing systems, digestive tract health, detoxing abilities and its ability to create nutrients itself internally.
Just as bones are set up to mend themselves and cuts are set up to heal, all creatures internal organs are capable of rebalancing for health when given the correct conditions to do so. The moisture content and the enzyme content of the diet are key to these functions happening in the dogs body, as is the presence of natural unprocessed nutrients.
In this day and age of environmental toxins, electrical stresses and busier more stressful lifestyles our dogs have a lot to cope with, detox and rebalance from. Putting in all the nutrients every day is only a third of the issue, your dog needs to be able to digest them and then utilise them too!

There are now many cheap and economical, easy to serve raw pet foods available, many stringently tested for bacteria safety too. The traditional fears of raw feeding have now been addressed by professional raw pet food companies. I have been raw feeding and recommending raw feeding to friends for 18 years, I have never known anyone who switched to go back to processed foods.”

Caroline Griffith, Nutritionist, Pet Nation Pioneer – www.carolinegriffith.com

Conclusion…?

These are just a few examples and I have no doubt there is a solution to every one of those cons above. It’s a very tough call!

As a former kennel manager myself, I’ve experienced just about every type of dog food on the market on a daily basis, from supermarkets budget kibble food to frozen meat from Natures Menu. However I’ve never really experienced a long term result to make my mind up.

I’ve seen dogs eat the same brand of dry food for 18 years and live a full and healthy life.

On the other hand almost everyone I’ve spoken to who feeds their dogs on raw say the same thing – ‘I’ve seen such a difference!’ Maybe it comes down to the individual dog or a particular brand? I suppose there are no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ answers here and at the end of the day it comes down to the owners preference.

I want to know what YOU think. Do you own a dog? Perhaps you’ve changed onto raw food for your working dog and have seen a huge difference? Maybe you’ve gone back to dry kibble as a result of upset stomachs or a bad experience with raw meat? I’d love to know!

Ps. Here is a selection of the photos submitted to me through Facebook, Twitter and email. I must admit, I was smiling throughout looking at these photos, thanks to all who made my day!

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20 thoughts on “Dog Food: Dry Kibble or Raw? (Part 1: Pros & Cons)

  1. Great read , gave me a lot to ponder on as I’m in the process of switching foods. But I think a healthy balance of both seems best option. And keeps dinner time interesting for the dogs

    1. Hi ! I have been told by Houndsbay Bassets that you must not mix dry with raw . It is extremely dangerous and there is a high risk of salmonella . It has to be one or the other . If you need advice you could I’m sure contact them , as they seem pretty clued up on raw feeding . I am no expert as I haven’t plucked up the courage to switch yet ! 🙂

      1. That’s interesting to hear! Thanks for the input, I suppose preparation has to be taken into account. Can’t imagine that mixing the both would INCREASE the chances of salmonella though? I’ll look into it!

      1. You are right my old dog lived to almost 17 n wouldn’t touch dry food had wet food n some raw . These two crazy hounds prefer kibble, fish ,love carrots and any veg then can swipe lol as long as the diet is balanced and there’s no health issues and the dog is healthy and not overweight then go with what the pooch enjoys

  2. Raised a litter of 8 glowingly healthy beagle puppies on Natural instincts raw food. The dam had a problem free whelping and was full of vitality throughout the nursing and weaning process. Sadly, I don’t think we will ever have scientific research to back up the anecdotal evidence on raw feeding, as who would pay for the studies? I understand the large dry food manufacturers sponsor the nutritional talks at Vet schools and until Vets receive unbiased advice and really understand the benefits of raw feeding, little progress will be made to switch people over from kibble. Incidentally, I understand the dog’s digestive tract is shorter than humans and hence they don’t suffer if they eat food that is contaminated with salmonella, as there is insufficent time for the bacteria to take effect in the diges
    tive process.

    1. There it is. The inevitable bad-mouthing of the veterinary industry. Help me understand why people are so quick to believe that a group of intelligent individuals, who are trained to analyze information and think critically and question everything before coming to conclusions, would be so easily swayed by incorrect information. Because they’re not. They take information that is presented to them, read the supporting research, and decide to or to not incorporate it into their practice. Vet students have the opportunity to hear presentations from all types of food manufacturers, and many vets do continuing education to further their knowledge. This education is NOT all sponsored by pet food manufacturers, and even of the ones that are, a reputable company presents information, evidence, and research, not a course on pushing product.

      Reputable pet food companies spend millions of dollars researching how to improve the lives of animals. If it was through raw feeding, they would make raw food, because contrary to popular opinions, it’s actually less expensive to produce a raw food than a high quality, nutritionally optimal kibble backed by research. The ingredients for the high quality pet food manufacturers originate from the same place as the food that winds up on your plate, so it is not cheap to begin with, and the processing, quality control, testing, and research that go into it are all extremely costly.

      Who would pay for raw studies? Why not the companies selling the raw food? No one is stopping them from proving the benefits of raw, they either choose not to invest in researching their product, or if they do research, they aren’t publishing it. Maybe it proves that they’re wrong.

      There are lots of anecdotal stories of animals doing well on raw. There are thousands of stories of animals doing well on kibble, both anecdotal and published. Thousands of glowingly healthy puppies born from bitches fed kibble. There are even kibbles produced that have published studies showing increased litter size, improved whelping, and improved survival of puppies.

      Incidentally, I have a cat with such severe environmental and food allergies I tried raw feeding for several months. I tried a rabbit based homemade raw diet formulated by a veterinary nutritionist, and I tried the Nature’s Variety raw lamb diet. He hated it, and there was no improvement in his condition whatsoever. He is now eating a hydrolyzed protein kibble, and his clinical signs are stable, although he will never be perfect, since he’s also allergic to dogs and there are two in the house.

      As for salmonella, dogs may be less susceptible to it, but they can still be infected and become ill, and they can be carriers of the bacteria, contaminating any surface in the home that they touch, putting the entire household (both human and animal) at risk of disease. There are published studies on this, it is not a scare tactic invented by the pet food industry to prevent people from trying raw food, it is a tested and proven fact.

      This debate should not be about raw versus kibble. It should be about the merits of finding and feeding a nutritional profile that is optimal to the individual being fed. Whether that comes in a raw or kibble format should be a secondary consideration.

      1. I agree, DVM. It’s been a learning curve for me and each pet manufacturer should be judged separately depending on the dog you have. This debate is not an ‘either or’ matter it’s about peoples individual opinions and experiences with both types of dog food. So I suppose to an extent there is going to be an element of bias which is why I wanted to take both sides on the matter.

        I think both types of dog food are equally brilliant. As I’ve mentioned, I’ve seen perfectly healthy dogs that have only used one type of dog kibble most of their lives and lived perfectly healthy up to 18 years old. I think that should also be taken into account.

        Vets do an invaluable job, especially when it comes to nutrition and the majority of them do it completely and utterly in the interest of the dogs health and nothing else. They’ve personally helped the dogs I’ve had in the past and I don’t doubt their judgement at all.

        1. Be careful with that approach. Opinions are important, but they do not equal years of research and evidence. By presenting them as equivalent, you are undermining the value of science and proof.

    2. Very good point Kath! I think if any pet manufacturers support or fund any research, that has to be taken into account seriously.

  3. I was kind of surprised to see, after specifically sending you the most recent scientific review that lists all the data we have so far on raw food diets, that you took the time to say that there wasn’t strong scientific data concerning raw food diets.

    This article is free and available to all at this website- http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3003575/

    One of the most important parts of that article, and what they discussed as a clear finding, is the potential danger to people posed by these diets.

    This would have been a great place to provide a public service announcement to that effect.

    You noted that you leaned primarily on opinion in this piece, there is some good scientific data out there, and people need facts to make educated, unbiased decisions.

    As a veterinarian I regularly see people putting themselves, their elderly parents, or their children – who do not have fully functional immune systems yet – at significant risk.

    Even doctors in our practice who recommend raw diets warn about these risks.

    To note some of the studies cited in that review:

    Over 50% of pets on a raw food diet in one study shed Salmonella even though they had no outward signs of illness. In greyhounds on a raw food diet, even dogs that appeared healthy still shed the same amount of salmonella in their feces as greyhounds who had diarrhea on the diet.

    Its important for people with pets on raw food diets to know that their pet can expose them to these bacteria even if they seem 100% healthy.

    There have been cases specifically linking specific serovars of bacteria in pets raw foods to the serovars of bacteria causing illness in people caring for those pets.

    Not only is it scary that these diets contain harmful bacteria, but as these studies showed, many of the bacteria found in these diets are antibiotic resistant.

    While one can attempt to use good hygiene to minimize the risks “standard methods of cleaning and disinfecting food bowls were minimally effective at eliminating Salmonella”.

    It is vitally important that people know the risk they may be taking by choosing a raw food diet for their pet, take into consideration at-risk individuals the pet comes into contact with, and make a decision using all the available information.

  4. I changed from kibble to dry about 12 months ago… I wish I found out about it sooner. I have two beagle boys who are out at work with me full time (100 acre stable yard), they are in the most amazing shape an never tire. Their coats are like silk and they are fit as fleas! I recommend it to everyone I can as I think all dogs deserve the best option. I use Natural Instinct… It’s so easy and the service is brilliant, can’t rate them highly enough. Keep up the good work about educating dog owners to use raw and hopefully one day it will be the norm rather than the exception. Ps the major dry food companies should be prosecuted for animal cruelty! Just my opinion.

  5. It does increast the chance of Salmonella Mark by mixing kibble with raw as Kibble takes 10-15 hours to digest in the gut,raw meat only takes 4-5 hours to digest if the stomach has kibble in it as well the meat cannot be digested at the rate it should be there fore causing more risk of Salmonella. But a raw diet given correctly (with no kibble involved what so ever) is no risk to the dogs at all, of course you must use the same methods of hygiene you would when preparing meat for yourself. But the misconception by so many people who do not understand raw feeding is that, dogs stomachs are not the same as ours if we ate raw meat we most certainly would be ill but dogs guts are designed for raw meat and cope very well with an bacteria that may be present in the meat there is as I said above only a risk if you mix the two, you either feed a completely raw diet you simply shouldnt mix the two. I know a friend who was feeding a home cooked diet (not ideal as cooking removes many of the nutrients out of the food anyway in the same way dry food does) but its a step forward to feeding raw but very time consuming she hadnt cooked enough food for that day and ended up giving her hounds some kibble and wet food she had left before changing their diet as she was in a hurry and had to go out, they hadnt had kibble for a long time. When she got home an hour later one of her hounds had bloated she lost her at the vets that says it all really for me as regards to kibble. I would also like to pick up on the above comment you made about dry food with a raw diet there is no need to have life stage food its the same for all ages puppies, adults and seniors this to me is just another marketing ploy by the pet food companies.

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  8. Our puppy started out on a raw diet and we intended fully to continue with it. i invested in boxes and varied the flavours she was having but after a few weeks she would refuse the meals offered. She seemed to dislike it and would waste meal upon meal so I switched over to kibble and done high quality wet food which she relishes. My view is that like humans dogs have varied taste and need some choice. Our puppy us healthy, her teeth are clean and strong, her coat is glossy and she is growing well. She is also very playful and happy. So variety seems to be the spice of her life!

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