We’ve broken down your food options into 8 categories, and we’ll be doing deep dives into raw, human-grade, and natural foods in the coming weeks. Our goal is to demystify these food options so you have transparency while making your decision. 

Dry food (kibble)

This is the most common type of dog food, and the one your puppy was likely eating at the breeder or shelter you got them from. Kibble should be specific to your dog’s development stage (e.g., puppy, adult, senior), breed/size, and activity level. The right kibble is a cost effective option that contains all the nutrients your puppy needs to grow and has the added benefit that it is easy to store and requires no prep.

  • Note on grain free dog food: The FDA is investigating claims that grain-free dog food can lead to heart disease in dogs. They published a list of 16 brands that they are investigating, but did not advise pet parents to switch their pets’ food. We recommend consulting with your vet if you are considering or already on a grain-free diet.

Wet food

This is the food you see at the grocery store in cans or small trays. The main difference between wet and dry food is the amount of water in the food. Wet food has a much higher water content and is much smellier. This makes them good options for dogs that easily become dehydrated and for picky eaters. 

Tip: If your goal with using wet food is to make it more palatable for your dog, try softening up your kibble by mixing it with a little water or bone broth. It will make the kibble into a mushier consistency that is closer in texture to wet food. 

Veterinary diets

This type of food requires a prescription from a veterinarian, and can be either dry or wet food. It is usually used on a short term basis to address certain issues, most commonly for weight management. Your veterinarian will let you know if they believe your dog would benefit from being on this type of diet.

Over the counter therapeutic diets

This type of food targets mild health issues in dogs, but does not require a prescription from your veterinarian. Some examples include healthy digestion and healthy skin and coat formulas. If you try one of these foods, do let your veterinarian know so you can track changes in your dog together. You’ll want to know if the OTC therapeutic diet didn’t help your dog so they can advise you on potentially switching to a veterinary diet. 

Raw dog food

Raw food has gotten a lot of attention lately! You can either make it at home or buy it prepared, but generally it’s a combination of raw protein and 1+ carbohydrates. It’s pricier and more time intensive for the pet parent to prepare so if you’re going down this route make sure to do your research, especially if you are going to be preparing the food yourself. You should consult with your vet or a canine nutritionist on the ingredients you’re using to make sure you are preparing a balanced diet for your dog’s life stage. Note there are no studies to confirm that a raw diet is better for dogs, but anecdotally some pet parents have reported positive changes in their dogs’ coats and digestion after switching to a raw food diet.

Human grade dog food

Similar to a raw diet, human grade dog food has gained a lot of attention lately. Human grade dog food is made only with ingredients humans can eat so it is edible by humans. While it may sound healthier to give your dog human grade dog food, that’s not always the case. You should validate that the food has been made with high quality ingredients and is AAFCO-certified. Technically speaking, in order to be labeled human grade dog food, it has to meet the criteria set by the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA):

  • Each ingredient in the dog food must be fit for human consumption.
  • Every ingredient is stored, handled, processed and transported in a manner consistent and compliant with current good manufacturing processes for human edible foods.
  • The manufacturing facility has been licensed by the appropriate authority.
  • It is labeled for its intended use.

Natural dog food

There are no regulations around the word “natural” as it pertains to dog food so there are no standards companies have to meet in order to call their food natural. If you want to use natural dog food, make sure you read through all the ingredients carefully and consult with your vet that the food you are feeding is a balanced diet. 

Dog food toppings

Dog food toppings often get overlooked even though they are a great way to help your picky eater eat their food. They should be part of your caloric allowance for treats, which is 10% of your dog’s daily caloric intake.