As we saw in our last article, dry kibbles are well and truly the top dog when it comes to global pet food sales but over the last decade or so, the alternatives have been gaining ground fast. Where once the convenience was king, more and more pet owners are now willing to put a bit more work into their pets’ diets and raw foods, high end wet foods and now fresh foods are reaping the rewards.
But which, if any, of these alternative foods is right for your dog? In this article we’ll look at each category in turn and weigh up some of their pros and cons.
Wet foods – tins, trays and pouches
Wet pet foods are obviously nothing new. The first tinned food was produced in the US way back in 1922 and, for a time after that, they were the most popular choice amongst pet owners. Despite their relative fall from grace since those heady days, they have remained popular and tinned foods like Pedigree Chum, Chappie and Friskies have been a staple of the British pet food market for generations.
But over the last 20 years or so, a whole host of much higher quality, natural wet foods have arrived on the scene and have sparked a resurgence in the wet pet food market.
‘Wet’ or ‘moist’ foods come in all sorts of shapes and sizes from tins and trays to pouches and ‘chubb’ rolls. The ingredients are first blended and cooked, then vacuum sealed in their containers before being 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.
Sterilisation is a bit of a double edged sword. On the plus side it guarantees that the food is absolutely free from pathogens which means wet foods typically have very long shelf lives without the need for any added preservatives. On the other hand, some argue that the high temperatures needed may damage some of the food’s natural nutrients.
As the name suggests, wet foods contain a lot of water – generally 65-80%. Since this is roughly the same moisture percentage that many of the ingredients would have in their natural state, it’s easy to argue that this makes raw foods a more ‘natural’ option than their dry counterparts. So much water can also be beneficial for dogs that don’t drink very much or for dogs with a history or urinary problems, for example. It does, however, also make wet foods much less nutrient dense than dry foods meaning you have to feed a considerably higher volume which can make feeding wet a relatively expensive option.
Wet foods can range in quality from the very worst to the very best so be sure to take a look at our article on reading pet food labels to help you work out which end of the spectrum your wet food falls on.
Raw feeding has been around for… well forever but the last decade has seen it absolutely take off. The main spark for the so called ‘raw revolution’ has been the emergence of complete raw foods which provide much of the convenience of wet or even dry foods with all of the nutritional benefits of a classic DIY raw diet.
For many, raw feeding is the most ‘natural’ way to feed as it is closest to what the wild ancestors of modern dogs would have eaten and it doesn’t involve any processing that could potentially damage the food’s natural nutrients.
Raw foods, both complete and complementary, most often come in the form of frozen blocks or nuggets. You’ll spot them in the growing number of freezer units popping up in pet shops across the country.
While pre-prepared complete raw foods certainly increase the convenience of raw feeding, there are still a couple of minor drawbacks. Transporting frozen foods for extended periods, for holidays for example, can be tricky and having to thaw them for a few hours before feeding isn’t quite as easy as opening a bag or a tin, but most raw feeders agree that it is a small price to pay.
And, of course, there’s the question of safety. Many vets and pet food industry experts have raised concerns over the potential for raw foods to carry pathogens that may be harmful to our dogs and our families. This is a topic of enormous and often heated discussion and is too big to cover here but we do have a great article on the subject here: https://www.allaboutdogfood.co.uk/ articles/raw-feeding-101.php Fresh foods The newest kids on the pet food block are ‘fresh complete foods’. The aim is to provide a ‘home cooked’ style diet but in a convenient, nutritionally complete, pre-packed format.
The ingredients generally undergo the minimum of processing prior to cooking and so are likely to retain a higher proportion of their natural nutrients than conventional dry and wet foods. Fresh food producers argue that the relatively gentle cooking process enhances the food by making the nutrients more digestible while also killing any potentially harmful germs.
Fresh foods are not usually preserved or sterilised which is great news from a natural perspective but it also means they do not stay fresh for very long 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. For this reason, pet shops and online retailers don’t typically stock fresh foods so if you want to feed fresh you’ll most likely end up getting regular deliveries straight from the manufacturer.
And there you have it. Never before have pet owners had so many great options to choose from and we hope that these articles have helped to put you on the right track to finding the perfect food for your dog.
Author: David Jackson, All About Dog Food