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Pet Food Facts

You Cannot Have It All – Best Nutrition or Convenience & Economy – Part 4 of 4
By Don Hanson, ACCBC, BFRAP, CDBC, CPDT-KA | Aug 01, 2021
Photo by: Debra Bell

Last month I reviewed the cost and convenience of feeding your dog a homemade diet, commercial frozen raw food, and a commercial lightly-cooked then frozen diet. This month I'll conclude this series by examining the cost and convenience of the following commercial food types; Freeze-Dried, Dehydrated, "Fresh," Wet/Canned/Pouched, and Dry/Kibble.

Commercial Freeze-Dried

Most of the companies that make frozen raw food also offer freeze-dried options. It is more convenient than frozen because it does not require freezer space, nor do you need to remember to thaw it in advance of feeding. It is the same as feeding frozen raw, but with the moisture removed. You just put it in a bowl and rehydrate. However, because freeze-drying is a labor and energy-intensive process, it is one of the most expensive choices. Freeze-dried food can be as nutritious as frozen raw because it can be processed at a low temperature which does not destroy sensitive nutrients and enzymes. However, this depends on the company's process. Some companies use higher temperatures to maximize production, which can destroy some nutrients. For this reason, knowing about the company's processes will be important.

Commercial Dehydrated

Dehydrated foods are equally convenient to freeze-dried and kibble. However, since the dehydration process involves high temperatures, they will not be as nutrient-rich as frozen raw or freeze-dried diets. They will be a better option than kibble. However, cost-wise, these foods are often in a similar price range to freeze-dried when comparing actual feeding costs.

Commercial "Fresh"

These are refrigerated "fresh" foods and are a relatively new category. You can find brands sold in the supermarket and online that are shipped to your home. I have reviewed the ingredient profiles on some of these foods and, in my opinion, consider them only marginally better than kibble. The options shipped to you will often be as expensive or more expensive than frozen raw, freeze-dried, frozen, and lightly cooked, which I believe are all more nutritious and natural options.

Commercial Wet/Canned/Pouched

Wet pet food can be very convenient but are often too expensive for most people unless you have a small dog. In addition, all wet foods are cooked at high temperatures, so they will not be as nutrient-rich as previously discussed options. Finally, ingredients vary widely and can be as much as 95% meat or mostly soy protein. Reading and understanding the list of ingredients and being familiar with the company making the products will be critical in your decision.

Commercial Dry/Kibble

More people feed their dog kibble than any other form of dog food. It is easy to purchase and is available at pet stores, feed stores, supermarkets, hardware stores, veterinary clinics, convenience stores, and yes, even online. So if you need it in a hurry, odds are you can get it in a matter of minutes. In addition, kibble is easy to store. All you need is a cool, dry place similar to where you store your food. For optimal nutrition and safety, kibble should be kept in an airtight container that you clean with soap and warm water every time you purchase additional food. I also suggest you keep the bag the food was in, as information on the bag will be necessary if the food is recalled. Kibble is also one of the most convenient foods to use. It takes little time to measure the proper amount of food and pour it into your dog's dish. However, substandard ingredients, high amounts of carbohydrates, and intense processing at high temperature and pressure make kibble the least natural and nutritious of any of our dog food choices. The cost of kibble varies widely with the quality of ingredients. For example, kibble is usually perceived as the most economical choice. However, being the least nutritious, we need to ask ourselves what is the actual cost when we factor in our pet's quality of life, veterinary bills, and length of life.

Summary

I opened this four-part series with the statement, "You can have convenience and economy, or you can have best nutrition. You can't have all of those things." Remember that your dog is a meat-eater and has no need for carbohydrates in its diet.  I encourage you to feed the best food you can afford. I do not expect anyone to need a second mortgage to feed a pet. However, try to include as much fresh, species-appropriate food in their diets as you can. Even providing one fresh meal a week can make a difference. Lastly, commit to being an informed consumer; your dog depends on you.

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Don Hanson is the co-owner of the Green Acres Kennel Shop ( greenacreskennel.com ) in Bangor, Maine, where he has been helping people with their pets since 1995. He is also the founder of ForceFreePets.com, an online educational resource for people with dogs and cats. Don is a Bach Foundation Registered Animal Practitioner (BFRAP), Certified Dog Behavior Consultant (CDBC), Associate Certified Cat Behavior Consultant (ACCBC), and a Certified Professional Dog Trainer (CPDT-KA). He is a member of the Pet Professional Guild (PPG). Don is committed to PPG's Guiding Principles and the Pain-Free, Force-Free, and Fear-Free training, management, and care of all pets. He serves on the PPG Steering Committee and Advocacy Committee and is the Chair of The Shock-Free Coalition ( shockfree.org ). Don produces and co-hosts a weekly radio show and podcast, The Woof Meow Show, that airs on Z62 Retro Radio WZON (AM620) and WKIT 103.3-HD3 streamed at http://bit.ly/AM620-WZON every Saturday at 9 AM. Podcasts of the show are available at http://bit.ly/WfMwPodcasts/, the Apple Podcast app, and Don's blog: www.words-woofs-meows.com. The opinions in this post are those of Don Hanson.

©19-Jul-21, Donald J. Hanson, All Rights Reserved
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