When it comes to keeping your dog healthy and happy, nothing is more important than feeding him a wholesome diet. The nutrition your dog receives will have a direct impact on his/her health and well-being. Research has shown it may also have a dramatic impact their lifespan as well. However, like everything in life there are debates going on over what is the best food to feed your dog. So, we’ve decided to list the pros and cons of both in the ultimate commercial dog food vs raw dog food diet article.
Unfortunately, many dog owners do not realize that many pet foods are made with low-quality ingredients that could be having a negative impact on your dog’s health. Many commercial dog foods are made with all kinds of unhealthy, even harmful ingredients. For this reasons, some dog owners are making the switch to raw dog food diets.
Commercial Dog Food vs Raw Dog Food
How bad are commercial dog foods, really? And are any of them okay to feed your dog? What is a raw food diet for dogs and is it really a better option than commercial dog food? You will find the answers to these questions and more below.
Commercial Dog Foods?
The most important thing you need to realize about commercial dog foods is that they are not all created equal. Some of the biggest brand names in the business (like Purina One, Beneful, and Pedigree) are marketed as high-quality products, but if you take a closer look at the ingredients list, you will be shocked at just how inaccurate those claims can be. If you read the ingredients list for these and similar products you will find things like poultry byproduct meal, corn gluten meal, soy and an assortment of artificial preservatives and flavors.
There are some regulations for dog foods in the United States, though most of them apply to naming and labeling practices. Believe it or not but there are no rules against using things like road kill, dead zoo animals, euthanized pets, and restaurant grease in your dogs food.
Although many of the cheaper commercial dog foods are made with low-quality ingredients and inexpensive fillers, there are some dog foods out there that offer high-quality nutrition. Brands like Blue Buffalo and our favorite Taste of the Wild are made with high-quality animal-based proteins like fresh boneless chicken, chicken meal and ground meat as well as healthy fats and whole-grain carbohydrates.
Best Commercial Dog Foods
If you think that commercial dog food is the right choice, make sure you take the time to select a dog food that will offer high-quality nutrition. Selecting a healthy dog food brand involves reviewing the ingredients list to make sure that your dog’s nutrition comes from quality sources. Below you will find a list of several top-rated commercial dog foods to consider:
#1 Taste of the Wild Dog Food Company
The Taste of the Wild dog food company offers a very small number of products (see below), but each one is produced to the highest standards of quality. This brand uses high-quality animal proteins as the number one ingredient in each of their products as well as a number of supplementary proteins.
This particular formula and our dogs favorite, Taste of the Wild Pacific Stream Canine with Smoked Salmon is made with salmon and ocean fish meal as the top two ingredients followed by sweet potatoes and potatoes. It also includes healthy fats from canola oil as well as a variety of fruits and vegetables. Taste of the Wild dog food may be a little pricey, but you get what you pay for – a high-quality dog food that will nourish your dog’s body, inside and out.
#2 Blue Buffalo Dog Food Company
The Blue Buffalo pet food company is rapidly gaining popularity as one of the top-quality brands in the business. Blue Buffalo is a company that is dedicated to providing pets (both dogs and cats) with premium-quality nutrition in a number of different formulas. Not only does Blue Buffalo offer the Life Protection line which is ideal for both dogs and puppies, but they also offer the Freedom line of grain-free products, the Basics line of Limited Ingredient Diets, and the Wilderness line of natural evolutionary diets.
The BLUE Basics Limited Ingredient Grain-Free Turkey & Potato Dog Food is designed to meet the nutritional needs of dogs in all life stages. This formula is made with fresh de-boned turkey as the first ingredient followed by both oatmeal and brown rice. This formula also includes turkey meal, fish oil, and a selection of fruits and vegetables to ensure balanced nutrition. Plus, it includes Blue Buffalo’s LifeSource Bits which contain a proprietary blend of antioxidants, vitamins and minerals to ensure your dog’s complete health and wellness. See a full list of Blue Buffalo’s healthy dog foods on Amazon.
The best way to tell the difference between a high-quality and low-quality commercial food is to check the first five ingredients. If the first ingredient is anything other than a high-quality animal-based protein, you do not want to feed it to your dog. If the top five ingredients include any byproducts or low-grade fillers, move on to the next option. High-quality commercial dog foods will include at least one high-quality animal-based protein and at least one easily digestible carbohydrate (like brown rice, oatmeal, or sweet potato) within the first five ingredients. See our reviews and top picks for the best breed-specific dog foods here!
Pros and Cons of Commercial Dog Foods
As you’ve already learned, not all commercial dog foods are bad – you do, however, have to be very careful when shopping to make sure that you get a high-quality product. Below you will find a list of pros and cons for commercial dog foods.
- Very large selection available at most pet stores, even grocery stores and large box stores
- Many commercial pet foods are affordable – be wary of “cheap” brands
- Available in a wide variety of different flavors and recipes (many brands offer several recipes)
- Commercial diets available for small-breed, large-breed and puppies
- Some commercial diets are made with limited ingredients for dogs with allergies
- Commercial dry foods are easy to store and they have a long shelf-life (use within 3 months)
- Many commercial dog foods are made with low-quality ingredients and fillers
- The large selection available can make the task of shopping for a commercial diet tricky
- Marketing schemes and tactics can be misleading for consumers
- Many commercial products contain common allergens like corn, wheat and soy
The Raw Food Diet for Dogs?
The raw food diet craze for dogs really began in the 1990s when an Australian veterinarian began promoting the BARF diet – the Biologically Appropriate Raw Food diet for dogs. This diet was primarily composed of bones and raw food (both meat and vegetables) and it was designed to provide high-quality and balanced nutrition for dogs.
Raw food diets can be made from a variety of different ingredients including raw eggs, organ meats, muscle meat, bones, vegetables, fruits, and some dairy products. The benefits of a raw food diet for dogs are many – they include things like regular digestion, smaller stools, improved energy levels, cleaner teeth, shinier coat, healthier skin, and improved taste and palatability over commercial dog foods.
Of course, raw food diets are not appropriate for all dogs and there are some risks associated with this kind of diet. Making your own homemade raw dog food is generally not recommended because it is difficult to create a recipe that is properly balanced. You should only feed your dog homemade raw food if you get a recipe from a qualified animal nutritionist and if you use high-quality ingredients.
If you want to try a raw food diet on your dog but don’t want to make it yourself, several commercial pet food companies produce raw products. Raw dog food can be sold fresh (needs to be refrigerated), frozen, or in freeze-dried form. Because raw dog foods are made without artificial preservatives they have a much lower shelf life than most commercial dry foods.
You also have to be careful about bacterial contamination from raw food ingredients – this is more of a concern for humans than for the dogs eating the raw food.
Best Raw Food Companies
One of the oldest and still best selling raw food suppliers for dogs is Raw Paws Pet Food Company, which offers a wide selection of raw dog food products as well as a number of whole ingredients like sardines and duck necks to use in making your own raw dog food. If you can’t make up your mind on which product to choose, they also offer a variety pack of five different formulas in 5-pound tubes so you can try a little bit of each. To save money, you have the option to purchase individual formulas, variety packs, monthly supplies, or in bulk.
Our dogs love the Ground Beef blend which comes in 5 or 25 pound quantities. It is completely free from hormones, antibiotics, GMO’s and artificial preservatives. and is supplemented with all of the vitamins and minerals your dog needs for complete health as well as the amino acids he needs to grow and maintain muscle mass.
*If your interested in feeding your dog a raw food diet, we’ve worked out a deal with Raw Paws. You can now receive a Custom Meal Plan to Meet Your Budget, a $59 vale!
Another company which will supply you with a raw food diet is Primal Pet Foods. Primal Pet Foods, Inc. as mentioned on their website, is committed to elevating the health of dogs everywhere. Primal offers a number of wholesome raw foods and treats so you can select the product that is just right for your dog. They also offer a number of frozen and freeze-dried options as well as raw bones and raw goat milk.
Our dogs have not been fed Primal so we cannot offer any personal recommendations however, many of our readers tell us their dogs love the food. We have purchased some Primal dog treats which are all made with 100% human-grade ingredients as well as antibiotic and steroid-free. All of Primal Pet treats are made with certified organic ingredients in a blend that ensures healthy and well-balanced nutrition for your best friend. In-addition, the treats are all freeze-dried not only to preserve nutrients but it also offers a much longer shelf-life.
Primal treats can be found in a variety of flavors such as: Chicken Breast Shredders, Turkey Liver Munchies, Buffalo Liver Chunks, Lamb Crisps and Venison Puffs.
If you decide to switch your dog from commercial food to raw food, you need to be very careful because some dogs develop digestive problems after making the switch. In most cases, these problems are related to the sudden change in diet, not to the raw food itself. Making such a drastic change in your dog’s diet too quickly can lead to diarrhea, upset stomach, and other digestive problems.
To prevent intestinal problems, start off by using small amounts of the raw food as a treat for your dog. If your dog can handle it for a few days with no problems, increase the amount until you have replaced one of your dog’s daily meals with the raw food. Monitor your dog (and his stool) for a few days and, if everything is okay, make the switch for both meals. You need to be especially careful in switching to a raw food diet if your dog has a gastrointestinal disorder – you may need to enlist the help of your veterinarian.
Pros and Cons of Raw Dog Food Diets
Raw food diets are rapidly increasing in popularity among dog owners, but they are not the right choice for every dog. Below you will find a list of pros and cons for raw food diets for dogs.
- Many raw food diets are made with fresh, human-grade ingredients
- Raw food diets are closer to your dog’s natural diet, makes it more appealing in taste/texture
- May improve your dog’s digestion, immunity, and skin/coat health
- Storage can be tricky, many raw food products must be kept frozen (limited shelf life once thawed)
- Raw food diets can be very expensive, even if you make the food yourself
- Not all dogs respond well to a raw food diet, especially immune-compromised dogs
- Homemade raw food diets are risky because it is hard to create a balanced product
- Bacterial contamination from raw ingredients is a concern (more for humans than dogs)
Shopping for dog food can be a challenge since there are so many different options to choose from. Hopefully by now you understand that not all commercial pet foods are bad, but you need to shop carefully to ensure that you bring home a product that will meet your dog’s nutritional needs. Raw food diets are a great option for some dogs, but this type of diet also comes with its own pros and cons.
For our own personal dogs we feed a diet of both a high quality commercial dog food along with a partial raw food diet. In other words, we substitute a few of our dogs meals throughout the week with Raw Paws. This gives us the ability to offer the best of both diets, ease of commercial dog foods with the healthy benefits of a raw dog food diet.
Just remember, before you switch your dog’s food, consult your veterinarian and make sure you understand the benefits and risks of the product you choose.