Dog nutrition – Wet, Dry or Raw?

It can seem like somewhat of a minefield deciding which food to feed your dog, with conflicting advice on the pro’s and con’s of each type of food. Basically, any good quality complete food, whether dry, wet or raw will provide everything a dog needs in its diet.

Most owners choose to feed their dog on a commercial dog food, which is absolutely fine.  Pet food manufacturers spend millions of pounds developing diets which are nutritionally balanced, and some even offer additional benefits such as promoting joint
health or preventing dental disease. Generally speaking, feeding solely a wet food tends to encourage the development of tartar, so dental hygiene measures such as tooth brushing are even more important. Dry diets are very concentrated – a little goes a long way, so you need to be careful not to feed too much to prevent excess weight gain.  It is perfectly fine to just feed a dry kibble diet, and some owners like the fact that is is easier to measure out a days worth of food and know they are not overfeeding their dog. Follow the feeding guidelines on the back of the food packet based on your dog’s weight or consult your veterinary surgeon or practice nurse. It is common in practice to see dogs fed on a mixture of wet and dry in practice, which is absolutely fine, but care must be taken not to overfeed each type which will lead to weight gain. If wet and dry are both offered, you need to reduce the amount of each food accordingly.

A relatively new way of thinking is the raw meat diet, or ‘BARF’ diet (Biologically Appropriate Raw
Food) which comprises of raw meat, ground-up bones, offal, dairy and fruits and vegetables.  The idea behind these diets is that feeding a diet similar to that eaten by dogs if they were in the wild will be healthier for them.  This idea, in theory, sounds promising. However, few studies have been undertaken to prove or disprove the benefits of feeding this type of diet.  We see some dogs in practice that are happy and healthy on a raw diet, so if properly balanced, raw diets can suit some dogs very well.  But owners should proceed with caution as it is very difficult to prepare a well-balanced diet for dogs at home, and unintended mistakes can lead to serious problems if they result in an unbalanced diet being fed over a long period of time.  This is especially true in puppies.  The recipes stated online for raw diets vary hugely in their ingredients, and not all of them may include all the necessary nutrients.

Claims that raw food diets can ‘cure’ allergies are not necessarily true.  Although raw food diets can contain less grains such as wheat (a potential allergen) some allergic dogs can be sensitive to other components of the diet such as certain types of meats or dairy products which may be present.  It is also important that dogs are wormed regularly if
fed a raw meat diet as they are more prone to getting worms and other parasites, and owners should maintain good hand hygiene to avoid contracting infections such as toxoplasmosis and salmonellosis from their pets faeces.  Many dogs love chewing on raw meaty bones, which can help to keep dental tartar at bay – just avoid those small chicken bones which can fragment and cause damage to the oral cavity or gastrointestinal tract.

Whichever diet you choose to feed your dog, do not hesitate to speak with one of our vets to ensure it contains all the necessary nutrients to keep them healthy.