Fresh Food vs. Dog Kibble: The Pros and Cons

Food for Dogs

Choosing the right food for your dog can be overwhelming and confusing.

Everywhere you look, you see new advertisements for the latest dog food, promising that their formula meets all your dog’s nutritional needs.

You’ll also find that the further you dig into “healthy” dog food, the more conflicted the scientific evidence and opinions become.

Recently, fresh or homemade dog food has become popular among pet owners – but is this latest trend backed by science, or is it just another fad? Should you ditch the kibble and give Fido fresh food instead?

Read on to learn more about fresh food versus kibble and how a dog food subscription from Pure can have long-term benefits for your dog’s health.

A Well-Balanced Diet: What to Look For

When choosing a dog food, you need to ensure that it meets all your dog’s nutritional requirements and is suitable for your dog’s life stage.

A diet that is not complete and balanced can lead to serious health issues – so always look for the word “complete” on the dog food label. According to the Pet Food Manufacturer’s Association (PDSA), “complete” means that the food meets regulatory standards and has the correct amounts of nutrients. 

Generally, vets recommend feeding your dog a commercial dog food – whether it’s raw, cooked, or kibble. Vets don’t recommend making your dog’s food yourself because it’s difficult to ensure that home-cooked food has all the nutrition your dog needs.

The dog food brand should also be endorsed and formulated by a veterinarian or veterinary nutritionist – usually, this information will be stated on the label.

What is Fresh Food for Dogs?

While fresh dog food is a broad term, it generally means that the dog food is minimally processed and does not contain preservatives.

Although raw diets are technically fresh food diets, there is still some debate surrounding raw dog food and its health risks. In this article, we will focus on fresh, cooked dog food.

Reasons to Switch Your Dog to a Fresh Food Diet

There are many benefits to a fresh food diet for your dog. Still, the three most common reasons dog owners switch to fresh food are to improve the food’s quality and palatability, minimize the number of preservatives, and treat specific health conditions.

To make the most informed decision about what you choose to feed your dog, researching the health benefits of feeding fresh food can be helpful.

There is evidence to suggest that dogs with allergies, intolerances, and sensitivities benefit from a fresh food diet because it’s easier to eliminate problem ingredients.

Another study indicated that Scottish Terriers fed fresh, antioxidant-rich vegetables three times a week reduced their chances of developing transitional cell carcinoma in their bladders.

There have been several studies that indicate there are many benefits of a fresh food diet for dogs. As the demand for fresh food diets for pets grows, veterinarians and researchers are focusing on studying the benefits to dogs’ long-term health.

Fresh Dog Food: The Pros and Cons

Health benefits aside, there are two other main pros to feeding your dog a fresh food diet – customization and portioning.

Fresh dog foods are highly customizable – many fresh dog food manufacturers offer highly personalized meal plans. Usually, the manufacturer will ask you to fill out a questionnaire and highlight if your dog has any allergies, sensitivities, or intolerances. You will get a meal plan based on your pet’s specific needs –like breed, weight, activity level, and intolerances.

Fresh food diets for dogs are also usually delivered in pre-portioned containers. Knowing exactly how much to feed your dog is not just convenient; it also helps your dog maintain an optimum weight.

Although this can also be considered a pro, something to be mindful about when considering a fresh diet is that it does not usually contain preservatives. Due to the lack of preservatives, giving special consideration to how fresh food is cooked and stored is vital.

Food that is not heated to the correct temperature when cooked carries the risk of contamination by harmful bacteria – like Listeria and Salmonella. Fresh food formulations are generally more prone to bacterial growth – especially with fluctuating temperatures.

Why Do People Choose a Kibble Diet?

Kibble has been a long-standing staple in the pet food industry – and it’s easy to see why.

Because kibble contains preservatives, it’s very easy to store safely – even for long periods. Kibble is also designed to be more calorie-dense than fresh food. Generally, the amount of food your dog would have to consume to be equivalent to one cup of dry kibble is significantly more.

While the calories in kibble vary for different life stages and activity levels, every kibble formula must detail the number of calories per cup on the label. This makes it easy for owners to determine how much to feed their dogs.

Kibble: The Pros and Cons

The three main pros of kibble are that it is highly available, convenient, and cost-effective.

Because kibble has dominated the dog food market, it is the most widely available dog food in grocery and pet stores. Kibble is usually mass-produced, so it tends to be more cost-effective than fresh dog food, and it is the convenient option if you’re traveling or have limited cold storage space.

Two major cons of kibble are palatability and processing.

Because kibble is usually dry, it is generally less palatable for dogs – especially picky eaters. Kibble is also highly-processed, which means it contains more preservatives and additives than fresh dog food.

When it comes to kibble, something else to consider is the ingredients’ quality. Because kibble is highly processed and the labels can be misleading and difficult to decipher, you can’t be sure that it’s not full of cheap filler ingredients and low-quality meat by-products. 

The Bottom Line

The most important thing is that your dog is consuming safe, nutritious food. Many owners have seen the benefits of feeding their dogs a fresh food diet, and there have been some promising studies.

Fresh dog food can be especially helpful if your dog has allergies, sensitivities, and intolerances because it’s easier to eliminate problem ingredients. Fresh food is also not as processed as dog kibble – so it’s easier to know exactly what goes into it.

However, you should always consult your vet before changing your dog’s diet.