Dry, Cooked & Raw: What are the Best Food Options for your Pet?
History - Present: A Pet Food Timeline
The earliest commercial dry pet food was first created in the late 1800s and is a popular choice amongst many pet owners to this day. However, with the advancement of current day technology, there are a plethora of diets to feed our dogs and cats. These range from dry extruded and oven-baked food to fresh and raw food diets.
A recent survey displayed how owner feeding practices changed between 2008 and 2018. The survey showed that feeding pets conventional, aka commercial, or heat processed, diets was still the predominant diet choice. Interestingly enough, there were more owners feeding their pets unconventional diets, such as raw, homemade or vegetarian foods, than in previous studies investigating diet choice.
The trends of raw feeding has increased in recent years because of the focus on “natural” and “species-appropriate” diets for our pets. Raw meat diets encompass a wide variety of formats ranging from incomplete, unprocessed (with no sterilization steps) to complete and balanced diets, which include sterilization steps.
In contrast, more traditional pet food is most often available in an extruded format. Extrusion, is a process which uses heat, pressure and moisture to cook the pet food, and is often used to improve protein and starch digestibility in pet foods.
Oven-baked pet food also has potential nutritional benefits to pets with lower starch gelatinization occurring than extruded pet food and possibly lowering the available glucose in the bloodstream after consumption.
Unsure of Where to Start? Here are some tips!
It's important to note that any of these diets could be appropriate for your pet as a complete diet as long as they are complete, balanced and provide all of your pet’s nutritional needs for the day.
If you're ever unsure about a diet’s nutritional adequacy, here are some tips to better understand how to proceed:
- Speak to your vet. This is always a good resource when choosing a new diet for your pet.
- Always be sure to check for a nutritional adequacy statement (i.e. formulated to meet or exceed AAFCO or FEDIAF requirements for dogs or cats at maintenance, all life stages, or growth & reproduction).
- This is a good indicator of knowing whether or not the diet is formulated to provide all of your pets daily nutrient requirements, so that you and your furry friend can adventure and be healthy together!
- Look into the companies’ credentials, team, manufacturing process, and ingredients. Check out how they test their diets nutritional efficacy to ensure you're comfortable before feeding or introducing any new diet to your pet.
At HOPE, we follow AAFCO and FEDIAF recommendations, and go above and beyond those recommendations by keeping up with current research and constantly reassessing our formulas to ensure our pets receive premium quality nutrition. Each batch of HOPE Pet Food is tested by a third-party laboratory to ensure all nutrients are present and no nasties (like Salmonella and mycotoxins). HOPE’s formulas are also tested for digestibility to make sure they are delivering high quality and available nutrients to our pets. HOPE Pet Food employs an in-house pet nutritionist available to answer questions about nutrition anytime.
Current research shows some possible benefits and risks to feeding these different diets to our pets. Some evidence shows that raw and cooked diets are more digestible than dry kibble diets, but it is important to note that all diets investigated, including the dry kibble diets, were highly digestible and exceeded digestibility standards (greater than 80% for protein and greater than 90% for fat)!
There are several possible reasons as to why raw and especially cooked diets were more digestible than dry kibble diets. These reasons include the higher inclusion of fibre in extruded diets compared to raw and fresh/cooked diets. Combined with higher protein and fat in raw and fresh or cooked diets, these two reasons can contribute to the higher digestibilities of these diets.
The benefit of commercial fresh and cooked diets over raw diets is the processing/cooking step. Not only is heat cooking known to increase nutrient and calorie digestibilities in diets for humans, this cooking step also adds in the critical “kill” step to minimize the risk of microbial contamination these diets could have.
Raw diets have potential zoonotic concerns when it comes to pathogen shedding because there is no heat treatment to kill/minimize those pathogens. Salmonella transmission from dogs to their owners via contaminated food has been observed. There is always the risk of Salmonella and other pathogens in any type of pet food, including dry kibble, however, there is a higher prevalence of Salmonella in raw diets vs processed dog and cat foods. Pathogen shedding also occurs more often in dogs fed a raw diet compared to dry kibble.
Research shows that regular at-home cleaning and disinfection routines are ineffective at getting rid of Salmonella contamination from bowls and even at a raw-feeding kennel with good daily cleaning routines, Salmonella was still present on surfaces.
All in all, there are several factors to consider when deciding which diet is best for your dog, and with all the options out there today, it can be a difficult decision. Keeping in mind your pets’ nutrient requirements, cost of food, and food safety in your home are important. If you have immunocompromised family members, young children, or seniors in your home, choosing a cooked diet may be a safer option for your household.
And a friendly reminder to wash your hands after handling any type of pet food, treat. Keeping up with these important practices are going to keep you and your loved ones happy and healthy!