A Closer look at what is available in the dog food world

December 31, 2021
Diana Bocco
Reviewed By: 
Dr. Farshad Goodarzi - Animal Nutritionist
5 minute read
dog wearing a shirt with french fries on it

No matter what you’re feeding your dog, there are currently four main types of dog food available in North America and Europe. These are:

  1. Dry food such as traditional kibbles
  2. Canned food
  3. Semi-moist food
  4. Homemade by dog parents
  5. Delivered to dog parents (Raw or Gently Cooked)

While all these food groups market themselves as completely nutritious and well-balanced, that’s not necessarily true. Dogs, like humans, are individuals, and the nutritional requirements of each one are different. As a result, dogs require specific diets based on their breed, gender, age, reproduction status, amount of activity and weight.

Most of the food groups above generally balance their food by adding nutritional supplements and synthetic food ingredients to their recipes. Not only is this practice unnecessary but it’s also wasteful (and sometimes even bad for dogs) if the original diet is truly balanced.

In addition, from a nutritional and quality point of view, most commercial dog food brands (in canned, semi-moist and dry form) are similar to human conserves, canned and fast foods. They contain harmful preservatives, they use low-quality ingredients, and they aren’t transparent when it comes to specific protein types used. They also practice harmful cooking methods such as extrusion, which uses high temperatures and can destroy nutrients.

The Importance of a Healthy Diet

Can we expect to stay healthy if we eat fast food every day? The answer is definitely NO. The same principle applies to our dogs. Of course, some dog food brands are better than others but in the end, they all share the same poor nutritional principles, which can take a toll on your dog’s health. We call this nutritional principle “bulk feeding”. More about “bulk feeding” later!

The type and quality of food ingredients in commercial dog food brands (canned, semi-moist and dry) are not generally what you expect. How can you find out more about the quality of the food you’re feeding your dog? Here is how:

1. Ask why.

Legally speaking, commercial dog food producers in North America and Europe are not obliged to reveal their food formulations or the percentage and quality grade of each ingredient used. The only information usually printed on labels includes:

- The name of the ingredients, often under general terms such as chicken or beef, but without specifying the type (breast, thigh, with skin or without, with or without bone, head, feet, etc.)

- The basic chemical composition, including crude protein, fiber, and energy, which basically does not tell you what you need to know (please read 7 things you must check in all dog food before purchasing” if you want to learn more about this).

2. Do the math.

If commercial dog food producers used human-grade food ingredients – or at least high-quality ingredients (such as lean beef, chicken breast, or fish fillet) – in their products, their price could not be as low as it is now.

Looking Closely into Commercial Food

“Complete and Balanced” is a common term found on the label of commercial dog food brands. The truth is that this claim is not always easy to prove and it’s too general to really mean much. After all, dogs are individuals and when it comes to their nutrition, they should be treated as such.

Of course, commercial dog food producers do not take this fact into consideration. They formulate and produce a basic diet recipe and recommend a feeding schedule based solely on the weight of the dog. With this approach, they are actually ignoring other parameters like age, breed, gender, physical activity, reproduction status (whether the dog is castrated, pregnant or lactating) – all of which affect the nutritional requirements of a dog.

So how can a food be “complete and balanced” when it’s not personalized for each individual dog? That’s a question you should definitely be asking.

The negative impact of poor nutrition on dogs’ health is not seen right away, but it will eventually show up in the form of disorders and diseases (please read 10 most common diet-related diseases in dogsarticle). If we want to make sure our dogs live a long and healthy life, we should start thinking about feeding them human-grade, top-quality fresh food.

In a study conducted by Lippert and Sapy (2003), scientists evaluated data from 500 dogs between 1998 and 2002 and concluded that dogs fed a fresh food diet lived up to 32 months longer than those fed commercial dog food.

woman holding dog in her arms while cooking

Is Homemade Food a Good Alternative?

When it comes to feeding fresh, it’s all about the details. Most homemade diets are fresh but not complete and well-balanced.

This is because unless the dog parent is an expert in animal nutrition, a homemade diet can be very difficult to get right. A dog needs more than 30 essential nutrients to stay healthy and in good shape, and providing all these nutrients in the correct amount and balance can be very tricky.

As a result, many experts believe that dogs are better off with some kibble brands than eating fresh food prepared at home without a proper understanding of nutrition. Even though kibble might be incomplete and not well-balanced, at least it will provide a better balance of nutrients than most self-prepared foods.

As an example, most diets prepared without expert supervision are not properly balanced to provide dogs with adequate levels (not too little and not too much) and correct ratios of calcium, phosphorus and vitamin D. These nutrients are essential to a growing dog’s development, as well as for bones and teeth maintenance at different life stages. Without the right amount and ratios of these nutrients:

  • puppies could develop skeletal problems
  • pregnant dogs can face serious health problems after the delivery of their puppies
  • adult dogs can face serious skeletal problems, especially as they age

Though still not the best option, a better choice is fresh dog food producers. These are definitely better than kibble, canned, semi-moist and homemade fresh food. Their food is fresh (in contrast to commercial dog food) and better balanced than most self-prepared foods since it is produced with the same method of formulation and production/feeding principle that commercial dog food producers have been using for decades:

  • They formulate 1-4 general recipes (normally beef-based, chicken-based, turkey-based and sometimes fish-based or something else). The concentration of each ingredient in these recipes seems to be always constant and not adjusted to the needs of each individual. (ie. the recipe always stays the same, the amount to feed is what changes!)
  • These recipes are produced in bulk, like kitchens on military bases – It’s all one big pot of stew for everybody.
  • The produced food is packaged and shipped to the customers in individual daily rationed packages.
  • This daily ration recommendation is commonly based on two major factors:
  • Absolute weight
  • Sometimes body condition (whether the dog is over or underweight)
  • Some companies do ask about a few of the important factors (like age and breed) in their questionnaires but the recipes always remain the same.

Why Individually Balanced Fresh Dog Food?

If we move past the marketing terms used, what other fresh food companies are offering at the moment is NOT truly customized dog food production. Like with commercial dog food producers, these food companies are offering one single food recipe that is generally balanced for all dogs and just recommend different amounts of this recipe based on the dog’s body weight.

It is scientifically and practically impossible to meet the nutritional requirements of every dog with one single recipe by just changing the feeding amount based on weight and a few other factors. Done this way, some dogs will simply get more nutrients than they actually need, while others will get too little. Too much dietary energy (calories), calcium or phosphorus can be just as problematic as getting too little.

The negative impact of poor nutrition on your dog’s health is not something you’ll see right away. Instead, it’s something that will build up over time and will eventually show up in the form of a disorder or health problem, such as obesity, bladder stone, diabetes, etc. (for more information, please read 10 most common diet-related diseases in dogs).

Don’t get us wrong! We’re still a huge advocate of fresh dog food producers and believe that what they are offering is significantly better than kibbles and other types of dog food.

Cola's Kitchen fresh dog food in a bowl between dog's paws

How We’re Changing Things Up

Cola’s Kitchen is the first and only pet food company that creates individually balanced recipes tailored to your dog’s specific needs, at no extra cost. We do so in a way that provides your dog with all the required nutrients through a Complete and Well-Balanced All Natural Fresh Food. At Cola’s Kitchen, we’ll design and produce every dog’s meal based on the individual needs of each dog and any unique conditions that might apply.

Our recipes are designed based on the profile our customers make for their dogs. These choices then allow our AI system to formulate and individually balance recipes. The concentration of each ingredient in each recipe changes from one dog to another based on the individual characteristics of each dog and its unique requirements.

Our AI formulates each diet in a way that allows all the nutrients, including vitamins and minerals, to be supplied from natural sources. This means that, in contrast to other fresh food producers, we do not need to add synthetic vitamins or minerals to our food.

about cola's precision diet

Cola's Kitchen precision diet is the first truly tailored diet for a unique approach to nutrition. Our diets are individually formulated and balanced to address the most precise nutritional requirements of your pup.

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