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Kibble vs. Raw Dog Food (Which is Better?)

Kibble is seen as the default dog food by most dog owners. Anything dog owners eat is seen as the default dog food by dogs. But if you’re confused about what to feed your dog, you do have a few options other than kibble and dinner scraps. Raw dog food is one of these options and is worth comparing to kibble. So which is better, kibble or raw?

Kibble is better for delivering precise macronutrients, saving money, and storing, while raw dog food is better for providing energy, improving bone and joint health, and getting your dog interested in his food. When it comes to kibble vs. raw, kibble is better for most dogs.

Both have pros and cons, and you must consider them before choosing one.

In this article, we will get deeper into the dry dog food vs. raw dog food discussion with the pros and cons of each type of dog food. By the end of this post, you will have the full picture and will be able to tell what works for you.

One thing to mention is that when I’m talking about kibble, I’m referring to a good-quality brand that is complete and balanced per the AAFCO dog nutritional requirements.

So let’s start with kibble, which is the dog food you’re probably familiar with.

Kibble vs. Raw. A bowl of kibble next to a bowl of raw dog food.
Raw Dog Food vs. Dry Dog Food

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Pros and Cons of Kibble

Pros of Kibble (vs. Raw Dog Food)Cons of Kibble (vs. Raw Dog Food)
It is formulated to contain the nutrients your dog needsIt contains highly processed ingredients
It is easy to store and carrySome brands use cheap ingredients
Better for dental hygieneLow moisture content
It is cost-effectiveSome fussy eaters might reject it
It has a long shelf lifeTop brands can be expensive, especially cold-pressed varieties
Kibble vs. Raw Dog Food (Pros and Cons)

Kibble: A Brief Overview

The word kibble used to mean “to chop coarsely.” Today, it stands for food that is formulated to be nutritious for dogs. It is not chopped coarsely, but its size does match its ancestor meaning. Kibble serves canines in general but is often produced for specific breed sizes and life stages. 

There are mainly three types of kibbles in terms of nutritional value: small dog kibble, medium-sized dog kibble, and large dog kibble. Within each type of kibble, there are puppy, young adult, and senior dog variations.

Kibble is one of the most popular commercial dog foods, but its popularity can often be limited to dog owners and may not be shared by dogs. You will love or hate kibble based on how fussy your dog is. Fortunately, kibble isn’t the only type of dog food.

Dog Eating Kibble
My dog eating her dry dog food – just look at that tongue!

Pros of Kibble

Let’s go over some of the advantages of kibble, some of which are responsible for it being a staple in my dog Willow’s diet. As you will notice most perceivable benefits of kibble are for the owner. And how kibble is good for the dog can’t be perceived by him.

It Is Nutritious

Kibble often packs just the right amount of calories and macronutrients for your dog. It is, therefore, easy to feed your dog dry food without undernourishing or overfeeding him.

Since dogs can’t understand how much kibble helps their health, this benefit doesn’t translate into hunger. We will cover that in the drawbacks section.

It Is Easy To Store/Carry

This is an advantage that your dog can probably get on board with. You can carry kibble wherever you go. It isn’t terribly aromatic and doesn’t go bad at room temperature. That said, your dog might not accept it as a high-value treat.

Dry dog food has a long shelf life due to the added preservatives. Unopened kibble can last for 18 months while opened dry dog food packaging can last 4-6 weeks.

Better For Dental Hygiene

Kibble is great for your dog’s dental hygiene because it is not soggy. As a result, it doesn’t get lodged between his teeth at least as much as raw dog food. Kibble can also scrub off previously stuck food, helping maintain a clean oral environment.

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Cost-Effective

Kibble is at least five times cheaper than wet food and depending on the raw food you compare it to, kibble can be 3 to 9 times more cost-effective. Since everything about a dog’s lifestyle centers around a sustainable routine, a diet featuring kibble can be easier to maintain from a budget perspective.

Do you want to know how much it costs to feed kibble? Head over to this article, How Much Does Dog Food Cost a Month?

Long-Lasting

Kibble has the advantage of being dry, which makes it last longer than wet dog food, as well as raw dog food. The only comparable dog food in terms of longevity would be freeze-dried because it, too, is free of moisture.

Raw vs. Kibble? Watch This Video To Learn Which Is The Best…

Raw vs Kibble Dog Food. Which is better? Explained with Pros & Cons of feeding. || Monkoodog

Cons of Kibble

Where the advantages of kibble are in convenience and sustainability, its drawbacks come mainly in low adaptability. I have yet to see a dog be more interested in kibble than raw or home-cooked dog food. Let’s look at the disadvantages of kibble in a little more detail.

It Contains Highly Processed Ingredients

Kibble is as processed as dog food can get. While maintaining macronutrient ratios is one of the critical factors in the kibble formula, producing pellets that can be stored for a long period requires chemical preservatives. These can affect your dog’s health in the long run, especially if he relies on a pure kibble diet.

Cheap Ingredients

The fact that most kibble is cheap cannot coexist with the fact that high-quality ingredients are expensive. Kibble relies on feed-grade ingredients that pass the bare minimum requirements to qualify as food.

Of course, trusted kibble brands use higher quality ingredients and charge more for it. But generally, kibble makes it easier to mask cheap ingredients. In contrast, you can tell when raw food has low-quality ingredients.

“An healthier alternative type of kibble is cold-pressed dog food and this is the type of dry food I feed my German Shepherd.”

World of Dogz

Cold pressing is a method of producing complete dog food at lower temperatures which allows the natural ingredients to retain all of their nutritional value, flavor, aroma, and vitamins essential for digestion, growth, and good health.

Many dog owners see cold-pressed dog food as a great alternative to raw. The lower temperatures used in the cooking method retains essential nutrients, but it’s easier and more convenient to feed.

Low Moisture Content

Kibble is dry and can be unappealing to your dog for this reason. As I mentioned in my post about whether dogs like their food, they have specialized tastebuds to taste water. The wetness of food is a part of their feeding experience.

Since kibble is dry, we can assume that it is not as appealing to dogs. You can offset this by adding water to the kibble or mixing wet food items or toppers with it. Such mixing isn’t required for wet dog food.

My dog loves a little warm water added to her dry food which turns it into a thick “gravy.” She benefits from added hydration, increased aroma, and better palatability.

German Shepherd Eating Kibble From Bowl
My dog Willow enjoying her dry food with added warm water

Your Dog Might Reject It

Because of low moisture content and a lack of aroma, dogs aren’t inherently interested in kibble as much as they are in other food items. In most cases, your dog might not finish a bowl full of kibble alone.

But there are instances where your dog will completely reject dry dog food. When your dog prefers being hungry over consuming kibble, you know that no advantage of kibble is worth feeding it to your dog.

Read more: Is Kibble Bad For Dogs? If So, Why?

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Should I Feed Kibble To My Dog?

Now that you know the pros and cons of feeding kibble to your dog, you can see that it can be a convenient choice. However, it is not a universal choice which is why other forms of dog food can exist.

You should feed kibble to your dog if you can source high-quality kibble that matches your dog’s life stage and breed size and your dog adopts it. If your dog rejects it, you might need to add a topper or opt for an alternative type of dog food.

Best practices for feeding kibble to your dog:

  • Moisten the kibble – From water to wet food, you have plenty of options in terms of things you can add to the kibble to make it moist. Don’t limit your dog’s food intake to dry kibble.
     
  • Don’t neglect vitamins and minerals – Vitamins, minerals, and fiber are pretty important alongside essential fatty acids. Ensure to include food items that contain vitamins and fiber to raise a healthy pet.
     
  • Balance your convenience with the dog’s needs and preferences – A pure kibble diet is one of the most convenient ones for dog owners. But as covered earlier, your dog might prefer wet food. Make sure that you balance what your dog needs with what he wants, or he will reject kibble.
     
  • Don’t force particular kibble products on your dog – Don’t get so strict about the nutrition that your dog’s diet becomes tyrannical. Try to make his eating experience as enjoyable as you can. The more he can enjoy his food, the less effort you need to make him have it.

Pros and Cons of Raw Dog Food

Pros of Raw Dog Food (vs. Kibble)Cons of Raw Dog Food (vs. Kibble)
It is appetizingIt is hard to store
It contains high levels of proteinIt can get contaminated easily
Can be more holisticDifficult to maintain the correct nutrients (unless you seek expert advice or buy frozen)
It promotes superior joint and bone healthCan be expensive
Reduces poop volume and odorPreparation of food is time-consuming
Raw Dog Food vs. Kibble (Pros and Cons)
Kibble vs Raw Dog Food. A dog looking at some kibble and some raw meat.

Raw Dog Food: A Brief Overview

A raw diet is, as the name suggests, a diet made up of raw food. Since dogs have a carnivorous bias, they are more than happy to consume meat, which is a significant part of the raw dog diet. You need to pay attention to two similar-sounding terms when it comes to dog food and raw ingredients.

“Raw dog diet” and “raw dog food” can seem interchangeable but vary in a significant way. Raw dog food refers to store-bought or homemade raw uncooked items that can be consumed raw. It can also refer to freeze-dried dog food, which is raw food with moisture extracted from it for easier storage.

A raw dog diet is a diet that is made up of 100% raw ingredients. You can mix raw dog food with kibble or wet dog food. But you cannot mix anything processed or cooked with raw dog food if your dog is on a raw diet.

Since kibble’s pros and cons were addressed from a kibble-only standpoint, raw dog food’s pros and cons will also be viewed from a raw-only perspective.

A Selection of Raw Foods for Dogs.

Pros of Raw Dog Diet

Raw dog food has many purported benefits, like promoting healthy skin and a shiny coat. But since these benefits aren’t backed by anything but owners’ anecdotes and claims, we will not include these in the pros of a raw dog diet. Instead, we will go by what is verifiable. Here are the main pros of a raw dog diet.

It Is Appetizing

Since most raw dog food contains meat, and dogs have a carnivorous bias despite being omnivores, a raw dog food diet is very appetizing. Dogs rarely reject a diet featuring meat, and you don’t have a tough time getting them to accept food. In fact, they end up begging you for more.

It Contains High Levels Of Protein

Once again, this benefit stems from the presence of meat in the dog’s diet. The more meat there is in the dog food, the better it is for your dog’s health. This is true, especially if your dog is big. Bigger dogs need more protein to maintain their muscle mass.

The protein content not only helps build lean muscle but also benefits new cell generation and builds immunity. Having said that, it is worth remembering that dogs need other macronutrients aside from protein as well.

It Can Be More Holistic

Fortunately, raw food features fats and carbs as well. You can add veggies and yogurt to the raw dog food to promote better gut health and incorporate vitamins into the diet. A raw dog diet assumes a more involved owner, which increases the odds of the diet itself being more holistic.

It Promotes Superior Joint And Bone Health

Regardless of your involvement in your dog’s diet, if you feed him raw food, you automate his joint and bone health. Meat intake has a direct correlation with joint and bone health in dogs.

Technically raw food can feature just veggies, so this benefit is contingent on the amount of meat in the dog’s diet.

It Reduces Poop Volume and Odor

Raw dog food results in less smelly poop. This might be because of no preservatives and closer-to-nature ingredients in the dog’s diet. You can tell the difference between a dog who consumes raw food and a dog who eats kibble by simply looking at the stool volume and consistency.

Raw Dog Food Diet

Cons of Raw Dog Food

Raw dog food is getting pretty popular. However, it doesn’t have most of the dog food market share simply because it is limited in multiple ways. In this section, I will go over some of the most common disadvantages of feeding your dog an exclusively raw diet.

It Is Hard To Store

The first problem with raw dog food is that it is a hassle to store. Human food is also a hassle to store, but we can refrigerate and microwave food whenever it is storing or feeding time, respectively. Storing dog food can be complicated when you cannot cook it or heat it up.

It Can Get Contaminated Easily

Continuing on the theme of storage, the meat content of the raw diet is as vulnerable as any edible item can ever get. It is one of the most vulnerable types of food when it is not cooked, and almost any type of bacteria can survive on it.

This latest study review on raw diets concerning microbiological hazards highlights that the prevalence of potentially serious germs is considerably higher in raw pet food than in heat‐treated food. 

Also, the CDC does not advise a raw food diet for dogs due to health concerns around pet food safety, and this is justified, according to the above study. However, it is accepted that more research is needed on the health risks and nutritional benefits of raw feeding.

Your Dog Can Become Overweight (Or Underweight)

Another problem with raw dog food is that it is hard to pinpoint its nutritional information. The only exception to this seems to be in freeze-dried food or raw frozen. Packages of freeze-dried and raw frozen dog food can be categorized by dog breed and life stage. But if you’re using raw meat and dairy to feed your dog, even your most accurate guess is still a guess.

It Is Expensive To Maintain

Finally, the greatest disadvantage of a raw dog food diet is also the one that can limit anything from becoming a global phenomenon: it is too expensive. Depending on the ingredients you use for your raw dog food recipes, you might spend 3 to 5 times more per month by choosing it over kibble.

Do you want to know how much it costs to feed your dog a raw diet? Check out this article, The Cost To Feed Raw Dog Food (The True Price!).

Preparation of Raw Food is Time Consuming

Feeding your bestie a raw food diet takes time and preparation. As germs like listeria and salmonella bacteria are a risk, you must take food safety precautions to prevent your dog or your family from becoming sick.

When handling raw pet food, you must properly wash your hands and any surrounding surfaces. It takes a long time, to put it mildly, to prepare, sanitize, and research proper raw food feeding.

Home-prepared raw food might not be for you if you don’t have the time to become a part-time dog nutritionist and maintain your dog’s area like a commercial kitchen!

Mixing Kibble With Raw Dog Food (A Compromise!)

If you’re still undecided about whether to feed kibble or raw, the best alternative option is to feed the hybrid diet – a mix of dry dog food and raw. For example, you can add some pieces of lean chicken or meat with some dog-friendly vegetables to your dog’s dry feed. This can make a perfectly digestible and healthy meal.

However, when combining the two diets if you’ve only fed dry food to your dog, you must slowly add small portions of raw when transitioning to a kibble and raw hybrid diet.

Final Thoughts

In a kibble vs. raw dog food discussion, kibble is inexpensive and easy to get right with minimal effort. Raw dog food is more appetizing and holistic but requires a lot of hygiene care and significantly higher investment.

A mix of the two can be a mid-way solution, but ultimately, your personal context, your dog’s needs, and his preferences determine which one is best for you.

And if you’re not entirely convinced about raw feeding, you might want to check out my post on the pros and cons of dry dog food vs. home-cooked dog food, Kibble vs. Homemade Dog Food (Which is Better?)

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