Snoqualmie Pets 101: All about Dog Food – History and Pros and Cons of Kibble, Canned, Dehydrated and Raw

In her bi-weekly guest column, LeChic Pet Trainer, Melissa Grant, runs down the history of dog food and helps you understand which type might be best for your furry friend – as well as your family.

The first commercial dog food was introduced in 1860. A man in England named James Spratt noticed the street dogs waiting to be fed leftover biscuit scraps. He came up with a biscuit shaped like a bone and his company thrived to include other animal feed and veterinary medicines. In the 1950’s his company, “Spratt’s Patent Limited” became a part of General Mills. To this day the UK subsidiary of General Mills still makes a bone very similar to the one Pratt dreamed Dog Foodup in 1860.

Before World War I canned dog food was a rarity, but after became popular as horses and mules were replaced by cars and tractors. Their meat was very cheap and canned dog food became more of a household staple. 91% of the dog food market was canned by 1941. World War II changed all that with the horse surplus used and a shortage of tin and labor.  The production of enormous bags of kibbled food began.

The dry food industry remained king until 1971 when the category of dry/moist food began and a whole slew of alternative ways to feed your dogs (and cats) began showing up on the market. But how do you know which way of feeding is right for your pet?

There are so many choices now…dry, canned, dehydrated and raw. It’s hard to know which one is right for your pets. The best thing you can do is educate yourself by reading and understanding the label, visiting a specialized pet store that has knowledgeable staff that can help with questions and talking to other pet owners about what has worked for them.

Here is a short run down of the pros and cons of each type of feeding:

Kibble, also known as dry– Kibble works for most pets. It has many benefits. It is for the most part cost effective, easily stored, good for dental health, readily available, can be left out without fear of spoilage and is super convenient. Who hasn’t taken an overnighter and left out big bowls of food for the kitty? The problems can be the lack of moisture (important to aging pets), harder to digest, harder to determine exactly what is in the food (byproduct anyone?) and can be less palatable for a picky pet.

Canned, also known as wet- Canned food is a great option for some pets. Cats can be prone to kidney issues as they age and canned food is a great way to keep your kitty more hydrated. It’s also more palatable to most pets, can be more protein rich, is easier to eat and to digest. However, canned food can be more expensive, has a tendency to contribute to pet weight gain, can spoil, its messy and can necessitate more frequent dental care.

Dehydrated- Dehydrated food is a relatively new option. It is still dry, but can quickly be rehydrated to oatmeal like consistency. A two pound bag can be turned into over six pounds of food, making it a nice in between for those liking both dry and wet. Some dehydrated food resembles jerky very closely and we all know how much dogs love jerky! It is easily traveled, stored and prepared. It can be more expensive than dry and because of the processing can also can more preservatives than you might want in your pet’s food.

Raw- Raw used to mean “cooking” for your dog or cat. While some people still do, now manufacturers have made it easier to feed raw by packaging raw food in easy to feed frozen patties. Raw has many health benefits for young and old alike. It is the closest to a wild diet. It offers more nutrients at one time without being broken down like kibble. Less food means fewer poops and who wouldn’t like that? If you have a pet like I do with a digestion disorder, it can move through their systems faster and cause fewer problems. The cons of this type of feeding are the risk of bacteria like E. coli and salmonella.

Raw is a way of feeding that has to be done by a responsible adult, hand washing is crucial! You need freezer space for your pet’s food and you need to remember to defrost the food overnight. Zapping raw food in the microwave defeats the health benefits. Sometimes raw food just doesn’t work in a household of small children or forgetful folks. Raw feeding is expensive and maybe not best for those of us with Saint Bernard’s or Great Danes.

Whatever you choose to feed do your research (Whole Dog Journal is a good resource) and choose the food that will best suit you and your pet for a lifetime of good health and happy tails!


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  • Thanks for the tips! This is the first I’ve heard about dehydrated pet food. We’ll have to give it a try.

    1. Glad I could help Shannon. The most common dehydrated foods are Ziwi Peak and Addiction. Good luck and let us know how they work!

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