Best Dry Dog Food Diet - A Beginner’s Guide

best-dry-dog-food-diet

We all want the best for our fur babies, and what could be more important than ensuring they receive all the valuable nutrition their bodies need to stay healthy and strong?

While there are a range of benefits to feeding your pooch a dry diet, many dog owners have questioned if a dry dog food diet is as beneficial as other dog food diets.

If you want to make sure you’re feeding your dog the best dry dog food diet, this guide fills you in on everything you need to know... 

What is dry dog food?

Dry dog food (or kibble) is a convenient and cost-effective way to provide your dog with all the nutrition it needs to maintain good health. 

Unlike wet dog foods which typically contain around 70% water, dry dog foods have a much lower moisture content (usually about 8-10%). The low moisture content of dry dog foods makes it lighter and easier for manufacturers to transport, and offers a long shelf-life without the need for refrigeration. For these reasons, dry dog foods are usually the most affordable way to feed your dog.

While the ingredients included in dry dog food can vary between brands, most dry dog foods include:

  • a source of protein, such as chicken, beef, lamb, kangaroo or eggs
  • cereals
  • vitamins 
  • minerals, and 
  • antioxidants.

Some dry dog foods also include additional ingredients such as vegetables and plant-based proteins, grains (such as corn, rice, oats, barley, wheat, rye or sorghum), and various preservatives including ethoxyquin, butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA) and butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT).

Dry dog food is usually manufactured by combining the ingredients together to form a dough, before undergoing a cooking and extrusion process to form the individual food pieces. The food is then dried to remove excess moisture, before being sprayed with fats, oils, vitamins and minerals and sealed in bags or boxes.

What is a “complete and balanced” diet?   

Ensuring your dog receives a “complete and balanced” diet is crucial for them to be able to maintain good health. 

A “complete” diet includes all the essential nutrients that dogs of a particular life-stage need, including:

  • a high proportion of protein for strong muscles and healthy body tissue
  • animal fats and plant seed oils such as Linoleic acid, Omega-6 and Omega-3 fatty acids for energy, healthy skin and fur, hormone regulation and vitamin absorption
  • carbohydrates for energy and to regulate various bodily functions, and
  • vitamins and minerals such as Calcium, Phosphorous, Vitamin A, D, E, K and B-complex Vitamins for strong bones and other functions. 

A dry dog food which includes all these nutrients will specify that it is “complete” dog food on the label. Dry dog foods which are considered “complementary” do not provide adequate nutrition and should not form a major part of your dog’s diet.

Pre-packaged dry dog food labelling should also specify that the product is “balanced”, meaning the nutrients are provided in the correct ratios to support good health. While packaging labels won’t specify the exact quantities or ratios of each ingredient, it must list the ingredients in descending order, providing an indication of the quantity it contains. 

The best dry dog foods tend to avoid using starch and simple carbohydrates, as they can cause your dog to gain weight and lead to insulin resistance and diabetes.

Will a dry dog food diet provide enough nutrients? 

A complete and balanced dry dog food will provide your dog with all the nutrients it needs. 

While many dog owners prefer to offer a mixed diet including a combination of dry, wet and/or raw foods, your dog will still receive all the nutrition it needs when exclusively following a dry food diet.

It’s very important to ensure that dogs consuming a dry diet stay well-hydrated. As dry foods have a significantly lower water content than wet and raw foods, your dog needs to source that hydration elsewhere. Always ensure your dog has access to plenty of fresh, clean drinking water to prevent dehydration.

You should also check that you are feeding your dog the correct amount of food based on their size, weight, age and activity level to ensure they’re receiving sufficient kilojoules to meet their energy needs (see below).

In some cases, dogs may also require additional supplementation to their diet to manage a specific health condition. Your vet should advise if you need to include any supplements in your dog's diet.

The benefits of a dry dog food diet

There are a range of benefits to including dry foods in your dog's diet, such as: 

  • Better oral and dental hygiene: The chewing required to consume dry food helps to remove plaque and tartar from your dog’s teeth. Your dog’s breath should be fresher, and they’ll also have a lower risk of developing gingivitis and dental disease.
  • Convenient: Dry dog foods are readily available from supermarkets, convenience stores and pet food retailers, making it a highly convenient option for most dog owners.
  • The risks of a dry dog food diet

    While most dogs can safely consume a dry diet, there are some risks you need to be aware of:

  • Dehydration: Dry dog food has a very low moisture content, so your dog will need to drink significantly more water than dogs which are fed a wet or raw diet. If your dog does not consume enough water, they can become dehydrated and their urine will be highly concentrated, which could also cause a range of urinary conditions including struvite crystals and kidney stones. 
  • Weight gain: Dry dog foods are typically high in calories, and overfeeding can quickly lead to weight gain. It’s important to read the product labelling to calculate the optimal quantity your dog needs before feeding, and adjust their diet and feeding regime if you notice unhealthy weight gain.  
  • Neurological issues: Some low-quality commercial dog foods contain potentially harmful preservatives such as sulphur dioxide, sulphite or potassium sulphates. These could lead to a Thiamine (Vitamin B1) deficiency, which can be responsible for a range of neurological symptoms including neuromuscular weakness and optical issues.

  • Is a dry diet suitable for all dogs?

    best-dog-treats-for-puppies-seniors-other-dogs

    A dry food diet is suitable for most dogs, however some dogs may have additional needs which need to be considered:

  • Puppies: Puppies have different nutritional requirements to adult dogs. While puppies are generally fine to consume dry kibble, you’re best placed selecting a puppy-specific formula that ensures they will receive the ideal balance of fats, proteins and minerals for their life stage.
  • Older dogs: Dogs rely heavily on their sense of smell to stimulate their appetite, and dry dog food doesn’t offer the same strong odour as wet or raw dog food. While younger dogs with a keen sense of smell are generally attracted to any type of food, older dogs whose smell receptors aren’t as sensitive may not find dry food varieties as appetising. Some older dogs may also have trouble digesting dry dog food. 
  • Dogs with dental issues: While the chewing required to consume dry dog food is beneficial for your dog’s dental health, dogs who are already suffering from dental issues may struggle to chew the kibble sufficiently and would prefer a softer diet.
  • Dogs prone to choking: Dogs that have experienced issues with choking in the past are best to avoid hard, dry foods.
  • You should seek advice from your veterinarian if you have any concerns about feeding your dog a dry food diet.

    How much dry food should you feed your dog?

    The easiest way to calculate how much dry food your dog needs is to adopt a ‘feed by weight’ approach. 

    The following table provides a breakdown of the daily energy requirements for dogs based on weight.

    Size

    Weight

    Daily energy requirements (calories)

    Cups of dry dog food required per day

    Toy

    3 lbs (1.3 kg)

    139 cal

    ⅓ cup

    Toy

    6 lbs (2.7 kg)

    233 cal

    ½ cup

    Small

    10 lbs (4.5 kg)

    342 cal

    ¾ cup

    Small

    15 lbs (6.8 kg)

    464 cal

    1 cup

    Small

    20 lbs (9.1 kg)

    576 cal

    1 ⅓ cups

    Medium

    30 lbs (13.6 kg)

    781 cal

    1 ¾ cups

    Medium

    40 lbs (18.1 kg)

    969 cal

    2 ¼ cups

    Medium

    50 lbs (22.7 kg)

    1,145 cal

    2 ⅔ cups

    Large

    60 lbs (27.2 kg)

    1,313 cal

    3 cups

    Large

    70 lbs (31.8 kg)

    1,474 cal

    3 ½ cups

    Large

    80 lbs (36.2 kg)

    1,629 cal

    3 ¾ cups

    Large

    90 lbs (40.8 kg)

    1,779 cal

    4 ¼ cups

    Large

    100 lbs (45.4 kg)

    1,926 cal

    4 ½ cups

    Source: PetMD

    The above table should only be used as a general guide. It’s important to read the information on the packaging label for guidance on how much you should be feeding your dog, as some dry dog foods may be higher in calories than others.

    You’ll also need to decide how often to feed your dog—while most adult dogs are happy to be fed twice a day (once in the morning, then again in the evening), others may prefer to consume 3-4 smaller portions throughout the day.

    In addition to the size and weight of your dog, your dog’s energy requirements can also be influenced by other factors such as their age, activity level and any medical conditions they have. If you are unsure if you are feeding your dog the correct amount, seek advice from your veterinarian. 

    Petzyo provides an easy online tool to calculate your dog’s likely energy requirements and develop a customised dry, raw or mixed feeding plan

    Find out what feeding plan we would recommend for your dog.