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Dog Food Types: Feed Your Dog the Right Kind of Food

  • 13 min read

The following information is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not constitute pet medical advice.
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Have you ever just looked at the types of dog food available?

It’s overwhelming – there’s so much to choose from!

But what did dogs used to eat before we invented this dry kibble? What can they eat now that isn’t that stuff in the twenty pound bag we get at the supermarket?

Well, we wanted to know that, too. This is about the types of dog food that used to be the norm, about what nutritional values you should be looking for, the invention of modern day dog food, diet specificities… everything under the sun that concerns dog food.

If you’d like to see a graphical breakdown of the dog food types, we got you covered:

Types Of Food

What Did Dogs Eat in the Past?

They were basically fed anything that their owners could get their hands on. This included a ton of table scraps, like bread, sausage, eggs, and whatever else was around.

As you can imagine, hundreds of years ago, domesticated dogs lived on a very grain-heavy diet since it was the cheapest and most abundant food available.

Dogs would eat a lot of raw food as well, which is why some vets recommend a raw diet depending on what your dog is going through medically or if they’re just not taking well to wet food/dry kibble.

Invention of Modern Dog Food

It wasn’t until 1860 that we really saw modernized dog food. While we’ve explored different nutritional components of dog food in recent years, we’re also still fairly close to the way that dog food was originally invented.

James Spratt was a businessman, and the first person to make commercially-crafted dog food for Englishmen and their hunting hounds (well before it became the norm for every dog out there). Later on, recipes became commercialized into dry kibble food as well as caned wet food.

Types of Dog Food

Is it just wet vs. dry food? No, not exactly. That’s what most people get stuck on, but there are also breed-specific types of food that don’t just depend on the moisture content of the food. We’re going to go over all of it right now.


Dry food is simply presented in the form of kibble bits or small pieces of dried dog food nuggets. That doesn’t exactly sound appetizing, but it is for your dog.

Their teeth are designed to be used, so while some people stick to wet food for dental reasons, most dogs are going to want that bit of bite to really work their jaw and chompers.

Dry food has a longer shelf life than most other dog foods (unless the wet food is canned instead of in plastic tubs), and has a lower moisture content.

This can be a good thing depending on your dog’s digestive tract and any issues they might have. Dry food can also be left out for a few days without attracting pests or growing mold from the moisture (which is where bacteria loves to thrive).


Wet food is generally the more loved option by dogs, since it feeds something carnal inside (based on their original diets before they were domesticated).

It mimics the textures and feeling of a raw diet, which is what dogs were used to for the longest time, even after domestication for the last few hundred years.

Wet food sometimes has a higher fiber content than dry food, but more often than not, it’s sought out for its moisture content. Your dogs might love it, but it’s usually not advised to be the only type of food in their diet.

A 50/50 blend, or more commonly, a mix of wet and dry food in a 25/75 range, respectively, is a good way to give your dog what they want and what they need at the same time.

Breed Specific

Some dogs have issues with their digestion, some don’t. It’s all dependent on the specific breed of your dog. There are ten major classifications of dog breeds, each of which has sub breeds.

There are five different kinds of golden retrievers, but nobody really seeks out a specific one, and their diets can be basically the same. That being said, each breed might have different dietary regulations and likelihoods of having a sensitive stomach.

This would be something a veterinarian would have to confirm for you based on your dog breed and health since it’s not automatic depending on breed. Specialized food for these diets exists.

Age Specific

Puppy food has more protein, adult food has more balanced nutrition, and senior food comes with more fiber. Age is absolutely a defining factor for your dog food choice.

There are “All Life Stage” foods available, but those are really only useful for those dogs that are athletic, healthy, and have no medical conditions.

This is, of course, subjective based on my own research and experience, and a veterinarian would be better equipped to tell you if your specific dog could benefit from these foods, but more often than not, the case appears to be that ultra-healthy dogs can benefit from them.

Size Specific

Yeah, your dog is a certain age, but they’re a small breed.

That matters. It affects protein, moisture, and crude fat content, and you can bet that those will mess with their digestion and possibly inhibit growth depending on the specific case. You should seek out breed size food depending on your dog’s diet.

Health Specific

Probiotic inclusion, additional nutrients, minerals, vitamins, and other additives that make this dog food healthier for your pet.

This is going to entirely depend on your dog’s medical conditions or deficiencies, so don’t just buy one all willy-nilly. Find out what your dog is lacking, from a certified veterinarian, and then make a decision based on that.


Vegetarian dog foods do exist, although half the time, it’s just better to make your own vegetable mixed dog food for your pup.

You can do this through a ton of different online recipes, just be sure to avoid toxic or poisonous vegetables. Dogs can’t have everything.

The benefits of vegetarian diets typically appeal to a vegetarian owner, since dogs will happily eat meat in one capacity or another, per their nature.

Keep in mind that vegetarian dog food is not only expensive, but very particular. Because there are less available protein sources from vegetables, you have to make sure your dog is still getting the right blend of benefits with an absence of meat.


Organic dog food incorporates the best parts of nature with no GMO or cruel practices. Organic dog foods have to be free of antibiotics, synthetic hormones of any kind, and any pesticides.

If it’s a vegetable-rich dog food, it can’t be chemically fertilized. If it’s a meat product, it cannot be genetically engineered. It’s basically keeping everything as close to nature as possible.

Organic dog foods are highly expensive, so it’s not something you should venture into if you don’t have a budget to match it.

How Much Should You Feed Your Dog?

How Much Should You Feed Your Dog?

Breed usually dictates size to some extent. You only really need to worry about your dog’s weight and their BMI when trying to determine how much you should be feeding them.

Dog foods come with a weight chart on the back of their bags or cans, so you can know how many cups of dry kibble or the contents of a can should be given to your dog.

The goal is to maintain weight within 2% of your dog’s total weight. Basically, one pound gained is not a health crisis, but weight gain continues to trend upwards, then it’s a problem.

Obesity is a Concern

Most modern dog food is chemically altered in some way, and these chemicals can be problems that lead to obesity.

Whether they are chock-full of preservatives that have your dog holding onto the calories or not, any time you look at dog food, you need to make sure obesity is a concern on your mind.

There are specially formulated recipes that are designed to help your dog with weight loss, and some that are made for weight management. After a visit to your vet, determine if your dog needs one of these.

Nutrient Deficiencies Need to be Addressed

Does your dog have nutrient deficiencies right now?

If not, that’s the best-case scenario. You should keep an eye on the contents of your dog’s food to make sure they don’t develop one later on.

Your veterinarian will have a solid plan of what your dog should be intaking in terms of calories and protein and the like, but they’ll also be able to do work to determine if your dog is low in any core vitamins and minerals.

Consider swapping to a higher-quality food from a trusted brand that offers more nutritional density in every cup of kibble or can of wet food.

Breed Specific Needs Unlike the Rest

Some dogs could benefit from breed-specific food, but for the most part, the consensus is that it’s not a necessary type of dog food.

If your dog needs a special or therapeutic diet, breed-specific mixes aren’t it. They can be more appealing to your dogs, but a lot of this trend is just marketing.

Can Dogs Live a Healthy Life on a Vegetarian Diet?

There are instincts based on biological hardwiring, and they’re relevant. Dogs enjoy meat. No dog chooses to be a vegetarian.

However, I’m not one of those people who shame anyone for trying to provide their dog with a vegetarian diet, especially if you’re someone who cannot abide by any animal cruelty in any form.

You absolutely can put your dog on a vegetarian diet, but it’s very difficult. It’s a lot easier to mess it up than if you just went with a meat-inclusive, standard dog diet.

You can accidentally deprive your dog of certain nutrients that are critical to their development, or maintaining normal levels of organ use. This can take a little while to really affect them, but if it does, it could be very harmful.

Vegetarian dog diets should always be done under a trained veterinarian with a specialty in nutrition. They can monitor your dog’s health through their diet (especially through the transitional period in the beginning), and ensure everything is going well the whole way through.

Dog Supplements That Can Help Nutrient Deficiencies

Dog Supplements That Can Help Nutrient Deficiencies

Is your dog having a hard time eating their healthier kibble mix, or the homemade dog food that you’re making them? They can be as picky as toddlers at times, but you can provide them with supplements to make up for some sections of lost nutrition.

One of the best out there is PetHonesty, which is a 10-in-1 multivitamin specifically for dogs. It includes plenty of nutrients that they only get trace elements of in department store dog food.

If you can’t afford to maintain a more expensive, high-quality doggy diet, this could be a great way to aid your dog while still giving them budget food.

Zesty Paws also has a great liquid supplement, called Wild Alaskan Salmon Oil for omega-3 fatty acid inclusion. This is especially helpful in young pups who are still developing and need that extra set of brain-growing nutrients.

What Can I Feed my Dog Instead of Dog Food?

You have a list of options at your disposal. If you don’t want to go with dry kibble or canned wet food, then you have the option to to make your own DIY dog food.

There are tons of recipes available online, many of which can be tailored to specific digestive issues depending on which breed of dog you have, and what they tend to lack nutritionally.

You should still feed your dog a balance of protein, fat, fiber, and moisture in a good kcal range regardless of what option you choose.

Can Dogs Eat the Same Diet as Humans?

The answer is yes, but not as many things as you would expect. There are some foods that are fatal to dogs (and I’m not just talking about chocolate), that you can’t include in your dog’s diet.

That being said, if you’ve ever taken a look at DIY dog food, then you’ll find a lot of meats and vegetables that most of us eat all the time, and these actually benefit your dog.

You can completely DIY a dog food solution with turkey, peas, broccoli, peanut butter, carrots, oatmeal, even yogurt. There are tons of recipes online for DIY dog food.

The problem comes down to cross-contamination. This isn’t just something that happens in your kitchen, but when some food is grouped with other foods that dogs cannot eat.

Dogs can die from eating garlic, onions, grapes, raisins, avocados, and even bacon.

It’s just a little hard to guarantee, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that there’s no cross-contamination with some DIY solutions. If you’re confident, you can do this so that they can eat some of the same foods you eat. Just be sure to measure it out properly.

They can’t eat the exact same diet as most humans, but if you’re careful, you can share the same ingredients. It surely makes shopping a lot easier – you’re already getting the ingredients, anyway.

DIY Dog Food You Can Make at Home

Are you finding that the preservatives in dog food just don’t vibe with what you want your dog to have? Scared about recalls?

You’re justified, first of all, but secondly it’s still important to make sure your dog is getting proper nutrition when you go the DIY route. This simple recipe is all you really need.

  • 1 ½ cups of brown rice
  • ½ cup of peas
  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 3 ½ pounds of ground turkey
  • 1 shredded cucumber
  • 2 ½ cups of spinach or kale
  • 2 shredded carrots

This gives an optimal blend of nutrition, and mimics the ingredients of popular dog brands that come in with a higher quality, higher priced formula. Is this going to be cheap to do?

No, but at least you know where the food is coming from, and you’re able to control their nutrition. Dogs need a blend of fiber, fat, moisture, and protein, and this recipe is sure to do the trick just fine.

Dog Diets are a Little Complicated

Your dog might have a compromised diet right now. The best thing that you can do is take your pup to the vet and get an assessment. This includes their weight, height, nutritional densities, and their overall health and deficiencies that could be linked back to diet.

You know more about dog food than most people do, now it’s time to use that knowledge. Put it to use, and get your dog the next possible food that you can. Make sure they’re intaking the highest quality nutrients imaginable so that they can not only live a long life, but a healthy life as well.


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