Comparing Dog Foods: Kibble vs. Raw vs. Cooked Dog

by Sarah Seward-Langdon on September 14, 2022

Comparing Dog Foods: Kibble vs. Raw vs. Cooked Dog

Written by: Sarah Seward-Langdon

Reviewed by: Amanda Nascimento, DVM, MSc, Ph.D

Published on: 09/19/2022

There are an abundance of views when it comes to feeding your dog. Some people swear by raw food while others find kibble perfectly suitable for their precious pet. More recently, dog owners have even started exploring the option of fresh pet food!

With the huge amount of options available to pet parents, it is increasingly difficult to know whether you’re making the “right” choice. Another addition to the stress is that this can be a heated debate where people fight passionately about their beliefs.

No wonder it can get confusing, especially for newer pet parents!

There are lots of things to consider when comparing dog foods, including price, convenience, nutrition, and most importantly your specific dog. Each type of dog food has its own benefits and advantages, and what might work for one dog or family may not work for another.

That’s why we’ll use this article to go over the essentials of picking dog food for your pet. By the end of this quick, informative read, you’ll have everything you need to know about comparing raw, kibble, and fresh pet food. Let’s get you prepared!

Checklist for Picking Your Dog’s Food

Before we dive in, it is important that you have general knowledge regarding your dog’s nutritional needs. Although many commercial pet food diets on the market are formulated to meet minimum nutrition needs, is that really enough to ensure that your dog thrives?

On top of that, not every dog is the same; therefore, not all dogs have the exact same nutritional requirements. A dog’s nutritional needs can be affected by things like age, breed, activity levels, and overall health condition. For instance, a puppy needs more certain nutrients compared to a fully grown adult dog because a younger dog is still growing and developing [1].

All this sounds complicated, so here’s a list of some of the essential items you should consider when picking your dog’s pet food:

  • Check to see whether it’s “Complete & Balanced” based on AAFCO’s categorization—however, if you’re looking at a reputable brand that doesn’t have this statement, dive deeper into WHY [1]
  • Look for companies who use high-quality ingredients, and ensure the top 3 ingredients in their food are meat-based [2]
  • Oppositely, try to avoid foods that have high amounts of filler ingredients or synthetics and additives (ex. Wheat, corn, or soy) [2]
  • Is the food’s manufacturer transparent about its safety procedures? This is important because the more produced food is, the more possibility for mistakes there are [3]
  • Keep in mind what age/life stage your dog is in because this will impact which food you should love for [4]
  • Consult your veterinarian if you need to feed a dog with specific health issues, allergies or sensitivities [1]
  • Talking to other, more experienced pet parents who have probably done a ton of their own research and can tell you firsthand stories about their dogs and food

Exploring the Types of Dog Food

One of the most common questions dog owners have is which type of dog food is the best. There is no right answer to this question. The most important thing is to feed your individual dog—as we said not all dogs are the same, so the food they’ll do best on will also vary!

To help you research the different types of dog food available on the market, we’ve summarized each food type, the pros and cons, and which dogs may do well on this type of dog food. Our aim is to fit as much essential information in as needed so that you’ll be able to make an informed situation with confidence.

1. Dry Food / Kibble

Kibble is the most common dog food type you’ll see, but that doesn’t always mean it's been the best. Depending on the recipe and manufacturer, dry pet foods are made from a variety of ingredients mixed together and cooked with high heat. 99% of kibble recipes are made to follow an AAFCO statement, so be sure to grab one that’s appropriate for your pet.

Advantages of Kibble

  • Convenience: It is easy to store (with less spoilage) and easy to serve your dog [5]
  • Options: Out of most of the other types of dog food, you’ll find the most options available in kibble recipes
  • Price: Although there are many higher quality, more expensive dry dog food brands, it is much easier to find kibble brands that are affordable [5]
  • Lower risk of spoilage: Since it is highly processed, it is made to have a longer shelf life with less of a risk of spoiling [6]

Disadvantages of Kibble

  • Highly processed: When manufacturing kibble, companies must use high heats to properly create kibble. High temperatures can negatively impact the nutritional values of ingredients in the food [7].
  • Synthetics, additives, and preservatives: Kibbles require preservatives and additives because of the high heat manufacturing process and to ensure that there is no rancidity during its long shelf life [5].
  • Lack of transparency: Some kibble companies can get away with stretching the truth about what they put into their food [6]!

Situations Kibble is Suitable For

  • Puppies if you’re a newer owner and are less knowledgeable about the nutritional requirements of your new dog
  • Dogs who are healthy on average and don’t have any blaring health issues when eating kibble
  • Parents who are cost-conscious but still want what’s best for their pet—just need to look at higher-quality dry food brands

2. Raw (Frozen)

Have you ever heard of the BARF diet? Yes, it’s an unfortunate acronym, but it is a highly practiced feeding method for dogs and stands for “biologically appropriate raw food”. Based on this theory, pet owners like to feed their dogs similarly to how their wolf ancestors ate and include in their diet a mix of raw muscle meat, bones, organs, vegetables, and fruits [8].

Although many commercially produced raw foods don’t solely go by the rules of the BARF diet, many used this theory as a basis and modified based on continuous research within the community.

Raw is probably the most controversial type of pet food on the market. Its advocates are passionate about how amazing it is, and others worry about how dangerous it is for pets and humans alike.

The American Animal Hospital Association, officially recommends against feeding raw meat-based diets to dogs, as does the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA).

As the “raw revolution” grows, there will be continued research and heated debates about this type of pet food. Just know that for some dogs, raw meals can drastically improve their health, but every dog is different!

Advantages of Raw

  • Natural ingredients: Ingredients that are used in high-quality raw brands are usually whole, natural foods. Most companies boast that their raw diets don’t use any synthetics or unhealthy additives.
  • Less processed: Raw ingredients are obviously not cooked. Since raw dog food does not need to go through high heat situations, it is not as processed and if the diet is properly planned, raw food provides some of the best nutritional value for dogs [7].
  • Delicious taste: Most dogs love the taste of raw food, specifically meat-based ingredients [8].
  • Helpful in treating some health conditions: After switching to raw, many owners report chronic health issues clearing up and improving overall physical conditions. For instance, many dogs experience softer fur, better skin, fresher breath, cleaner teeth, and smaller poops when eating a raw diet [7].
  • Higher moisture content: Unfortunately it is very common for dogs (and cats) to be chronically dehydrated because their food does not provide enough liquid. In particular, cats are prone to renal diseases, so having a diet high in water content is helpful to prevent or decrease the progress of the disease. Raw food hasn’t been altered; therefore, your pet is getting the moisture they need partially because of their food!

Disadvantages of Raw

  • Harder to handle safely: This is the most common argument against feeding raw food. Since you are handling raw meats, there is always a higher risk of pathogens and it is harder to avoid dangers of raw food vs. kibble, for instance. However, as long as you follow simple steps like storing it correctly, washing your hands, and always washing bowls, then you can definitely feed raw food safely [9]. Also, avoid kissing your dog on or near his mouth, and don't allow him to lick your face. Unfortunately, the dog in a raw diet can transmit bacterias that can be life-treating to humans.
  • Storage is complicated: Unlike kibble or canned food, raw dog food needs to be stored in the fridge or the freezer. Because a lot of pet parents like to buy in bulk or prepare their homemade raw food in bulk, it is important that they prepare ahead of time. Sometimes people get entirely separate freezers just for their precious pup [7]!
  • Hard to prepare properly: Not only can it be messier than kibble, but it is also harder to actually feed your dog a healthy, balanced raw diet. If you feed commercial diets, it is less likely that your dog is missing any essential nutrients. However, one of the main reasons that vets are still against raw diets is that people are less educated about how to provide all of the vital nutritional components in the right quantities [7].
  • Higher price point: Feeding raw is one of the more expensive options for dog parents—people report spending up to $2.50 - $5 a day to feed an average-sized dog a good raw diet [10].

Situations Raw Pet Food is Suitable For

  • Good for average pets to give them optimal health
  • Can help pets who dealing with specific chronic health issues, possible food allergies, or sensitivities—be sure to speak to a vet or nutritionist if your dog has chronic problems and how to solve them!
  • Owners who want to have more control over the ingredients their dogs are eating, and ensure that the food is more natural.

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✅ Canadian produced and operated.

3. Cooked

Otherwise called fresh pet food, cooked pet meals are becoming more and more common. As more people scrutinize feeding their dogs overly-processed kibble, they want to find a healthy and safe alternative. Since there is still a lot of opposition to raw food, people are turning to cooked pet meals as their go-to option [5].

Advantages of Cooked

  • Natural ingredients: Like raw food, fresh pet food uses natural, whole food ingredients in its recipes. It is rare for fresh pet food to contain extra fillers or synthetic additives [11].
  • Fewer safety concerns: Since all of the ingredients are cooked, many of the safety concerns of raw pet food are erased when dealing with fresh pet food [5].
  • Lower temperature: Fresh pet food, whether it is homemade or commercially prepared, is often cooked at lower temperatures, especially compared to kibble. This means that on top of being potentially safer because the meat ingredients are no longer raw, cooked pet food also keeps some of the nutrients since it is not processed at high temperatures [12].
  • Similar health benefits to raw: Many pet parents who feed cooked pet food see the same positive changes in their pets as if they were feeding raw, including better skin and coat, fewer allergy symptoms, smaller poops, and better smelling breath [12]!

Disadvantages of Cooked Pet Food

  • Very pricey: On par, if not more expensive than raw since it is newer to the market and requires more labour to get a finished product.
  • Loss of some nutrients: Compared to raw pet food, any cooking of ingredients will make a meal a bit less nutritionally effective.
  • Storage can be complicated: Just like raw pet food, cooked pet food also needs to be stored in the fridge and freezer. With the space required for storage, it can be an inconvenience for many pet owners.

Situations Cooked Pet Food is Suitable For

  • Pets who may have more sensitive stomachs and can’t handle raw pet food or kibble
  • Pet parents who want some more control over what their pets are eating, making sure it's natural and less processed
  • A possible solution for picky eaters, as sometimes cooking foods give them a more palatable taste and smell
  • As a bowl booster on top of kibble or raw pet foods

How to Enhance Your Dog’s Meals

Pre-made Toppers

There are many options when it comes to commercially-made toppers. Whether you’re feeding kibble, raw, or cooked food, you’ll find a topper that could benefit your dog! Dog food toppers can come in many forms including powders, liquids, dry foods, wet foods and much more.

Remember to consult your vet about which toppers could help your dog! Commercially-made pet food toppers are useful since they are made specifically for this use situation. Big companies will sell one food topper that checks off multiple boxes for your dog

Fresh Food Toppers

If you’re not keen on trying to pick between all of the options available in pre-made toppers, there is an easier option. Try human food ingredients that are beneficial for your dog. Although it requires a bit more thinking, research, and preparation than commercially-made toppers, it can be very helpful for your dog.

Furthermore, it’s always fun to see the different goodies you can add to your dog’s food bowl to make it extra pretty and nutritious. Some easy human food toppers include sardines in freshwater (not in oil), pumpkins, blueberries, and eggs. It is important that you research quantities and talk to your vet beforehand!


Much like pre-made dog toppers, supplements are produced solely to give dogs a boost in specific nutrients that may be missing from their main diet. Common supplements include probiotics, vitamins & minerals, and essential fatty acids.

Just like with any diet change, remember to consult your vet or professional pet nutritionist. They will be able to help you figure out which supplements will be most beneficial for your dog based on their lifestyle and current diet.

Looking for a high-quality omega-3 supplement? Grab a bottle of Smart Earth Camelina to make sure your pet is getting the proper amount of essential fatty acids.

That’s a lot to take in! However, nutrition for both ourselves and our dogs is a constantly changing topic as society studies and learns more. We hope that this blog helped you in your journey to do what is best for your individual dog.

Remember to always use the resources around you for support, whether that is all of the reputable blogs on the internet, other experienced pet owners, or your trusted veterinarian.

Happy feeding!

Camelina Oil for Equine

✅ Single ingredient, 100% pure Camelina Oil.
✅ Non-GMO
✅ Ideal balance of Omega-3 compared to other products, like soybean oil.
✅ Canadian produced and operated.

Camelina Oil for Canine


✅ Single ingredient, 100% pure Camelina Oil.
✅ Non-GMO
✅ Ideal balance of Omega-3 compared to other products, like soybean oil.
✅ Canadian produced and operated.

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About Sarah

Sarah is a marketing specialist with a passion for anything creative! Her openness to working across industries and job opportunities has allowed her to gain enormous amounts of experience in graphic design, video production, and written content creation. Animals have a special place in her heart as she grew up with cats and now owns her own Alaskan Malamute. She has spent the last couple of years in Vancouver working with different companies within the pet industry and gained valuable knowledge about the ins and outs of the (alternative) pet food industry, supplementation, and various training methods. When she’s not digitally creating content for pet lovers to consume, she’s out eating great food, dancing at drop-in classes, or exploring the beautiful Canadian scenery with her fur-child Miso.