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Dry Pet Food

Updated: Dec 16, 2021

Years ago you may have found only bagged dry kibble and canned foods on your supermarket or pet store shelves but that is not the case in the 21st century. Today there is a lot more variety to choose for your companion, but with all the choice it’s hard to know what is the best diet. In this series of articles, we will discuss different types of pet food including dry food, wet food, home-cooked meals, freeze-dried and raw diets (both commercial and homemade). It is important to look at all of your options to determine what is best for you and your companion.

One of the most available diets on the market today is a dry based cereal like diet found in a plastic bag. These diets are widely available typically found at the obvious locations like a pet store but also easily obtained in your local grocery store. These diets are usually made in a factory where vegetables, fruits and meats are ground up and mixed with other ingredients into a dough. Additional ingredients like coloring agents, minerals, vitamins, preservatives (chemical or natural as well as texturizers may be added. The dough is cut into the creative shapes you find in your pet’s kibble than heated at high temperatures before being packaged into it’s bag and distributed.

This diet is often preferred not only because of it’s convenience and constant exposure on television and print materials but often because of it’s cost and wide variety.

In a recent study surveying 110 participants, 56.9% currently feed their pet a dry diet. Please note that a majority of dry food users also use another food type in addition to the dry food. The reasons why a dry diet is fed included recommendations made by veterinarians and pet stores. Ingredients, cost and family recommendations were other popular answers. Others included recommendations by other professionals like breeders and trainers as well as being attracted to the bag or name and TV advertisements. Out of the total participants 67.2% believed this diet was good for their pet. Of those that explained most believed that it was good for their companion’s teeth and that these diets were the most complete with important vitamins. Other reasons also included that it was balanced, was the only thing their companion would eat and it was good for their companion’s digestion. Four participants did agree that dry food could be good for their companion but it depended on various factors. On the other hand, 3.6% of participants believed this diet was not good for their companion. Of those that explained their answer participants said their veterinarian recommended against the diet and that the diet does not contain enough water in it. Finally, 23.6% of participants were unsure if a dry food was good or not. Reasons included those based on personal preference for other food types whiles others chose maybe because they believed that it should be given in moderation or that it depended on what the specific food contained.

When it comes to cats especially a dry diet is never the best diet. Cats are obligate carnivores (1) meaning they are meant to only eat meat. A dry kibble diet is mainly plant based containing lots of fruits, vegetables and based on the quality of the food fillers like corn, soy and wheat products. This is not something a cat can thrive on.

In the wild felines are found in desert like conditions where there is often little water to be found. Due to this circumstance cats have adapted the ability to retain the little water they have taken in (2,3) . Our domesticated companions also have this ability. Unfortunately, however this means despite the constant availability of water they still do not drink the amount of water they really should. Dry foods also only contain about 10% moisture. With such a small amount of water content a cat that is solely on a dry food diet is more susceptible to kidney failure and urinary tract infections especially in male cats (4,5) . Due to the high plant based ingredients the urine is more alkaline creating the perfect environment for unwanted crystals that can be extremely painful for your companion and may require surgery (6) . These costly diseases and illnesses are a high price to pay for a so called convenient meal in a bag.

As with anything presented to the public there are several myths surrounding a dry food diet.

Myth #1 It will help my pet’s teeth

Most people hold the misconception that hard kibble is the best diet for your pet because the pieces will scrape and clean your companion’s tooth often due to the kibble surrounding the tooth when your pet chews on it. This is untrue. A cat and dog’s tooth is typically sharp so when the tooth pierces the kibble it shatters and breaks. The kibble therefore does not surround the tooth.

These, carbohydrate loaded diets are unable to be broken down by cats and dogs who do not have the significant amounts of the enzyme to break down carbs (7). Therefore, the particles of a dry carbohydrate based diets actually sit on the teeth of your feline or canine companion, often leading to tooth decay and other mouth diseases especially if you are relying solely on your companion’s diet (8).

Some particles are able to remove debris but often the small particles cannot reach the gum line where plaque and tartar often form. Further more the small particles that shatter when the tooth breaks the kibble apart can get lodged in between teeth causing tooth decay. In all honesty, relying solely on your pet’s diet whether kibble or treats is not a good plan in the long run. The best dental health protocol is to brush your companion’s teeth just as you would do with your own or include raw meaty bones into your feeding routine. Dental disease is one of the most common diseases afflicting our companions resulting in countless other illnesses that can actually be life threatening (8).

Myth #2 It’s cheaper than other diets (i.e. raw or home cooked)

A lot of people base their companion’s diet off price and no one can blame a person for that. When we live in an unforgiving economy where money and time is scarce it only makes sense to spend your money wisely. But “you get what you pay for” could never be more true. Is a $5 5lb bag of kibble for your yorkie really cheaper? It all depends on the quality of the food. Some kibble food can be loaded with fillers that are going right through your companion. Unused nutrients mean wasted dollars. Furthermore, many of the ingredients in a low-quality pet food are actually causing cancers, kidney failure, hyper/hypothyroidism and weight gain (9) which means you are paying more money in veterinary services and subsequently a very sick companion. A higher quality diet will contain little to no fillers, a good protein source and more nutrient dense ingredients that will better be absorbed and heathier over all for your pet. This will reduce going through bag after bag of food, a more satisfied companion, less waste and the hopes of fewer health problems down the road.

Myth #3 My companion is domesticated they have adapted to a dry diet.

Cats and dogs have been domesticated as far back as 10,000 – 15,000 years ago (10, 11). While dogs were domesticated by humans to do work in various fields with food as a reward, cats domesticated themselves by entering the home when herding nomads ceased operation. Although this may seem like a long time in comparison to the human who has millions of years of evolution to the modern day being we are 10,000 years is not very long. In addition, one must keep in mind that although it is believed domestication occurred 10,000 years ago, it wasn’t until after World War II that domesticated companions were fed a hard kibble based diet. About 70 years is not enough time to change the physiology of our canine and feline friends to go from a purely animal protein based diet high in fat and low in carbohydrates to a dry diet high in carbohydrates and low in fat and quality protein.

In short the pros of dry include:

  • Conveniently located (i.e. grocery store, pet stores, feed stores etc.)

  • Easy to store

  • Easy to measure out

  • Lots of variety

The cons:

  • Little moisture content

  • More fillers (including corn, soy, wheat, fruits, vegetables etc.)

  • Stool is larger and smellier(12)

  • More preservatives, additives, flavors and colors (whether artificial or natural)

  • Processing often destroys or alter nutrient value requiring addition of lots of minerals and vitamins (13)

  • Cause of many diseases (cancer, kidney failure, diabetes, obesity, dental disease etc.)

  • Lower protein and fat content than other types of food


  1. Ann Wortinger, BIS, LVT, VTS, "Cats: Obligate Carnivore," CVC in Kansas City Proceedings, Aug 1, 2010.

  2. Adolf, E. F. 1939. Measurement of water drinking in dogs. Am. J. Physiol.125:75-86

  3. Chew, R. M. 1965. Water metabolism of mammals. Pp. 43-178 in Physiology Mammalogy, Vol. 2, W. V. Mayer and R. G.VanGelder, eds. New York: Academic Press.

  4. Hodgkins, Elizabeth M. Your Cat: A Revolutionary Approach to Feline Health and Happiness. 1st ed., Thomas Dunne Books, 2007.

  5. Chew, R. M. 1965. Water metabolism of mammals. Pp. 43-178 in Physiology Mammalogy, Vol. 2, W. V. Mayer and R. G.VanGelder, eds. New York: Academic Press.

  6. Peter J. Markwell, C. Tony Buffington, Brigitte H. E. Smith; The Effect of Diet on Lower Urinary Tract Diseases in Cats, The Journal of Nutrition, Volume 128, Issue 12, 1 December 1998, Pages 2753S–2757S,

  7. Hofve, Jean. “Digestive Enzymes.” IVC Journal, IVC Journal, 10 Aug. 2017,

  8. Lonsdale, Tom. Raw Meaty Bones: Promote Health. Rivetco P/L, 2001.

  9. MacMillan, Fiona. “ THESE RESEARCH PAPERS ALL LINK PET FOOD WITH THE ILLNESS OR DEATH OF THE CAT OR DOG TAKING PART IN THE RESEARCH .” Pet Food Causes Illness or Death - Research Papers on Animal Nutrition, Pet Food Crusade, 2008,

  10. Ottoni, Claudio; Van Neer, Wim; De Cupere, Bea; Daligault, Julien; Guimaraes, Silvia; Peters, Joris; Spassov, Nikolai; Prendergast, Mary E.; Boivin, Nicole; Morales-Muñiz, Arturo; Bălăşescu, Adrian; Becker, Cornelia; Benecke, Norbert; Boroneant, Adina; Buitenhuis, Hijlke; Chahoud, Jwana; Crowther, Alison; Llorente, Laura; Manaseryan, Nina; Monchot, Hervé; Onar, Vedat; Osypińska, Marta; Putelat, Olivier; Quintana Morales, Eréndira M.; Studer, Jacqueline; Wierer, Ursula; Decorte, Ronny; Grange, Thierry; Geigl, Eva-Maria (2017). "The palaeogenetics of cat dispersal in the ancient world". Nature Ecology & Evolution. Nature Publishing Group. 1 (7): 0139. doi:10.1038/s41559-017-0139. ISSN 2397-334X

  11. Janssens, Luc; Giemsch, Liane; Schmitz, Ralf; Street, Martin; Van Dongen, Stefan; Crombé, Philippe (2018). "A new look at an old dog: Bonn-Oberkassel reconsidered". Journal of Archaeological Science. 92: 126. doi:10.1016/j.jas.2018.01.004

  12. Kerr, K. R., Vester Boler, B. M., Morris, C. L., Liu, K. J., & Swanson, K. S. (2012). Apparent total tract energy and macronutrient digestibility and fecal fermentative end-product concentrations of domestic cats fed extruded, raw beef-based, and cooked beef-based diets. DOI: 10.2527/jas.2010-3266

  13. Kimura, M, and Y Itokawa. “Cooking Losses of Minerals in Foods and Its Nutritional Significance.” Journal of Nutritional Science and Vitaminology., U.S. National Library of Medicine, 1990,

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