Types of Dog and Cat Foods


October 19th, 2015

When understanding what the most suitable foods for cats and dogs are, it’s important to know the ways in which the foods are made. Foods currently available can be categorised into groups depending on how they are manufactured. Understanding these categories will better help owners decide which ‘type’ of food will suit both their lifestyle and their pets.

Complete or Complimentary

First of all its best to understand that not all foods are complete in nutrients. There are both complete and complimentary available on the shelves.

Complete Foods

Complete foods are by far the most popular choice for dog owners in the UK. In order to be ‘complete’ they must contain every nutrient required by a dog in sufficient amounts to keep the dog healthy which means they can be fed alone. Complete foods can be dry, wet or frozen.

Complimentary Foods

Complementary foods are usually wet or frozen foods that don’t contain the full range of nutrients required by a dog/cat or contain them in inappropriate proportions. For this reason they need to be fed alongside a mixer biscuit or complete food to gain the correct balance for your pet.

Mixers are usually cereal based filler biscuits, occasionally with vegetables or herbs. They are nutritionally incomplete (they don’t contain all of the nutrients required by a dog) and so have to be fed alongside a wet or frozen food. Like all dog foods, mixers range from very good quality to very poor.

Dry, Wet or Frozen?

Once the decision on the above had been made, owners can then look into what ‘type’ of food they would prefer to feed. As we already know, dry food is the most user friendly as it is convenient to feed and often works out to be very cost effective when compared to Wet foods.

Dry Foods

The majority of British dogs are fed on dry complete foods. Their popularity certainly owes a lot to their convenience as they don’t need any preparation and don’t have any special storage requirements.

Dry foods are made from dried and ground ingredients and can be cooked in a number of ways:

  • Extrusion is by-far the most common cooking method for dry dog foods. In the extrusion process, raw materials are first ground and then passed down what is essentially a giant steam cooker. After extrusion, the food is dried, cooled and is given a coating of fats and oils to enhance its flavour. It is thought that the cooking process increases digestibility.
  • Baking is another cooking method which allows foods to be cooked at lower pressures than extrusion and therefore may leave more of the natural nutrients intact. Baking does, however, rely on a certain amount of wheat gluten to bind the biscuit.
  • Cold pressing allows dry foods to be made without the need for high temperatures or pressures. Cold pressed foods are a relatively new innovation but a proving to be quite popular.
  • Air drying involves exposing the food to a current of heated air which gently removes the water from the food through evaporation. Air drying reduces the damage to proteins, vitamins and enzymes compared to conventional cooking methods although there are not many air dried complete meal currently available.
  • Dry foods can be fed alongside or mixed with both wet foods and frozen foods. When mixing complete diets, you should take care not to feed too much. The easiest way would be to feed half of the suggested feeding amount of the first food with half the recommended amount of the second. With raw frozen foods and mixing, it is recomened that only 10% of the pets meal is the frozen diet – essentially using the frozen food as a topper. This is great way to get the benefits of raw but the convenience of a kibble.

    Wet Foods

    Wet foods are also very popular and can be found in tins, trays and pouches. Wet foods don’t require any added preservatives as the cooking process kills all micro-organisms within the sealed containers. Wet foods can be complete or complementary. Since wet foods contain a large amount of water, the feeding amounts are much higher than those of dry foods which often makes them more expensive to feed.

    Frozen Foods

    In the last few years, frozen foods have really started to take off. Freezing is the most natural way of preserving nutrients, although the difficulty of transporting the foods and thawing them over-night makes them the least convenient category of pre-prepared dog foods. Both raw and pre-cooked frozen diets are available and like wet foods, there are both complete and complementary varieties.