How to Choose Dog Food

A photograph of a small pile of wet dog food and a small pile of kibble dog food

Choose Foods That Will Help Your Dog Thrive

Choosing the food for your dog might be most important daily decision you make for their overall well-being. All AAFCO-approved foods contain enough nutrients for your dog’s overall health, but there are other considerations beyond what your dog needs to live. Higher quality proteins, moisture and other bonuses not covered by the AAFCO guidelines can help your dog thrive while protecting them from common health issues.

Another way to improve your dog’s overall nutrition is to practice rotational feeding. For healthy dogs, changing the protein source they eat regularly can help them avoid developing food sensitivities. In practice, rotational feeding can be as easy as swapping between a chicken-based kibble and a beef-based kibble from the same brand.

We’re also big fans of combining different food forms to create meals for your dog: Replacing at least 10-percent of kibble with raw food is a great way to get some of the benefits of raw if you can’t afford an all-raw diet. Adding a topper of any food form to kibble gives your dog access to less-processed protein while keeping the price point low. Plus, it’s a great way to add variety for your dog’s enjoyment.


What to Know About Different Food Forms

When choosing a dog food, you should also consider what food fits with your overall household’s needs. Different households have varying budgets and time that they can devote to meals for their dog.

Kibble: Kibble is shelf-stable, economical food that’s easy to store and convenient to feed. It can be left out all day, which makes it highly appealing for dogs that like to graze. You can also pair kibble with puzzle toys and other games to encourage your dog to be more active when they eat.

Wet Food: Wet food offers a less-processed protein than most kibbles, and it’s easier to eat for dogs with misaligned jaws or other dental problems. Wet food also contains a substantial amount of moisture that can prevent chronic dehydration and reduce possible stress to the kidneys and liver.

Gently Cooked: Low-temperature cooking kills bacteria and other pathogens but helps the food retain more nutrients than high-temperature cooking methods. The food is then packaged and frozen—and ready for you to give to your dog without any additional prep work other than defrosting.

A small pile of wet dog food and a small pile of frozen patty dog food

A photograph of small pile of freeze dried dog food and a small pile of frozen raw dog food.

Frozen Raw: For owners who want to replicate the diet of a dog’s ancestors as closely as possible, frozen raw food gives dogs a diet made primarily of low-processed meat. Unlike what you’d find in the wild, frozen raw dog food is nutritionally balanced, screened for pathogens, and available in carefully portioned packages for easy feeding.

Freeze-dried Raw Food: Freeze-dried food offers many of the benefits of frozen raw but can be stored in your pantry rather than your freezer. It’s also as easy to feed your dog as kibble, which is a significant benefit for owners who want their dogs to have the small stools, cleaner teeth and shinier coats that often comes with raw food.

Dehydrated and Air-dried Food: Removing the water from foods make them easy to store and transport, and all you need to do is add some water or bone broth to create a warm meal for your dog. Many dogs love this type of food, but dogs who are particular about texture may take longer to acclimate.


How We Choose Dog Food

Before we decide to stock any dog food, there are months of work that happens behind the scenes between our category managers and the leadership of a potential food partner. We have a list of questions that covers sourcing, quality control, production oversight and other concerns. Mud Bay also wants to learn about the expertise behind the food: Is the food formulated by a veterinarian nutritionist or other expert? And who is making the major decisions for the brand?

We also carefully evaluate each food and look beyond the guaranteed analysis to answer questions about sourcing and ingredients. And while AAFCO may have minimum protein standards, Mud Bay has higher minimums to reflect the fact that dogs need meat to thrive. Finally, Mud Bay looks at all of our trusted food manufacturers to make sure that we’re offering a wide variety of food forms, proteins, and price points to meet the needs of each individual dog owner who visits our stores.

A photographic concept of canned dog good