types of pet food

Cat eats types of limited ingredient pet food

What are my options?

Your pet food options today break down roughly into three main categories: dry foods, wet foods, and toppers. There are other options, which we’ll briefly touch upon below, but we’ll start with the most common in the market today – dry foods. Also known as kibble, dry food is the most popular, and typically most convenient, way to feed your pet. Wet foods are also common and usually come in cans or pouches. Finally, you have toppers. There are many kinds of toppers available, and they serve to make your pet’s breakfast or dinner extra-special.


What’s the right choice?

The difficult, but actually fun, answer is there are many great options. Each pet is unique, and just like people, many have strong preferences or seem to do better on certain diets than others. Many pet parents, especially those with larger dogs, choose kibble because it’s convenient and economical. There’s also an oral health benefit to eating dry food. Chewing on crunchy kibble can chip away at tartar to promote cleaner teeth. Some pet parents choose to dress up a mostly kibble meal with a wet food or topper because their pets enjoy it or find it easier to eat mostly moist foods. The combination of dry and wet foods can be beneficial for certain pets with oral health issues or swallowing challenges. Finally, toppers are a fun way to add pizzazz to any complete meal.

We recommend that at least 90% of your pet’s total daily calories come from a complete and balanced diet. The term "complete and balanced" is set by the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) and is based on decades of scientific research on dog and cat nutrition. Any food with this claim on its packaging is sure to meet your pet’s specific nutritional needs. The final 10% of their daily calories is up to you. You can include toppers if your pet wants something a bit more special, or use this wiggle room for all the yummy treats you dole out during your training sessions and bonding time. All in all, there are many correct choices, so have fun creating delicious and nutritious gourmet meals for your pet.

Wait. You mentioned other options. What are those?

So you went to the pet store and saw a refrigerated section full of food? Or read about raw and homemade recipes? How can these fit into your pet’s feeding plans?

Refrigerated and frozen pet foods

These fully cooked foods offer the appearance of a homemade-style diet while being convenient to feed. If you like feeding your pet wet foods and toppers, these refrigerated, fresh foods may be an excellent option as they’re likely to be nutritionally complete and balanced.


Freeze-drying is a manufacturing method used to preserve the nutrients in food while making it safe to store on shelves. Freeze-drying is a dehydration process done at low temperatures to lock in nutrients and seal in flavors. Some brands offer complete and balanced diets in a freeze-dried form, and these may be ideal for pets that have certain sensitivities, or pet parents looking for a kibble alternative. Other freeze-dried foods may make excellent toppers, especially for pets that dislike wet textures.

Homemade diets

Many pet parents want to treat their pet’s meals the same way they do their own: cook them from scratch! Homemade pet diets are made by preparing and cooking food from the grocery store. Some pet parents believe it’s the best way to get fresh and nutritious food into their pet’s bowls, while others love the flexibility and customization it provides. While it is possible to feed a wholesome and complete diet while making your pet’s food at home, it can be extremely difficult to get the balance of vitamins and minerals just right. It can also be expensive to buy all the fresh meats, fruits, and veggies needed to create a balanced diet, and even then, it’s easy to miss vital nutrients. Keeping these ingredients fresh is an additional challenge, especially if you and your pet are always on the go.

We recommend exercising caution if you choose a homemade diet since most homes simply do not have access to the expertise of trained pet nutritionists or testing equipment needed to ensure the food meets your pet’s dietary requirements.

Raw diets

Many pet parents find that raw diets are intriguing and fit well with their nutritional philosophy which assumes cooking is damaging to the quality of the food. Raw diets are just what they appear to be, recipes that are made without using a cooking process. Some believe that not cooking their pet’s food preserves essential nutrients in their diet, which may lead to better pet health. But be aware: there are several major challenges when feeding a raw diet.

Since many raw diets are homemade, they face the same drawbacks – getting the right nutrient balance is tricky, keeping food fresh is a challenge, and the expense of purchasing groceries to make the food. Fortunately, there are commercially available solutions that address some of these challenges for pet parents looking to incorporate raw into their pet’s diets.

Veterinary diets

Some pets have specific health needs that cannot be addressed by over-the-counter pet foods. They are often prescribed what is called a “veterinary diet” to help manage their specific health conditions. These diets are not simply the ones labeled “science” or “health”. They are recipes created by professional nutritionists and sold through veterinarians. Your pet will need a prescription for a veterinary diet since the food is not appropriate for all pets. It’s specially made for those pets who have been diagnosed with specific health issues by a veterinarian. If your pet is on one of these diets, please consult with your veterinarian if you want to make any changes to their dietary regimen as your pet’s health is the number one concern.


Still have questions?

Our pet nutrition team is here for you. Send us an email, give us a call or connect with us through LiveChat. We’d love to talk through your pet’s unique nutritional needs.