Different types of diets for dogs

When it comes to dogs, there are lots of different diets out there and it can be a bit of a minefield working out what to feed your furry friend!

If you’re unsure what to feed your dog, we’d always recommend talking to your vet or vet nurse. They’ll be able to give you the best advice, tailored to your dog’s individual needs. Our vets recommend feeding complete, commercially available dog food as this way your dog will get all of the nutrients, vitamins and minerals they need.

Take a look at our advice below on different doggy diets. For general advice on feeding your dog, visit our page.


What is a complete diet?

High quality, complete diets contain every nutrient required by your dog to be healthy and do not need to be fed with other foods. There are wet, dry and raw complete diets available (check your local pet shop). If you feed both wet and dry complete foods always check the feeding instructions on the packet to be sure you don’t overfeed your dog.

Complementary foods and mixers

Complementary foods don’t contain the full mix of nutrients needed by a dog to be healthy and need to be mixed with other foods to form a complete diet. The complementary dry foods usually need to be mixed with a wet food in order to provide a complete diet.


Wet food or dry food?

Wet foods are very popular and generally dogs will often prefer wet food over dry. However, they tend to be more expensive to feed, especially as the amount daily amount for your dog is often higher. Wet food will go off quickly so it’s important any wet food you put down for your dog is eaten and not left out, especially in warm weather.

Dry foods are usually cheaper then wet foods and the daily amount your dog will need is often less. They are easier to feed and store as they last longer once the packet has been opened. Dry food may also help to keep your dog’s teeth clean as the kibbles can help prevent the build-up of plaque on your dog’s teeth. Some dogs will love their dry food but often dogs will take longer to eat their dry food than a wet food, especially as the nutrition tends to be more concentrated so eating a small amount may make your dog feel full compared to a a similar volume of wet food. An easy way to think of this is comparing the size of a sultana to a grape, once the water has been removed the grape is a lot smaller in the form of the sultana. There are many cooking methods for dry food including:

  • Extrusion: Raw ingredients are ground and then steam cooked at high pressure before being dried and cooled. It is then given a coating of fats and oils to increase flavour.
  • Baking: Ingredients are cooked at lower pressures than extruded foods which may preserve more nutrients than extruded foods.

Some medical conditions may mean your vet might recommend feeding your dog only wet or only dry food, speak to your vet if you’re not sure which diet is best for your dog especially if they have any medical problem.

Whichever diet you choose for your dog, don’t forget to brush their teeth! For tips on brushing their teeth, check out our advice page.

Cocker Spaniel puppy eating from a white porcelain food bowl

Raw feeding

Many companies have created complete raw diets and they are now stocked in most popular pet shops. Raw food is available in different varieties but is usually either freeze-dried or frozen, which must be thoroughly defrosted before feeding. Whether you chose to feed raw or not, our vets would always recommend feeding a commercially prepared, complete food and not try to make the food yourself as it’s very difficult to make sure your dog has the correct balance of nutrients with a homemade diet.

Read our vets' advice on raw diets.


Vegetarian diets for dogs

If you’re vegetarian or vegan, it can be a real moral dilemma as to what to feed your dog. Dogs are omnivores, which means they can eat both meat and plant-based foods. So, it is acceptable to feed your dog a commercial vegetarian or vegan dog food. In fact, some hypoallergenic dog food is ‘accidentally veggie’ (it’s not marketed as vegetarian or vegan but contains no animal products!). We would always recommend speaking to your vet first, though, as some dogs have dietary requirements which can’t always be met on a vegetarian or vegan diet.

Can my dog still get the nutrients they need on a vegetarian diet?

As long as you buy a complete commercial food appropriate for your dog’s age, your dog will be getting all the nutrients they need whether you’re feeding plant-based or not. Again, it’s best to check with your vet or vet nurse first that it’s an appropriate diet for your dog. As with any feeding, we wouldn’t recommend a homemade diet as it’s harder to make sure your dog is getting everything they need.

Does my dog need to eat more on a vegetarian diet?

You shouldn’t need to feed your dog any extra on a vegetarian or vegan diet as long as it’s a complete diet. Follow the instructions on the packaging and talk to your vet or vet nurse if you’re unsure. We have a handy video about how much to feed your dog for some guidance:

A lot of pet shops and even some supermarkets stock vegetarian pet food, so you may be able to find them there. If not, have a look online but wherever you buy food from always research into the brands you’re buying first. If in doubt, speak to your vet or vet nurse first for advice.


Changing diets

Changing your dog’s food can sometimes upset their stomach. It is best to gradually change diets by slowly introducing the new food.

Read our full advice on how to safely change your dog’s diet.


Where should I get dog food from?

There are lots of places you can buy high quality, commercial dog foods, including from your vet, pet shops, supermarkets or online. If your dog needs a special diet, your vet may be able to supply this or recommend somewhere you can buy it from.

Our PDSA Pet Store stocks a range of dog foods including some specialist foods – see what we have available.