Are all dry dog foods equal?


26 June 2024
We explore the different types of dry dog food

Dry dog food is one of the most easily recognisable forms of pet food.

The pellets of the kibble contain a blend of all the ingredients and owners can check the packaging to see what goes into the diet. Synonymous with convenience, owners can simply pour the right amount into their canine companion’s bowl. However, not all dry dog food is the same, as there are various methods used to make dry food recipes.


The most common form of dry dog food is created using a technique called extrusion. Now, you may not have heard of the term before, but that is because it is almost the default definition of dry dog food. All the ingredients — including wet and dry ingredients — in the recipe are ground down and mixed together to form a dough. The dough then enters a machine called an extruder where it is pushed through a metal tube, all while being heated under pressure. This form of cooking is usually done at temperatures between 110-150 degrees, and sometimes can be higher.

As the dough is forced out the end of the extruder, it goes through a die plate which produces the pre-specified shape of the kibble and it is cut into individual pieces. The kibble then goes into a drying oven to remove water. Removing the moisture helps the food to retain its freshness. Then it is cooled before it is coated with flavourings and preservatives.

Benefits: easy to feed, balanced nutrition, lots of choice, flexible feeding, easy to clean, value and safety (high cooking temperature kills bacteria).

Different forms of dried food

All diets have different perceived pros and cons, which will very much depend on your own way of thinking. It’s the same with many different choices in life! Extruded dry dog foods have a proven track record over decades. However, there are reasons owners will choose other methods of feeding.

With extruded food, one criticism is the thought that the higher temperatures (compared to other methods) used during extrusion can damage the nutritional value of the ingredients. Some manufacturers will add vitamins and oils after the cooking process to replace these vital nutrients lost during extrusion. But not all will and some owners prefer these to occur more naturally in the food rather than be added. Therefore, some manufacturers believe that other forms of cooking will retain more nutritional value of the ingredients. 

The most important aspect is good quality ingredients. No cooking method can make up for ingredients and fillers that have low nutritional value. You want recipes with good sources and levels of protein, plus recipes which contain foods which contain vital vitamins, botanicals, and amino acids that will have a positive impact on pet health. That's exactly the philosophy of Laughing Dog Food. Their complete dry dog foods Naturally 5 and Naturally Complete use natural ingredients that are all carefully selected for their benefit to pets. Naturally 5 even has a limited number of ingredients to help dogs avoid any allergic reactions or gut upset. Best of all, buyers can see on the packaging and the website why specific ingredients were chosen to boost pet health. Visit to find out more. 

Content continues after advertisements

Baked dog food — baking using less severe heat, steam and pressure than extruded foods. The ingredients are mixed together and shaped to form kibble pieces. These are then baked — imagine making biscuits in your oven at home! Once the kibble has cooled, then any supplements, such as minerals and vitamins, can be added. It is a much slower and more gentle process than extrusion. While typically more expensive than extruded foods, baked foods can be considerably cheaper than some of the other methods of producing dry dog food. Laughing Dog make an excellent range of baked dog food treats and their website clearly states the health reasons behind why the ingredients have been chosen. You can find out more by visiting Laughing Dog Food.

Benefits: aimed to preserve more nutritional value, easy to clean, crunchier kibble which can appeal to some dogs and have dental health benefits, and flexible feeding.

Cold pressed dog food — manufacturer will take ingredients, grind them down and mix them together with water to bind them together. The mix is then pressed for a few seconds into pellet shapes which removes the liquid. Due to pressure, the food still gets warm but only to temperatures around 45 — 80 degrees, which is far lower than extrusion, and lower than baking too. No steam is used. The pellets have to be a certain size as there are less additives to bind them together. The kibble is usually sprayed with vitamins and minerals. This is all designed to retain more nutritional value of the food. Cold pressed food is more expensive than extruded food.

Benefits: designed to preserve more nutritional value, easy to clean, easy to feed, and flexible to feed (can go in puzzle feeders or toys).

Air dried food — raw meat will be mixed with vegetables and herbs, as well as sources of vitamins and minerals. The mix is then exposed to a current of air that removes moisture. The temperature of the air usually ranges from below 40 degrees Celsius to 80 degrees Celsius and the process can take several days. Once the food is dried, it is sliced up and checked for quality. Air dried dog food is minimally processed with the aim of preserving the natural goodness of the raw ingredients. Owners can expect to pay quite a bit more than for traditional dog foods.

Benefits: good for advocates of raw feeding who want a convenient dry food, designed to preserve nutritional value, easy to clean, flexible feeding, and despite using raw ingredients, it is still easy to store (like dry foods) as long as it is kept in a cool, dry spot.

Freeze dried food — freeze drying removes the moisture from raw ingredients while keeping the food intact. The ingredients, including the meat, are not pre-cooked. They are first frozen which turns the moisture into ice. The food is then placed in a vacuum chamber which removes the moisture by turning it into water vapour. The water does not go through the liquid phase; the process is called sublimation. The food is still in its raw state and is in dry, convenient nuggets which have a long shelf life. It is sometimes referred to as one of the most natural forms of pet food and is ideal for advocates of a raw diet who also want the convenience of dry food. It is one of the most expensive forms of dry pet food.

Benefits: designed to preserve the maximum amount of nutritional value of the food, easy to store, and raw food with convenience of dry foods.

When it comes to deciding which dry food is best for you, cost, nutrition, convenience, and how eco-friendly the brand is may all come into your thinking. You want the best quality nutrition you can provide for your dog. So, always check the ingredients and see how they are benefitting your canine companion — you don’t want a low quality food that is full of fillers. You want a quality food with ingredients that are proven to improve canine health, just as Laughing Dog Food delivers.