Wet vs Dry Dog Food: Choosing the Best for Your Dog
I tackle the wet vs dry dog food debate to help you figure out which one is best for your dog.
Choosing the best food for your doggo can be like standing in the middle of a maze and not knowing which way to turn. Hundreds of brands now exist with their enticing claims and labels, so how do you know – is dry dog food better than wet dog food? Moreover, do dogs need wet food?
Reading labels and gravitating towards packaging may leave you head spinning unless you consult with your veterinarian. They can advise as to wet dog food vs dry dog food based on your dog’s unique health conditions, metabolism, the potential for allergies, fluctuating activity levels, and genetic history.
Tallying that information with your budget, lifestyle, and dog’s preferences can help you choose between wet vs dry dog food.
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Adult Dog and Healthy Dietary Habits
Canned wet dog food and dry kibble may be the most convenient to feed, but when deciding upon wet vs dry dog food, selecting a brand that meets the nutritional levels established by the American Association of Feed & Control Officials (AAFCO) is a great start.
However, remember that not every dog has the same nutritional needs. Consult your dog’s health specialist to be sure which dry dog food vs wet dog food is best, as many brands come in both options.
Different proteins, complex carbohydrates, some grains (after all, even animals in the wild consume some grains from the belly of their prey), fruits and vegetables make for a well-rounded diet. However, do learn which carbs, fruits, and vegetables are canine-safe.
Also be advised that food sits in our dog’s tummies longer than it does in our own, but then moves through their shorter intestinal tract more quickly. This means there may not be sufficient time to break down cellulose – plant fiber, so your dog will digest and absorb nutrients from plant matter better if you chop it very fine, steam it lightly or even puree it before feeding.
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Adding appropriate veggies to wet or dry dog food may not be a bad idea. According to Dr. Ernie Ward, author of “Chow Hounds: Why Our Dogs Are Getting Fatter, A Vet’s Plan to Save Their Lives,” almost ½ of U.S. dogs are overweight. Even more startling is that most owners of overweight dogs feel their pet are ‘normal weight.’
Because of this, Dr. Ward, a practicing veterinarian, personal trainer, and the founder of the Association for Pet Obesity, fears we have made fat pets the new normal! His book shares his views that well-intentioned dog moms and dads overfeed by about 25% and unknowingly sabotage doggie diets with calorie-rich treats. Treats might be an excellent opportunity to substitute fresh raw vegetables, like carrots or zucchini slices.
When contemplating wet vs dry dog food, you must also take into consideration the amount you will feed your dog. Although marked on the bag or can, what you read is just a suggestion. The actual amount you feed should depend upon your pet’s activity level, metabolism, and other health conditions, so consult your vet. Weekly, notice if you can feel your dog’s ribs, but not see them, when gently caressing his sides. If you can’t find his ribs, your pooch may have a paunch to lose!
Once you’ve talked to your dog’s 2nd best friend (of course, you are his 1st!), learned what is the best protein for your dog, and been given a choice of brands, ask yourself, is dry dog food better than wet dog food for my pet?
Sometimes, it may be a matter of your preferred choice, as you’ll note in the pros/cons lists below. Other times, your veterinarian may offer insights as to whether wet or dry dog food might be more digestible, provide necessary hydration or critical nutrients that could help your dog thrive.
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When discussing dry food vs wet food for dogs with my own dog’s 2nd best friend, Liz Koskenmaki, DVM at Media City Veterinary Hospital in Burbank, California, I asked her straight out if wet food is good for dogs. Dr. Liz responded,
The new veterinary recommendation is to feed dogs wet food, as the benefits of the higher water content in wet food far outweigh any benefits of feeding dry food. Most importantly, the increased water intake helps flush the kidneys of toxins and dilutes the urine, which helps prevent crystal formation and urinary tract infections. Secondly, wet food gives a pet a feeling of fullness with fewer calories; therefore, helping prevent weight gain.
When Dr. Liz graduated from Vet School, the thinking was that kibble helped prevent tartar build-up on a dog’s teeth. Real positive dental benefits from consuming kibble have since been disproven.
Many dogs don’t chew their kibble thoroughly enough to have any tartar-prevention benefits, and as I tell my clients, we wouldn’t expect just to eat hard food and hope never to get a dental disease! The only way to help prevent tartar build-up in pets is to brush their teeth, and get regular dental cleanings by a veterinarian.
Dr. Liz Koskenmaki
To help you choose between wet vs dry dog food, here are the benefits and downsides of each.
Dry vs Wet Dog Food Pros & Cons
Dry Dog Food Pros
- Easy to store right in its original bag
- Convenient to serve, no kitchen tools required
- Can stay in your dog’s bowl for an extended time
- No need to refrigerate
- Can serve a dual purpose as training treats
Dry Dog Food Cons
- More chemical additives, preservatives, and colorings; fats & flavor is sprayed on
- In spite of the above, dry dog food has a shorter shelf life and can get rancid
- Does not remove tartar from teeth as once claimed
- Does not look like what an animal would eat in the wild and may not be as appealing to some dogs
- Provides no hydration
Wet Dog Food Pros
- More meat protein & natural fats
- Has a stronger, more appealing scent that might help sick or geriatric dogs get their appetite back
- Lower in carbohydrates
- No synthetic preservatives (since fats & oils inside cans don’t become rancid)
- No artificial flavorings or colors
- Moisture content can help pets feel fuller, keep them hydrated, flush kidneys of toxins, and keep the urine dilute
- Easier for pets with dental issues to chew
- Longer shelf-life; contents in cans do not get rancid
Wet Dog Food Cons
- You’re paying for a can that is 75%+ water, so more expensive
- A little less convenient to serve (i.e., may require a spoon, can opener, more clean-up)
- Readily becomes contaminated if left unrefrigerated (i.e., in your dog’s bowl) for more than one hour as bacteria begins to grow
- Even in the refrigerator, once opened, it only lasts 2-3 days
A Middle Ground: Mix it Up
Hmmm…wet vs dry dog food – maybe what’s best is a happy middle ground! Provided that both the wet dog food and the dry dog food that you choose both meet your dog’s nutritional health needs and your vet gives you the green light, a combination of the two could be the key to your dog’s happiness, so find that middle ground and mix it up!
Providing both moist meat and a savory crunch might better satisfy your dog’s taste buds, keep him full, and well-hydrated. However, if your pet suffers from kidney disease or has other medical conditions, consult your veterinarian. They may feel wet dog food is better for your dog. As Dr. Liz mentioned, wetter foods flush the kidneys of toxins and dilute urine.
How to Transition to a Varied Diet
There is only one way to transition your dog from one diet to another… slowly! To avoid vomiting, diarrhea, and other upsets, the American Kennel Club recommends transitioning to new food over one week:
- Days 1-2: Feed 25% new diet; 75% old diet.
- Days 3-4: Feed 50% new diet; 50% old diet.
- Days 5-6: Feed 75% new diet; 25% old diet.
- Day 7: Feed 100% new diet.
Others feel this same 25-50-75 plan works but should be extended for two or more weeks. Once again, your veterinarian can best advise you as to how you should transition your dog to a varied diet.
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In the absence of any health issues, wet, dry, or a combination of both can be fed to most dogs. Like the nutritional team at Tufts University suggests, what you choose should be based on your budget, lifestyle, your dog’s individual needs, and of course, the opinion of your veterinarian.
What would you say if asked “Is wet dog food good for dogs?” I certainly don’t think one can ask “Is wet dog food bad for dogs?” and maintain a straight face as what is revealed above clearly gives wet dog food the edge.
Purely from a taste standpoint, dogs I know would rather gobble a can of meat than crunch on dry cereal. Don’t get me wrong, dry dog food, or kibble, definitely serves a purpose, and I feed it to my best buddy every morning.
Being disaster preparedness minded, I’m always concerned about having to shift my dog’s diet suddenly should we be without power or refrigeration, so I keep his digestive system kibble-compatible! Disagree? Let me know. I would love to hear what you and your dog think ☺
DENISE FLECK is an award-winning author, animal care instructor and radio show host. She was named one of Pet Age Magazine’s “Women of Influence” for 2018, a “Most Inspiring Story” in 2017 by Voyage Atlanta Magazine and has been nominated for 6 Dog Writers Awards to be announced in early 2019.Read more »