Wet vs. Dry Dog Food: Which Is Better for Your Pup?
It’s a common belief that dry dog food is healthier than canned, but is that true? If you have a dog (or two, or three) at home, you want the best for them, and health often starts with a balanced daily diet. It’s important to know the health pros and cons of wet vs. dry dog food so that you understand what to buy for your pet.
Is dry better than wet, wet better than dry, or is a combination best? This guide will give you the facts and help you make the best choice for your pet and family.
Wet vs. Dry Dog Food: Key Differences to Know
First, let’s look at what “wet” and “dry” mean when it comes to dog food.
Wet Dog Food
Wet dog food often means canned, although it can also include fresh dog food that usually uses human-grade ingredients.
Canned dog food is made by:
- Starting with raw materials, the bases of which are fresh or frozen meats that are then combined with vitamins and minerals
- Mixing the materials at increasing temperatures to break down the starches and proteins and ensure everything is cooked
- Adding the mixed product to vacuum-sealed cans
- Sterilizing the cans to kill any potential bacteria
Canned wet food contains more moisture than dry, which can provide more volume in one meal. The can’s label should include the percentage of maximum water. Canned dog food can have up to 78 percent moisture, while dry foods tend to be around 10 percent moisture. Wet food is more expensive compared to dry food.
Before buying canned food, it’s best to look into the company’s production methods and ensure they follow high-quality standards. But the ingredients used are also an essential factor.
Also, keep in mind that wet dog food will grow bacteria much more quickly if left out. Do not leave the food out for more than 1-2 hours, and always refrigerate each can after opening. Use within 2-3 days of opening.
Dry Dog Food
The making of dry food, often known as kibble, involves several steps. According to Dog Food Insider, the process includes:
- Shipping in raw materials like meats, fats, grains, and vitamins and minerals
- Grinding the materials down into smaller pieces for the kibble and to make nutrients more readily available
- Mixing and blending dry materials
- Extrusion — mixing dry materials with wet ingredients, kneading, shaping, and slicing into kibble pieces
- Drying out the kibble pieces and letting them cool
- Enrobing — adding a liquid or powder to the outside of the kibble for better flavor and palatability
The dry dog food kibble is then packaged and shipped out for dog owners to buy. Remember that the production process is less important than the ingredients used, which we’ll get into below.
Dry dog food is the first choice for many dog parents because it’s more cost-effective and easier to handle. However, that doesn’t always mean it’s the ideal choice.
Which Is Healthier: Dry or Wet Dog Food?
Both dry and wet dog foods can provide enough nutrition if the ingredients are high-quality. Certain dogs will do better with one or the other based on their situations.
The benefits of wet dog food over dry include:
- More flavor and better texture, making it easier for old or sick dogs to eat enough
- Helps some dogs feel fuller for longer
- Provides more volume for equivalent calories
- More moisture, which can help keep dogs hydrated
- Softer texture for dogs who have trouble with the rougher texture of dry kibble
For example, dogs who rarely drink enough water or have urinary tract issues can benefit from the added moisture in canned food. Canned food is also helpful for picky dogs or dogs who turn their nose up at food when their owners are away from home.
The benefits of dry dog food over wet include:
- Easier to portion out and store
- Typically less expensive
- Better for dogs who graze on their food because it can be left out
- Encourages dogs to chew more, which can be beneficial for dog dental health
- Helps slow down dogs who tend to overeat
You can also use kibble for inserting into toys or puzzles, which can prevent boredom.
What About Mixing Wet and Dry Dog Foods?
One way to enjoy the best of both worlds for your dog is by incorporating both wet and dry dog food into each meal. However, this will require some calculations at first. The portion recommendations are different for wet vs. dry dog food.
It’s best to determine your dog’s daily caloric needs from your vet, then determine how much wet vs. dry they’ll need to satisfy their nutritional needs (and avoid overeating). You can also watch for any signs of weight gain or weight loss and quickly adjust the portions.
How to Ensure Your Dog Good Is Healthy Enough
As we mentioned above, dog food ingredients are what matter the most. Some brands use more filler than nutritious ingredients, so pay close attention to the label on whatever you feed your dog.
Notice how the product describes the food. According to the American Kennel Club:
- If the product name includes the word “beef,” the food must contain at least 70 percent beef.
- If the label says “beef entree” or “beef dinner,” the company only has to ensure 10 percent of the product is beef.
- And if it says “with beef,” only three percent of the product is beef!
- Products that mention “beef flavor” will have even less.
The same goes for chicken and other meats. You’ll want the highest percentage of meats and other whole foods that are healthy for dogs. Also, while “meat meal” might sound gross, it actually tends to be better than “whole meat” because there’s less water weight, meaning the meat makes up a higher percentage of the product.
Also, watch out for the same ingredient listed more than once. Some companies will use different versions of corn, for example, so that it seems like there is less corn in the product than you realize.
You should also look for a sentence that says the product “is formulated to meet the nutritional levels established by the AAFCO Dog Food Nutrient Profiles.” The AAFCO guidelines ensure a product is “complete and balanced,” containing the nutrients dogs need for good nutrition.
Overall, wet vs. dry dog food comes down to your dog’s needs, your budget and lifestyle, and the ingredients in the product. Make the best and healthiest choice possible that is realistic for you and your furry friend. If in doubt, talk to your vet about your concerns and to get advice.
Shop our online Dog Food and Treats section at Nature’s Ideal for some of the healthiest dog food options!