Food Health

Wet vs. Dry Dog Food What’s the Better Choice for Your Pet?

Wet Food vs. Dry Dog Food
Written by Graeme Hall

Navigating what seems like a labyrinth of dog food aisles in your local pet store can be a little daunting, especially if you’re a new pet owner. You're faced with wet dog food, dry dog food and an assortment of tins, packets, and sacks of colorful dog food products from numerous brands - it’s definitely a lot to take in.

With every type of Kibble imaginable, it’s easy to become overwhelmed with what to give your canine buddy, after all, good nutrition plays a big role in the health and lifespan of your dog and you want to make sure he gets the best.

The pet industry is big business, in fact, according to the American Pet Product Association (APPA), total pet industry expenditures reached a whopping $69 billion in 2017 and that's projected to reach over $70 billion by the end of 2018.

Manufacturers know how to target dog loving pet owners and cater for the needs of every dog with a host of different flavors, special breed specific diets, and foods suitable for various health problems.

This is all great news for dogs, but to be honest, the average pet owner when faced with so many choices just wants to know if dry dog food or wet dog food will be the best choice for their canine buddy - choosing one over the other can adversely influence your dog digestive system.

So which dog food is better, wet or dry? Let's take a closer look.

Wet vs. Dry Dog Food

Common Ingredients Found in Dry and Wet Food

It seems like veterinarians and dog experts are continually going back and forth on which type of food is better for your dog. However, regardless of which side of the food debate you're on, both wet and dry dog food have their advantages and disadvantages.

When it comes to ensuring that your dog has a nutritious, well-balanced diet it’s best to take a closer look at the ingredients in both types of food to determine which might be more beneficial to your dog's health.

Wet Canned Dog Food

All pet food manufacturers have their own list of ingredients for each product, but typically the base for most of the popular canned dog foods is some form of frozen meat and fresh meat. The meat is ground and then mixed with broth, various grains (to help combine the mixture), additional animal fats, and finally dog-friendly vitamins and minerals.

During the mixing process, the ingredients are slowly heated which helps the ingredients to gelatinize and form the final product. It's worth mentioning that this heating process also aids in improving the texture and flavor of the final canned dog food.

Once the food has been thoroughly combined and cooked it’s fed into individual cans and then sealed. This commercial bulk, canned dog food filling is extremely fast and sealing up to 600 cans per minute is generally the speed at which they can do this process.

But we're not done just yet.

The final process after the dog food cans have been filled and sealed is to make sure that the food is completely sterilized. The contents have already been cooked, but the first process was a just preheat to help combine the ingredients, this last heat treatment is to ensure that all the ingredients are 100% cooked.

They heat the cans up to 121°C for a period of three minutes, this ensures that they kill any lurking bacteria in the food such as Clostridium botulinum - which can be a killer.

Once the canned food has cooled and had labels added it’s time for distribution.

Well, wet canned dog food doesn't sound too bad, should I even bother reading on? I’m sure this will be the best dog food for my dog.

Hold on right there, you need to see both sides of the debate, sure wet dog food has its advantages but so does dry dog food.

To be honest, dry food typically fills the dietary void where wet food lacks - let's take a closer look.

Dry Kibble Dog Food

Dry dog food looks like small bite-sized biscuits that are often different shapes, sizes, and colors, depending on the Kibble brand. To understand the benefits of dry dog food versus wet, we need to inspect the manufacturing process of dry Kibble so we have a better understanding of what's inside this bite-sized food.

It doesn't matter if they shape the Kibble like little balls or cut it into tiny bone shapes the extrusion manufacturing process is exactly the same. The extrusion process is an efficient method that allows manufacturers to create large quantities of nutritious long life pet foods.

Funnily enough, they originally invested the process to manufacture puffed breakfast cereals.

Dry Kibble dog food starts its life wet, this wet mixture of raw ingredients is thoroughly mixed to form a dough. They then process this wet dough through an expander machine which uses high-pressure steam or sometimes hot water to cook the dough mixture which forms the “puffed” dry Kibble biscuit we all know.

The ingredients found in dry dog food can vary, but many of the top dog food brands will include high-quality human-grade meat such as beef, chicken, or other protein sources such as turkey, bison, or even fish.

They add all the meats to the raw mixture before it's baked, and it's not uncommon to also find other healthy ingredients such as grains chickpeas and lentils as well as beneficial vitamins, minerals, and even stomach friendly probiotics.

As the saying goes - “you get what you pay for” and this rings true with both dry and wet dog food. Quality can often be sacrificed for cheap filler ingredients that offer little to no nutritional value for your dog.

In most cases, you can determine the quality of the dog food by spending a few minutes reading through the label on the packaging. If you notice a high percentage of carb-like ingredients and a lower amount of meat protein that is usually a good indicator that the dog food is of lower quality.

Simply put, the more meat protein included in the dog food tends to mean that the food is of higher quality.

dog eating dry Kibble food

Comparison of Dry vs. Wet Dog Food

Okay, so now have a better understanding of both wet and dry dog food. However, if you're still confused as to which food will be the best choice for your dog I have pulled out all the information and added it to this easy-to-read comparison table.

You should be able to clearly identify the benefits of both types of food.

Comparison 

Wet Food

Dry Food

Best Taste​

Budget Friendly

Less Chemical Additives

Less Fillers

Easier to Chew

Meat Content

Longer Shelf-life

Easier to Digest

Refrigeration Required?

Convenience

Quality

Cost and Convenience of Wet Versus Dry Dog Food

If you're trying to feed your dog the best you can on a limited budget, then dry Kibble will be your best option. Kibble typically only contains 10% moisture which makes it more calorie dense. In simple terms, you can feed your dog less when compared to the wet dog food; your dog will be full and you’re going to spend less.

Another benefit of dry food is it has a longer shelf life once opened, you don't have to worry about Kibble spoiling within a day. Plus, it’s easier to store - just keep the Kibble in a dry dark cupboard and there's no reason it won't still be fresh for a few weeks.

Unlike wet canned food that can spoil within a few hours if left in your dog's bowl, with dry Kibble you don't have to worry. You can fill your dog's food bowl up in the morning and it will still be edible by the evening, this makes it the perfect option for those of you who work during the day and leave your dog alone.

Also, if you travel often, dry dog food will be a more convenient option since there's no real need to pack a lot and you have the added advantage of it not spoiling.

Wet dog food, on the other hand, contains roughly 75% of water which is a lot compared to the dryer Kibble. Due to the higher water content, you must feed your dog more to fulfill their nutritional requirements.

Sure, this is easily done if you own a small dog, but if you’re a pet parent to a large breed, the cost of feeding your K9 buddy can quickly spiral out of control.

One of the biggest drawbacks to wet dog food as far as we are concerned is its shelf life. Once opened canned dog food will only be good for 3 days at the most and it has to be kept in the fridge. Also, it’s worth pointing out that the canned food will only be good for up to 2 hours if left in your dog's food bowl; and it's a fly magnet!

Lastly, because you'll go through more canned food compared to the dry food, you can expect more cost and more trips to your local pet store to buy more and think about all those discarded cans filling up the garbage landfill; more waste and a bigger impact on the environment.

Let's Not Forget Smell And Taste

If your dog is a fussy eater choosing wet food could be the better option. Dogs are meat eaters and if you put a bowl of dry Kibble and a bowl of wet meaty food in front of your dog, I can almost guarantee with certainty that your dog will head for the wet food.

I'm not saying there's anything wrong with Kibble, after all, it’s packed full of flavor and it's made from fresh ingredients. But, at the end of the day, it will never taste as good as real wet food because Kibble does not have the same aroma or the same smell of real meat and let’s not forget the luscious tasting wet meaty gravy.

However, the downside of canned dog food is the high-fat content, and if you're not careful with the amount of food your dog eats you'll quickly notice that your once slim and trim dog is piling on the pounds.

If your dog won't eat dry food, try giving him some wet canned food instead, I'm sure he’ll scoff it down and will most likely lick his bowl clean too.

Nutrient

Wet Food

Dry Food

Protein

28-50%

18-32%

Carbohydrates

18-57%

46-74%

Fat

20-32%

8-22%

Mixing Wet And Dry Dog Food

Can you mix wet and dry dog food together? Mixing the two types together might seem like the perfect solution to make sure your dog gets a full and balanced diet. But, I wouldn't recommend doing it with every dog - here's why.

If you mix both dry and wet dog food regularly your dog's weight will quickly spiral out of control, wet food, in particular, is already calorie high and combine that with the dry Kibble which also contains additional calories could cause your dog to gain unwanted weight.

Now, this might be your goal, some dogs do have problems gaining weight so mixing the two types of dog food together would be the perfect solution to ensuring that your K9 buddy is at the correct weight he needs to be.

However, for most dogs mixing dry and wet food is not recommended, sure giving them a combination as a special treat if perfectly okay - just don't make it a habit. It's also worth mentioning that some dogs suffer from sensitive stomachs and mixing their food could cause them to have an upset stomach and diarrhea.

My advice is if you've found a food your dog enjoys stick with it, even a change in the dog food brand can an adverse effect those dogs with sensitive stomachs.

Can You Add Water to Dry Dog Food?

Adding water to dry dog food might seem like the best of both worlds and sometimes it could be beneficial for your dog.

In their natural environment, long before they become domesticated, dogs were designed to eat wet food that contained anywhere from 70 to 90 percent moisture - as I've already pointed out earlier in this article dry Kibble typically contains about 10% moisture.

So, when a dog eats dry food they're losing out on important fluids which can cause your dog to become dehydrated, especially if they’re not big water drinkers. If your dog doesn't drink a lot of water, there's a possibility that the Kibble could cause an upset stomach due to the digestive fluids being absorbed by the dry food.

Adding water to your dog's dry dog food is a good idea if they otherwise don't consume enough water. It will help your dog to stay hydrated, it will help to reduce bloating, and it's going to be easier to digest and chew.

If adding water to your dog's Kibble sounds like something you want to try I recommend mixing one cup of Kibble with one and a half cup of warm water and allow it to soak for 15 minutes. If you have a fussy eater, you can also swap the water for a low salt meat broth - your dog will love the aroma and taste!

dog holding a toothbrush

Benefits For Your Dogs Teeth

Dry dog food is the clear winner when it comes to your dog's dental hygiene. Because of its dry form your dog will instinctively chew the food which in turn helps to remove plaque and tartar and also aids in stimulating the gums.

You can also find Kibble that's been specially designed to help remove excess plaque and tartar from your dog's teeth like ROYAL CANIN Canine Dental Dry.

However, you shouldn't solely rely only on Kibble alone if you want to manage the overall health of your dog's teeth. If you want cleaner teeth, you will have to clean their teeth with a brush and dog toothpaste.

On the flip side, feeding older dogs dry Kibble who already have dental issues could cause discomfort, and in extreme cases, the pain from eating could put them off their food completely. If this is the case with your older dog, I recommend that you opt for wet food rather than the harder dry dog food.

Last Bit of Advice When Choosing Wet or Dry Dog Food

There isn't a straight answer to which food will be the best option for your dog, and ultimately, the answer to which type of dog food is the best will be up to you to decide. But, keep in mind that the food you choose should fulfill your dog's nutritional requirements.

If your dog has health issues, he’s an older dog, a fussy eater or extremely active will all play a role in your final decision. Also, remember that you can mix both dry and wet food together as an occasional treat.


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About the author

Graeme Hall

Graeme is the founder of Doggytastic! which is where he blogs about dog training, health, nutrition and anything else related to keeping a dog happy and healthy. Want to know a little bit more? Make sure to check out his full bio.

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