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Wet or Dry Dog Food: Which is Better?

Pros and Cons of Wet and Dry Dog Food

By Lauren Leonardi . February 07, 2013 | See Comments

  • expert or vet photo
    vet verified

    Dr. Joseph J. Wakshlag, DVM

    Associate Professor of Clinical Nutrition

    Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine Ithaca, NY

Wet or Dry Dog Food: Which is Better?

Is wet or dry dog food better for your dog? It will depend on your particular dog and their health and nutrition requirements, and also the pros and cons of these different food types.

Some pet parents claim that dry food is better for dogs, and others quite forcefully state the opposite -- that dogs are healthier and happier with wet food. Some combine the two for a nice balance. Other folks skip commercially prepared dog food altogether and instead opt to make their own dog food at home, or purchase readymade raw or cooked foods.

As with many points of conflict, the best answer to the wet food or dry food question appears to be somewhere in the middle: for some dogs wet food will be best, while other pooches will fare better with a dry kibble. It will depend on your particular dog and their health and nutrition requirements. Of course, your preference as a dog owner also fits into the equation.

Dry Dog Food Advantages

There are a few things to consider when purchasing a dry food for your dog.

The advantages of dry dog food are clear. Kibble is easy to measure out: food can be accurately and easily portioned to keep diets consistent. Kibble is easy to store. Dry food rarely goes bad as long as used within the expiration date. It can be purchased in bulk and stored for relatively long periods. This means little waste, which often means good savings. Dry foods are also less expensive than wet foods in general. If you have a mobile lifestyle or travel a lot, dry food travels well and easily in any container.

Another advantage of a dry kibble is that some of these foods are designed to help clean the dog’s teeth as they eat. Since some dog breeds tend toward tooth and gum problems, a dry food may help stave off such conditions. Of course, dogs with established tooth decay may find it painful to chew kibble and at that point, a wet food may become a better option.

Dry Dog Food Drawbacks

To make kibble keep its shape, many dry foods have a reduced amount of fat content and an increased carbohydrate content. If your dog is very active, they may require higher fat than a dry dog food can provide. Some breeds of dogs may have a hard time breaking up kibble due to dental problems or facial structure making it more difficult for them to eat dry dog food. Also, as protein and fat content in dry foods rise, so do the prices which negates one of the major benefits of dry food: the relative inexpensiveness.

Wet Dog Food Advantages

When it comes to wet food, your dog will often be its biggest advocate. Many dogs prefer wet food as it tends to be more flavorful and more closely resembles meat and meat by products.

Wet dogs foods contain a significantly higher moisture content than dry kibbles, which can be important for dogs with urinary tract conditions, or dogs who don’t tend to drink enough water on their own. This added moisture will help fill your dog’s belly, which will temporarily help your pup feel satiated without actually consuming more calories. In this way, wet foods are a great way to trick dogs on a diet into believing they’re not being deprived in a weight loss plan.

Wet foods often have a higher protein content than dry foods. Active and younger dogs may require this boost in protein to keep them energetic and active and to help build muscle.

Drawbacks to Canned Food Only Dog Diets

Wet foods generally need to be refrigerated after opening, and even then its shelf life is limited to a day or two. You may end up throwing out some wet food, which is wasteful to both planet and pocketbook. Wet foods won’t clean your dog’s teeth or massage their gums as they eat, which may lead to more plaque build-up and potentially to tooth decay. Owners who feed their dogs exclusively wet food may need to be more vigilant with brushing and tooth maintenance. The higher moisture, protein, and fat content in wet food can sometimes cause upset tummies, especially while transitioning off kibble. Some pet advocates argue that a dog food diet too high in protein can overtax the kidneys and liver, and they prefer a more balanced diet. Other nutritionists, however, argue that dogs’ diets should be comprised primarily of protein.

A Mixed Compromise

Since both wet and dry dog foods have their advantages, many pet owners find that mixing wet and dry together at feeding time provides the best of both worlds. Unless your dog has very specific dietary requirements, you may consider this option. Combining wet and dry foods will allow your dog the flavor benefits of wet food, while you can keep some of the financial and logistical ease of kibble.

Your veterinarian can help you determine the right combination of wet and dry foods to keep your dog healthy, and you can work out the what will keep their tummies happy, too. For the most part, consistency of dry foods will keep digestion steady, while the flavor of wet foods mixed in can change to keep your pup interested in mealtime.

Back to Your Dog Food Questions Answered
Next: Does the Size of Dog Kibble Matter?

This information is for informational purposes only and is not meant as a substitute for the professional advice of, or diagnosis or treatment by, your veterinarian. It has however been reviewed for accuracy by Dr. Joe, a board certified veterinary nutritionist and graduate of Cornell University's program for Veterinary Medicine.

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