What Is Moisture in Dog Food? Finding the Guaranteed Analysis of Your Dog Food

What Is Moisture in Dog Food?
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vet verified Dr. Joseph J. Wakshlag, DVM Associate Professor of Clinical Nutrition

Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine Ithaca, NY

We can all assume that wet dog food has more water in it, or moisture, than dry food, but how much water is really in your dog food? And what does that mean about the presence of all the other ingredients?

We can all assume that wet dog food, like the Purina dog food (Purina Pro Plan Dog Food), has more water or moisture than dry dog food like the Royal Canin Dog Food. However, how much water is really in your dog food? And what does that mean about the presence of all the other ingredients?

Moisture is the water content of dog food, as expressed in a percentage. Dry kibble tends to have a moisture content of between 6 and 10 percent, semi-moist foods between 15 and 30 percent, and wet foods such as the Beneful Chopped Blend Dog Food Tubs around 75 percent. As expected, there is more water in wet dog food than in dry.

Does Moisture Matter?

The moisture content affects the percentages of other ingredients in dog food, including the amounts of protein, carbohydrates, and fats. Pet caregivers often want to compare dog foods based on how much protein they contain. Comparing the data in the guaranteed analysis section of a label may not be the whole story.

The guaranteed analysis tells you how much of the total percent of the food comes from protein, fat, fiber, and moisture. If we remove the moisture element, the percentages of the other substrates, like fat and protein, will increase dramatically.

If moisture content were the same for every dog food, we’d be comparing one food to another on the same ground. As it is, the difference in moisture content among foods is great. So, to get a more accurate picture of the nutritional value of dog food, specifically the protein content, we should explore what would happen if we were to squeeze all the moisture out. What’s leftover may surprise you.

The Dry Matter Basis

Knowing how to calculate the percentage of protein minus the moisture content will give you a much better picture of the real protein content of any dog food.

Even the FDA agrees. They say, “The weights of ingredients are determined as they are added in the formulation, including their inherent water content. This latter fact is important when evaluating relative quantity claims, especially when ingredients of different moisture contents are compared.” Consider seeing a package that has chicken as the number one ingredient, which is about 60% moisture, versus a chicken meal that has less than 10% moisture. Which has more protein?

What a Pain!

Yes. Sometimes manufacturers really don’t make it easy on the consumer. Being committed and savvy is all part of being a great pet parent. By doing the calculations, you figure out what pet food companies are really adding. And the math isn’t too tricky.

The Math to Remove The Moisture Content

  1. First, we’ll figure out the dry matter in wet dog food. Begin by assuming we’re starting at 100%. This 100% is the whole dog food and everything in it.

  2. 100% (gee, this is easy!)

  3. Subtract the percentage of moisture, as listed on the can. So if the can lists a 75% moisture content, you’re left with 25% dry matter.

  4. 100% (everything) - 75% (moisture) = the canned food in question is made up of 25% dry matter

  5. The next question we’re concerned with is: how much of that dry matter is actually protein? To figure this out, we’ll divide the amount of protein listed in the guaranteed analysis by the total amount of dry matter. Then we’ll multiply the whole thing by 100. Let’s say guaranteed analysis lists protein at 10%.

  6. 10 (protein) / 25 (dry matter) = 0.4

  7. 0.4 x 100 = 40%

What we’ve learned is that this canned food has a protein content of 40 percent on a Dry Matter Basis.

When you do the same calculations with dry kibble of 10 percent moisture and 25 percent guaranteed analysis protein, you get a dry matter protein of only 28 percent.

Quite a difference, right? The wet food has nearly double the protein content. It could be worth combining the two to get your dog a bit more protein in his diet.

Choosing a Quality Food

High-quality dog food will have all the protein and other ingredients your dog needs to stay healthy. Good food for your pet will have a substantial dry matter protein content, typically above 20%.

However, every dog may require different amounts of protein, calcium, and fat depending on its breed, age, activity levels, and other factors. Knowing a dog food’s moisture content will let you determine its major nutrient composition compared to other foods.

Should Fiber Be in Dog Food?

Most of us know by now how important fiber is to our diets. The makers of high-fiber cereal, as well as our doctors, have made clear the many health benefits of a diet high in fiber. But is fiber in dog food important as well?

The answer is yes. In many of the same ways that fiber promotes our own health, the fiber in a dog’s diet will help improve stool quality and colon health, promote weight loss or maintenance and even help to regulate blood sugar levels.

Benefits of Fiber

Fiber is a form of carbohydrate and, in most diets, is composed largely of the cell walls of plants. These cell walls are indigestible, meaning that they move through the digestive tract intact and are not dissolved by the enzymes and acids that break down other food components like protein and fat.

Because fiber is indigestible, it helps to regulate the movement of food and waste through the small and large intestines. Fiber tends to prolong the digestive process by slowing things down a bit, allowing the digestive tract to do its job of extracting nutrients from the food and efficiently eliminating what the body doesn’t need through the dog’s stool.

A dog that receives enough fiber in its diet in the right form, but not too much, will have better digestive health. At the same time, you’ll notice an improvement in your dog’s stool, which will be firm and well-formed, not loose or pasty. This is not only good for your dog but good for you come clean-up time!

At the same time, fiber can help your dog maintain a proper weight. By adding bulk to food without the addition of calories, a high-fiber meal will make your dog feel full and satisfied with less caloric intake. That's why many dry dog food brands like the Purina Pro Plan Puppy Lamb And Rice add brewer's rice and grains to ensure there is enough fiber.

Those dogs that have or are prone to diabetes will also benefit from a diet that is well balanced with fiber. Fiber allows the body to absorb sugar from the diet more slowly, which helps maintain stable blood sugar levels, a key component of proper diabetes management.

Is your dog getting enough fiber?

There are several signs you can look for that will tell you your dog might not be getting enough fiber.

If your dog tends to strain during defecation, this might be a sign that more fiber is warranted. Dogs that scoot along the floor, rubbing their rear ends along the carpeting, could be having trouble expelling their anal glands. The fiber in your dog’s stool may help stimulate these glands and relieve the uncomfortable pressure.

Dog owners should be aware that although fiber in its proper proportion is good for your dog’s health, too much fiber can cause problems itself. Dogs with an overabundance of dietary fiber can develop soft stools. This is often due to too much of a specific kind of fiber called “soluble” fiber. High-quality dog food will typically contain the right proportion and type of fiber for your pet, although consultation with your vet will help ensure your dog is getting just what he or she needs.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is moisture good in dog food?

Moisture is good for your dog, whether it's in their food or not. To understand why this is true, you need to know how dogs' bodies work and how they use moisture. Moisture helps with digestion. Dogs are able to digest their food with the help of saliva and stomach acid. Saliva contains bicarbonate ions that neutralize acids so they don't burn a hole in your dog's mouth or tummy. Stomach acid helps break down proteins into amino acids, which are the building blocks of muscle growth and repair. If there isn't enough moisture present all day long then these processes won't happen as well as they could! The lack of moisture in your dog's body can make them more prone to dehydration and digestive issues, which can lead to a whole host of other problems. If you're concerned about your dog's health and want to give them the best chance of living a long and happy life, then consider ensuring that their food has the right amount of moisture.

What does moisture in dog food mean?

Moisture in dog food is a term used to describe how much water is in the food. The moisture content of a dog food is measured as percent, with 100% being completely dry and 0% being completely wet. When comparing different brands of dog food, you'll often see that some brands have higher moisture contents than others. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, even if it seems counterintuitive at first glance,given that dry-type kibble tends to be more popular among pet owners and vets. High moisture content can make your pet feel fuller faster, which may be helpful if you have an overweight pet or want him/her to eat slower during mealtime.

Which moist dog food is best?

The best moist dog food is the one that meets your dog's nutritional needs. There are many different types of moist dog food, so you should consult a vet to find the best one for your dog. The best moist dog food is one that you can trust and feel good about feeding your pet. There are many different brands and types of moist dog food available on the market today, so do some research before buying anything just because it sounds good or looks like something you want for yourself.

What can I use to moisten my dog's food?

In addition to the water, you can also use some of your dog's favorite foods as a healthy way to moisten their food. For instance, if you have a dog that loves carrots and sweet potatoes, puree them into a smooth paste and mix it into their meals. Just make sure that you don't add too much because there is no nutritional value in the added moisture. Vegetables are a bit of a double-edged sword because while it will add moisture to your dog's food, it also adds extra calories and carbs which can lead to weight gain. So if you're looking for something that's healthy but doesn't add too many calories or carbs then this isn't the best solution. Bone broth or stock will add flavor while keeping things moist and rich, making this your best bet if you want something tasty but healthy! You could also use chicken broth as well if that's what floats your dog’s boat.

Do vets recommend wet or dry food?

If you're wondering whether your vet prefers wet or dry food for your dog, the answer is that it depends on the dog. If you see a lot of gum disease or tartar buildup in your dog's mouth, your veterinarian might recommend switching to a brand with fewer carbs and more protein and fat. But if you have an older dog who has trouble chewing and swallowing dry kibble, he or she may suggest doing away with the kibble altogether, or at least making it wet. Dry food does tend to be better for a dog's teeth because it helps scrape off plaque that can lead to dental problems down the line. However, some vets believe this benefit comes at too high a price. Dry kibble also tends to be harder on digestion than canned food, which means that dogs eating dry foods need more water (and thus more bathroom breaks) throughout the day.

Back to Your Dog Food Questions Answered
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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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