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Helpful guidelines for selecting dry dog food vs. wet dog food


Drs. Foster & Smith Educational Staff
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Dry dog food or wet dog food? Which to choose? With the hundreds of choices available to you, selecting the right food - a food your dog will happily accept and truly enjoy - can be challenging. Even before you consider specific ingredients, decide whether you'll feed wet food or dry food. Carefully evaluate your pet's unique requirements and preferences, your budget, and ultimately your goals as a pet parent. This article can help you choose between dry food and wet food, to ensure that every meal maximizes satisfaction and health benefits for your dog.

While some veterinarians strongly recommend one food type over another, we see distinct benefits to both dry and wet dog foods. Both types of food can offer balanced nutrition through protein, carbohydrates and fiber from vegetables, fruits, and grains that, when fed in proper quantities, helps dogs to live their best lives.

Let's take a closer look at each type of dog food:

Dry dog food Wet dog food
Typically less messy than wet food Contains more water than dry food - helpful for hydrating dogs who are reluctant to drink water due to preference or illness
Extremely convenient to feed; also travels very well Typically contains fewer carbohydrates than dry food
Typically less expensive than wet food, especially if feeding multiple pets Ingredients tend to be processed less than those in dry food, making them closer to their natural state and more appealing overall
Will not spoil quickly after serving Air-tight packaging allows a long shelf-life until package is opened
Easy to store - requires no refrigeration after opening  
Abrasive texture may help clean your dog's teeth as he chews  

Still not sure whether to choose dry or wet food?

The following factors may influence your decision:

  • Personal experience feeding previous pets - you may simply choose to keep feeding dry food or wet food if you've already experienced success with it.
  • Recommendations from friends, family, your dog breeder, animal shelter staff, or your veterinarian.
  • If your dog is overweight, wet dog food (with its higher moisture content) can help your dog feel fuller faster and ultimately eat less.
  • If your dog is extremely active, he may benefit from the higher fat content in wet food.
  • If your senior dog has difficulty chewing or very few teeth, wet food or moistened kibble can simplify eating.
  • If your dog has a reduced sense of smell due to illness or age, wet food may be more enticing than less-fragrant dry food.
  • If your dog has a medical condition that diminishes his appetite or his desire to drink water, your veterinarian may advise you to feed wet food exclusively.

If you simply cannot decide whether to feed dry or wet food, you CAN choose instead to mix the two together. This feeding method, known as topping, brings your dog a delightful blend of savory flavors and varied textures. You might also decide to feed dry food primarily, and give wet food as an occasional treat. Or, you could feed your dog food rolls, a meaty, semi-moist alternative that offers the rich flavor of wet dog food and the economical appeal of dry dog food. You might also decide to feed your dog commercial raw foods, which offer enticing, protein-rich freeze-dried and dehydrated options.

No single right or wrong way to feed your dog

Essentially, either dry food or wet food should satisfy your pet's nutritional requirements, provided the food is nutritionally complete, balanced, and made from healthy, quality ingredients. Carefully read individual food packages and verify that a food meets Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) minimum requirements for a healthy diet for your dog's life stage. Also, involve your veterinarian to ensure your selected food satisfies your dog's health and nutrition requirements, especially if your dog has any medical conditions. Ultimately, in deciding between wet dog food and dry dog food, choose a food that will fulfill your pet's long-term needs and your preferences/lifestyle requirements as a pet parent.

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