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Which Is Best: Dry Dog Food or Wet Dog Food?

small dog eating from yellow dog bowl

Our dogs rely on us to make the best food choice on their behalf. But when it comes to picking a dog food, which type is the best choice: dry or canned? Let’s take a closer look at each variety.

dog food in bowl animated

Benefits of Dry Dog Food: Convenience, Crunch and Cost

Benefits of dry dog food at a glance:

  • It supports oral health by reducing plaque and tartar buildup.
  • No refrigeration is required.
  • It has a lower cost than canned food.

Dry kibble does have some advantages over canned foods, including distinct benefits for your dog’s oral health. Crunchy kibble helps keep your dog’s teeth healthy by reducing plaque and tartar buildup. That’s why kibble eaters tend to have better breath than those who chow down exclusively on canned food. Dry food also provides the necessary chew and crunch dogs have craved since their primal pack days, when they used chewing and crunching as stress relief and a show of power.

Unlike canned food, kibble does not require refrigeration after opening and can be left out for free feeders. It’s also easier to pack if you travel with your pet.

Cost is another area in which dry kibble has an advantage over canned food. Because canned food contains a higher percentage of water (usually 70–85%) than dry foods (10% or less), dry food is more economical to feed on a per-serving basis.

yellow dog bowls with wet dog food

Benefits of Wet Dog Food: Meaty, Moist and Appetizing

Benefits of wet dog food at a glance:

  • Most dogs love the taste, including picky eaters.
  • It’s more easily digested.
  • Its high moisture content can help keep a dog hydrated.

Canned dog food tends to be more palatable to dogs because it is made primarily of protein and fat, with few carbohydrates. The palatability and digestibility of canned food may also make it the right choice for finicky eaters or dogs with certain illnesses.

The downside of canned food is its soft, smooth texture, which doesn’t give your pooch an opportunity to do the crunching that can help clean their teeth. And smaller dogs that often eat canned food have more crowded teeth, providing areas where plaque and tartar can easily accumulate.

Nonetheless, some pet nutritionists believe that canned food can be healthier than dry. And with its high moisture content, canned food can help keep a dog hydrated, benefiting the urinary tract.

While the meat-based protein in canned dog food is more expensive, for smaller breeds that eat less it may be a cost-effective option.

Remember, canned food is perishable and can only be left opened and out of the refrigerator for a short time. Therefore, any food left in your dog’s bowl for more than one to two hours should be discarded.

small dog eating from yellow dog bowl

Making the Right Choice

There is no single right or wrong way to feed your dog. What matters most is that the food you choose is as healthy as possible and is a good match with your feeding philosophy.

If you feed your dog only canned dog food, give them opportunities to crunch on snacks that can help clean their teeth and satisfy their need for a good chew. Likewise, dogs that are fed dry food may occasionally enjoy a delectably meaty treat. Balancing out the crunchy with the yummy is just one more way you can provide the best possible care for your dog.

To help find the right foods for your dog, check out our Food-Finder Tool. With so many nutritious and delicious choices, your dog will have a hard time deciding which is their favorite.

  • When Should You Switch Your Senior Dog to Soft Food?

    smiling lab sitting in front of brick wall


    As your dog ages, you’ll likely notice changes in your best pal’s energy levels, routine and even muzzle. Older pets may require adjustments to help them get around, exercise and live their best life as a senior. One important aspect of caring for a dog entering their golden years is diet.

    When it comes to diet, every dog has unique, individual needs, regardless of age. So, there's no one easy answer to the question of soft food versus hard food. Both types of food can provide your dog with the nutrition they need — as long as you feed your dog a high-quality dog food that’s nutritionally balanced and complete.

    two dogs eating from two bowls

    Signs Your Senior Dog May Benefit from Wet Food

    If your dog has very specific health concerns, such as aging joints or weight issues, consult with your vet for more information about what type of food best addresses your dog's needs. That being said, there are a few reasons why you may consider switching your senior dog to soft food.
     

    fluffy brown dog yawning showing teeth

    Teeth Sensitivity

    As your dog gets older, their teeth may become more sensitive, which can make chewing kibble more difficult and even uncomfortable. Switching to a soft food can help to alleviate your pet’s oral discomfort when eating.

    However, if your dog is experiencing serious pain at mealtime from a condition like tooth decay or gingivitis, switching to soft food won't remedy the problem. Make sure you talk to your vet about oral care and dental treatment.

    Digestion Aid

    Digestion begins in the mouth with saliva, so if your dog has a tendency to scarf down meals, they may not be adequately chewing the food or adding enough saliva to it. Soft food can aid with digestion because it's more easily chewed.

    Hydration Help

    It’s no surprise that wet food has a higher moisture content when compared to dry kibble. If your senior pup is prone to urinary-tract issues or simply needs a little help staying hydrated, canned dog food may be a good choice.

    girl kissing older dog on the head

    Slower Metabolism

    Aging dogs tend to have a slower metabolic rate compared to their younger years, which puts them at a higher risk of becoming overweight or obese. Many nutritionally balanced wet dog foods offer high protein content with fewer carbs than dry food, which can benefit older dogs with slower metabolism. Always talk to your vet if you have concerns about your pup’s weight.

    Picky Eaters

    While wet food may be less than appetizing to humans, the opposite is true for dogs! If your aging best friend has started turning their snout up to dry food, wet food tends to be more appealing to picky eaters. Mixing wet food and kibble offers your pup a variety of flavors and textures; try adding wet food as a topper on dry food for a real treat!

    Whether you choose dry food, soft food  or a mix of both, ask your vet before making any transition. And when it's time to switch your dog's food, remember to do it slowly — even if it's the same brand and flavor — to help prevent stomach upset and allow your dog time to adjust.

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