Best Canned Dog Food For 2019 : Top Wet Food Brands For Puppies, Adults & Seniors

Kibble is easy to store and holds up well for shipping, but it’s a little… boring. Many dogs lose interest in kibble, and for some puppies and seniors, kibble can be needlessly complicated to chew and digest.

Wet food can be just the answer for your picky dog and for dogs who have dental and jaw problems. Not all canned food is created equal, however. For some, it’s just a bit of broth and a few loose pieces of undefinable meat. Other brands use quality ingredients for food that’s densely nutritious and satisfying for even your picky dog.

We’ve put together a list of our favorite wet dog foods, but first, let’s look at a few reasons you may want to switch to wet dog food.

Why Quality Food Matters for Your Dog

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Your dog needs food with premium ingredients to help stave off weight issues, allergies, and a host of other health problems. The problem with many dog foods is that they use cheap fillers to bring down the cost of the food. Your dog can have poor reactions at worst, and at best, those ingredients are nothing but empty calories making it difficult for you to control your pet’s weight.

Dogs that receive well-balanced nutrition from their food often live longer, have a better quality of life, and usually retain their energy even into their senior years. Choosing better food may add a bit to your budget in the short term, but overall, you may experience fewer vet visits because of poor health and food allergies.

Top Wet Dog Foods of 2019 : Quick Look

Ask most dogs what kind of food they would prefer and they would likely indicate canned food (also known as tinned or “wet” food). It would probably be preferred even over raw food by most dogs. In general, canned food is high in fat and low in carbohydrates. Some foods are very high in protein. Even canned foods that are of modest quality usually have quite a bit of protein compared to average dog foods. And, since canned foods go through the canning process, they don’t need the same kind of preservatives that dry foods usually require.

You can read about the canning process here.

Once the ingredients are mixed, the mixture is placed into the cans and the lids are sealed on the cans with a partial vacuum. The sealed cans are placed in the “retorting” machine. This is where the canned foods are cooked and sterilized using steam. After the sealed cans are cooled in water and dried, they are labeled and readied for shipment.

You can see, this is quite different from the way kibbles are cooked and prepared.

Is canned the best choice for your dog?

There are some good reasons to feed a canned dog food. As mentioned previously, canned foods do not have as many chemicals added to them as kibbles. Most of them do not contain artificial colors or flavors and they don’t need preservatives because of the canning process.

Canned foods also have far fewer carbohydrates than kibbles. Many of them are grain free – and were grain free before it became popular. While kibbles require starches for the extrusion process, canned foods have no such requirement for their manufacture. This means that canned foods have room for more protein and fat – the reasons dogs love them. These ingredients also happen to be beneficial for most dogs. With some canned foods you can literally open the can and see the meat and other ingredients. It often looks like your Sunday dinner. Canned foods generally come as stews, in gravy, as loafs or pates.

As already mentioned, most dogs enjoy canned foods better than kibbles. Canned foods have more flavor than kibble. They have a better smell (for dogs) than kibble. If you have a dog that won’t eat, then choosing a canned food may be a good way to get your dog eating again. This is especially true if you have a senior dog or a dog that is convalescing after surgery or an illness. Many times feeding canned food can tempt a dog with a poor appetite. Senior dogs can start to have their sense of smell and taste fade as they age so kibble may not appeal to them. A wet dog food may be just the thing to get an older dog to eat.

If you need to slip your dog some medication – either liquid or a pill – you may be able to hide it in his canned food, too. This approach can take a little practice, depending on the kind of wet food your dog likes and how willing (or suspicious) he is when he eats his food. If he’s the kind of dog that wolfs down his food, you may be able to get him to take his medicine several times before he notices there is something different about his meals. But, if he is a cautious eater, he might notice right away that something is different which could ruin your efforts. Still, it works with many dogs.

If you have a dog that has dental problems such as missing teeth or a wry mouth (poorly-aligned jaw), which makes it difficult to eat harder foods, then softer canned foods may help your dog eat.

Some dogs may not get enough water in their diet. If your dog needs more moisture in his diet – perhaps for a health problem – canned foods could be the answer. While most kibbles have a moisture percentage of around 9-12 percent, canned foods usually have a moisture content of 75-82 percent. More moisture in a dog’s diet is usually better for the kidneys and makes the food easier to digest.

Drawbacks to feeding wet foods

As usual, there are some possible drawbacks to these foods. For one thing, if you have a medium-sized or larger dog, feeding a canned food diet can be virtually cost-prohibitive, especially if you try to feed a premium quality canned food. Some of the top quality canned dog foods can cost $3-4 for a 13 to 14 ounce large can, with two cans per day recommended for a dog weighing 30 pounds; and three cans per day recommended for a dog weighing 50 pounds. (Some feeding recommendations provided by pet food companies would make a dog obese so we always recommend that you figure for yourself how many calories per day your dog needs.) Many people with large dogs only buy canned foods occasionally and use them as a topper or special treat because of the cost.

In terms of ingredients, many canned foods use the thickening agent carrageenan, made from seaweed. Concerns have been raised about carrageenan in connection with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), intestinal ulcers, and other stomach problems. Other concerns have been raised regarding guar gum, xanthum gum, agar agar, and other thickening agents used in canned foods and whether they are associated with digestive problems in some dogs.

Pet food cans today are also (mostly) lined with Bisphenol-A (BPA), though there do not seem to be any good alternatives at this time.

Other drawbacks include the fact that feeding wet foods can be messy. Some dogs tend to get the wet food on their faces and bodies when they eat. They can also spread the food around the floor and elsewhere.

There are mixed feelings about whether wet foods lead to more dental problems for dogs. While it’s true that dry foods probably don’t keep a dog’s teeth cleaner as people used to claim (unless you are feeding one of the dog foods with a special dental supplement), some people do believe that wet foods can lead to more dental problems for dogs. However, this could be due to the fact that canned foods are more often fed to Toy breeds and some of these breeds are known for having some genetic dental issues. We think the jury is out on whether canned foods lead to more dental problems for dogs.

Canned foods cannot be left sitting out, the way kibbles can. Once you open a can of dog food, it needs to be used within a short time or thrown away. You can cover it and store it in your refrigerator but even then, it should be used fairly soon or it will spoil.

Canned foods are typically harder to purchase in large quantities and their storage is more of a problem than bags of kibble. If you are trekking to the grocery store or Costco, you can bring home a 40-pound bag of dog food for one dog and expect it to last a while. But if you have to carry multiple heavy cases of canned food and find a place to store it at home, it can be a problem. Of course, with online sources like Chewy.com and easy delivery, this is less of a problem today.

3 Common Health Issues Wet Food Helps With

Quality wet food has plenty of benefits, but there are a few specific things an excellent canned food can do for your dog.

Dental Issues

Kibble often gets all the glory for being good for teeth, but if you have a dog with serious dental issues, kibble may not be an option. Wet food can give your pet all the proper nutrition without making a tooth or jaw pain a lot worse.

Healthy dogs may want to eat at least half kibble to help scrape plaque and tartar from the teeth, but if your dog experiences pain when chewing or has suffered an injury recently, good wet food can make eating a whole lot easier.

If your dog is missing teeth, kibble may be too hard on the gums. Likewise, if your pet has no more teeth, a good kibble could help you make sure your pet is eating fully and adequately.

Picky Eating

Does your dog spit kibble onto the floor? Are you never sure exactly how much food your dog is getting because you tend to refill the bowl a little each time you pass by? Your dog may not be getting the proper nutrition because, with picky eating, it may not be eating enough.

Wet food can encourage your dog to eat all its food when you serve it, so you know exactly how much your dog is eating. It also helps encourage your dog to eat despite any pain in the jaw or mouth area, which can aid in recovery after injury. It’s particularly useful for seniors.

Peas And Potatoes

A recent link between a diet heavy in peas and potatoes and canine dilated cardiomyopathy may send you back to wet food. It’s gotten common for kibble, particularly the grain free kind, to have peas and potatoes as a source of energy and fiber. It can make things difficult if your dog is allergic to peas or potatoes as well.

This link hasn’t been fully established, but you may want to reconsider foods that use these ingredients, especially if your dog is a breed already disposed to an enlarged heart. Talk to your veterinarian about the link and possible options if your dog is on the list of susceptible breeds. Also, regular vet visits can help find the signs of an enlarged heart before it becomes too severe for options.

What to Look For in a Quality Wet Dog Food

An excellent wet dog food can help keep your dog’s proper fiber content up because the moisture required to process the food helps in digestion. It should have an adequate protein and fat balance to give your dog energy all day and help build muscle.

Omega fatty acids, especially those from natural sources like fish, can help keep the skin and coat healthy and shiny. Things like glucosamine promote healthy joints and bones. Whole fruits or veggies can provide valuable prebiotic materials and vitamins for immune system support and proper digestion.

For sensitive dogs, single sources of protein are better than multiple sources. Make sure the protein source is a whole, animal source and not a by-product meal or from legume sources, which can impede the production of taurine and cause issues.

Ingredients to Avoid in Your Canned Dog Food

Cheap fillers are some of the worst things you can give your dog. They offer nothing but empty calories, which can cause weight gain, and some dogs may even have allergies to those fillers. Corn and soy are two common ones. We recommend avoiding any foods that have them listed in the ingredients.

Artificial colors, flavors, and preservatives are other ingredients that can cause allergic reactions such as skin issues and trouble with digestion. Foods shouldn’t have heavy artificial ingredients because the whole, natural ingredients provide much better results for health.

As we mentioned above, some gluten free and grain free foods are under scrutiny following a recent study showing a possible link between diets heavy in potatoes, peas, or legumes and a condition called canine dilated cardiomyopathy. They’re unsure what the relationship may be but suspect it has to do with altered taurine levels because of protein sources other than animal sources.

Until we’re sure of the link, we won’t say to avoid those foods entirely, but we do recommend you avoid foods that have these ingredients listed in the first three on the ingredients list. If your dog is the type of breed particularly susceptible to this condition, talk to your veterinarian about what your options may be.

Many budget store brands are guilty of using cheap fillers and artificial ingredients to help lower the cost of the food. Frequent offenders include foods like Beneful brand and Ol Roy although you should check most store brands to see what the first five ingredients are.

Wet Food Feeding Chart

Each dog is going to be different based on the stage of life and type of breed. You should always keep your veterinarian’s advice in mind as you’re feeding your dog, but here are a few pieces of advice as you make decisions about feeding your dog wet food.

  • Puppy: A puppy will change rapidly throughout maturation, so it’s particularly important that you follow your veterinarian’s advice. Most puppies will switch to a type of wet food just after weaning and may continue to dry food. If your dog is a large breed, it’s vital that you control its rate of growth so that you don’t cause issues with joints and bones later.
  • Adults: Adults frequently receive a mix of wet and dry foods to help with a variety of issues. Be sure you’re portioning carefully so that you don’t accidentally overfeed your dog. If you’re using exclusively wet food, be sure you’re having your dog’s teeth cleaned regularly.
  • Seniors: Not too much changes when your dog becomes a senior, but check with your vet if your dog is experiencing weight issues because this is the most common issue with senior dogs. If your older dog has become picky, whether because of changing preferences or dental problems, wet food can help your senior maintain proper calorie count.

Best Wet Dog Food

Best Overall: Merrick Grain Free Real Chicken Canned Food

Our first wet food is a grain free chicken option that uses whole, deboned chicken for a quality protein source. Chicken broth adds tasty moisture while added vitamins and minerals support the immune system and lend joint and bone support. It also has essential fatty acids to help coat and skin health.

It’s suitable for sensitive tummies because there are no cheap fillers or artificial ingredients that can trigger allergic reactions or digestive issues. It doesn’t contain peas or potatoes. It’s suitable for a complete meal by itself or as a complement to your dog’s kibble.

First Five Ingredients:

  1. Deboned Chicken
  2. Water Sufficient for Processing
  3. Dried Egg Product
  4. Natural Flavor
  5. Calcium Carbonate
  6. Salmon Oil

More About Merrick

Merrick uses whole, quality ingredients for all food options. Their recipes are created right in test kitchens before ever being sent out so that they can ensure optimal nutrition and safety. The company uses locally sourced ingredients from trusted farmers right in the United States.

What Customers Like:

  • no peas or potatoes
  • suitable for sensitive digestion
  • whole, single protein source
  • support for bones and joints
  • omega fatty acids

Common Complaints:

  • paté style may not suit all dogs
  • may not have enough taste for really picky dogs

Best Value: Nutro Adult Hearty Stews Meaty Lamb & Rice Stew Chunks In Gravy Canned Dog Food

Nutro’s lamb and rice formula uses whole lamb for a rich, complete protein source that provides building blocks for healthy muscle and growth. Brown rice provides an excellent source of complex carbohydrates for all-day energy. Added vitamins and minerals support healthy bones and immune system while glucosamine supports joints.

The formula is limited ingredient so it could be suitable for sensitive digestion. It has plenty of fatty acids from natural sources to support the skin and coat. It has no cheap fillers and no artificial flavors or preservatives. It can help you control your pet’s weight as long as portions are the correct amount, and it’s suitable as a meal by itself or as a complement to kibble.

First Five Ingredients:

  1. Water Sufficient for Processing
  2. Lamb
  3. Lamb Liver
  4. Ground Rice
  5. Wheat Gluten

More About Nutro

Nutro provides quality food whether wet or dry so your dog can live its best life. It uses locally sourced ingredients and premium proteins and carbohydrates to help support your pet from puppyhood all the way to senior living.

What Customers Like:

  • whole protein source
  • excellent blend of carbs and protein
  • provides all-day energy
  • rich source of fatty acids
  • glucosamine and chondroitin for joint health

Common Complaints

  • contains wheat gluten
  • strong smell

Best Super Premium: NomNomNow Tasty Turkey Fare

NomNomNow creates cooked food as a balance between feeding canned food and a raw food diet. If you’ve got extra in your budget, you can get a quality meal made from human grade ingredients delivered right to your door.

Tasty Turkey Fare uses just six ingredients to provide your dog with all the nutrition it needs. It comes in proper portion sizes, and in some areas, delivery can happen once a week to cut down on storage. Meals go directly into the fridge or freezer until you’re ready to use them.

First Five Ingredients:

  1. Turkey
  2. Brown Rice
  3. Carrots
  4. Spinach
  5. Egg

More About NomNomNow

NomNomNow was created by a veterinarian who wanted to make feeding your dog a premium cooked food diet much more manageable. The recipes are based on a wealth of knowledge and research. You can customize your dog’s plan from the website and delivery is simple.

What Customers Like:

  • an alternative to raw or wet food
  • limited ingredients
  • whole ingredients
  • human grade foods
  • easy delivery options

Common Complaints

  • delivery options are limited in some areas (may only be once a month)
  • requires cold storage

Best Puppy: Nulo Freestyle Turkey, Cod & Sweet Potato Grain-Free Canned Puppy Food

Nulo Freestyle uses a grain free recipe with whole protein sources to give your puppy the best start in life. It’s suitable for all sizes of breeds and will help your puppy grow at the proper rate. Turkey is a lean protein source that won’t add a lot of extra pounds while cod has essential fatty acids for brain development plus skin and coat health.

It doesn’t use any corn or soy for cheap fillers and has no artificial ingredients that can irritate your puppy’s tummy. It has added vitamins and antioxidants to promote a healthy immune system. It’s a great way to transition from weening or as a complement to encourage your puppy to transition to dry foods.

First Five Ingredients:

  1. Turkey
  2. Turkey Broth
  3. Salmon Broth
  4. Turkey Liver
  5. Cod

More About Nulo

Nulo food was inspired by what fuels athletes after the founder, an athlete himself, began looking for food that could support his dog’s active lifestyle. Nulo uses only responsibly sourced ingredients tested in Nulo’s kitchens to provide excellent nutrition for your dog no matter the life stage or breed type.

What Customers Like:

  • whole protein sources
  • DHA for brain development
  • weight control
  • good transition food following weening
  • easy storage

Common Complaints:

  • strong smell
  • contains more than one protein source

Best Senior: Nutro Ultra Senior Pate Chicken, Lamb & Salmon Entree Dog Food Trays

Seniors sometimes have trouble with dry foods, but the pate style may be just the thing to keep your senior incorrect nutrition without stressing any tooth issues. It should satisfy even picky seniors with three protein sources including chicken, lamb, and salmon. It helps control weight and isn’t as messy as traditional canned foods.

It has added vitamins and minerals to support both immune systems and bone health. Glucosamine and Chondroitin promote joint health and help keep your senior moving the way it used to. It has no cheap fillers, artificial preservatives, or artificial flavors that can irritate your senior dog’s stomach.

First Five Ingredients:

  1. Chicken Broth
  2. Chicken
  3. Chicken Liver
  4. Carrots
  5. Spinach

More About Nutro

Nutro has been in the dog food business since the 1920s, providing dogs with complete, dense nutrition for their whole lives. They use premium ingredients for both their dry and wet foods, allowing dogs to live their best lives. Their extensive experience allows them to create meals that your dog will love.

What Customers Like:

  • pate style is less messy than traditional foods
  • satisfies picky eaters
  • glucosamine and chondroitin support joint health
  • natural sources of essential fatty acids for skin health
  • whole protein sources

Common Complaints:

  • serving amounts may be too small for large dogs
  • multiple protein sources may be too much for sensitive stomachs

Best For Allergies: The Honest Kitchen Grain-Free Turkey Recipe Dehydrated Dog Food

Honest Kitchen’s unique dehydrated recipe allows you to serve your dog wet foods without having to store wet food. You add your own moisture content to reconstitute the food, making it palatable for most dogs’ taste. It uses whole sources of protein from turkey plus added veggies and fruits for a balance of vitamins and antioxidants.

It doesn’t use any cheap fillers such as corn or soy, and it has no artificial ingredients. It’s suitable for dogs that have allergies to a lot of different foods, but it will still provide an excellent source of nutrition for your dog, including prebiotic support for healthier digestion overall.

First Five Ingredients:

  1. Turkey
  2. Organic Flaxseed
  3. Potatoes
  4. Spinach
  5. Carrots

More About The Honest Kitchen

Honest Kitchen provides a way to give your dog a wet style food without the hassle of storing cans. It’s unique dehydrate formulas don’t go bad as quickly and are easier to serve than the messy canned food or giant bags of kibble. Ingredients are human grade so you can feel good about what’s going into your pet’s tummy each meal time.

Best For Sensitive Stomach: Ziwi Peak Beef Recipe Canned Dog Food

Ziwi Peak’s foods mimic your dog’s ancestral diet, using a whole protein source and mostly animal sources of nutrition for the formula. It’s a limited ingredient, so it shouldn’t irritate sensitive stomachs that may have trouble with multiple protein sources. Plus, it uses ethically and sustainably sourced ingredients from the island of New Zealand.

It contains a balanced protein and fat ratio. It’s made into a loaf style to encourage picky eaters to give it a try. It never uses any cheap fillers or artificial ingredients that can irritate your dog’s digestion, just pure, premium ingredients like what your dog’s natural diet would be.

First Five Ingredients

  1. Beef
  2. Beef Broth
  3. Beef Lung
  4. Beef Kidney
  5. Beef Liver

More About ZiwiPeak

Ziwi Peak’s mission is to provide dogs with nutrition that mimics their wild ancestral diets. They use no artificial ingredients, no cheap fillers, no known stomach irritators such as carrageenan in their canning processes. Everything that goes into their food is something they would be eating naturally in the wild. It’s a great way to help your sensitive dog receive complete, dense nutrition without all the side effects of eating cheap fillers.

What Customers Like:

  • whole protein sources
  • less messy than traditional canned foods
  • excellent, premium ingredients
  • no carrageenan in the canning process
  • mimics an ancestral diet

Common Complaints:

  • Expensive
  • strong smell

Final Thoughts

These are a few of the foods we like. There are others. In some cases a food may not be on the list because we haven’t had a chance to look closely at it yet. In other cases, a food may actually be a supplement and not have AAFCO approval as a diet for an adult dog (maintenance, all life stages). These foods will usually have this AAFCO statement on the label: “This product is intended for intermittent or supplemental feeding only.” Some dog food mixes fall into this category. Some canned foods that are all-meat or specialty diets also fall into this category such as PetKind Tripett.

In some cases you will find dog foods (canned and otherwise) that have no AAFCO statement. When this occurs, you should contact the company to try to ascertain the AAFCO status of the food. Otherwise, you should assume that the food is not complete and balanced. Your dog’s health is too important to feed him a diet on a long-term basis that could be unbalanced.

Feeding your dog a wet food is a great way to help dogs with tooth issues or picky eaters to get whole nutrition without missing anything. It can be a little messier than dry food, but whether it’s a complement or a meal to itself, your dog should find the flavors and smells of wet food especially appealing.

Be sure you’re watching portions carefully and talk to your vet about any dental issues that crop up. Aside from that, your dog gets to enjoy food once again, and you don’t have to stare at a half-full bowl anymore. Win-Win!

2 thoughts on “Best Canned Dog Food For 2019 : Top Wet Food Brands For Puppies, Adults & Seniors”

  1. First off, I just wanted to point out that Weruva’s cans’ linings lack BPA. Speaking of BPA, I read an article on the subject in 9th grade. While it listed health problems, it also mentioned the results weren’t conclusive.

    On another note, I’ve read many articles and even a book on dog food. And I’ve read little to nothing to suggest wet food causes poor dental health. Still, I think you gave a plausible explanation.

    That said, I also feel that this could be quite helpful.

  2. Until recently my dog, now 16, has liked Cesars very much. Mostly the chicken products. Lately they have a certain ‘air’ about them and they really have an odor that makes them really stinky. Please check into this. I feel it’s more than losse plastic floating around. I don’t know if it’s where I buy it or where it’s manufactured. Thank you…It’s the wet stuff…Thanks again

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