When you picture a bowl of dog food, you probably picture one filled with kibble. While kibble, or dry dog food, is what many pet owners prefer, it may not be the right choice for all dogs. Keep reading to learn about the benefits of moist dog food versus dry food and to receive our recommendations for the top four wet dog food brands.
What Are the Benefits of Moist vs. Dry Food?
Dog food comes in a variety of shapes and forms, though wet food and dry food are the two main options. Many dog owners prefer dry food for its convenience, but if they were to take the time to learn about the benefits of wet food they might make a different choice. Our goal is to provide you with the information you need to make the right decision for your dog, so here are some of the benefits of wet over dry food:
- Moist dog food has a much higher moisture content than dry food which can help to keep your dog hydrated – it may also promote healthy digestion.
- Canned foods typically don’t require any synthetic preservatives because they are packaged in air-tight cans that are sealed and sterilized.
- When unopened, cans of moist food can remain fresh for longer than most dry foods – the fats and oils in the food don’t spoil or become rancid as easily.
- With moist foods, meat ingredients are closer to their original state which often makes wet foods more palatable and more appetizing for some dogs, especially dogs that have trouble chewing hard food.
- Because of the high moisture content, moist foods usually offer the same quality of nutrition as dry food in a larger volume – this can make your dog feel full on a smaller portion, a benefit for dogs on a diet.
- Wet foods are usually softer and easier for senior dogs and dogs with dental problems to chew and they may be easier to digest as well, depending on the ingredients.
- Moist foods tend to have a stronger odor than dry foods which can be helpful for picky eaters and for dogs who have low appetite or who cannot smell well.
- Many wet foods have the same protein content as dry foods but lower carbohydrate content and less fiber – this can be good for dogs with food allergies or sensitivities.
Although moist foods provide many benefits over dry food, there are some drawbacks to consider. Moist foods remain fresh in their cans for months on end but, once they are opened, they must be refrigerated and will only be fresh for 3 to 5 days. Canned foods also tend to be more expensive than dry foods – this is why some pet parents feed their dogs a mixture of wet and dry food.
Tips for Choosing a Moist Dog Food
No matter whether you choose to feed your dog moist food or dry food, you still need to take the time to evaluate the quality of the product to see if it is a good choice for your dog. To start, check the product label for an AAFCO statement of nutritional adequacy – this will tell you whether the product is complete and balanced in accordance with your dog’s minimum nutritional requirements. Next, check the guaranteed analysis to determine the crude protein, crude fat, and crude fiber content of the product. The thing you need to be mindful of here is that the guaranteed analysis for wet foods are measured “as fed” – you’ll need to convert them to dry matter basis if you want to make a comparison between wet food and dry food.
To calculate the dry matter basis of a wet food product you need to do two things – determine the “as fed” carbohydrate content then convert the values to a dry matter basis. First of all, you need to know that the protein, fat, carbohydrate, and moisture content of the product will all add up to 100%. The guaranteed analysis will tell you the protein, fat, ash, and moisture content so add up those four numbers and subtract the total from 100 – this will give you the estimated carbohydrate content of the food. To find the dry matter basis for individual nutrient values, take the nutrient value and divide it by the total dry matter (100% minus the moisture %). Here is an example of how this works using a sample guaranteed analysis:
Crude Protein = 9%
Crude Fat = 6%
Crude Fiber = 1.5%
Moisture = 76%
Ash = 2.5%
Carb Estimate = 6.5%
Dry Matter Basis:
Crude Protein = 37.5%
Crude Fat = 25%
Crude Fiber = 1.5%
Carb Estimate = 27.1%
Once you’ve calculated the dry matter basis for the nutrient values you can compare them to your dog’s minimum nutritional needs. Puppies require a diet that contains at least 22% protein and 8% fat – adults need a minimum of 18% protein and 5% fat. Keep in mind that these are minimum requirements – more protein is always better for a dog because it helps to support growth and development in puppies and lean muscle mass maintenance in adults. Fat is the most highly concentrated form of energy available to dogs and it plays a role in nutrient uptake, immune health, and skin and coat health. Because fat contains 9 calories per gram versus 4 calories per gram for protein and carbohydrate, however, you need to be mindful of the fat content of your dog’s food so he doesn’t get too many calories and end up gaining an unhealthy amount of weight.
After reviewing the AAFCO statement of nutritional adequacy and the guaranteed analysis for the moist dog food you are evaluating, your final step is to review the ingredients list. Remember, the ingredients list for any dog food will be arranged in descending order by volume – the more of an ingredient there is, the higher it will be on the list. This being the case, you want to see at least one high-quality source of animal protein at the top of the list and it should be supplemented by digestible carbohydrates and healthy animal fats. Avoid any moist food product made with carbohydrate (especially grains like corn and wheat) as the first ingredient as well as products that start with a plant protein, not an animal protein. Though plant proteins do contain some of the amino acids your dog needs, animal proteins are complete proteins which means that they contain all ten essential amino acids.
In addition to checking the protein, fat, and carbohydrate content of the recipe you should also take a look at the other ingredients listed. It is always a good thing to see fresh fruits and vegetables on the list because they act as natural sources for key nutrients. Natural sources are more biologically valuable for your dog than synthetic supplements – this simply means that his body can better absorb and utilize these nutrients. It is also a good thing to see dried fermentation products on the list because they act as probiotics to support your dog’s healthy and regular digestion. Chelated minerals are another excellent addition – they are minerals that have been chemically bound to protein molecules in a process that makes them easier for your dog’s body to absorb. In terms of ingredients you want to avoid, don’t choose a product that contains any artificial colors, flavors, or preservatives and think twice before you buy a dog food that contains corn, wheat, and soy ingredients.
The Top 4 Brands of Moist Food for Dogs
Now that you have a better understanding of what moist dog food is and the benefits it provides, you might be thinking about making the switch for your dog. If you do, be sure to transition him slowly onto the new diet because any sudden changes to his diet could lead to digestive upset. When you start shopping around for a moist food product, be careful to evaluate the quality of the product – don’t just shop by price or brand. To help you get started, here are our top four recommendations for moist dog food brands:
Taste of the Wild Canned – The Taste of the Wild brand is aptly named because their products do, indeed, offer dogs a taste of the wild. Every recipe is formulated with real roasted meats and supplemented with legumes, fruits, and vegetables in flavorful, grain-free formulas. This brand takes seriously their job of providing pets with premium pet food options that nourish their bodies through the use of high-quality ingredients with no artificial additives. Every recipe is designed to mimic your dog’s ancestral diet, relying only on the freshest, most wholesome ingredients to deliver the maximum nutritional benefit. Taste of the Wild may not offer as large a selection of products as some pet food brands, but you can rest assured that every product is an example of the highest quality.
When it comes to their moist food products, Taste of the Wild offers five different options, each made with premium-quality proteins and digestible carbohydrates. The High Prairie Canine Formula features fresh bison and roasted lamb with potatoes and peas for carbohydrate support. The Pacific Stream Canine Formula is a grain-free formula made with both fresh and smoked salmon for maximum flavor and palatability. The Sierra Mountain Canine Formula is loaded with lamb and sweet potatoes while the Southwest Canyon Canine Formula features wild boar for unbeatable natural flavor. The Wetlands Canine Formula is made with smoked turkey, roasted quail, and fresh duck in a formula that will appeal to even the most finicky dogs. All of these recipes are loaded with antioxidants and supplemented with probiotics for healthy digestion. They are all free from gluten and grains as well.
Wellness CORE Grain-Free Canned Food – The Wellness brand is one of five brands managed by the WellPet company. Wellness is a brand designed for pets and their parents who believe in the power of quality nutrition to transform the life of pets. Each recipe is designed with input from animal nutritionists, veterinarians, and pet lovers, made with an ideal balance of the finest ingredients. Wellness guarantees the quality of their ingredients and their products, using only lean meats, whole grains, and fresh fruits and veggies – no corn, wheat, soy, or artificial additives. Within the Wellness brand there are four distinct product lines – Complete Health, CORE, Simple, and Trufood.
The Wellness CORE line of products features protein-rich, grain-free recipes for both dry food and moist food as well as meal toppers and treats. For wet food, the CORE line includes eight recipes for canned food in the Pate and Hearty Cuts lineups as well as an assortment of Chunky Centers wet food trays. There are also three canned food recipes made with 95% meat ingredients, featuring beef, turkey, and chicken. Across the entire CORE line of wet foods, there are recipes for puppies as well as adult dogs and even a weight management recipe. If you’re interested in meal toppers, there are four options in the Simply Shreds line which features chicken, beef, salmon, and tuna.
EVO 95 Percent Canned Food – The EVO brand of pet food offers what they call “the ancestral diet meets modern nutrition”. This brand understands the true nature of the carnivore and their design each of their formulas to offer the maximum amount of pure animal protein. EVO uses only high-quality, natural ingredients to formulate recipes that are denser and richer in nutrients than the average pet food. This brand is committed to the quality and safety of their products as well, so they put them through over 100 quality checks before they even hit pet store shelves. This brand doesn’t use any artificial colors, flavors, or preservatives and their recipes are designed to support your dog’s total body wellness, including his healthy digestion and the health of his skin and coat.
When it comes to their wet food products, EVO only offers two options. Both of these are made with 95% animal ingredients and supplemented with gluten-free and grain-free carbohydrates. The 95 Chicken & Turkey Recipe features fresh chicken and turkey as well as chicken liver – it is complete and balanced for adult dogs and supplemented with chelated minerals. The 95 Beef Recipe is made with both beef and chicken as well as chicken liver. It is made with highly digestible ingredients and supplemented with essential nutrients, including chelated minerals. Both of these recipes are completely free from gluten, grains, and potato as well as artificial additives.
Weruva Dogs in the Kitchen Canned Food – Though they are mostly known for their cat food products, Weruva does offer some dry food and wet food options for dogs as well. This brand produces what they call “people food for pets” which they manufacture in human food facilities using high-quality ingredients. Their base proteins include the finest cuts of chicken, beef, and fish such as white breast chicken and whole tuna loins. They also use fresh fruits and vegetables for nutritional balance and healthy supplements as needed. According to the brand website, Weruva uses ingredients that go into food products for people and they make their products in human food facilities but they don’t describe their products as “human grade”. Even so, their products are popular among pet parents who prefer moist food for their dogs.
Among their wet food options is the Weruva Dogs in the Kitchen line of cans and pouches. This product line includes six different recipes for different meats cooked in flavorful au jus. Every recipe is made with premium cuts of meat and is completely free from grains, GMO ingredients, MSG and carrageenan. These products are complete and balanced for dogs but they can also be used as meal toppers or mixers, depending on your dog’s preference. Each recipe is moisture-rich and flavored with chicken broth and supplemented with nutritious organ meats for a boost of meat flavor. No matter which Weruva Dogs in the Kitchen recipe you choose, your dog is sure to be pleased by it.
Moist dog food is highly palatable and easy for many dogs to chew, but it can sometimes be more expensive and more difficult to store once opened than dry food. If you think that moist food might be the right choice for your dog, take your time in evaluating different brands and individual recipes within those brands. If you need help getting started with your search, consider one of our top-rated brands reviewed above.