There are several ways to compare wet versus dry dog food. You can go by the popularity, which tells us that 96.1% of new pet owners opted for the latter in 2019.1 Fast forward to 2021, however, and we find that nearly 20% are cooking for their pups, with another 16% going the subscription or gourmet route.2 The latter two options are another discussion. For this article, we’ll stick with the standard offerings.
The Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) levels the playing field with their nutritional profiles. Pet owners need to know if the food they give their dogs is complete and balanced. Ultimately, this should be the deciding factor. Fortunately, it’s the utmost consideration for most pet owners.3 After all, the health of your pup should come first.
At a Glance
Let’s look at the key points of each product to see where they differ and share common ground.
Overview of Wet Food:
Dogs are carnivores. Many people choose wet food because it seems to resemble the natural diet instead of the adaptive diet of today’s pets. They may feel that the nutrition is superior. Wet foods rarely contain just meat unless they are prescription diets for pets with food sensitivities. These products often have fruits, vegetables, and added nutrients. They also come in many textures, making it easy to please finicky pets.
Wet foods typically have more moisture, which offers an excellent alternative for animals with kidney disease. You may also find that your pet likes them better. This is a valid point, especially with puppies and seniors, where getting proper nutrition is imperative. Wet food is also easier for dogs to chew, a benefit for older dogs or those with dental issues.
The one thing that stands out with wet foods is their smell. It might be unpleasant for the pet owner but a bonus for the dog. Remember that canines have a keen sense of smell, making aromatic diets particularly attractive to some pups. The other considerations are cost and waste. Wet foods are often more expensive, particularly with large breeds.
Overview of Dry Food:
Pet owners that opt for dry food will likely cite the convenience of these products over canned food. The production process is similar, with the final form varying. The result is less moisture, making the availability of fresh water at all times imperative. However, that also means that the food won’t spoil as quickly if left in the bowl. Many find these diets a more convenient option and easier to measure out for portion control.
The latter is a vital consideration once you consider that over 50% of dogs are overweight. Feeding dry food allows pet owners to hone in on a precise amount of food that their dogs should get without the inconvenience of keeping an open can of food in the fridge. Dry food is less expensive in the long run, particularly if you have a large pup. Feeding four cups of food is easier and less costly than three cans. However, there’s another side to that point.
Buying larger bags is where you’ll get your cost savings. However, lugging around 40-pound bags of food isn’t an option for some people. Fortunately, some manufacturers bundle their products in smaller sizes so that you can still buy the diet at a more affordable price.
What Are the Differences Between Them?
Let’s do a deep dive into the things that matter most to pet owners. We’ve discussed the nutritional value of dog food, but we suggest reading the AAFCO’s nutrient recommendations. The National Research Council (NRC) offers similar information using grams instead of the percentages that the former publishes. We also suggest familiarizing yourself with the pet food label information.
The pet food industry strives to market its products knowing that owners are seeking higher-quality diets. That has led to misinformation about some terms, such as byproducts. Bear in mind that phrases like “human-grade” are only marketing terms and not an accurate indication of healthier food. They are sometimes listed to sell you on a product rather than provide any extra nutritional value.
As we discussed earlier, dry food undoubtedly has the advantage on this score. We like the range of portions you can offer your pet. That’s a benefit for pet owners with puppies, where their caloric needs will vary as they grow. The bag size isn’t as much of an issue if you keep the food in rodent-proof plastic containers. The waste generated with cans makes this choice a no-brainer.
Again, dry food comes out on top. It comes down to packaging and amount. Those large bags make it cheaper, especially if you buy bigger sizes. It’s also a factor of the manufacturer’s cost. Paper has a clear advantage over cans, no matter if they are BPA- free or made from recycled materials. You still have to rinse them and put them in the recycling bin.
As stinky as wet food is, it has the edge when it comes to taste. Dogs love these diets for a reason. If your pet is convalescing from an illness, your vet may even recommend a canned diet to make sure your pup eats as it heals from injury or illness. The varying forms of wet food are another crowd-pleaser, whether it’s a pate or stew. While we can’t speak to it scientifically, we won’t be surprised to learn that texture is just as important to our dogs.
We’re going to fall back on the AAFCO’s complete and balanced statement. We recommend making it your gold standard when comparing products. Bear in mind that terms such as “entree” or “meal” may only contain 25% of the stated protein. Again, it’s an example of marketing at work since they are words we associate with healthy, hearty foods.
As previously discussed, some situations will tip the scale toward wet or dry dog foods. We suggest letting these factors and a product’s nutritional value help you decide which is best for your pet. Your vet is also an excellent resource, particularly if your pup has a health condition. We can also suggest combining the two to get the benefits of both. However, the responsibility is on you to make sure you don’t overfeed your dog.
It’s worth noting that if you combine both types of food, you’ll have to measure the portions for your dog’s breed, size, and activity level. Choosing a wet and dry version from the same manufacturer may make this task easier. Don’t hesitate to reach out to the company or a vet for guidance.
Featured image credits: Left – New Africa, Shutterstock, Right – 279photo Studio, Shutterstock