Dry, Canned, or Semi-Moist: Food Choices for Dogs

There are so many choices of food types for my dog – dry, canned, semi-moist. How do I decide?

dry_canned_semi-moist_foodWhile feeding dogs does not need to be a mysterious process, it is easy to be overwhelmed with choices. It is logical to wonder which approach is best. Your veterinarian is the best source for a specific recommendation for a nutrient profile that best fits your dog’s needs. Beyond that, however, it is good to think about the advantages and disadvantages of the various formulations that are available.

What are the pros and cons of semi-moist dog food?

Semi-moist dog food contains about 60-65% water by weight, making it more expensive per energy calorie than dry food. Unfortunately, semi-moist dog food generally contains more sugar and salt than either dry or canned dog food. The extra sugar and salt mean semi-moist food won’t be appropriate for every dog.

Be aware that many semi-moist foods are also loaded with artificial color, chemical preservatives, and chemical flavor enhancers. Perhaps semi-moist foods are best reserved for the occasional treat – the dog version of the hot fudge sundae!

Semi-moist dog food is very convenient because feeding involves opening the pouch and pouring it into the bowl. Work with your veterinarian to determine the calorie content of the semi-moist food and an appropriate daily portion.

What are the pros and cons of dry dog food?

Dry dog food – generally referred to as “kibble” – remains the foundation for the dog food industry, and has a number of advantages:

  • Kibble is by far the easiest to feed and to portion-manage.
  • It is an excellent choice for dogs that prefer to “graze” because the total daily portion can be measured into the bowl in the morning, and then offered at specific meal times throughout the day.
  • It comes in many sizes and shapes, so you can choose one that your dog prefers. Some very big dogs prefer very tiny kibble! 
  • Kibble lends itself well to “food toys” that either move about and dispense kibbles intermittently or are stationary and make the dog work for its food. Food toys can be just as entertaining for the humans as they are for the dogs!

Work with your veterinarian to determine the calorie content of the kibble you have chosen in order to determine an appropriate daily portion.

“It is a myth that dogs need variety in their food choices.”

It is a myth that dogs need a variety in their food choices. Consistency is generally best. Once you find a nutrient profile that agrees with your dog, or one that has been prescribed by your veterinarian, stick with it. Your veterinarian will recommend food changes based on changing nutritional needs as your dog ages and her body changes.

What are the pros and cons of canned dog food?

Canned dog food has some advantages as well:

  • It has a very high water content which often means the dog can enjoy a larger portion per meal to provide the same number of energy calories as an equivalent portion of kibble.
  • Some dogs prefer the palatability of canned food over kibble.
  • When dogs have to spend time away from home, it may help them to eat more normally if they have a little encouragement from some delicious canned food along with their kibble.

Canned food is more expensive per energy calorie than kibble due to the high water content and the packaging. Another disadvantage to canned dog food is that for some dogs, canned food can contribute to periodontal disease.

Once the can is opened, it is best to transfer the remainder into a small food container for refrigeration. Be sure to consult with your veterinarian to determine the appropriate daily portion.

One option for feeding dogs is to use a combination of dry and canned food each day. Remember to stick to the total daily portion that has been calculated for your dog. The only way to avoid overweight and obesity is to measure each day’s intake carefully. Meal time is bonding time, so meals should be fun for you and your dog!

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