Wet vs. Dry Dog Food: Pros, Cons, and How to Decide Which Is Best
Wet food and dry food each have their pros and cons. We spoke with a vet to find out which might be the best option for your canine companion.
Yvonne Villasenor is a freelance writer and animal lover who just so happens to be allergic to cats and dogs. (That doesn't stop her from cuddling with them!) When Yvonne's not working, you can find her lounging with her charming Chihuahuas, weightlifting, or wandering around Halloween stores.
Jenna is a registered veterinary technician with a range of veterinary experience that includes small animal internal medicine, oncology, neurology, emergency, alternative medicine, and practice management.
As the Pet Health and Behavior Editor for Daily Paws, Jenna is living the dream as she combines her veterinary knowledge and passion for animals with her love of writing and education. Before Daily Paws, Jenna was a pet expert and contributor for The Spruce Pets.
When she's not working, Jenna enjoys exploring Cincinnati with her pitty-mutt Rhyme, visiting dog-friendly breweries, and cuddling with her super kitty: RBG, AKA Ruthie.
Whether you're a first-time or experienced pet parent, deciding between wet versus dry dog food can be a little tricky to figure out. With what seems like endless dog food varieties out there, it's easy to wonder, "Is wet food better than dry food for dogs? Or, is dry? … Or, do dogs need wet and dry food?"
Ultimately, what you choose to feed your dog depends on their individual needs (age, size, activity level) and preference. It's always best to consult your vet for diet recommendations specifically tailored to your dog, but here's a rundown of the pros and cons of wet dog food and dry dog food to help jump-start your decision.
Wet and dry foods are processed to have vastly different textures and can thus vary in nutritional and moisture content. Despite these differences, the Merck Veterinary Manual states wet and dry dog food both provide the same nutrition.
Linda Simon, DVM, MVB, and MRCVS, and veterinarian at Senior Tail Waggers, says most dogs, particularly smaller breeds and picky eaters, prefer wet food. Because wet food contains lots of moisture, she says it's great for dogs with kidney or bladder stones. However, a few drawbacks of wet food, Simon adds, is that it can be a little messier and go bad quicker, especially when left out in the heat.
Meanwhile, dry food also has its benefits, such as being convenient, not spoiling as quickly due to its processing, and being good for dogs' teeth. Although, some dogs might prefer wet food's taste and texture over dry food.
Simon says while pet parents can mix feed, which provides "the best of both worlds," dogs prone to urinary issues or dehydration should be given wet food. Dry food, on the hand—er, paw—may be a better choice for dogs with a history of dental disease or smaller dogs with overcrowded mouths.
Advantages of feeding wet food, Simon says, include that it's:
Drawbacks of wet food include that it:
Pros of feeding dry food, Simon says, include that it:
A few dry food cons include that it:
Whether you should feed your dog a mix of wet and dry food is entirely up to you and your dog's preference, as feeding one or the other is just fine too, Simon says. She explains that many pet parents like to mix feed considering the benefits—and not to mention, affordability—of dry food, while dogs enjoy the taste of wet food.
"If mixed feeding, it is best for dental hygiene to offer the kibble after the wet food," Simon advises. "However, some dogs have a strong wet food preference, so [they] would just refuse the kibble if this is done. For these dogs, mixing the food well in the same bowl is best."
There are special dental diets that can help minimize buildup on the teeth and even remove plaque due to the abrasive action of the kibble, Simon says. And while this may be ever so slightly beneficial, she says the best way to clean your dog's teeth is daily tooth brushing.
Simon explains that we're unable to compare weight for weight between wet and dry dog food since wet food contains about 80 percent water. Between the two, she says dry food can be bought in bulk and is usually cheaper, whereas wet food can cost up to $1 more per day than dry depending on the diet offered and the size of the dog.
For example, Chewy's website shows an 8-pound bag of Purina One dry food is about $16, or $2 per pound. Meanwhile, a 12 pack of Purina's 13 ounce canned food is about $19, equivalent to $0.12 per ounce.
"Any diet change needs to be made gradually over 4–5 days to avoid stomach upset," Simon says. "A 'straight swap' will likely be refused and can cause diarrhea, bloating, and vomiting."
She adds that switching from wet food to dry can be trickier since dogs may not like the taste initially. In these cases, she recommends not "giving in" and giving them other foods since they may learn that refusing their kibble "earns" them tastier food. And as always, consult with your vet before making the switch to make sure it's the right choice for your dog.