Features December 2013 Issue

The Benefits of Canned Dog Food

Price is the most commonly cited reason that people prefer to feed dry food to their dogs; canned food is far more expensive to feed than dry food. Owners of large dogs or multiple dogs rarely feed canned food as anything other than an occasional treat, for this reason alone.

Of course, there are other objections, too. Many dog owners report that they don’t like the odor of wet food, or the extra work involved in opening the container and serving an appropriate amount – and the hassle of having to store any amount still in the container in a refrigerator for the next meal. And a persistent minority of dog owners worry that dogs who eat only canned food will have more dental problems (such as a buildup of tartar and resulting gum inflammation) than a dog who eats kibble.

These concerns vary in validity.

It’s impossible to counter an objection to the high cost of wet food; it simply is far more expensive to feed canned food than it is to feed kibble. Wet food obviously contains a lot of water, so you have to feed more of it (in terms of weight and volume) than dry food to deliver the nutrients your dog requires. Because it’s so heavy, it’s far more expensive for the pet food companies and distributors to ship wet food than dry food, too.

That said, the cost of feeding top-quality canned food is comparable to the cost of feeding commercial raw frozen or dehydrated diets – and lots of people find a way to pay for those foods. I go into greater detail about this in The Whole Dog Journal 2013 Canned Food Review, WDJ December 2013.

I’m not sure I could sympathize very deeply with someone who didn’t want to feed wet food to a dog who would clearly benefit from that type of diet due to the off-putting aroma of the food, or the inconvenience of opening cans or storing opened-but-not-emptied pouches. Maybe if the owner was pregnant or chronically nauseated, and there was no one else to take over the dog-feeding job?

The dental objection, though: That one is bogus. I know that at least one of the dog food companies have conducted studies demonstrating that dogs who eat special “dental health” kibble end up with less tartar on their teeth than dogs fed another diet. But it’s pretty widely recognized that few (if any) dogs chew kibble well enough to scrape anything off their teeth – and especially off the exterior sides (cheek sides) of their teeth, where tartar is most likely to accumulate. If anything, crunching kibble can lodge pieces of the carbohydrate-laden food between the dog’s teeth, where those carbs get broken down into sugars and contribute to the development of dental plaque.

Wet food lacks any sort of abrasive material, but the better products also contain far fewer (if any) carbohydrates, the main contributor in a dog’s diet to the accumulation of dental plaque. Ideally, dogs chew and scrape their teeth clean by being given regular opportunities to chew appropriately sized fresh, raw bones in a supervised setting. 

For the complete Whole Dog Journal review on canned dog food, including the 2013 Approved Canned Dog Food List, check out The Whole Dog Journal 2013 Canned Food Review, WDJ December 2013.

Comments (8)

RAW/PALEO DIET: I gradually switched from feeding my 3 yo Havanese and 10 yo ShihTzu a cooked meat/veggie/grains diet to a raw diet that excludes grains (organic, grass fed beef/free-range chicken/turkey/duck, bison, eggs, ground neck bones, salmon, organ meats, etc.) In other words, VARIETY. The daily diet includes cruciferous vegetables that I microwave for 3 minutes to ease in digestion and/or cut-up fresh veggies. They receive organic fresh fruit and organic plain yogurt periodically. These pups gobble their meals and lick their bowls! The biggest shifts that I've seen are that my ShihTzu has SO much more energy and physical capability--his personality is like a young pup again. My Havanese, a fearful rescued dog I've had for a year, is suddenly more social, happy and less fearful/aggressive. Their eyes seem brighter, their coats lovelier/softer. It's probably more expensive but worth the cost/prep time for me--I make it in batches and freeze portions.

Posted by: kdrulz16 | February 26, 2014 10:18 AM    Report this comment

I wish I could get my pup to eat some canned food. I've tried really expensive nograin, organic, natural, some of it smelled good enough for me to eat, but some pups just don't like it. I have two small pups, one loves raw and is doing well off it, the other one will not touch raw, he only likes kibble. Interesting enough, the one that loves is raw, loves road kill, if he gets it, it can be quite difficult to pry it from his mouth. The one that doesn't like raw, will see road kill sniff it and shake his head in disgust and back up from it and proceed to walk around it. So I think in someways dogs have preferences too. Other than making sure the dog gets his proper vitamins and minerals, there's no other reason to feed dog food as far as I'm concerned. I don't trust any of the dog food companies, so my pups also get home cooked meals as well as dog food. Dog treats are really bad too, so I dehydrate all of their treats using human grade chicken, beef & bison. When I want my pups to have peas, carrots, spinach, kale, blueberries, sweet-potatoes, pumpkin, flaxseed, etc. I just add it to their home cooked meal. At least I know their getting something fresh. Most of our vets tend to favor home cooked with the dog food, rather than all dog food. For the most part they don't have digestion problems and can pretty much tolerate what we cook for them and one of my pups is a 8lb Yorkie. I actually buy additional meat for them, so when I cook, I cook two meals, one for the humans and one that the dogs. If I know I'm cooking pork, I cook hamburger for them. They like their food cooked fresh too. They get full blood panels every year and urine checks every 6 months. If there is going to be any deficiency, I'm hoping to catch it sooner rather than later. That's about the best I can do for now when it comes to feeding my pups. Do what I think is right and hope for the best. Too many recalls, not enough information on what is really going in to the dog food, and I need to know where the ingredients come from, how old are the ingredients. The amount of vitamin and mineral information is really a mystery on most dog food labels, too loosely monitored as well. I think I furry friends deserve better.

AB, Maryland

Posted by: FurBaby | January 18, 2014 11:16 PM    Report this comment

If dried dog food promotes the tartar on dogs teeth and does nothing to help in dental heath what explains that unlike most large dogs that eat kibble, little dogs who have never eaten anything but canned foods have the rottenest stinkest mouths, with teeth full of tarter and so bad they are rotting out of their mouths.

Posted by: Unknown | December 5, 2013 3:26 PM    Report this comment

i read an article called "what the pet food companies dont want you to find out about'or something similarand in it they say that processed dog food is not good for your dog itsys that the bfood can contain road kill and even uthanised pets and that the rendering does not destroy the chemical they use on the animals and the advocate their menus forhome cooked and or raw recipes they say theirrecipes can prolong the life of your pet.im interested in reading our reply

Posted by: Unknown | December 4, 2013 11:17 PM    Report this comment

I had two min australian shepherds but lost one at the age of 13. I used to feed both of them dry kibble. After the older one died (he suffered from quite severe arthritis) I decided to see if a different food would help the younger one who is now 7. Did what I thought was adequate evaluation of foods and decided on Honest Kitchen with canned food mixed in. This younger dog has now been on this combo for a little over 7 mo. His annual checkup was done a few weeks ago by a vet that has known him from birth. She was sooo pleased with his overall health and was ever more expressive in her comments regarding his coat. He is a blue merle and the black parts of his coat shine as if they were wet. The vet noted also that his eyes are very bright, his teeth are in better shape as to tartar accumulation. He is just overall a healthier looking dog. Now it's not that the food he was eating before was subpar (he was eating science diet) but with no canned food added. So I do think that canned food is good for dogs and I do also think that the raw foods in Honest Kitchen are extremely good for dogs. Overall it doesn't end up costing more either because the amounts eaten are less yet the weight of the dog remains the same.

Posted by: Barbara W | November 26, 2013 12:04 PM    Report this comment

We are feeding our almost 4 year old Bull Terrier bitch Purina One Chicken and Rice - about 2 1/2 cups a day. We've had her only one year and she's gained 12 pounds. She's walked 5 days a week and has very large fenced in area in which to run and play. I'd like her to have the very best food available. PLEASE does anyone have suggestions? She's never been bred and is scheduled to be spaded as soon as her heat is over. She gets a small treat for her potties outside. Any suggestions would be deeply appreciated.

Posted by: Allegatorbaby | November 26, 2013 10:49 AM    Report this comment

We feed our one year old Shepard kibbles with a home made gravy (or more like a paste)from left over chicken meat from the bones. Yes we make sure the gruel is boneless and not spicy. We dilute it with water when we heat it to mix in her food. One cup dry twice daily with just enough gravy to moisten it.. it's the only way she'll eat it.. We would like to know if we are harming her with this or not..

Thanks in advance, Jack

Posted by: John p. S | November 25, 2013 8:26 AM    Report this comment

Am really hoping a combination of canned and dry is ideal as that`s how we feed our dog.. We like Dick Van Patten`s Natural Choice canned

Posted by: Susan B | November 21, 2013 5:20 PM    Report this comment

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