Whole Dog Journal's Blog March 21, 2019

Soaking Dry Dog Food in Water

Posted at 09:55AM - Comments: (43)

The look and smell of dog kibble soaked in water seems disgusting to us, but our dogs see no problem with it at all. There are a couple of good reasons to add water to dry dog food. Here’s when you should.

Sometimes, I soak my dogs’ dry food in warm water for 15 or 20 minutes before I feed them.

I do this for a couple of reasons. My older dog has had a few dental extractions, and doesn’t chew up his food as well as he used to – not that any dog grinds up much of the kibble he or she eats; unlike ours, canine teeth are not much for grinding. Mostly, a few of the kibbles get crunched, and more likely get swallowed intact. My younger dog is prone to eating way too fast – just bolting down all his food whole in less than a minute (unless I put it in a slow feeder or snuffle mat) – and I am guessing that it will put less of a strain on his digestive system if the food arrives even slightly pre-moistened.

And I know that feeding both of them soaked food makes them feel more full. Dry foods are so nutrient-dense, that the volume of the amount of food that is calorically appropriate for their weight might not come close to filling up their tummies. If their meal is full of water, it definitely increases satiety – that sensation of fullness. They quit walking around the kitchen looking unsatisfied after their meals when their food is soaked.

dog kibble soaked in water

The glass on the left contains about 10 ounces (a little more than a cup) of dry dog food. After adding 1 1/2 cups of water and waiting for 15 minutes, the same amount of kibble takes up almost twice the volume in the two glasses at right.

If you’ve ever soaked your dog’s food, you’re aware of how much dry dog food expands when immersed in water. It’s a little horrifying, actually, to realize how much more space a certain amount of food will require in a dog’s stomach and gut once the dog’s digestive juices hydrate the individual kibbles. It nearly doubles in volume. The kibbles are like little sponges – some more than others. I’ve noticed when soaking food for various foster puppies that some kibble is more resistant to soaking than others.

Neither of my dogs are reluctant or picky eaters, but adding water can definitely increase the palatability of dry food for some dogs.

However, one shouldn’t moisten food and leave it sitting out at room temperature for very long – I would start being concerned about bacterial growth in moistened food that had been left out at room temperature for more than an hour.

Many people believe that feeding soaked food will help prevent bloat. I’m not sure there’s ever been a study that looked at just that, but it would make sense to me. I’m super cautious about exercise for a couple of hours after feeding, too, for the same reason.

Out of curiosity: How many of you moisten or soak your dog’s dry food?

Comments (43)

I always soaked my dog's food because he was a Great Dane and Danes are prone to bloating. I also divided my dog's daily food in half and fed half in the AM and half in the PM. It was a habit I continued even after I changed breeds to German Shepherds.. another breed prone to bloat. But by that time I also learned about the raw diet for dogs and that was the perfect answer to all the problems. Raw food won't bloat. So unless there's an extremely stressful situation, bloating was a thing of the past.

Posted by: Isschade | March 26, 2019 1:35 AM    Report this comment

Bil-Jac ? You're kidding, right ? That food is garbage !

Posted by: Sabine | March 25, 2019 6:51 AM    Report this comment

I used to soak my dogs food, long ao, when i fed kibble. I have also always fed my dogs elevated. Mostly, it was the "thing to do" to prevent bloat many years ago.
Since I"ve switched to Bil-Jac, I don't soak the food, as it disintegrates, if you do. It's extremely digestible and is not coated with the flavoring and fat a normal kibble is (to make it palatable to the dogs after it's been cooked to death)
Bil-Jac is cooked at a much lower temperature, preserving the nutrients, making the dogs' stools smaller (due to the utilization of the food), and the company guarantees your dog will like it. You can crumble the 'pellets between your fingers, rolling them, and they will easily break apart. Gil-Jac is much better than kibble, for many reasons.

Posted by: sammybarb | March 24, 2019 8:44 PM    Report this comment

I got away from kibble completely. However - I do feed Vital Essentials on occasion, i.e. when travelling with the dogs. I do pour hot water over it and let it sit for a couple of minutes, and it actually does not expand too much. Seriously ? I'd never ever go back to dry food. Had a toothless dachshund from a puppymill and she ate a mix of ground meat and Honest Kitchen and lived to be 18 years old. (After having spent the first five years of her life in a puppymill. )

Posted by: Sabine | March 24, 2019 3:45 PM    Report this comment

This is DANGEROUS for dogs that are prone to bloat!

Posted by: susanlieb2 | March 24, 2019 2:35 PM    Report this comment

I've been soaking my dogs kibble for about 45 years now. When I was a little girl my parents best friends lost their dog to bloat and I remember them saying their vet told them that it was probably because they weren't soaking her food and that she would always drink a bunch of water after eating.
I am going to try adding some bone broth after reading some of the above comments.

Posted by: MastiffLover | March 24, 2019 10:39 AM    Report this comment

I use broth too, or the beet juice from boiling my beets to soak the kibble.

Posted by: Cherylme | March 23, 2019 8:03 PM    Report this comment

I have been soaking my border collie’s kibble for years now, as he has digestive disease and takes permanent medication as well. He was vomiting a lot when young and I swore he had trouble with the dry kibble. I heat a little water in microwave and add to whole kibble and some ground in a coffee grinder. I also add raw dehydrated, canned food, pumpkin, ginger, and alternate with beef liver and vegies. I found the kibble that did not absorb the heated water as quickly, I discontinued. I just thought it would take too long to digest. If I could afford it, I would only feed dehydrated and fresh food all the time. Frodo drinks a lot of water after eating which fills him up too, so I am careful with too much food and when I am home I feed three smaller meals a day, instead of two.

Posted by: Cherylme | March 23, 2019 8:01 PM    Report this comment

This question is not about the water but about feeding in general. I have always used predominantly kibble for our labs. And, of course, Whole Dog's list of foods is my resource! But right now, I am challenged to get some wait off our 3-yr.-old Lab. The "weight control" food seems to make him want to eat everything in sight, and he is not dropping any weight despite sufficient exercise. Maybe there is something metabolic going on, but, if not, is there a kibble that is filling, nutrient dense, and will help with weight control?

Posted by: jbett | March 23, 2019 12:24 PM    Report this comment

We have large, deep-chested dogs, and work with group that rescues them. The rescue kennel soaks all food and feeds three smaller meals a day to avoid bloat. It makes sense for our breed to do this. We (and the kennel) also give a scoop of yogurt with the thoroughly-soaked food.

Posted by: Three Dog Mom | March 23, 2019 1:04 AM    Report this comment

If you give it enough 'soaking' time it will increase about four-fold :-(
I no longer fed my dogs 'bowls' of dry food -- moistened of not. I prefer to feed hard biscuits -- large enough that they cannot be swallowed whole.
I cannot understand WHY pet food manufacturers do not market their dry food as biscuit rather than pelletised bits.

Posted by: Jenny H | March 22, 2019 5:21 PM    Report this comment

LRosewarne: Only your dogs' weight can tell you if you're feeding too much or too little. If you're concerned that it's too much food for their stomachs, then split it between meals, but don't reduce the amount you feed based on volume if your dogs are at their proper weight.

I feed commercial cooked diets (among other things), such as those from My Perfect Pet and Just Food For Dogs. Even though these foods have plenty of moisture already, I like to add hot water to warm the food, making it more palatable and quicker to digest, and the added moisture is good for hydration.

Posted by: Mary Straus | March 22, 2019 4:38 PM    Report this comment

My Boston was on a prescription kibble for a few months last year (he'd always been fed raw previously). While on the kibble he drank crazy huge amounts of water. We just switched him back to raw and he's back to drinking normal amounts of water.

Posted by: puppypig | March 22, 2019 11:36 AM    Report this comment

I live in Colorado and it's very dry here. Along with that my dogs are not the type to tank up on water, so I started adding a little water to their food, just as an extra water source.

Posted by: estee | March 22, 2019 11:04 AM    Report this comment

I feed Wellness Core, but add a combination of chicken, sweet potato, spinach, carrots, and oatmeal that I make up in my crock pot. After I put that over the dry, I wet the food in warm water. I don't let it soak for too long.

Posted by: Daphnepf | March 22, 2019 7:37 AM    Report this comment

All dry foods are between 40-50% starch, which is necessary to form the "kibble." On a physiological level, dogs digest protein and fat well, but not carbohydrates, which they don't really need. It puts stress on their entire digestive system. I feel sorry for dogs that are fed "kibble" as the main component of their diet.

Posted by: JEMast | March 22, 2019 7:02 AM    Report this comment

I soak kibble in bonebroth in A.M. feeding with a sprinkle of enzyme & probiotics. You can buy bonebroth unsalted at Costco. I mix a small amount of kibble and whole food canned food for my big kid with enzymes (due to raw being big$$$) & feed my chi raw at night feeding. They are happy and healthy kids.

Posted by: AtlantadogU | March 21, 2019 9:22 PM    Report this comment

First, dogs tend to inhale their food because their teeth aren't designed for chewing. Second, several of the dogs in the Comments have dental issues. Obviously, inhaling food isn't a natural way to eat, as evidenced by those who say their dog tends to choke. So what is a natural way for dogs to eat if they don't chew? Look at their teeth. They are designed for tearing. How do dogs eat raw meat and bones? By tearing it into pieces. Raw food doesn't absorb water and expand in the stomach, so no need to soak. The bones and the enzymes in the meat keep the dogs teeth clean, so no tartar build up which leads to tooth decay and often removal. It really doesn't take a lot of research to realize that dogs have the digestive tract of a wolf, not a human. Wolves don't eat kibble. Wolves capture prey animals and tear them into manageable pieces to eat them. And wolves don't lose their teeth to decay. They don't have soft, smelly poop either but that's another story.

Posted by: GiftofGalway | March 21, 2019 8:21 PM    Report this comment

I stopped the kibble my rescue was on and slowly converted to raw. I also make bone broth which is added to her raw food. The bones simmered for 19 to 24 hours release so much good stuff for dogs and humans alike. She loves it and I’ve started to see improvement in her skin and breath. A bit more work than throwing kibble in a bowl but overall way easier than I thought and so worth it.

Posted by: DMY | March 21, 2019 7:31 PM    Report this comment

My last dog, a chow mix who passed from cancer last year would not touch dry food until it was mixed with canned food, either Merrick or Wellness brands. We've had our year old beagle mix for about six weeks and she eats the same thing - two ounces or so of canned food with her dry kibble. Their vet has no problem with their diet.

Posted by: Rainy's Mom | March 21, 2019 7:07 PM    Report this comment

When our 13-year old Brittany suddenly started losing weight, we took her to the vet and had labs run. She was deep into renal failure and she had looked and felt fine only a month earlier - that quickly, but probably had been progressing for quite some time. The vet didn't think she'd live very long and she told us that 13 was "old"! I was stunned and upset of course. She also said that kibble draws moisture out of the dog's bodily systems to hydrate the kibble internally. Which makes perfect sense! We decided right then no more kibble for either of our dogs and I started them both of a fresh food diet. She died about a year later and I'm sure the fresh food extended her life. I have since become a very vocal advocate for fresh food diets - not raw - just fresh food. And if you think you just can't do it (it really is easy), then at least moisten the kibble with fresh food, bone broth or just water! I'm so happy to see you posting this article! We didn't have kibble back "in the day" and we also had dogs that lived much longer and didn't get cancer. The vet said that any 13-year old cat is a cat with renal disease. It just shouldn't be that way! Thank you for your magazine and thank you for your balanced and insightful views on so many things!

Posted by: Wingsets | March 21, 2019 6:28 PM    Report this comment

Toy yorkie 2lbs..does not eat kibble, not much homemade food..loves chicken and turkey
Any ideas what to feed her..I am going to try moisten kibble with homemade broth, no salt.

Posted by: Toyyorkie | March 21, 2019 6:10 PM    Report this comment

I put water in the dry kibble and feed it immediately. They, of course, get all of it eaten before the kibble has a chance to expand and it provides a little tasty gravy and they clean their bowls. I read that adding water helps with their digestion. I have 12 wonderful dogs.

Posted by: johnny.davis@grandecom.net | March 21, 2019 5:41 PM    Report this comment

We had an Italian Greyhound that after many teeth were extracted, and they broke his jaw, we started soaking his food. We also found that our Pomerania also did better with soaked food. (Her teeth were for decoration only) After years of soaking their food we discovered that the cause of the Greyhounds horrendous breath was because the soaked food would get caught up in his gums because of how narrow his mouth was. It would literally sit up there festering and molding! Any dog with a narrow small mouth, I would never soak food again. Lesson learned....

Posted by: Granmoo | March 21, 2019 5:28 PM    Report this comment

Twice a day I moisten my dogs' food with a homemade broth (cooked chicken & cooked veggies and water heated in a glass measuring cup in the microwave). I feed my dogs dry dog food with cooked chicken or beef or pork or fish and cooked veggies (carrots or green beans or spinach or asparagus or peas). So the whole bowl or food is moist when served in a slow down eating bowl for most of the dogs in my pack. I do worry about bloat so everyone rests after a meal....even the foster puppies learn to chill in their crates after eating. The dogs get a different dry food in the morning than in the evening and I buy different premium dry food every time and I have noticed that some dry food is more firm even after liquid is added.

Posted by: Olivia | March 21, 2019 5:13 PM    Report this comment

Twice a day my Lab mix eats a veggie/fruit premix soaked in homemade broth to which a variety of fresh raw or cooked proteins and supplements are added at each meal. He eats slowly and savors every bite. I occasionally use a grain free, predominately meat based kibble which I soak for 15 minutes and add cooked vegetables, a raw chicken neck or an egg. When fed kibble, he not only eats faster but seems to get hungry sooner. He's over 10, has the energy and physique of a 6-year-old, is sound, and has never had to have his teeth cleaned (my vet will confirm this!).

Posted by: LucyB | March 21, 2019 3:32 PM    Report this comment

The leading cause of death in cats and dogs, is renal failure. Due to the "industrial waste" owners feed their pets. Soak it in water. Don't soak it in water. It's still trash. Check the ingredient list. Is it any wonder pets get so ill, eating food that is not fit for carnivores. Raw meaty bones. Some vegetables, good amounts of garlic and herbs. See Juliette de Baïracli Levy.

Posted by: CrispyDog | March 21, 2019 3:22 PM    Report this comment

I feed a a mixture of dry and raw and have always put broth in the mixture as well. One dog is a chow hound and would eat it with sand mixed in if I offered it (just kidding), but the other is fussy and is happier with broth mixed in.

Posted by: Briarpatch | March 21, 2019 2:43 PM    Report this comment

I have always soaked to maximum absorption level - not soupy, but light/fluffy as depicted in your photo - and yes, brands of dry food are quite varied in their density -- you may have to adjust the amount of fluid based on the brand of feed, not so much the size of the individual piece. ( but I have found that some brands are much less dense and will make 'soup' if you are not careful ).
... dogs on dry 'dry' food are IMPO somewhat dehydrated all the time --- as the food pulls moisture from the body for the digestive process, and most dogs only drink to satiate thirst, not to 'rehydrate' the system unless after extreme exercise or in warm weather.

Sort of like us eating a bowl full of cornflakes without the milk!

Posted by: KatzDawgs | March 21, 2019 2:40 PM    Report this comment

My two rescue labs (one a mix, one pure) both eat a two course meal. Canned food first with pumpkin and yogurt and then dry kibble after. Our vet recommended this plan so the dry food would act as a tooth cleaner after the soft canned food. They both eat everything in their bowls. I have not had a problem with either one, but the younger one does seem to drink a lot of water. Perhaps I will try soaking some of the kibble.

Posted by: Island Gal | March 21, 2019 1:45 PM    Report this comment

Our German Shepard just turned 20 & is drinking a lot of water inside and out what is the cause her to do this thanks

Posted by: cynthia.sloan | March 21, 2019 1:36 PM    Report this comment

My girls get a dehydrated food that soaks for 15 minutes then I add their dry dog food. One chows hers down in no time the other one enjoys her food and will sometimes let it sit for a few minutes so in her case the dry food is absorbing the water. It would not make a difference for the other Newfie. She has inhaled her food from the day we rescued her. She doesn’t care if it is dry or soft it still gets inhaled!!

Posted by: Newfie mommy | March 21, 2019 1:28 PM    Report this comment

Yes, I have added water to my dogs kibble for many years. I wanted to know how much the kibble expands with each new food I use. My dogs' coat, skin and stools are just as they should be for a healthy dog.

Posted by: agility1 | March 21, 2019 1:12 PM    Report this comment

I have noticed that the dogs seem to stay hydrated longer, less thirsty, when I let the kibble soften in water. I started doing that when we had some very dry winter weather. The dogs had been drinking a lot of water, then burping it out and having to pee more often. The water in the soaked kibble seems to be absorbed by muscles and tissues better, stored longer. Less drinking and peeing. It works in the summer also. In the morning they get the watered kibble. Their dinner is the dry, crunchy kibble which really seems to keep my 12 1/2 yr old terrier "chewy" terrier from chewing less on what he's not supposed to chew.

Posted by: Cindie M | March 21, 2019 12:37 PM    Report this comment

Our dog had to have all his teeth removed. We grind his kibble and add filtered water a few minutes before he eats, crushing it further with a spoon. Then we combine his kibble with a homemade recipe (so that the combination produces a good nutrient profile) and the result is a sort of stew that he absolutely loves. He still eats very fast and so we pick up his bowl a few times while he is eating to slow him down. He's used to, and sometimes even anticipates this, moving aside. If we didn't interrupt his eating he would inhale and start choking. He has never growled when we approach his food, which makes this procedure possible.

Posted by: JanS | March 21, 2019 12:26 PM    Report this comment

I've always moistened the kibble for our Bernese Mountain Dog. I mix in various fresh items (green beans, apples), canned dog food, and supplements, two of which are powdered. We use 1/4 of a can to add various flavors and interest and reduce the dense kibble, and the fresh ingredients to add interest, texture, and less caloric fillers to keep her weight at a good level. The added water also insures she's well hydrated. She's 9 years old now and just had her very first dental cleaning. Her teeth are in great shape - partly due, I think, to not having a lot of kibble dust collecting around her gums.

Posted by: Wyomingsara | March 21, 2019 12:23 PM    Report this comment

I add water to my boy's dry food, he seems to like it better and not gulp it as much, making him choke less.

Posted by: Elizabethebr | March 21, 2019 12:18 PM    Report this comment

I do add water to my dry dog food.... but now I question... should I be feeding less to my dogs?

Posted by: LRosewarne | March 21, 2019 12:16 PM    Report this comment

I add water to my Aussie's kibble because she eats like she's been starved and I want to slow her down a bit and make sure she's getting enough water.

Posted by: aljellie | March 21, 2019 12:15 PM    Report this comment

My 18-month-old dog has had GI issues since we brought him home— vomiting/regurgitating, diarrhea, belching, horrible gas, gurgling belly, etc. The GI specialist told me to “float” his air-dried food in warm water, and then pulverize it in the blender before feeding it to him. It’s pretty much like jarred baby food meat, but he likes it.

Posted by: Lulukay | March 21, 2019 12:07 PM    Report this comment

I alwaysadd water to the dry food. All of my Goldens have been such power eaters that they will choke themselves on a bowl of dry food. Even if you don't give the kibble time to soak, the water helps wash the dry food and prevents the choking.

Posted by: Gizmos | March 21, 2019 11:57 AM    Report this comment

I steam green beans once a week for my dogs and I use the fluid to make a gravy-like mixture with the various supplements I give my dogs, and let their kibble soak it up once a day. It is amazing how the kibble grows!

Posted by: K9luvr | March 21, 2019 11:52 AM    Report this comment

I moisten kibble w/broth & have for quite a while. My Lab is nearly 14 & has so many medical issues, I felt that she was having issues w/hard kibble so I started to soak it. I put it in the fridge & let it sit for a couple of hours & then mix it in w/whatever meat/fish I've cooked for her. She seems to like it better when it's moistened.......she has always gulped down her food but I noticed she was eating very slowly until the kibble was moistened. She no longer gulps but eats at a normal speed. Probably tastes better mixed w/broth.....smells better!

Posted by: Hannie | March 21, 2019 11:45 AM    Report this comment

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