Why Does Your Dog Need to Eat Both Wet and Dry Food

This article provides an overview of how your dog's digestion system works, the moisture they require and how to help them get this necessary mositure

Pet owners often wonder which dog food is the right food, how much food they should give their pet and if they should feed either a dry or wet dog food to their dog. I have heard it said by many dog owners and vets alike that dry dog food is better for dog's teeth as it helps to reduce tartar and plaque build up. However, are you doing your dog justice by feeding them only dry food?

The difference between canned and dry food:

When reading the label of dog food, guaranteed analysis should have protein as the first ingredient, fat, fiber and moisture following, respectively.

Canned dog foods contain less protein than dry dog food, but more moisture. Typically, canned dog food contains between 8-15% protein, 2-15% fat and about 75% moisture. Dry dog food on the other hand typically contains between 18-27% protein, 7-15% fat and less than 12% moisture.

Canned dog food typically has less caloric content and less nutritional value per portion as compared to dry dog foods which is why you have to feed more wet food than dry to ensure your dog has an adequate number of calories to function appropriately. Therefore, using wet food only will cost more.

As the water content of dog food increases, the protein, fat and other nutrients decreases However, just because there is more protein in dry dog food, this may not necessarily be what your dog needs. For example, as your dog gets older, they do not need as much protein and may in fact need more moisture in their diet to aid in digestion.

Why does your dog need moisture?Water makes up a large portion of your dog's body just as it does in humans. According to Small Dogs Paradise website, the most important nutrient in a dog's diet is water and is the most important thing your dog needs, second to oxygen. Small Dogs Paradise states that puppy's bodies are made up of 75-80% water, and 50-60% in senior dogs (due to a natural increase in body fat).

Dogs constantly are in the process of losing water through panting, urination, perspiration and exercise. If a dog does not have enough water, they can become dehydrated. According to Small Dogs Paradise, losing 10% water from a dog's body will cause serious illness and 15% can cause death. This is why it is so crucial to watch for changes in bowel habits. Diarrhea results in a lot of water loss in animals, and persistent diarrhea should be treated by consulting your veterinarian and following their treatment recommendations.

Water is used for every process that occurs both within our bodies as well as our dogs' bodies. Nutrients carried throughout the body, new cell formation, detoxification, removal of waste, temperature regulation, nutrient absorption and digestion all occur with water.

According to Andrew Lewis, it takes about 10-12 hours for dry dog food to move through your dog's body due to the short digestive tract, while it takes only 4-6 hours for raw food to do so. According to Lewis, Canines jaws are designed so that they can relatively easily tear and swallow large chunks of food. From the esophagus to the stomach where it is very acidic (pH=1), food is broken down into what is called chyme before leaving the stomach. From here, it passes on to the small intestine where the pancreas and liver continue to add digestive enzymes which digest protein and provide carbohydrate and fat digestion. According to Lewis, by the time food reaches the large intestine, most of the nutrients have been processed and absorbed. Water is electrolytes are assimilated, bacteria is broken down and the wastes are then excreted. He points to the fact that this digestive process makes it difficult for dogs to digest grain, fiber and vegetation, resulting in larger stool volume, while it easily able to digest meat.

Water Sources

Water then is very necessary for your dog to properly digest her food as well as to have normal and healthy bodily functions.

You can increase the moisture content of your dog's diet by not only ensuring there is enough water set out for your dog throughout the day, constantly keeping the dog's bowl full, but also by giving your dog snacks that are high in water content such as apples, applesauce, yogurt and vegetables. In addition, if you do feed a dry diet alone, you can help aid in digestion by adding some warm water to the dry food to moisten it some. You can add some yogurt, cottage cheese, applesauce, diced meats, vegetables or other wet/moist ingredients to the dry food to give your dog some added moisture and liven up their diet, providing more varied nutrients but also giving them some excitement with their meals. The more variety you feed your dog, the less of the chance that your dog will also suffer from food allergies, stomach aches and diarrhea when they eat new foods. You should introduce new foods slowly to your dog to be sure they don't become sick.

It is also important to ensure the food your dog is eating has enough moisture. According to Steve's Real Food, dogs need a variety of food in their diet and traditionally did not eat grains as part of their diet. He points to the fact that dry food has less than 10% water and states that dogs were not meant to eat an exclusive diet of dry food. All natural foods that dogs would eat naturally have high water content. Foods such as vegetables and fruits have water content around 90% or more, while meat such as liver has 72% water content.

While dry dog food is more economical, helps to exercise the jaw, mouth, keeps plaque and tartar build up lower and contains more protein as compared to wet dog food, your dog is not getting enough moisture or enough of a variety in their diet by exclusively eating dry food alone. Wet dog food is not the best smelling food in the world although dogs of course love the smell. When I open a can of wet dog food, my dogs go crazy and my puppy starts running circles around the kitchen while my older dog starts barking in excitement. They do know the difference in the variety of foods they are given!

I have noticed also that as my dog gets older, she requires more moisture to eliminate normally. I add some warm water to her dry food to get in a little extra moisture and I give her some yogurt or cottage cheese in the morning with her dry food, and some canned dog food with her evening meal. A good rule of thumb is 75% dry and 25% canned. So when I give her about ¾ to one cup of dry, she gets about a ¼ cup of wet food mixed in. This has made a marked difference in her health and if she ever appears constipated, I increase the water content in her food to help aid in her digestion.

By giving your dog a mixture of wet and dry ingredients in their diet, as well as a variety of natural foods along with either their dry or canned foods, you will be providing them wonderful advantages including a decreased risk of allergies, diarrhea, stomach upset, better digestion and overall ability to function healthily, and a diet that is more closely aligned to what they would find in their natural habitat. You will also be giving them a wonderful treat and some excitement in their meal routines.