Wet food vs. dry food: which should you feed your pet?
It's a hotly debated topic among pet parents: Is wet food or dry food better for your pet? A cat or dog who will go on a hunger strike if offered anything but wet (or dry) food complicates things even further, and we know plenty of those. With so many dog food brands and cat food brands, including limited ingredient varieties, sensitive stomach formulations, and other food options, it can be hard to choose a good AAFCO (Association of American Feed Control Officials) approved diet to meet the nutritional needs of your furry friend. It's easy to look for quality ingredients with limited fillers, but what's the best dog food or cat food for picky eaters?
To sort this out once and for all, we caught up with two top experts: Danielle Bernal, DVM and Global Veterinarian withWellPet in the greater Boston area, and Zay Satchu, DVM and Chief Veterinary Officer of Bond Vet in New York City.
Many pet parents like the convenience and low cost of dry food, but kibble gets a bad rap lately. Thoughts?
Dr. Satchu: So long as it's high quality, nutritionally complete and balanced, and for the appropriate life stage, most dogs and cats can thrive on dry food their entire lives.
And what about wet food?
Dr. Satchu: Wet food may be preferred for dogs who have, or are at risk for, certain medical conditions. Talk to your veterinarian, who knows your pet's history. Even in those cases, wet food will still need to be nutritionally complete and balanced, and for the appropriate life stage.
Cats may have more to gain by eating wet food. They require more fat and protein than dogs, and diabetes is rising among cats; wet food usually has a higher protein and lower carb count than kibble. Again, your vet can guide you.
Is it true that serving dry food helps keep their teeth clean?
Dr. Satchu: Chewing kibble scrapes away some tartar. Although this benefit is small, an all wet-food diet may indeed worsen dental disease. This is, of course, assuming the pet doesn't already have severe dental disease and thus can't chew kibble. Dental treats, though, would have a larger benefit than standard dry food.
Any tips for bringing a die-hard wet food eater around to dry, or vice-versa?
Dr. Satchu: Start with a small amount of the new food and gradually increase it over a week or two. This ups the odds your pet will accept it. Just remember to adjust the total food intake to avoid weight gain.
What causes digestive issues in dogs and cats?
Dr. Bernal: Sudden changes in diet, food indiscretions, toxins, bacteria, medications, allergies, or genetics can all be the culprit. Digestive upsets can originate in any area of a dog or cat's digestive system, including the mouth or intestines.
All pets throw up occasionally. When is it a sign something's really wrong?
Dr. Bernal: If vomiting is accompanied by physical or behavioral changes, then it can be a cause for concern. If the vomiting continues, or your pet starts to show signs of deterioration, immediately contact your veterinarian.
What's important to keep in mind when feeding a pet who seems to have digestive issues?
Dr. Bernal: A vet visit should be the first step to find out what the underlying issue may be. When it comes to food sensitivities, it's important to know what ingredients you're feeding. Look for high-quality animal proteins, moderate amounts of healthy fats and wholesome grains, as well as dietary fiber, prebiotics and probiotics.
While we doting pet parents always want to feed the best dry cat food, or the best wet dog food, the bottom line is this: the best food is the one that's right for your one-and-only fur buddy. "The quality of the food, as well as whether that particular food is a good fit for an individual pet, is more important than whether it's kibble or in a can," sums up Dr. Satchu.
As saturated as the healthy pet food market is, it's still possible to whittle down the latest and greatest. Here are our favorites among the newest pet food offerings, both wet and dry.
Jinx dog food is trending like crazy, and it's not because of the cool bag design. Jinx is a line of dry dog food that consistently gets near perfect reviews from pet parents, no matter what flavor we're talking about. Frankly, they all sound good enough for us to eat. They have a few grain-free options too.
A top dry food choice for extra active dogs of all breeds and sizes, Bully Max is rich in protein and calories, so you can serve less of it per meal than you would other dog foods. It energizes your doggo without any corn, wheat or soy so that uncomfortable bloat is less of a possibility.
A plant-first recipe for dogs, this planet-friendly feed is made with whole grain sorghum, brewer's rice, and chicken. Plant-based superfoods and thoughtful preparation make it extra flavorful. Karma has a zero waste to landfills production policy, which is pretty awesome.
Amazon Pet's new wet and dry cat food line is protein rich and has zero corn, soy, wheat, or artificial flavors and colors. Flavors include Whitefish & Pea and Turkey & Vegetable Stew. You can even find varieties for kitties with sensitive skin and those who are too plump.
This canned wet food is designed to help prevent UTIs, which is something many cats are prone to. It has a lower pH, and is low in magnesium. Low pH and low magnesium can help prevent urinary crystals from forming in cats who are susceptible, though one of the best preventative measures you can take is feeding your cat wet food in the first place. Still, customers rave about how much cats love this stuff, as the thousands of five-star reviews attest to. In fact, one of them is titled "Saved my cat from death!"
With a proprietary GI Health Blend developed by vets, SquarePet is a dry food that comes in an array of flavors and formulas. You can find varieties for pets with sensitive tummies, but also joint issues, skin issues or a need for a low-phosphorus or low-fat diet. The protein sources are all cage free. It can be hard enough to find cage-free turkey for ourselves, so if that's an important factor to you, SquarePet gets bonus points. A lot of thought clearly went into the fiber sources too, from miscanthus grass to Jerusalem artichokes.
If your pet is prone to tummy upset, you might want to ask your vet about this new brand. The wet and dry recipes have guaranteed levels of probiotics, digestive enzymes, and a unique blend of prebiotic and probiotic fibers.
A human-grade line that only gets more popular, The Honest Kitchen has options for dogs and cats. You'll find not only dry (or as they call it, clusters) food and wet food, but also meal toppers (aka pour-overs), dehydrated formulations and treats. A high-quality, sustainably sourced pet food, the brand offers specialty foods for puppies and small breed dogs.
Whether you're looking for the best dry dog food, the best dry cat food, dog treats, cat treats, or grain-free dog food or cat food, fortunately there are plenty of ways to satisfy your pet in a healthy way. With retailers like Chewy and Amazon, you can get brands like Blue Buffalo, Hill's Science Diet, Nutro, Orijen, and Taste of the Wild delivered to your door. Keep our expert tips in mind while shopping, and happy hunting!
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Editor's Note: Products featured on Wide Open Pets are independently selected by our editors. However, when you buy something through our links, we may earn a commission.
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