13 Canned Dog Food Benefits

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17 Minute Read
 | Amy Dyck
Updated April 27, 2021

Gone are the days when canned dog food was put on the sidelines of your canine’s nutrition. While the convenience of dry food still makes it the most popular feeding choice for pets, dogs (and cats, too) can benefit from including wet food in their diet on a regular or even occasional basis. Here are some distinct benefits of canned food for your dog

Benefits of Canned Dog Food

Dogs love canned dog food, but is it actually good for them? Take a look at the top 13 benefits of canned dog food to see if you should consider adding wet dog food to your dog's meals. Plus, we answered some of the most frequently asked questions about wet dog food. 

1. More Meat Protein than Dry Food

Canned diets, in general, contain more meat than kibble diets, which is why they are typically more expensive. This is great news for dogs, who require few, if any, grain-sourced carbohydrates.

However, dog food labels on dry foods are deceiving. They may make you assume that your food has more protein in it than it actually does.

The Dry Matter Basis Protein Difference

Since many dry foods have much less moisture than wet foods (about 10% moisture compared to 70% moisture), protein percentages will seem a lot higher for dry kibble.

However, when you convert your wet food to a dry matter basis, you can see how much more protein is in canned foods as compared to dry kibble - even from the same brand.

Dry Matter Basis Protein Calculator

Find these values on your pet food bag's Guaranteed Analysis. Looking for another macronutrient? You can substitute ash, fat, or fibre in this equation to find these other actual values.

Crude Protein (%):



Moisture Content (%):





Actual Protein Content (%):

Comparing Protein Content of Wet Versus Dry Dog Food

To illustrate how different protein content can be for wet versus dry dog foods, even when they are the same flavour and brand, here's an example. This is a high-quality, high-protein brand, but there is still a big difference in the actual protein contents of the wet and dry foods.

Example: 

cheap canned dog food

Wild Salmon Formula Dry Dog Food
Listed Protein Content: 30%
ACTUAL Protein Content: 33.33%

natural canned dog food 

Wild Salmon Formula Wet Dog Food
Listed Protein Content: 9.5%
ACTUAL Protein Content: 45.24%

When compared using Dry Matter Basis, there is a difference of over 10% in protein content between the wet and dry food formulas of a single high-protein brand! That's a BIG difference.

 

If you're concerned about the protein content of your pet's food, always calculate your dog food's guaranteed analysis on a dry matter basis. 

To learn more about the different types of dog food, check out Types of Dog food: A Helpful Breakdown.

2. Fewer Carbs

The Role of Gluten

Kibble generally requires more carbohydrates than wet food because carbs act as binders, holding the food together. You've probably heard of gluten.

This carbohydrate component is a protein found in wheat and other carbohydrate sources, and it works like a glue to keep foods together and part of what's responsible for creating that bread-like texture that we're familiar with. Food products with gluten in them are chewier, pliable, and stick together better - they're less crumbly.

While kibble may seem to fall into that crumbly category, if you think about it, it stays together quite well. Generally, kibble stays formed together as kibble, and it doesn't fall apart in the bag. It's the high gluten, or carbohydrate content, that accounts for that.

Less Protein Means More Carbohydrates

Aside from the binder consideration, something has to fill the void that the lower protein percentage of dry dog food creates. So, there are automatically more carbohydrates in dry dog food because there's less protein.

Fat is the only other variable, and you generally don't see a lot of difference in fat in pet foods unless you are comparing diet foods and regular foods. Even so, the difference is not as much as when comparing protein and carbohydrate levels. This is where you can see a real difference in the quality of dog foods.

Higher-quality foods generally will have more protein than carbohydrates, as protein is more expensive. 

Always Check the Ingredient List

However, it's always important to check your dog food ingredient list rather than rely on a general assumption about food types. There can be a huge difference in quality between dog food brands and formulas within the dry food or canned food categories alone.

The best way to judge a food's quality is to check the ingredient list. Meat should always be the first ingredient.

Also, check your dog food label to see how much meat the food actually contains (see the above point for converting protein to dry matter basis for actual values).

CTAs_Wet Dog Food

 

3. Fewer Preservatives

Canned food is naturally preserved through the canning process, whereas dry food is not. Wet food also ends up being fresher because you will finish the container within a few days at most, compared to a couple of weeks to a month or more for most dry food bags.

Those factors add up to fewer overall preservatives being added to canned foods. 

What's Wrong with Preservatives in Dog Food?

But what's the problem with preservatives? For one thing, many preservatives in cheaper pet foods are not naturally derived.

They're non-foods that would never naturally occur in your pet's diet. Most provide no other nutritional benefit to your pet's food other than making it last a long time on the shelf.

Most of the time, a long shelf-life isn't even a real convenience for you. Generally, you probably buy dog food and use it up within, at most, a few months.  This benefit is for the pet food manufacturer and the pet store, instead.

They can have the same food stored in their warehouses, back rooms, and shelves for sometimes years before having to check for expiration dates and refresh their stock. Business-wise, the longer the shelf-life, the less money is lost through expired products that cannot be sold.

Other than providing no real benefit to you or your dog, preservatives may actually harm your pet. Some common preservatives, such as nitrates or nitrites, are known carcinogens.

There are other options out there. Choose foods with natural preservatives whenever possible, or go the no-preservative route with canned foods.   

BPA in Canned Dog Food

There is one exception when it comes to canned food preservatives - BPA and BPS. These chemicals line most pet food cans, preventing the acidic contents from leaching metals from the can itself into the food over time.

In itself, this is a good thing. But BPA and BPS (the replacement that may be just as toxic) are known hormone disruptors and can have damaging effects on reproductive systems and the brain, also contributing to related side effects such as weight gain and even major diseases and cancer.

Not all dog food cans contain BPA. Choose smaller cans. Some of these don't require BPA in their lining. Or, choose those canned foods that are BPA-free. Make sure those cans don't include BPS instead. 

4. More Palatable

best value canned dog food

Wet food just tastes better. With a stronger, more natural flavour, Cheap canned dog food is better suited for picky eaters, as well as senior dogs who have lost their sense of taste with age.

Where does this great taste come from? The high meat protein content of canned food. Real meat tastes from real meat ingredients that dogs have an instinctive preference for.

Also, because canned food is made from more actual meat and fewer carbohydrates, it generally doesn't contain artificial flavours or colours, either, as many dry dog foods do.

What's Wrong with Additives in Dog Food?

Serving no actual nutritional benefit to dogs, artificial flavours and colours have been linked to distressing effects, including hyperactivity in children, and many have been taken off the shelf because of carcinogenic activity (Red #1, #2, and #4, for example).

No conclusive evidence has been found to date for any additives currently on the market, but several scientific studies have shown proof enough for caution.

What we have to ask ourselves is: why are we fighting so hard to defend something unnecessary when there are healthful ingredient alternatives?

5. Enhance Variety

Canned dog food, by its packaging alone, lends itself better to feeding your dog a varied diet. Contrary to popular opinion, changing up your dog's food does more good than harm to your dog.

Letting your dog sample different flavours and brands of dog food will expose him to more naturally occurring nutrients and encourage openness to try new foods.

Are Any Commercial Dog Foods Actually Complete & Balanced?

While dog foods commonly claim to be "complete," commercial dog diets can be lacking in essential nutrients, though you're unlikely to know which ones. Since vitamins and minerals are not completely absorbed by the body, you can never really be sure how many nutrients your pet is actually getting.

And, while foods do contain a standard minimum amount of essential vitamins, they don't contain maximums, which means your pet could be getting too many vitamins, which can be just as bad (or worse) as nutritional deficiencies.

Feeding a varied diet to your pet can prevent minor nutritional deficiencies or overload that might take years to surface in symptoms.

While it can be impossible to tell whether a food truly is complete in itself, you can rest assured knowing that your dog is getting his nutrients from a variety of sources, so he's less likely to suffer from too much or too little essential nutrients.

 

6. Promote Weight Loss

The moisture content of canned food is not just beneficial to your dog’s hydration. High moisture content in foods can help pets feel full, which is essential for weight loss and maintenance. We've already mentioned that wet food has more protein.

This key ingredient is also helpful for pets who want to maintain muscle but lose pesky fat. Protein takes longer to digest, so your pet will feel more full for longer. If your dog is overweight, you may want to consider switching to an all-wet food diet.

 

7. Reduce Bloat

Wet food doesn't absorb as much liquid in the stomach, which makes dogs fed canned diets less likely to experience bloat. Also, due to its very nature, canned food is more difficult to gulp, which is a leading cause of bloat.

If your dog is prone to bloat – usually large, barrel-chested breeds, such as Great Danes – you may want to incorporate more canned food into your canine's diet.

What are the symptoms of bloat in dogs?

    • Distended abdomen
    • Dog tries (unsuccessfully) to belch or vomit
    • Dry vomiting
    • Weakness
    • Excessive salivation
    • Shortness of breath
    • Reduced body temperature
    • Pale gums
    • Rapid heartbeat
    • Collapse

From: ASPCA Bloat

Dog Breeds That Are Prone to Bloat:

    • Akita
    • Boxer
    • Basset Hound
    • German Shepherd
    • Irish Setter
    • St. Bernard
    • Weimaraner


8. Easy to Digest

Natural Canned Dog Food is just easier to digest. Since most canned food (particularly pate texture) is smooth, your dog will not have to chew well to break it down, which makes it more suitable for dogs who gulp or frequently get indigestion.

The high moisture content and soft texture of wet food make it ideal for dogs with digestive difficulties or an upset stomach. Feed wet food when your dog is recovering from a stomach virus for an easier transition.

Young puppies, too, who have recently been weaned will find wet food (or a wet/dry mix) easier to digest than a dry kibble diet alone. If your dog is recovering from illness or has a sensitive stomach, canned food may be the best choice. 

 

9. Easy to Eat

canned food for weight loss

If your dog or cat has lost teeth or is a very young puppy, canned food can be easier to eat than kibble. The action of crunching kibble can be difficult for pets with dental problems, very young or old pets, or sick pets.

Canned food requires little to no breakdown in the mouth, particularly some varieties, and is, therefore, easier on your pet's mouth and stomach. 

Is canned food bad for your pet's teeth?

Some studies have shown that dry kibble, particularly dental varieties with added calcium carbonate, can reduce surface plaque on dog teeth. However, while dry dog food may be slightly better for your pet's teeth than wet food, no food alone provides enough benefit to adequately prevent plaque build-up, bad breath, or dog dental diseases, such as periodontal disease.

The Importance of Regular Dental Care

Regardless of whether you feed your dog dry or wet food, you will want to make sure that you are diligent with dental care so that plaque does not build up on your dog’s teeth and gums.

Regular brushing and routine dental care, including chewing on bones and dental toys and use of other dental care products are still necessary for your pet's best care. 

 

10. Fresher

I've mentioned the fact that canned food contains fewer preservatives than dry food, but it also is generally fresher. Have you ever noticed how interested your pet is in a brand new bag of food? Doesn't the first bowl seem to disappear faster than usual?

A new bag is exciting, but it also tastes a lot better, too. Canned food can give your dog or cat that freshness nearly every day.

Unlike a bag of dry kibble, which is often opened and used within a few weeks to a month, a can of dog food is used up within days. That makes every bite taste fresh.

Canned Food Safety

However, make sure you never leave wet food out for over 30 minutes, and refrigerate open cans and use them within 3-5 days to prevent spoilage. Plastics can leach bad flavour into foods, particularly acidic ones, like your pet's food.

For the best taste, store leftovers in a glass container instead of plastic or keep them in the can with a well-fitting lid or plastic wrap as a cover. 

 

11. Better Ingredients

Other than containing more meat and fewer carbohydrates than dry food, canned dog food generally contains better-quality ingredients. That's just one of the reasons that canned pet foods tend to be more expensive per serving than dry foods.

Extruded kibble is often sprayed with animal digest and fats to appeal to your dog's taste buds, but canned food doesn't go through that process. There's less of a need to make food taste good when it contains more of what your dog loves, such as whole meats.

The Difference Quality Nutrition Makes

But good ingredients don't just make your pet's food taste better, they also improve health. Quality ingredients, including organic fruits and vegetables and free-range meats, contain more naturally occurring vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, healthy fats, and other nutrients than their commercialized counterparts.

But you can find organic and free-range ingredients in dry foods, too, so what's the difference? Since wet foods undergo less processing, more of these natural nutrients are available to your pet in their raw form, untouched by the extreme-heat processing of kibble extrusion.

So, all other things equal, canned is still likely the more nutritious choice for your pet's food.

 

12. Prevents Kidney Disease and Organ Stress

canned dog food with grains

Dogs, and particularly cats, just don't like to drink water. For anyone that's tried it, it's just not that easy to make them drink it! Feeding canned food increases your pet's water intake easily, putting less stress on vital organs, such as the kidneys.

Cats, especially,  are prone to urinary tract issues and will benefit from a canned food diet. It may prevent a debilitating disease later in life.

Canned Food Benefits Dogs with Diabetes, Cancer, and Other Diseases

Particularly if your dog is already dealing with health issues that tax vital organs such as the kidneys, including cancer and diabetes, you should be doing all you can to reduce the stress your pet's organs are experiencing on a day-to-day basis. 

Diabetic dogs, which deal with kidney stress, will be healthier eating a moisture-rich diet. Switch to canned from dry food for your diabetic dog, even some of the time, and you can successfully reduce organ stress.

 

13. You Get To See Them Run When You Turn On the Can Opener

Okay, I'm not being totally serious, but every pet owner loves to see the joy that they can bring to their pet every day. Dogs LOVE wet food, and it's good for them. Do you need any more reasons to feed wet to your pet?

Supplementing Your Dog's Dry Food with Canned Food

If you are currently feeding your pet a straight dry diet, I hope I've already convinced you to include canned at least on a part-time basis. There are countless benefits of canned dog food!

Your dog's diet should include a variety of different foods, so including wet food, even if you continue to feed kibble primarily, will benefit your pet.

This way, your canine will have the benefits of canned dog food diets and fewer of the cons associated with either feeding method. Check out What Should I Feed My Dog for more tips to help you find the best diet for your dog. 

Wet Dog Food FAQ's

Now you know the benefits of feeding canned dog food, but knowing how to feed wet dog food is the next step. You'll need to know the best feeding practices, canned dog food safety, and how much to feed to make sure your dog is getting the best nutrition from his new wet diet.

Is Canned Dog Food Complete and Balanced?

Most canned dog foods are complete and balanced and can be fed as a solo diet, but not every canned dog food makes this claim. Make sure to check the packaging for tags such as complete and balanced or the AAFCO approval on the back so that you know the food is designed as a complete meal. 

Some products are meant as a side dish or a meal topper. Products like Wellness Mixers are a canned formula that is 95% meat but does not contain the necessary nutrients or ingredient variation to act as a stand-alone diet. These are a great way to add flavour and protein to another wet or dry dog food. 

How Should I Store Canned Dog Food?

Unopened, canned dog food is shelf stable for several months, with cans usually having well over 1-year shelf life and dog food pouches and tetra packs about 8- 12 months. Once opened though, canned food should be stored in the fridge in a covered container or using a can lid cover.

How Long Does Canned Dog Food Last in the Fridge?

Opening, refrigerated canned dog food will stay fresh for 3-5 days. It's a good rule of thumb to treat wet dog food as you would raw meat. Even though it's cooked, the moisture can contribute to bacteria growth and food spoilage.

The longer the food sits in the fridge, the drier it will get too. This won't change the nutrition, but it may affect taste and texture.

Can You Freeze Wet Dog Food?

Yes! If you have a small dog or only use small amounts of wet food as a meal topper or to hide medications, then you may find you are wasting canned food that can't be used before it spoils. 

You can portion and freeze wet food, like in a treat mould or an ice cube tray, for later use. Like anything in the freezer, it can get freezer burnt, so we recommend using frozen wet food within 30 days. 

If you typically order your dog's food online, then you may have concerns over your dog's canned food freezing in transit during the winter months. No need to worry. Sealed cans that get a little frosty are still sealed and protected from oxygen and bacteria, so the food is perfectly safe. Just put them in a room-temperature dry place, and they will defrost and be ready to use in a few hours.

What is the Best Canned Dog Food?

That's a loaded question because the best canned dog food for one dog is not always going to be the best for another. Every dog is different, and the food they eat should be geared to their unique needs. We carry a ton of brands that offer high-quality ingredients, like Ziwi Peak, Open Farm, and Weruva dog food

You might be looking for specific features. If your dog has allergies, you might be looking for a single protein food, like Zignature. Or maybe you want a Canadian brand that sources their ingredients locally, like First Mate.

There are a lot of options, but the best part is you don't have to choose just one! Rotational feeding is a helpful way to get a better diversity of nutrients in your dog's diet. Plus, it keeps your dog's diet fresh and exciting. 

How Much Canned Dog Food Equal Dry Food?

Gram for gram, wet dog food and dry dog food are going to be very different in terms of feeding guidelines. Wet dog food usually has a water content of 70% or higher, which means that only 30% contains all the nutrition. Whereas dry food has a moisture content of only 10% or less, so 90% of the food contains nutrients. 

Instead of looking at the weight of the food, look at calories. Each brand will offer standard feeding guidelines based on the caloric density of its product. This is a great place to start, but they can be a little vague sometimes. 

If you are having trouble finding the right feeding guidelines to suit your pet's age and activity level, then check out our Dog Food Calorie Calculator. Then you can choose a food based on the formula you like and feed it in accordance with the food's calorie content. 

Dog Food Calorie Calculator

Do you feed your dog canned food? Share your tips, success stories, and favourite brands with us in the comments below! 

Written by

Amy Dyck

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