What is Canned/Wet Dog Food?
Wet Dog Food is the second most popular form of dog food and is commonly stored in cans. As the name would suggest, wet dog food contains a significant amount of water, which is more widely described by manufacturers as moisture. The moisture of any dog food, be it wet or dry, must be displayed on the products Guaranteed Analysis which will be displayed on its packaging/label.
Being stored in a can or other sealed container ensures that the wet dog food remains safe to consume. Also, canned dog food can be stored for a longer period as long as it remains sealed, similar to canned goods for human consumption.
However, unlike dry dog food, once the can is opened, your dog will need to eat the food within a day or two to avoid it going bad. Also, once opened, you should keep the dog food sealed and consider storing it in the fridge, depending on its contents and the manufacturer’s recommendations. WSAVA recommends that you should ensure that canned dog food is consumed within 48-72 hours.
While your dog may be willing to eat wet dog food that has been left out for a number of days, it could have dangerous side effects and could make them ill.
Wet Dog Food is considered by some to be superior to dry food due to the fewer low-quality or filler ingredients it contains. While this varies from brand to brand, there is most definitely a trend, and it is not one that should be ignored.
As with all forms of pet food, there is a wide variety in the quality and nutrition provided by wet dog food. That is why it’s important to know what you should be looking out for and what you should avoid. This article will break down all the facts on wet dog food and give recommendations on some of the best canned/wet dog foods currently available.
Canned Dog Food Brands
Most dog food brands produce some variety of wet dog food, whether it be in cans, pouches, or pate form. However, some notable dog food brands do not produce any wet dog food of any description. Examples include brands like Orijen and Acana. Why these brands, some of which are rated very highly by ourselves and others, do not choose to produce wet dog food isn’t clear, but there must be a reason.
One common suggestion is that producing and manufacturing canned dog food is vastly different than dry dog food, and so there is a significant investment and demand required in order to justify setting up a canned dog food production facility. Many premium dog food brands like Orijen and Acana are unwilling to outsource production, like some of their competitors, which is a credible theory as to their lack of canned products.
Wet Dog Food Nutrition
The Effect of Moisture
As we mentioned previously, the core difference between wet and dry dog food is that wet dog food contains significantly more moisture. The concentration of moisture in canned dog food usually varies between seventy and eighty percent but can be as high as eighty-five percent in some select formulations.
As a consequence of this higher proportion of moisture, only a small proportion of the food provides nutrition. Therefore, a dog will have to consume significantly more wet dog food by raw weight than dry dog food to get the same nutrition and calorie intake.
However, this moisture isn’t worthless as dogs need to take in an appropriate volume of water just as humans do. While dogs do not suffer from a genetic lack of thirst like cats do, wet dog food can certainly help to keep them adequately hydrated without having to take large drinks and frequent drinks at their water bowl.
Lower Carbohydrate Proportion
The most significant nutritional fact about wet dog food is that it almost always contains a smaller proportion of carbohydrates in comparison to dry dog food. As we regularly preach on this website, dogs’ ancestral diet did not consist of a significant proportion of carbohydrates, and as a consequence, dogs do not need to consume a significant portion of carbohydrates.
While it is true that dogs are very capable of eating a large proportion of carbohydrates, regular consumption can have negative side effects, both visible and invisible. While inconsistent due to industry pressure, research has suggested that certain carbohydrate-heavy ingredients, such as grains, have consistent adverse effects. Therefore, wet dog food may be one of the best ways to try and mimic a dog’s natural low carbohydrate intake.
Higher Proportion Of Protein/Fat
Following the fact that wet dog food tends to contain a much lower proportion of carbohydrates than dry dog food, this has the knock-on effect of increasing the overall proportion of protein and fat present.
Protein and fat should make up the majority of your dog’s nutrition, as dogs can easily digest and utilize them. The protein is vital and will ensure that your dog can grow, repair, and maintain their bodies and muscles while the fat is essential for a multitude of bodily functions as well as being its primary source of energy. In addition, excess protein is not wasted as many believe and can be burned as a source of energy.
Wet Dog Food Ingredients
While there are many similarities in the ingredients used in dry dog food and wet dog food, there are a few notable differences.
Lack of Grains
For example, grains are much less common in canned dog food. This is as wet dog food doesn’t need to be bulked out as much to keep it cost-effective for consumers as the majority of its content is moisture (water). Whole grains aren’t quite the evil; they are often portrayed as, they are without a doubt, not a natural part of a dog’s diet. Their exclusion from most canned dog food formulas should be considered a strong positive and could be a deciding factor for some.
A large portion of wet dog food formulas contains some variety of “Broth”. This broth ingredient is usually of the same array as the primary meat ingredient. For example, dog food with a focus on Chicken would contain both Chicken and Chicken Broth, or dog food with a focus on Beef could contain Beef and Beef Broth. But what exactly is Broth?
Meat Broth is a liquid that has had meat cooked in it. It is created by simmering meat, bones, and unedible tissues together for a moderate period of time, usually between 2 and 3 hours.
Despite the simmering, the majority of Broth is still water, but it also includes a notable portion of fat and a small portion of protein from ingredients present during the simmering. Also, the inclusion of bones and inedible tissues can cause Broth to likely contain some minerals such as Calcium, Magnesium, and Phosphorous.
Salt is a more common ingredient in wet food than dry. While Salt might sound scary to many, in appropriate portions, it can be a positive addition as it helps to preserve the food as well as add flavor. Also, Salt plays a vital role in many bodily functions, such as maintaining healthy blood pressure, among others.
However, dogs that suffer from heart or kidney conditions may need to consume a diet low in Salt. Therefore formulas that add Salt may not be appropriate for them as high levels of Salt can exacerbate their health conditions. The quantity of Salt added to most dog food recipes is not significant and should not overly concern you.
There are some ingredients found in wet dog food that are used as thickening agents, emulsifiers, or stabilizers. These ingredients aren’t present to provide any significant nutrition, but they are instead used to maintain the shape and consistency of the dog food.
Typical examples include Guar Gum, Xanthan Gum, and Potato Starch. In small quantities, these ingredients are unlikely to be a significant factor in your decision, but in larger proportions, you may want to avoid them. It helps that many of the premium and high-quality canned dog food recipes are free from these ingredients.
What Are The Alternatives To Canned/Wet Dog Food?
You’ve learned the basics of canned dog food is, but what are the alternatives? Every dog is unique, and one of the different varieties of dog food may suit their needs better than canned dog food. Here is a brief rundown of the other types of dog food available.
Dry Dog Food
Dry Dog Food is by far the most common form of dog food. As the name implies, dry dog food has significantly less moisture than wet or canned dog food. This means it is much more calorie-dense. Its higher density in calories allows dry dog food to be more cost-effective to transport and purchase. For those dog owners on a budget or who own huge or large breed dogs, dry dog food is usually the obvious choice.
The downside of dry dog food is that it often contains more lower-quality or filler ingredients as producers fight to keep costs low. Examples include grains and vegetable by-products. While your dog can digest these ingredients, they are not biologically appropriate and are a poor reflection of their ancestor’s natural diet. These ingredients, alongside common starches and legumes, often contribute to a very high proportion of carbohydrates, which we often deem to be excessive.
Freeze Dried Dog Food
Freeze Dried Dog Food is much less common than dry or wet dog food but could be an option for those willing to splash out. Freeze-dried or air-dried dog food has had its moisture removed without undergoing the cooking process that dry dog food experiences. The lack of cooking gives freeze-dried dog food a unique taste and texture as well as retaining more of its nutrients.
Unfortunately, because you need large quantities of costly meat ingredients to produce freeze-dried dog food, the price is very high. To get around this, you could feed your dog freeze-dried dog food occasionally or mix it with cheaper homemade ingredients. There are a growing number of brands that produce such food, and some of the more popular brands include Ziwi Peak and Orijen.
A Mixture of Dry and Wet Dog Food
Many dog owners think they need to stick to a single type of dog food, but this isn’t the case. Many dogs will benefit from a mix of dry and wet dog food. Dog’s ancestors would have consumed a wide variety of food, and your dog will likely enjoy the variety offered by dry and wet dog food.
For example, if you feed your dog twice a day, you could offer them an appropriately sized bowl of dry dog food in the morning and then provide them with some canned dog food in the evening. However, when attempting to mix dry and wet food in the way we just described, it is important to track your dog’s intake of food to avoid overfeeding. Not keeping track of your dog’s consumption of food can lead to obesity and other health-related problems.
Best Canned/Wet Dog Food
Nailing down the “Best” canned dog food is not a simple task. There is such a vast range of formulas to choose from, and they all offer their unique benefits. Below we’ve decided to break down the best-canned dog foods into a few categories to help you make a more informed decision. Check out the category that you think is most applicable to both your canine friend and your budget.
Our current categories include our favorite all-around recipes, recipes that are affordable without dropping quality, premium or super-premium formulas for those willing to pay big, and finally our favorite wet puppy food recipes for those small bundles of joy.
Best Canned/Wet Dog Food – All Round Picks
What makes an all-round pick? We define our all-around picks as formulas that provide appropriate nutrition from high-quality ingredients at a moderate price.
These recipes may contain some vegetable ingredients or small quantities of lower-quality ingredients, but all around, they are fantastic choices that are suitable for the vast majority of dogs.
Merrick is a brand that many readers will recognize and is commonplace on the shelves of many specialty pet food stores. Their grain-free wet dog food range is one of their best, and as the name of the above formula would suggest, contains approximately 96% meat, which is leaps and bounds above its competitors.
The 96% Real Beef + Lamb + Buffalo formula is very straightforward and only contains the three mentioned meat ingredients plus a few other minor ingredients like Salt and other preservatives.
The recipe is very high in fat, which is ideally suited to the majority of active dogs, but the formula may need to be carefully portioned to some dogs who may be more susceptible to weight gain or obesity. Examples include senior dogs and those with insatiable appetites.
Health Extension Salmon Recipe Review
Health Extension is a family-owned company based in the United States. Health Extension has very impressive transparency about the source of its ingredients, including an interactive map for visitors of their site to explore.
This level of transparency is unprecedented in the industry and is something that many brands could learn from.
Health Extension has an expansive range of both traditional dry dog food and canned dog food. The canned dog food range includes some extremely simple formulas as well as some specially themed ones such as Tuscan Style and Carolina Skillet Pork Recipe.
While simplistic may sound boring or basic, we disagree and believe that Health Extension’s Salmon Formula is exceptional in its simplicity.
The primary driver behind this is that Health Extensions Salmon Formula only contains four ingredients, three of which are inconsequential. The first of these and the one which constitutes the vast majority of the formula is whole Salmon.
Salmon is known to be one of the best fish sources of the Omega 3 Fatty Acids, which can provide noticeable benefits and improvements in a dog’s cognitive function and the condition of their skin and coat.
The other three ingredients are water, fish broth, and Guar Gum. The water and Fish Broth are present to provide moisture and will provide little nutrition. Lastly, Guar Gum is present as an emulsifier.
This lack of questionable or poorly understood ingredients will ensure that dog owners know exactly what they are feeding their canine friends.
Health Extension’s Salmon Formula isn’t the only recipe that follows this model, and they also have alternatives with meat ingredients such as Beef, Duck, Chicken, and Lamb.
Zignature is most widely known as a provider of limited ingredient dog food recipes for dogs with severe allergies or sensitivities. They produce an extensive range of dry and wet dog food with each recipe, usually containing a single source of meat or fish with a limited number of vegetable ingredients. You can learn more about limited ingredient dog food in our Best Hypoallergenic Dog Food Guide article.
Zignature’s Zssential formula, however, is one of a kind and contains a range of meat and fish ingredients and, as a consequence, provides the best nutrition of any of their range.
To be specific Zssential formula includes Turkey, Salmon, Lamb, and Duck, which are all considered high-quality ingredients that can provide a plentiful supply of protein and fat. These meat and fish ingredients are combined with a satisfactory proportion of Peas and Chickpeas, which are both considered to be carbohydrate-providing ingredients with low glycemic indexes, which are seen as preferable by some.
While not as popular as some of the other brands mentioned in this article, Wellness is still a big player in the market and worthy of a place in this article. Their Core range of dry and wet dog food is perhaps their most popular and provides excellent nutrition. Their Core Puppy dry food recipe is one we have recommended for large breed puppies in a few of our guides.
Another important note about Wellness is that their wet dog food formulas also contain some ingredients not commonly found in products produced by other leading brands, which could be considered a unique selling point.
The Turkey and Spinach recipe is an excellent example of the quality of their formulas. It contains a very select number of ingredients. The only three that are noteworthy are Turkey, which provides the bulk of the protein and fat, Spinach, which provides some excellent minerals and vitamins; and Flaxseed, which boosts the levels of the Omega Fatty Acids, which offer a wide range of health benefits.
The simplicity of this formula could make it very suitable for those dogs with allergies and sensitivities. Also, there are other similar formulas with alternative meat ingredients if Turkey doesn’t suit your canine friend’s tastes.
Best Canned/Wet Dog Food – Best Value Picks
Our value picks are simple; they are canned dog food formulas that can provide above-average nutrition and ingredients at an affordable price.
These are most suited to those dog owners on a tight budget or with large dogs that will crave and eat a significant quantity of dog food meaning premium recipes are unreasonable.
Crave is a relative newcomer to the pet food market and is owned by Mars Petcare, which produces other recognizable brands such as Pedigree dog food and Whiskas cat food. The brand was launched to cater to consumers who demand higher-quality pet food. The number of consumers who have become more aware and better informed on dog food nutrition has increased significantly in recent years, and we believe it will continue to grow.
Crave is often available at large brand pet stores or grocery stores, such as Walmart & PetSmart, and is surprisingly affordable. While wet dog food is still more expensive than dry food, Crave’s products won’t break the bank or make you flinch.
Crave’s Pate range is one of their best and offers a small variety of wet dog food formulas. Each formula contains both traditional meat cuts alongside organ meat. This organ meat provides beneficial Vitamins and Minerals that standard meat cuts lack. This combination of meat ingredients offers fantastic nutrition, high in protein and fat.
Finally, none of their Pate recipes contain a significant amount of vegetable ingredients, let alone frowned upon vegetable by-products which are present in some of their dry food products.
Taste of the Wild is one of the most widely recognized brands sold in the USA today. They are fortunate enough to have found the perfect middle ground between an affordable price and a high-quality product.
The vast majority of Taste of the Wild’s products are dry dog food, split between traditional adult recipes, puppy recipes, and their newly released limited ingredient range – Prey. However, they do produce a select number of wet dog food formulas.
Southwest Canyon is by far our favorite wet dog food formula from Taste of the Wild. The principal ingredients of the formula are Beef, Beef Broth, and Beef Liver, which are sure to provide an ample portion of protein and other nutrients. Red meat ingredients such as these are ideally suited to a dog’s diet and are extremely digestible.
There are some other ingredients present, including Egg Product, Lamb, Wild Boar, and Peas. The formula also contains Potato Starch, which can be considered a low-quality ingredient in large portions, but the portion in this formula doesn’t appear to be significant.
Chewy’s brand of American Journey gets a deserved mention in the value section of this article. American Journey competes with other value brands such as Crave and Pure Balance but still sues higher-quality ingredients and provides appropriate nutrition.
Their canned dog food is very competitively priced, which can make it viable for those of us without buckets of spare cash.
The above-mentioned Chicken & Turkey recipe is straightforward and only contains a few notable ingredients. The majority of the formula is made up of poultry ingredients such as Whole Chicken, Whole Turkey, and Chicken Liver. This Chicken and Turkey provide the bulk of the recipes protein and fat content, while the Chicken Liver can provide some vitamins and minerals that traditional meat cuts lack.
The formula also includes a small portion of White Potatoes. We don’t believe that White Potatoes are the most appropriate carbohydrate ingredient for dog food, but given the small portion size here, you should not be overly concerned. Potatoes can offer a small number of other micronutrients and dietary fiber and should, therefore, be considered a step up from low-quality fillers.
If you are interested in discovering more high-quality yet affordable dog food recipes, such as the ones we’ve highlighted above, be sure to head over to our article Best Cheap Dog Food for an in-depth run down.
Best Canned/Wet Dog Food – Premium Picks
Our premium picks are the Rolls Royce or Lamborghinis of the canned dog food world. For most, these are just plain unaffordable, but for those willing to splash out, these formulas offer incredible nutrition from very high-quality and unique ingredients.
Some might go as far as to say that the ingredients in these formulas are notably higher quality than the food that most humans consume on a daily basis, which is food for thought.
Ziwi Peak is best known for its range of Air Dried Dog Food. Air-dried dog food is similar to freeze-dried dog food and is probably the most expensive form of dog food available. However, Ziwi Peak also produces moist dog food, which is just another way of describing wet or canned dog food.
One of the best features of Ziwi Peak’s dog food formulas is their inclusion of a massive range of organ meats in their recipes. Examples of this include Liver, Kidneys, Lungs, and Heart. These organ meats are abundant in beneficial vitamins and minerals that traditional meat cuts are not.
Also, Ziwi Peak’s formulas also contain mussels which are high in glucosamine and are a unique ingredient not included in food produced by almost any other dog food brand.
Ziwi Peak produces formulas that focus on a number of red meat ingredients, including the above-mentioned Beef, but also Lamb, Venison, and Rabbit. A Chicken-based product range was also recently released by the brand.
Hound & Gatos is another notable brand in the Premium Dog Food world. The cost of their recipes might make some wince, but behind that price tag is some excellent dog food formulas.
Hound & Gatos really comes into its own with the quality of its meat ingredients. They use cuts and sources that are very comparable with meat found in your local butchers or meat store, and in some cases, the meat may be of an even higher-quality than most of us are used to, which is unheard of in the dog food industry.
Their Original Paleolithic Diet formula is one of our favorites; it offers a wide range of red meat ingredients, including Beef, Pork, Lamb, and Deer. This variety of meat ingredients will produce an excellent flavor and provide a reliable range of minerals and vitamins to keep your canine friend in good health.
The only other ingredients are Agar-Agar, which is used to help maintain a consistent texture, and preservatives such as Salt.
K9 Natural Lamb Feast Review
K9 Natural is a New Zealand-based brand and could be easily compared or equated to Ziwi Peak. K9 Natural uses very high-quality ingredients that are sourced from New Zealand are suitable for human consumption. They also use an in-house animal nutritionist to ensure that dogs’ nutritional needs are met. With these high standards, you can expect their recipes to come at a cost, but for some, it is worth consideration.
K9 Naturals has a small range of canned dog food recipes, including a Lamb Formula, Chicken Formula, and Beef Formula. We’ve chosen to discuss the Lamb Formula as Lamb is the primary livestock animal of New Zealand and a more unusual dog food ingredient than Beef or Chicken.
The primary ingredient is whole Lamb, but there are also a number of Lamb organ meats present, including Lamb Liver, Lamb Heart, and Lamb Kidneys. As we mentioned with discussing Ziwi Peak, these organ meats can provide a unique cocktail of vitamins and minerals.
However, K9 Naturals includes some ingredients that Ziwi Peak does not. This includes Lamb Blood, Eggs, and a small range of vegetables such as Pumpkin, Broccoli, Cauliflower, and Cabbage. Eggs are incredibly nutritionally dense and an excellent addition to any dog food formula. The vegetables will provide additional vitamins and minerals, as well as a very modest portion of carbohydrates and fiber.
Best Canned/Wet Puppy Food
Last but not least are our favorite wet puppy food picks. Puppies require a slightly different nutritional profile and food texture than adult dogs and. As a consequence, there are formulas specially designed by dog food manufacturers to meet the specific needs of puppies.
Nulo Freestyle Puppy With Turkey, Cod & Sweet Potatoes Review
After seeing the disproportionate quantity of carbohydrates used in modern dog food, Michael Lander created Nulo in an attempt to produce a more balanced type of dog food. Thankfully, Nulo hasn’t strayed from this idea since its inception almost two decades ago and produces a range of formulas for puppies, adult dogs, and senior dogs that a balanced and satisfactory nutrition profile.
Nulo’s puppy range is relatively small, but the recipes that they do produce make use of high-quality ingredients and provide excellent nutrition for a growing puppy. There are two canned puppy foods, Turkey, Cod & Sweet Potatoes and Chicken, Salmon & Lentils.
Both of the recipes are very similar, but we have chosen to discuss the Turkey, Cod, and Sweet Potatoes recipe. The primary ingredients are Turkey, Turkey Liver, Cod, and Turkey/Salmon Broth. This combination of Poultry and Fish provides a satisfactory proportion of bioavailable animal protein and fat.
The recipe also contains small portions of some vegetable and starch ingredients, including Sweet Potatoes, Peas, and Lentils. These provide a small proportion of carbohydrates and dietary fiber.
Canidae’s Pure range is one of the most popular grain-free ranges on the market. It contains a large variety of recipes, including formulas tailored to senior dogs and puppies, as well as those attempting weight loss. While the dry dog food version of the Pure range may be the most popular of the two, their canned dog food maintains the quality and nutrition.
The Foundations Formula is a nutritious yet straightforward formula for a growing puppy. It contains a mix of Chicken, Eggs, and Peas, which are all considered high-quality ingredients. The Chicken and Eggs provide a very healthy proportion of easily digested protein and fat, and the Peas add a modest portion of carbohydrates and fiber for healthy digestion.
While this formula doesn’t contain quite as low a proportion of carbohydrates as some of the other formulas in this article, it is still very satisfactory and suitable for the majority of dogs.
Merrick is the only brand to feature in this article twice, and it does so for a good reason. As we mentioned earlier, they are a widely recognized brand, and most of their formulas are very nutritious. Thankfully, their puppy formulas share the same high-quality ingredients and unprecedented nutrition that their adult formulas do.
Puppy Plate is one of the best of their surprisingly large puppy range, which is more expansive than other brands’ entire wet food product range. The formula contains a variety of poultry ingredients, including Chicken, Turkey, and Duck, which are all great sources of lean protein.
These poultry ingredients are combined with a tiny and satisfactory portion of Peas and Sweet Potatoes, which provide a small portion of carbohydrates and fiber for improved digestion. The substantial portion of protein and fat provided by this formula is sure to promote growth and provide energy for all that activity they are sure to take part in.