The Case for Wet Pet Food

Ken Tudor, DVM
Written by:
Published: March 28, 2013
The Case for Wet Pet Food

Since its invention in the 1960s, the economical and convenience advantages of dry, kibbled food has made it the most popular method for feeding pets. Due to AAFCO standards, both dry and wet pet foods meet necessary nutritional requirements. So why feed wet if dry is apparently just as good? Actually there are some very good reasons to add wet food to any pet’s diet.

The Taste of Wet Pet Foods

Few dogs and cats will turn down the opportunity to eat wet food. Whether it is a texture preference, an olfactory preference, or taste preference is unknown. Likely it is a combination of all three factors. Many small breed dogs like Chihuahuas are notorious for tiring of dry food and for holding out for “wetter” people food. Their ability to hold out with hunger strikes is quite impressive. Adding wet food to the diet generally resolves this problem and avoids the unbalanced alternative of selective human foods.


Wet Pet Food for Illness

A common presenting complaint for animals brought to veterinary hospitals is that they are not eating. This lack of appetite is always a very strong concern for owners. An easy assessment of the severity of the condition is to offer wet food to the patient. Mildly ill animals invariably scarf the food. The owners are always surprised. My standard response is: “If you were mildly nauseous and someone offered you Shredded Wheat with no milk, would you eat it?”

I see the light bulb go on! With the right treatment and wet food for a few days these animals recover uneventfully.

Wet Pet Food for Weight Control

Dogs readily eat wet food or a combination of wet and dry. By controlling the calories of each meal, preferably two meals per day, owners can avoid free choice feeding. Giving pets access to a constant source of food to graze on is a major contributor to the pet obesity problem that presently exists. Although many dogs will not overeat if fed free choice, they are definitely not in the majority.

Cats are natural grazers, so owners typically free feed dry food because wet food will become dry and crusty if left out. Again, this is a recipe for overweight cats. By offering scheduled small feedings of wet food that are readily eaten, cat owners can reduce the amount of free choice dry food and reduce excess consumption of calories.

Adding canned food has proven to be particularly useful for animals on weight loss diets. The additional water distends the stomach and helps trigger the satiety — the “I’m full” — center of the brain, reducing begging behavior and other “sad” behaviors that cause owners to abandon weight loss in their pets. Research on dieting cats has confirmed this effect.

Wet Pet Food for Urinary Crystals and Stones

Many dogs, and even more cats, habitually produce crystals in their urine that can result in chronic bladder irritation or even stone formation that requires surgical removal. Management of this condition is generally dietary, and, you guessed it, the most popular foods with owners are the dry foods. But research confirms that adding more water to the diet is a much better management strategy.

Additional dietary water creates diluted urine. Crystals and stone formation require concentrated urine. “The solution to pollution is dilution!”

Physically, cats are by nature thirst intolerant. If they do not seek and consume water they make extremely concentrated urine. Feeding a wet food only diet to crystal forming cats helps add water to their diet and manages their condition better.

Many pet owners are reluctant to add wet food due to cost concerns. But if the above advantages are considered as preventives, pet owners can’t afford not to feed wet food to their pets.

All Wet Foods are Not Created Equal

Since it is often difficult to compare which wet foods would be most beneficial to your cat or dog, consult your veterinarian first. Your pet’s doctor can ensure that the wet food you are choosing is complete and balanced for your pet’s specific nutritional, health, and age appropriate needs.

Dr. Ken Tudor

Image: Fotokostic / via Shutterstock

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