As if it isn’t difficult enough for pet parents to decide on which brand or variety of dog food or cat food to choose, you also have to decide if you are feeding dry or canned pet food. Walk into any pet store and you are staring at aisles and aisles of possible choices, and then you get to multiply the options by two. My best advice to pet parents – generally speaking – is to choose both; feed a quality kibble and canned pet food.
They are both pet food but there are many differences and benefits to dry pet food and canned or moist pet food. Some dry dog foods and cat foods provide probiotics which canned foods do not. Probiotics are considered friendly bacteria which helps keep the pet’s intestinal system in good working order. Keeping the intestinal system happy and healthy has far more benefits than good elimination habits; more importantly, keeping the intestinal system healthy helps keep the pet healthy because 90% of the immune system is located there. Obviously, a strong immune system helps the pet fend off disease and illness. Probiotics are scientifically proven to inhibit viruses and ‘bad’ bacteria, strengthen the immune system, plus aid in the production of digestive enzymes. To my knowledge there is not a canned pet food available that contains probiotics.
Some canned or moist pet foods do contain a prebiotic however. A prebiotic is sort of a food for the probiotic to consume; helping it to better do it’s job. However without the probiotic activity, the prebiotic doesn’t do much good. Both are best.
If you have ever closely examined the recommended feeding instructions on a can of dog food or cat food, you see that it takes quite a few cans to provide the daily nutritional needs of your pet. The reason is all canned foods contain high amounts of moisture. Water fills you up pretty quickly; the concern is your pet might not eat enough canned food. On the other side of the water coin however…the added moisture to the diet of dogs and cats is very beneficial. Cats, especially don’t drink enough water. Speaking of the ‘plumbing’ of dogs and cats, extra amounts of water help keeps the ‘pipes’ flushed clean. Just like your garden hose runs slow due to build up when its not used very often, the same comparison can be applied to your pets ‘pipes’. Lots of water running through the pipes helps to keep them clean.
The next thing to consider is the Guaranteed Analysis of dry foods to canned foods. The Guaranteed Analysis is a requirement of every pet food label; it provides pet owners with the nutritional information for that particular food. At first comparison, a dry food appears to provide a great deal more nutrition. As an example a dry cat food might show 26% protein while a canned cat food shows only 9% protein. The 26% protein and 9% protein is considered ‘as fed’ statistics. ‘As fed’ means the moisture content is considered into the statistics. To compare them fairly you need to multiply the canned protein amount times three; a rough method to consider only the nutrition of the food not the moisture. Back to our example of 9% protein in the canned food, when you remove the moisture consideration (9% times 3) you get an estimate of 27% protein in the canned food. The required minimal protein level of an adult cat food is 26%, the required minimal protein level of an adult dog food is 18%. Knowing how to properly compare the nutrition provided in a dry and canned food enables you a better means to decide which is best for your pet.
Another benefit of a canned food is a variety of meat choices. Many canned foods offer your pet some nice unusual meat protein sources; which in turn provides your pet nutritional variation. Just imagine if you had to eat chicken every day, every year, all of your life. Think how tasty a new meat would be! Plus and more importantly, each type of meat provides your pet with a different source of nutrition. If you’ve found a quality dry food but want to provide a little more variety of nutrition in your pet’s diet, offering a canned food could be just the answer. Variety as they say is the spice of life. What you don’t want to do is mix two different brands of dog food or cat food together at the same meal. If you use ABC brand dry dog food and decide to try XYZ brand canned dog food – don’t feed them mixed together at the same meal. Each company uses different types of ingredients; sometimes the body can get confused at all the different sources of protein or fat and then become overwhelmed. An ‘overwhelmed’ body could mean the dog doesn’t properly utilize the nutrition provided. If you are going to add some canned food to dry food, use the same brand of pet food. A better method of feeding both canned and dry food is canned at one meal, dry food at another meal. This method would allow you to use ABC brand and XYZ brand without any problems to the pet.
A canned pet food will stay ‘good’ for two or three days covered in the refrigerator. You do not want to give your pet the food cold right out of the fridge. Cold moist cat food or dog food doesn’t digest as well. Take the portion you intend to feed out and allow it to warm to room temperature. Any moist food at room temperature that is not consumed within an hour should be discarded.
If you are starting to see some benefits for feeding your pet both dry and canned foods but have a stubborn pet who refuses to eat it, don’t give up. Very few dogs will refuse to eat a canned food, but many cats do. That’s unfortunate because cats don’t drink enough water and the added moisture of a canned food could really benefit them. The best I can tell you is to be stubborn and keep offering it to them; little bits at a time. Some cats will just lick a little liquid from the food and walk away. Some won’t even get close enough to sniff it. Most experts feel it more of a food texture thing than cats just not liking a canned food. You can try mixing a tiny bit of canned food with a few kibbles to get them accustomed to the texture. Just a small amount of moist added to a handful of dry at first, then very slowly add more and more moist until you can offer it alone. Remember to toss any moist food (even mixed with dry) after it’s been out for an hour.
Both canned pet foods and dry pet foods have their benefits. What one lacks the other can provide. Regardless whether you feed all dry foods, all canned foods, or a combination of both – the most important issue is to feed a high quality pet food. High quality means no by-products, no chemical preservatives or dyes, a human grade or quality of meat, no imports from risky countries, and health promoting ingredients such as chelated or proteinated minerals, probiotics, antioxidants, and Omegas. Providing your pet with quality nutrition is worth the effort it might take to find it.
Wishing you and your pet(s) the best,
Pet Food Safety Advocate
Author, Buyer Beware
Co-Author Dinner PAWsible
What’s in Your Pet’s Food?
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