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Which is better for your pet - wet or dry food?

Which is better for your pet - wet or dry food?
This article contains: diet pets food pet food

Should you feed your pet wet or dry food? And what about mixing? We have the answers - plus the pros, cons, do's and don'ts - for you here. From the PetPeople magazine features archive.

Are you a wet or dry owner? After this morning's dog walk in torrential rain, I am definitely wet! But not so when it comes to feeding our Labrador Retriever Pippin. Why? Let me explain, while also looking into the relative merits of wet and dry.

Many owners regularly prepare specific food for their cat or dog, mix leftovers with commercial pet foods, or even serve up a portion of the family's meal. But can they be sure that their pet is receiving the correctly balanced diet needed for optimum health? We have very different dietary requirements from dogs, and especially from cats, who are carnivores.

Water content and freshness
It's often said of wet food that you're paying for water. This can, however, be an advantage for male cats, who may find it hard to drink enough when fed on exclusively dried food and subsequently develop bladder problems.

Wet food is fresh as soon as the can, tray or pouch is opened, or after cooking in the home. After that, though, palatability problems can arise. Cats in particular are notorious for eating the first portion, but then turning up their noses at subsequent meals because the food has gone slightly stale. Warming it a little can help - cats are hunters and used to eating their meals at body temperature. You can also freeze surplus or batch-cook home-cooked food.

Dried food is, in theory, the same for every meal. But it is important to avoid taking too long to work through a bag; once open, the food can go mouldy or be contaminated with forage mites.

Bulk buying may cut costs but is not always ideal. Dry food is often more economical than wet on a price-per-meal basis. But it is important to bear in mind the quality of ingredients when comparing prices. This is also a factor when assessing home-cooked foods, as well as the hidden costs of preparation (for example: cooker, washing up, specific utensils).

I find it easier to store a 15kg bag of dried food, which will feed Pippin for six weeks, than the equivalent number of meals in tins. Dried food can also be bought in smaller bags, which is ideal for the owner with a small dog.

Environmental concerns
I have recently been feeding two feral cats for a neighbour while she was away: a pouch and a scoop of dried food a day. But the empty pouches were not suitable for recycling so they ended up in the rubbish. Cans can be recycled, but you'll be recycling hundreds. Dried food lasting a month or so, however, can yield just one bag, which can be recycled. Home-cooked food may also involve less packaging, depending on what is cooked and where the ingredients are sourced.

Out and about
If we go out for the day, we'll take a portion of food in a bag in case we are going to be late home. More thought would be needed with home-cooked food, which should be kept refrigerated, and you might need a can opener for commercial wet food. You may not actually choose between wet and dried food, instead mixing types. Ultimately, a major influence will be your pet's digestive system: if a particular food or a varied diet results in stomach upsets then you will change accordingly to ensure good health.

Simple guidelines

  • The priority is to feed a balanced diet with high quality ingredients suitable for the species, age and good health of your pet.
  • A suitable diet can be dry or wet, commercially prepared or home-cooked, or a mix.
  • Your pet should enjoy eating, and without any subsequent upsets of his or her digestive system.
  • Supervise feeding if you own more than one dog or cat to ensure each individual can eat his or her own portion in peace; in particular, dogs love diving into cat food!
  • Establish a no-titbit rule from day one!
  • Avoid begging becoming a habit by excluding pets from the room at mealtimes, and ideally from the kitchen when preparing food.

By Alison Logan, vet and writer

Originally published in issue 3 of PetPeople, the Petplan customer magazine

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It depends on the pet and their choice. I have 2 cats. one prefers mainly dry food with a little bit of wet food, and the other prefers wet food with a little bit of dry food. Who am I to tell them what to eat! :0)
Jessica Wilkinson
I have been forking out £40 a month for the specialist Pro Plan dried food for my Dobermann. He gets very bored with it and will refuse to eat all day unless it is mixed with something more interesting like left overs. I tried him with wet food, with a dry mixture from Aldi, which will cost £20 a month and I've never seen him eat so fast. Variety is the key, I like the fact the cans come in different flavours for him and the protein content exceeds that of the Pro Plan food. I won't be going back to the expensive stuff again!
David Drew
I have two working Springer Spaniels, one is two the other is 6 months. Both live in the kennel and both are fed on raw chicken carcass (bones and all) and thrive on it. They crunch the carcass up and love every mouthful. They have two each a day when adult and three when growing. Their weight is maintained and what comes out the other end is solid and dosent smell which indicates that all of the goodness has been extracted from the food. On the other hand, many dry dog foods have wheat mixed in with it, I have never heard of wheat being part of a dogs natural diet. And again what comes out the other end is normally pretty foul. Which indicates that the dog isn't digesting it properly.When I feed my dogs I stay with them whilst they eat to make sure there are no problems, I pay £26.99 for 80 carcass which are frozen in my dog food freezer. So if you only have one dog that will last more than a month, pretty good value for money and as I say, the dogs love them!
Our cat has a mix of dry and wet good our young vet is against wet food but we noticed that our male cat was drinking a lot more and got bored with dried food, her older colleague advocates doing what is best for the cat and what they are used to. He now has a mix of both. When we have plain roast meat (chicken, lamb) or steak he gets a little titbit as a treat. Like to give him cat food to make sure he gets all his vitamins and minerals Now 15 he is well part from a slightly overactive thyroid has only lost one tooth and has a fine glossy coat and whiskers. He eats what he wants especially loves jelly. Also has catnep in the garden and regularly chills out on that!
Neither! A raw diet is best for both dogs and cats. I have two Maine Coons who are fed a raw diet, which includes bones and offal, and they are beautiful and healthy! As cats are obligate carnivores, they must eat meat. It's now very easy to purchase raw food that has the correct balance of materials in it. If you have indoor cats, you will notice that their poop doesn't smell at all!! I will now always feed raw to any of my animals :-)

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