There is always some confusion between pet owners about whether wet or dry food is best. Many studies have been carried out over the years and various people have argued in favour of one or the other, but no overall conclusion has been reached. Animal Friends has therefore created a quick guide to help you make an informed decision about the type of food you should buy for your pet.
Canned, wet food is often favoured for its high moisture, protein and fat content. Despite this, there are various negatives that you need to bear in mind when choosing your pet’s food.
Wet food has a lot of moisture, which makes digestion easier and is particularly beneficial for dogs and cats that don’t drink a lot of water. It is also good for the kidneys. Wet food usually has a greater meat content than dry food, arguably making it more appealing for dogs and cats because of their carnivorous instincts. The richer scent helps ill animals to taste what they are eating, whilst providing a way for them to receive all of the vital nutrients they require. There is also more protein and fat than carbohydrates in wet food, which dogs and cats need a lot of to remain healthy. Wet food doesn’t usually contain any or many artificial preservatives because they are preserved by the tin they are kept in, plus they tend to have fewer artificial flavours and colours than dry food. In warmer weather or when an animal is ill, wet food provides the extra moisture they need. Furthermore, its soft texture makes chewing easier for those with dental problems such as missing teeth.
Wet food can’t be left out for long periods of time because it loses its shelf life as soon as the can is opened. Bacteria can begin to grow on it, so it needs to be refrigerated if not eaten straight away. Thickening agents sometimes used in wet food have been known to cause digestive problems for the animals that eat them, and there has been some argument that this type of food causes dental problems such as gingivitis. Additionally, it tends to be more expensive than its dry counterpart.
There are many reasons why dry food is good for your pet. However, you still need to consider the reasons why some are opposed to this type of pet food.
Not only does it satisfy a dog’s need to chew, it has been said that dry food can benefit their teeth by removing plaque and tartar, although this is widely contested. Other types have been formulated to clean animals’ teeth when they chew it. It is usually thought to be cheaper, especially when feeding multiple pets in a household, and easier to store because it doesn’t go off in the same way wet food does once opened. It can also be left out for long periods of time, which is particularly useful if you are going away and leaving a cat alone, as they can return to the food as and when they need to. However, it can go a bit stale in such instances.
Dry food usually has more carbohydrates than protein and fat as opposed to wet food, and its lack of meat chunks is said to make it less appealing. It also tends to include more artificial flavours and colours, as well as a higher number of preservatives. The lack of moisture in dry food means the pet will not gain the necessary amount needed in warmer temperatures, whilst soaking in water can cause it to spoil. Additionally, dry food can sometimes be sprayed with unhealthy animal fat and can also be high in gluten.
Raw feeding is a very controversial form of nourishment for domestic pets. Effectively, carnivorous or omnivorous pets are fed a diet of raw meats, organs, bones and bird eggs which are either served whole or pulverised. Raw foods are available pre-prepared, and usually frozen, or owners can buy the recommended meats themselves. There are slightly different versions and theories behind the proportions of meat, organ and bone that should be provided and whether or not these meats should be served au naturel or partially processed. Generally, the pre-prepared commercial raw foods are in a meat patty style and are balanced for optimal nutritional ratios. Most home-prepared raw meals follow a style called “Frankenprey” or “prey model” which aims to emulate the proportions of meat, organ and bone they would consume if they were a wildcat or wolf.
What supporters say
The theory behind it is that food should be as natural and unprocessed as possible to promote optimum health in our pets. Those who support this method argue that it mimics the food that their pets’ wild ancestors would have enjoyed, and that raw feeding allows their bodies to process food for better nutrition and overall wellbeing. Raw feeding is popular amongst owners who are suspicious of commercial pet food production, or whose pets are suffering from allergies that could be linked to the food they eat. Some raw-feeding owners claim that their pets have experienced huge improvements in their mental and physical health after switching to raw food.
Owners who choose raw feeding over kibble or canned foods can enjoy feeling that they have more awareness and control concerning their pets’ diets. With raw feeding what you see is what you get, as there are no confusing labels or worryingly generic ingredients like “by-products”, which could be anything from beaks and feathers to trotters and skin.
What detractors say
Those who oppose raw feeding point out that pets, particularly dogs, have been domesticated for a very long time. Though they are descended from wolves and wildcats, they are now diverged species and their digestive systems have adapted to make the most of more conventional canned or dry foods. They feel that feeding pets bones, even raw ones, is a choking hazard, and chewing bones can lead to broken teeth and sore gums. Even when swallowed, bones and bone fragments can cause lacerations to the throat and digestive tract, and can even lead to gastric blockages. What’s more, if handled improperly, raw meat can carry harmful bacteria such as E.coli and salmonella, and intensively-reared meats can contain artificial levels of hormones and chemicals.
While low-budget, low-quality pet foods often contain poor nutrition and questionable ingredients, premium foods are expertly balanced to make sure your dog or cat is getting the right amount of vitamins, minerals and nutrition. A pet food that is tailored to their breed, size and life stage will cater to their nutritional requirements, and shouldn’t contain any harmful bacteria. It is worth noting, however, that some pets are sensitive to sugar, corn and its derivatives and/or gluten, all of which are used as ingredients in many dog foods. If you buy the best pet food you can afford, you should be able to provide a meal that’s well-balanced and healthful.
Should I try raw feeding my pet?
Ultimately the decision lies with you as their owner. There are arguments for and against raw feeding which are compelling. It’s crucial to do plenty of research and to weigh up both sides of the argument. It’s also worth speaking to your vet to see what they would advise. Don’t assume that raw feeding is the only option if your pet is intolerant to gluten, corn or any other ingredients commonly used in commercial pet foods; there are manufacturers who create hypoallergenic kibbles, treats and canned foods.
Whichever type of food you decide to give to your pet, always observe the label for further information. Look at the meat content, and try to stay away from any food that contains substitutes for actual meat. Bear in mind that you need to find something that will provide your pet with the appropriate balance of key nutrients. If you are unsure about which type of food would be best for them, why not mix both wet and dry food together? That way, your pet won’t have to go without one in favour of the other.
Consult your vet for more information regarding nutrition, as they will be able to give you advice according to the breed, age and size of your pet. Since each animal has different dietary requirements based on many factors, what is right for one may not necessarily be the best option for another.