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We know choosing the best wet dog food for your furry friend can be a tough decision.
The options are endless and there’s so much information out there about what’s good and what you should avoid... it’s not surprising if you’re wondering, “How am I supposed to make sense of it all?”
Lucky for you, this guide is a complete source of information for all of your wet dog food-related questions! In this article we’ll explain what you should look for in canned dog food, how wet food is prepared, the pros and cons, and answer the 8 most frequently asked questions about a wet food diet.
Keep reading to also see our recommendations for the top 10 best canned dog foods, with options to suit the needs of all dogs.
Our Top Wet Dog Food Picks of 2020
Best wet food for large breeds
Gentle Giants 90% Chicken
Best Senior Wet Dog Food
Canidae’s Platinum Less Active
Best Wet Dog Food for Puppies
AvoDerm Chicken Vegetable Stew
Best Affordable Wet Dog Food
American Journey Chicken & Turkey
Best Wet Dog Food for Sensitive Stomach
Merrick’s Limited Diet Turkey
Best Wet Dog Food for Allergies
Nature’s Logic Canine Rabbit Feast
Best Wet Dog Food for Small Breeds
Halo Holistic Grain-Free Small Breed Turkey and Duck
Best Canned Dog Food for Weight Loss
I and Love and You Lambarama
Best Low Sodium Wet Dog Food
Dave’s Pet Food Restricted Sodium Chicken Recipe
Best Canned Food with Grains
Go! Daily Defense Whitefish & Salmon
To get started, here are the main things you’ll want to consider when choosing a wet diet for your pet dog.
Ingredients lists start with the items used in the greatest amount first. This goes for human and pet food labels.
When you’re looking at ingredients lists for wet dog food, make sure that whole protein is the first listed ingredient. Protein is an important building block for your pet’s nutrition, and if it’s first on the list that means it’s the primary ingredient in the recipe.
If a meat by-product is listed as the first ingredient in a wet dog food, it’s low quality.
Several high profile cat and dog food recalls involving ingredients imported from China (like the Melamine recall of 2007) have pet owners on high alert regarding ingredient sourcing.
Many owners focus on companies that source ingredients and manufacture exclusively in the USA, but a recent article published by Pet Product News explains that ‘made in USA’ isn’t always best.
Sometimes internationally sourced ingredients and manufacturing are better. Lamb from New Zealand is excellent, for example. Different countries specialize in certain ingredients and may have higher quality and safety standards than some manufacturers in the USA.
According to a post by Taste of the Wild, artificial colorings have a dark past which is why many people distrust them.
The first ingredients used for artificial coloring contained toxins like lead, mercury, and arsenic that made people sick. Today, the FDA closely regulates color additives that can be used in human and pet food.
Although allergies to artificial colors and flavorings are rare, they happen.
Dogs are colorblind and artificial colors don’t add nutritional value to their food. They’re just added to catch owners’ eyes and increase sales.
Many brands are using alternative ingredients like beet juice and turmeric to add color to food now. In 2019, Petco announced that they would no longer sell pet foods containing artificial colors, flavors, or preservatives after May 2019 to help lead the industry in this change.
Another ingredient to look out for is carrageenan, a harmful additive found in 70% of canned pet food. It’s commonly used in pet food as a thickening agent and stabilizer.
Peer-reviewed studies have shown that carrageenan causes intestinal inflammation that can lead to cancer, which is why owners should avoid it. This applies even to small doses.
Here are some other pet food fillers to avoid.
Meat, poultry, and fish by-products, corn and rice bran, oat hulls, cereal by-products, soybean hulls, peanut hulls, wheat mill run, citrus pulp, grain fermentation soluble, modified cornstarch, propelyne glycol (found in anti-freeze and shampoo products as a solvent), ethoxyquin (a preservative which does more harm than good), F D&C Blue No. 2 (artificial food dyes), salt, BHT and BHA (preservatives) and cottonseed hulls.
Before coming to a final decision on your dog’s wet food, you should make sure the food suits your dog’s needs as an individual. Many formulas are made for all life stages, which is convenient if you have a dog with no health issues.
However, that’s not the case for a lot of dogs. For example, some dogs require a low-sodium diet, recommended by their vet due to kidney, liver, or heart disease. Other dogs have allergies or sensitive digestion, so they need food with fewer ingredients and no allergens. Senior dogs often require a lower fat diet because they’re less active.
It’s important not to feed a puppy adult food or a senior dog food formula, since they are made to support different stages of growth and may cause health problems if fed to your dog at the wrong stage. If you need to alter your dog’s diet due to a health issue, your vet can recommend a food and monitor your dog to ensure a smooth transition.
Before starting your dog on a new brand of wet food, check to see if they’ve had any recent recalls or recalls in the past. Too many recalls can suggest that a company has had shaky quality control. One recall isn’t usually much to worry about, since it shows responsibility on the company’s part to be honest and rectify the situation.
You may have heard that the FDA is investigating claims that certain dog foods (including grain-free diets) are linked to a heart disease in dogs called dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM). The issue was first reported on July 12, 2018, with a third FDA status report released on June 27, 2019. So far, the results are unclear.
So far, there have been no recalls on grain-free brands since affected dogs ate different foods, including wet, dry, raw, grain-free, and grain-inclusive foods.
Meat meals are healthy for dogs because they take whole meat and render it into a concentrated protein powder, without all the extra moisture. Just keep in mind that not all meat meals are the same quality, with some being very bad for dogs.
If a company does not name the source of protein the meal is from, or the ingredient includes the word ‘by-product(s)’, you should stay away.
For example, if you see something like ‘beef meal’, ‘chicken meal’, or ‘lamb meal’ in a recipe (and real meat is the first ingredient), you’re good! If you see ‘meat meal’, ‘animal meal’, or ‘chicken by-product meal’, you know the company is settling for cheaper, less nutritious ingredients.
Wet dog food was one of the first kinds of food available for dogs that wasn’t their owners’ leftovers. It’s still a popular choice today, but some owners have switched to dry food or raw diets for their dogs due to things like affordability and personal preference.
Wet food is made is by first blending the ingredients together and then cooking them. Once cooked, the food is portioned out and vacuum sealed into containers. As a final safety measure, the containers are heat sterilized.
Exact methods vary from company to company, but during sterilizing you can typically expect temperatures over 100 degrees Celsius for periods up to 90 minutes. Pro raw feeding owners believe that such high temperature levels are likely to damage some of the naturally-occurring nutrients contained within the food.
This ensures that your dog’s food remains safe and sterile starting with manufacturing all the way through to delivery and of course, when your dog is eating it.
Here are the main pros and cons to feeding a wet diet to your dog.
Gentle Giants 90% chicken grain-free canned dog food is ideal for large breeds because it’s made with 90% juicy chicken, a healthy source of protein for lean and healthy muscles.
In addition to real chicken, this formula which is one out 4 canned recipes, is made with non-GMO fruits and veggies like chickpeas, cranberries, blueberries, apples, pumpkin, and sweet potatoes. Dandelion greens are added to support dogs’ liver and gastrointestinal health, while green lipped mussels from New Zealand provide glucosamine and chondroitin for joint support.
Other vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants are included for complete nutrition. Salmon oil serves as a healthy source of Omega fatty acids for skin and coat health.
This wet food is vet approved and made for all breeds and sizes. Dogs with sensitive tummies (an issue common to larger breeds) do well on this food because it contains no fillers, corn, wheat, soy, or grains. It is tasty though, so picky eaters tend to eat it over other foods their owners have tried before. Owners have also seen improvements in their dogs’ energy and joint health after switching to Gentle Giants.
Canidae’s Platinum Less Active is a vet-formulated wet food that’s perfect for senior dogs who need to be on a low-fat diet.
Although this food is made to support all life stages, it is especially beneficial to older dogs and overweight dogs who are not very active. The company’s one-recipe-serves-all approach is ideal for multi-dog households or for owners who want their dog to be on the same food from puppyhood to old age.
This pate is slow cooked in broth using only premium ingredients, making a great tasting and nutritionally dense meal for your beloved pet. The protein in this recipe comes from chicken, lamb, and fish, along with added vitamins and minerals. Owners can rest assured that there is no corn, wheat, soy, or chicken by-product meal in this canned dog food.
Canidae is a family-owned company that prides itself on its’ uncompromised quality. The ingredients used to make the Platinum Less Active formula are all carefully chosen and human grade, which is why many owners choose it for their pups.
AvoDerm Chicken & Vegetable Stew is our top choice of canned food for puppies because of its natural, high quality ingredients and nutrient-rich recipe.
Puppies love this stew, which has meat and vegetables you can see plus added vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants for immune support. Other hearty ingredients include chicken broth, potatoes, carrots, peas, cranberries, and blueberries.
California avocados are included as a superfood source of Omega 3 and 6 fatty acids, giving dogs healthy skin and coats. Cod and flax seed are also sources of these fatty acids. This recipe is grain free, with no wheat, corn or soy ingredients, and has been breeders’ choice since 1947.
AvoDerm sources most of its ingredients from North America, with select ingredients being imported by trusted suppliers in places like lamb from New Zealand, duck from France, and tapioca powder from Thailand. This food is naturally preserved with mixed tocopherols to help maintain freshness and the flavor that dogs love.
If you want to feed your dog the best but you’re on a tight budget, American Journey Chicken and Turkey is an excellent choice.
Made with real chicken and turkey in a savory chicken broth, this recipe is packed with quality protein for lean muscles and great taste. Made in a pate, this wet food is manufactured in the USA using the world’s finest ingredients from only trusted sources. It contains no poultry by-product meal, grains, corn, wheat, soy, or artificial colors, flavors, and preservatives
What this recipe does contain is balanced nutrition with important amino acids, along with Omega fatty acids for skin and coat health. Vitamins and minerals are added to support the body’s systems. Some other quality ingredients included in this formula are chicken liver, flaxseed, potatoes, and fish oil. Fish oil is an exceptionally bio-available source of EPA and DHA type Omega fatty acids.
Owners can rest assured that American Journey is packaged in BPA-free cans. Owners love that this food contains wholesome ingredients and is a little more affordable than similar alternatives.
Merrick’s Limited Diet Turkey grain-free recipe is a great canned food for dogs with food sensitivities and sensitive stomachs, since the ingredients don’t include common dog allergy triggers.
This pate contains no grains, dairy, egg, corn, gluten, potato, or artificial colors, flavors, and preservatives. It also contains a single source of animal protein with the first ingredient being real deboned turkey. The recipe uses easily digestible carbs in addition to ensuring that necessary amino acids, vitamins, and minerals for a healthy, happy pup.
Aside from turkey, the main ingredients in this recipe are turkey broth, turkey liver, and protein-rich dried peas. This formula also uses flaxseed as a source of Omega fatty acids to promote healthy skin and coats.
Owners love this wet dog food because it is formulated with healthy digestion as a priority. Merrick’s food is made in Texas by a team with over 25 years of experience. Their food is made in small batches to ensure quality and freshness, with just 8 key ingredients and none of the yucky stuff found in other foods.
Nature’s Logic Canine Rabbit Feast is the best grain-free wet food for dogs with allergies because of its unique rabbit protein and 100% natural, whole foods recipe.
This recipe contains no synthetic vitamins or artificial colors, flavors, and preservatives. It is also free from grain, gluten, MSG, carrageenan, hydrolyzed protein, corn, wheat, rice, soy, tapioca, peas, and potatoes. Basically, any ingredient that’s controversial or known to trigger allergies is kept out of this wholesome formula, which is made for all life stages.
Some great ingredients included in this recipe are easy to digest natural eggshell calcium and animal plasma. They include herring oil for its Omega fatty acids, along with dried fruits and vegetables like apple, apricot, blueberry, broccoli, carrot, and pumpkin.
Nature’s Logic is highly palatable, low carb, and nutrient dense. Owners of dogs with tummy issues from allergies can trust this food to be easy on their pet’s digestive system. Dogs with skin problems like itchiness and dryness from allergies also see improvements on this canned food. With 90% animal ingredients, this food has what your dog needs to live a happy, energetic life.
Halo Grain-Free Small Breed Turkey & Duck recipe is an exceptional food for small breed dogs with extra protein to sustain their high metabolism and energy needs.
One great thing about this company is that if your dog doesn’t like their food after 14 days, you can get your money back. This food is made in the USA by a team with over 30 years of experience, and uses healthy whole ingredients like turkey and duck, plus non-GMO peas and carrots. Since this is a wet food it compliments your dog’s hydration and contains fatty acids for healthy skin and coat.
Owners love that this food is easy for their little friends to digest and does not contain any artificial colors, flavors, or preservatives. This food also comes in a BPA-free can with no meat meal in the recipe. Vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants are included in the formula for whole body health and immune system support.
I and Love and You Lambarama is a great canned food for dogs looking to lose weight, with whole veggies and lamb as a lean source of healthy protein.
This canned food is more of a stew than a pate and is grain-free. Ideal for all breeds and ages, this food is great for multidog households. It does not contain carrageenan, ‘weird’ fillers, additives, by-products, corn, wheat, soy, or artificial ingredients. What is in this food is a whole lot of goodness, from carrots and low-glycemic sweet potatoes to cranberries and spinach jam packed with antioxidants.
This high protein food was formulated by holistic veterinarians to meet all your dog’s needs while also helping them lose and maintain a healthy weight. Other ingredients added to this recipe are flaxseed oil as a source of Omega fatty acids to give dogs healthy skin and a shiny coat, as well as essential vitamins and minerals.
The company that makes this product is a founding member of the Pet Industry Sustainability Coalition. Their corporate headquarters is 100% wind-powered and they always try to lead the way in industry sustainability practices.
Dave’s Pet Food Restricted Sodium Chicken Recipe is a highly recommended canned food that meets the needs of dogs on a special diet due to kidney, liver, or heart disease.
The number one ingredient is this USA-made recipe is real chicken, which is rich in protein for the development and maintenance of strong, lean muscle. This food is fortified with vitamins and minerals to keep your dog healthy, and does not contain any grain, carrageenan, fillers, or by-products.
Dogs love that this food is moist and deliciously flavorful. Many low sodium dog foods are unappealing, but this one seems to appeal to a lot of pups. This food can be used on its own or as a topper for dry food. Owners have seen improvements in their senior dogs with heart problems after switching to this specialty canned food.
The best grain-inclusive canned food is Go! Daily Defense Whitefish & Salmon because it is a premium quality, all life stages recipe.
This pate is packed with healthy protein ingredients like salmon, whitefish, turkey. Nutritionist recommended, the recipe contains everything dogs need to thrive from fruits and vegetables to Omega fatty acids and antioxidants for immune support. Go! believes in preventative care for our dogs, using ingredients that keep them strong and healthy.
Keeping your dog healthy also means excluding ingredients like by-product meals, added growth hormones, artificial preservatives, wheat, corn, and soy that can trigger allergies and other health conditions. Owners love that this formula is not as smelly as other fish-based canned foods, and several have reported that their dogs with sensitive stomachs improve on this food.
A: Every canned food is different so there is no simple answer to this question that applies to all foods. The best thing is to check the packaging on your dog’s food for the ‘Recommended Feeding Amounts’. Start with the suggestion based on your dog’s weight and go from there.
You may need to adjust based on your dog’s individual needs and activity levels, adding more for active dogs or feeding a little less to dogs who are more sedentary.
A. This question isn’t simple either, at least not at first. You can’t just compare the two by weight, so how do you know you’re feeding your dog enough wet food?
The answer: calorie content.
If you’re switching to wet food from dry you can figure it out fairly easily. If your dog is on a dry food that’s 400kcals/cup (or 100 calories per ¼ cup), and you feed them X amount of cups per day, figure out how much wet food it will take to feed your dog the same amount of calories they’re used to having with their dry food.
A. Once opened, unused portions of canned dog food can last in the fridge for three to five days. To avoid the growth of bacteria, uneaten portions should be refrigerated after four hours.
A. Opened canned dog food should be stored covered in the fridge where the low temperature will keep bacteria from growing. Wet food can also be frozen, but you should remove it from it’s original can and place it in a freezer safe container first.
One general rule of thumb you can follow is that 3oz of wet food replaces ¼ cup of dry food. Of course, you should make sure that between the two your dog is getting enough calories, and that both the dry and wet foods are for the same life stage to make sure your dog is getting the proper nutrition.
From there, you can play around with adding a little more (or less) wet food to get the taste and consistency that your dog will enjoy.
Did you know that you can make healthy, homemade dog treats with just canned food? This recipe by Hill’s Pet is very easy to follow:
- Remove pate from can
- Cut into ¼ inch slices, then cut into bite-size pieces
- Baked on high in a microwave for 2 ½ to 3 minutes
- Store in the fridge for 5 - 7 days
Keep in mind that you should not freeze these treats or feed them as more than 10% of your dog’s daily food intake, since the heat can affect the nutritional value of the food.
A: No, it is not a good idea to give your cat wet dog food. Cats are carnivores by obligation, meaning they need a diet that is quite high in protein. Their digestive system does not support a lot of the ingredients in wet dog food like added grains, fruits, and vegetables.
To soften dry dog food, start with the amount of dry you would normally use, and then add about the same amount of water or broth. If the liquid is warm, the kibble will absorb It quickly. If it is cold, or room temperature, it may take several hours for the food to absorb the moisture. Next, you mush the food info a pate-like consistency.
If this doesn’t work for your dog, you can also mix wet and dry food to make the dry more appealing.