Many owners wonder if their dog is getting enough moisture from their wet food to keep them well hydrated. It’s a great question and considering many dogs go throughout the day without drinking much water, it’s worth finding out. This article has everything you need to know
Yes, wet dog food does hydrate dogs, but in some situations, a dog still may need to drink additional fluids to be sufficiently hydrated. It’s also important to remember that not all wet food has the same moisture content.
Does wet dog food hydrate dogs?
Wet dog food has a very high moisture content. Depending on the type and brand, we’re usually talking about moisture content of 75 to 80% or so. This is a huge amount of water: for every 100g of food eaten, your dog is getting a staggering 80g of water.
When we compare this to dry food, which can have a moisture content of just 10%, we can see that wet food is far superior at keeping your dog hydrated.
When we compare those dogs who eat exclusively wet food to those who eat dry kibble, we tend to find that the kibble eaters drink much more water. This is out of necessity, as their diet contains such a small amount of moisture.
Can a dog get enough water from wet food?
In general, yes they can. The average wet food eater can get the majority of their moisture from their wet food. However, there are certain situations when this does not hold true and dogs will need extra water supplementation.
Growing puppies and older dogs have a greater need for water. We also know that those who poorly typically need more water than their diet can offer. For example, a dog with ongoing vomiting and diarrhea must drink a good deal of water to prevent dehydration.
Certain chronic medical issues also result in a dog needing to take more water in. Those with diabetes, kidney disease, and Cushing’s will drink a huge amount of water in order to prevent dehydration. For these dogs, their wet food won’t suffice.
If a healthy dog is eating their wet food as normal but doesn’t tend to drink much, this is not necessarily causing concern. Wet food can provide all the moisture some dogs need.
Can dogs survive on only wet dog food?
If you are feeding a complete wet food that is nutritionally balanced, this should meet all of a healthy adult dog’s needs. It is important to ensure it is a food approved by the AAFCO (or similar organization where you live).
Fresh water must always be available, regardless of what a dog eats.
Some owners like to give kibble, to offer some variety alongside the wet food. Dry food can also help prevent calculus build-up and minimize the risk of periodontal disease.
While it may seem ‘boring’ to feed your dog the same meal day in and day out, they really don’t need anything more.
When we are not rotating our dog’s food, it is important to keep an eye out for any recalls or product warnings. These would be published online by the food company if there ever was an issue with the food.
Remember, treats and chews can play a role in nutrition and environmental enrichment. Some chews help prevent plaque build-up. Treats can help keep your dog on side during training sessions and are a great way of praising your dog when they do well.
Pros and Cons to wet dog food
When it comes to deciding between wet food, dry food or a mix, it can be tricky to know what to feed your dog. Ultimately, it will depend on both their needs and your preferences.
Let’s take a look at both the pros and cons of a wet food diet:
- Offering a wet food diet is a good way of getting lots of fluids into your dog. This is especially important for those prone to urinary tract disorders such as cystitis or bladder stones.
- Many dogs prefer the taste of wet food and will happily eat it with little persuasion. Small dogs are the worst offenders when it comes to refusing dry kibble. It can be a relief to know your dog is going to happily eat what you put in their bowl each meal time.
- For those on a diet, wet foods are commonly the better choice. They tend to have more protein and less carbohydrates. However, do check the label as this is not always the case.
- For those owners on the hunt for a more natural and less processed food, you’ll probably find you end up giving your dog a wet food diet.
- Wet food can be messy. Breeds that have long facial fur and beards such as Schnauzers and Scottish Terriers can find it hard to keep their fur clean. Owners may find they’re spending their time cleaning and combing soggy fur.
- Wet food can cake on teeth and lead to periodontal disease. This is a particular issue for smaller breeds such as Yorkies and Chihuahuas, who are more prone to dental disease. We can help minimise this risk by ensuring we brush teeth daily.
- Wet food has a shorter shelf life than dry food and cannot be stored as efficiently. How much this will impact you will depend on your set up at home.
- Wet food is typically more costly than alternatives.
- Wet food spoils quickly, especially in warm weather. If left out, it can start to smell and attract flies.
Don’t forget, it doesn’t have to be an “all or nothing”. Many owners will choose to mix feed, offering a bit of both.
This may mean giving meals consisting of both wet and dry, or varying what you give depending on the mealtime.
If you are considering changing what you feed your dog, it is very important that this is not done too abruptly. A diet change that is made too fast can lead to vomiting and diarrhea.
When changing your dog’s diet, do so over the course of 5 to 7 days. On day one, we would offer about 10% of the new food and 90% of the old food. As long as your dog remains well each day, continue to alter the amounts given until they are eating just the new diet.
Other ways to help hydrate a dog that won’t drink
If your dog is not a big drinker but you are not keen to offer wet food, there are plenty of other ways to increase their water intake.
It can sometimes seem like a constant battle to get your dog to take in enough water. Many owners find themselves obsessing over it. Keep in mind though, unless your dog is unwell, they are unlikely to be dehydrated.
Dogs are very good at maintaining their fluid levels, as long as there are no underlying medical issues. If your dog has wet gums, is energetic, and is acting normal, we don’t need to worry too much about their water intake.
In some cases, your vet may advise that your dog needs to drink more. This may be because they have diarrhea or vomiting or they are prone to kidney or bladder issues.
There are lots of ways to encourage your dog to take in more water including:
- Offering ice cubes. This is an especially good idea in the summer as they can also help keep your dog cool and prevent heat stroke. We can flavour the cubes with dog safe fruits and broths to make them even more appealing.
- Water fountains that create a constant supply of running water can be more appealing to dogs than bowls of stagnant water. They mimic more closely how dogs would drink in the wild.
- We can add a few tablespoons of warm water to our dog’s meals. Not only will this mean they drink more water, it can also create a tasty ‘gravy’.
- There are rehydration solutions available online, from some larger supermarkets, pet stores and vets. These are specifically made to help rehydrate dogs. They taste better than water so are more likely to be accepted.
- Always ensure water is clean and fresh. Bowls should be cleaned out daily. Some dogs will have a preference for a certain bowl e.g. ceramic over metal.
- Offer your dog water. Don’t worry if they say no but you may be surprised at how often they say yes! This is especially true of younger pups who can get distracted by toys or games.
- Of course, the easiest thing to do is to ensure your dog is on a 100% wet diet. This way, you know that about 3/4s of what they ingest is water.
The Bottom Line
Wet food is a great way of providing your dog with the fluids, calories, and nutrients they need each day. There are pros and cons to feeding a wet food diet and it may not be the best option for all.
If you’re struggling to get enough water into your dog, offering a wet diet is one of the easiest ways of doing this.