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Is wet or dry food better for diabetic dogs?

Wet vs. Dry Dog Food

Dry Dog Food

Dry dog food, often called kibble, is cheaper and more convenient than wet dog food (a.k.a., canned food). However, wet foods are usually more nutritious, and canned varieties are more carefully regulated. Both wet and dry dog foods have major pros and cons, so choosing between the two will often come down to an individual dog’s dietary needs.

Comparison chart

Nutritional Content

Adult dogs benefit from a low-carb diet that is high in animal proteins and fats, such as beef liver, turkey meal, and/or chicken fat. Ingredient quality varies significantly by dog food brand, with some manufacturers using good meals or fats, and others using questionably-sourced animal byproducts. [1]

Wet dog food is generally more nutritious, low-carb, and low-calorie, when compared to dry dog food. Canned food tends to have almost two times as much animal fat and protein, both of which are good for a dog’s health. And an ounce of dry dog food contains nearly four times as many calories as an ounce of wet food — around 97 calories and 25 calories, respectively. [2]

Canned food comes with a few other additional benefits: High moisture content — 74-82% compared to dry food’s 10-12% — makes dogs feel «fuller.» The canning process also preserves flavor and means wet dog food is subject to canned food regulations that set processing standards and limit the use of preservatives, artificial flavoring, and artificial coloring.

For one veterinarian’s take on fresh food vs. dry food vs. wet or canned food, watch the video below.

Convenience and Freshness

Dry food is much more convenient than wet food. A resealable bag or container of kibble can be kept for months, or until the product expires; similarly, kibble remains edible in a bowl for hours on end. Significant cleanup following dry dog food feeding is rarely required. Wet food, in contrast, cannot be left in a bowl for hours on end, and it can be messier. Keeping it can be trickier, too, especially when containers do not come with a resealable top. Canned food must be refrigerated after opening and needs to be used within a few days of the first serving.

Health Effects of Wet vs. Dry Dog Food

Just as every human is slightly different, so, too, is every dog. What works for the health of one animal may not work as well or at all for another.

Dental Health

A common concern when it comes to wet or canned dog food is how it affects canine dental health. Dry dog food proponents argue that wet dog food gets stuck in a dog’s teeth, and that the crunchy-hardness of kibble helps to clean teeth naturally. Wet dog food proponents tend to say that it may be true that kibble scrapes away plaque, but that the starchy ingredients found in dry dog food cause additional plaque buildup, negating positives.

It is difficult to determine which camp is right, as this debate exists not only among dog owners, but also among veterinarians. Generally, vets and trainers recommend regular dental cleaning at home (brushing and/or dental chews) and deep cleaning with a vet once or twice a year.

There is a third group within this debate: those who believe in raw-feeding their dogs by giving them uncooked meats and bones. Raw-food proponents, who point to dogs’ evolutionary history as evidence in support for raw-feeding, often report never needing to clean their dogs’ teeth, as meaty bones do the work for them. There are pros and cons to raw-feeding, however, and many pet owners prefer the convenience and cost effectiveness of dry or canned foods.

Weight Control

Though numerous low-calorie/low-carb weight control dry foods exist, it is hard to beat the calorie and carb counts of wet dog food, primarily due to the high moisture content of canned food. However, some veterinarians will prescribe a particular type of dry food, depending on a dog’s health issues, so if weight gain (or loss) is a concern, it is best to check with a vet before putting a dog on any particular diet. Sudden weight loss or gain may indicate another underlying health problem.

Is Grain-Free Food Better?

In recent years, the presence of wheat and cereal grains in dog foods, particularly dry varieties, has received a lot of negative press. In response, the pet food industry now produces many «grain-free» foods, both wet and dry. These foods are often marketed as being more «natural» or «organic» as well, with the implication being that dog foods with grain are unhealthy. Some have also expressed concern that dogs may suffer from wheat intolerance or allergies, similar to those found in humans.

Research, however, has not found grain-free foods to be better universally. Many grain-free products replace wheat or cereal grains with other types starches (e.g., potato or tapioca) that may or may not be healthier. [3] Food allergies in dogs are different from those found in humans, too. Grains, for instance, are rarely food allergens for dogs, while beef and dairy are some of the most common. [4]

Some dogs will benefit from a grain-free diet, or, even more so, from an owner figuring out which ingredient is causing digestive upset or other health issues (as it may not be the grain). When it comes to wet vs. dry dog food, wet food will almost always have fewer grains and more proteins.


Dry dog foods are much cheaper than canned dog foods.

Popular Dry vs. Canned Dog Food Cost Comparisons

  • A 30 lb bag of dry Taste of the Wild costs $47 on Amazon, compared to twelve 13.2 oz cans (i.e., 10 lbs) of wet Taste of the Wild for $43. Each pound of canned food is $2.73 more expensive.
  • A 35 lb bag of dry Kibble ‘n Bits costs $20 on Amazon, compared to $18 for twenty-four 13.2 oz cans (i.e., 20 lbs) of wet Kibble ‘n Bits food. Each pound of canned food is 33 cents more expensive.
  • A 26 lb bag of dry Wellness CORE costs $56 on Amazon, compared to $27 for twelve 12.5 oz cans (i.e., 9 lbs) of wet Wellness CORE food. Each pound of canned food is 85 cents more expensive.
  • A 35 lb bag of dry Purina Pro Plan costs $35 on Amazon, compared to just over $14 for twelve 13 oz cans (i.e., 10 lbs) of wet Purina Pro Plan food. Each pound of canned food is 40 cents more expensive.

Note: These are simplified conversions, as dry ounces are different from fluid ounces, and different dog foods have different daily feeding recommendations.

Government Regulation and Recalls

«There is no requirement that pet foods have pre-market approval by FDA. The Act does require that pet foods, like human foods, be safe to eat, produced under sanitary conditions, contain no harmful substances, and be truthfully labeled. Additionally, canned pet foods must be processed in conformance with low acid canned food regulations.» —From the FDA’s pet food regulation policy

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) ensures the ingredients of pet food are «generally recognized as safe,» but pet food is not as carefully regulated as human food. Some additives, food coloring, labeling, and ingredient lists are regulated, especially in wet canned foods, which are subject to additional canned food regulations. The FDA also regulates specific claims, particularly any related to health maintenance or concerns (e.g., «maintains urinary tract health» or «glucose control»).

Even so, most dog foods include ingredients that require no pre-market approval, meaning the pet food industry is largely self-regulating. This lack of oversight means that hard-to-define or test terms, such as «organic,» «natural,» and «grain-free,» may not mean much and may sometimes represent clever marketing efforts only.

Since 2007, pet food labeling has been regulated more closely, spurring a major increase in dog and cat food recalls. See also the 2007 pet food recalls that resulted after numerous animal deaths.

Choosing a Dog Food

Dogs are similar to humans, in that their dietary needs change depending on age, body type, activity level, and any existing health concerns (e.g., diabetes). Puppies that have been removed from their mother, for example, must be given wet dog food to accommodate weaker teeth, and preferably one specially formulated for early development.

Adult dogs are highly adaptable to a wide range of foods and will rarely have obvious negative reactions to a food, whether it is wet or dry. However, «no negative reaction» does not necessarily mean «healthy,» and concerned pet owners will benefit from discussing their dog’s diet with veterinarians and trainers.

Switching Dog Foods

Some dogs experience digestive problems when switching to a new food with very different ingredients. For this reason, veterinarians often recommend slowly introducing dogs to any new food, usually by mixing the new and old food together for a few days. If a dog has had a bad reaction to a food, though, the animal should be switched to a new food immediately, and severe reactions should be reported to a veterinarian as soon as possible. [5]

History of Dog Food

Manufactured wet and dry dog foods are relatively new pet products, preceded only by the dog biscuit, which was created in the mid-1800s. Canned dog food was not introduced to the American market until the 1920s, and kibble in its current form has only been manufactured and sold since the 1950s. [6][7] Prior to the development of these products, people usually fed their dogs table scraps, particularly meaty bones.


  • Best Dog Food Choices — WebMD
  • The History of Pet Food — Sojos
  • Pet Food —
  • What is Grain Free Pet Food, Really? — petMD
  • Wikipedia: Dog food

Dogs with Diabetes – The Right Food

Dog with diabetes

All dog owners are initially shocked when “diabetes mellitus” is diagnosed. However, the good news is that your dog can nevertheless lead a long, healthy and happy life with an adapted diet and the right care and rearing.

How do I recognise if my dog has diabetes?

It’s not at all easy to recognise if dogs have diabetes – after all, very few dog owners have discussed the issue of diabetes with the vet prior to the diagnosis. Hence, the symptoms for diabetes are often not connected to the disease whatsoever or too late. The same applies as for most illnesses though: the sooner it is recognised, the better the chances of treating it.

Consequently, you should observe your dog closely and take it for regular check-ups. The better you know your dog and its behaviour, the sooner you can recognise alterations. For instance, symptoms of diabetes can be increased thirst, urinating or vomiting frequently, apathy or cataracts. Depending on the stage of the disease, your dog’s appetite can also increase or decrease significantly.

If you’ve established that your dog is showing signs of change – be it with its eating or exercise habits – you shouldn’t hesitate to contact your vet. Unrecognised diabetes can lead to severe secondary ailments, such as urinary tract infections, cataracts or grey star, which can ultimately make the dog go blind. Targeted examinations allow the vet to reliably determine whether diabetes is present and if so, in what form. If the result is positive, your vet will put together a special care and diet plan for your dog and give you tips as to what extent you have to alter your previous diet and rearing arrangements.

What are the causes of canine diabetes?

The causes of diabetes sometimes remain a mystery even to the vet, so it’s not always possible to fully clarify why exactly your dog has ended up with the disease. However, there are a few factors that demonstrably facilitate the onset of diabetes. First of all, the dog’s age and sex. Although both male and female and young and old dogs can suffer from diabetes, statistics show that females and older males are affected frequently in comparison. Some breeds are also more susceptible to diabetes, including Rottweilers, Miniature Schnauzers, Toy Poodles, Yorkshire Terriers and Pugs. In addition, both infectious diseases affecting the abdominal cavity and pancreas and hormonal alterations due to certain medication are further causes of diabetes. It is also diagnosed relatively frequently amongst overweight dogs.

Here is a summary of typical causes of canine diabetes:

  1. Age and Sex
  2. Breed — Some are more susceptible to diabetes
  3. Infectious diseases
  4. Hormonal alterations due to certain medications
  5. Obesity

Diabetes diagnosis – what now?

If your vet has diagnosed your dog with diabetes, you naturally first need to process this news. But look at it positively: you know now what’s wrong with your dog and with targeted therapy and an altered diet can help your four-legged friend to soon get better. Treatment with insulin or tablets alone isn’t sufficient for diabetes. This means that you have to change some habits and adapt your daily routine to life with a diabetic dog. However, a lot of what will still be unusual and problematic at the start, such as insulin injections, will get easier with time and will soon become routine.

How do I adapt my dog’s diet?

It’s impossible to give a general answer regarding the best food for diabetic dogs, as is also the case when enquiring about the best food for healthy animals. Dogs are very diverse and have equally different needs. Large dogs have different energy and nutrient requirements to small dogs, athletic dogs have different needs to “lapdogs” and elderly dogs to puppies. Hence, the right food for your diabetic dog depends on its age, breed, weight, sex and activity level. In order to determine the ideal diet for your dog, you should definitely seek advice from your vet or a canine nutrition expert.

Nevertheless, it helps to know which ingredients are inherently good for your diabetic dog and which are best avoided. As a result, the food – regardless of whether it is wet, dry or self-prepared – should be rich in high-quality proteins and fibre, such as raw fibre made from guar or wheat bran. Since fibre slows down the process of sugar transferring to the blood, it helps to keep the blood sugar level stable. In contrast, carbohydrates and particularly fats are both hard to digest and also lead to weight gain, thus should be reduced considerably. Caution should also be exercised with fruit, which often contains too much fructose. Sugar, sweeteners or even goodies are generally taboo.

How to determine the right diet for you dog:

  1. Consider age, breed, weight, sex and activity level
  2. Seek help from a vet
  3. Generally food should be rich in high-quality protein and fibre

Which foods to avoid:

  1. Carbohydrates
  2. Specific fats
  3. Fruit
  4. Sugars, sweeteners, specific treats

Again, this all depends on your dog and every dog is different.

Pay attention to frequency

Rules as to when and how food should be consumed are just as important as the right ingredients. A well-ordered life is even more crucial for diabetic dogs than for those in good health. It’s recommended to distribute the daily intake, which must absolutely be adhered to, over two or a maximum of three meals per day. Establish fixed times for filling your dog’s food bowl and clean it afterwards, especially if your dog hasn’t eaten everything. The breaks between meals must be respected in order to keep the blood sugar level balanced. Every snack in between or treat increases your dog’s blood sugar. A tip is not just to discuss these rules with your family, but friends and neighbours too! Fresh drinking water should always be available to your dog.

Insulin injections need to be administered straight after meals so that they can take effect at the exact moment the sugar from the food enters the blood. Injecting insulin before meals can lead to dangerous hypoglycaemia if your dog suddenly spurns the subsequent meal.

What else can I do?

As is the case with all dogs, the right amount of exercise contributes to your own dog’s health. Regular physical activity doesn’t just help your dog to reach a healthy weight, but also has a positive effect on its blood sugar. The exercise routine should be just as well-ordered as meal times. The extent and duration should be the same every day – too strenuous blocks of exercise could lead to the blood sugar level dropping off in turn.

Of course, both your dog and you yourself first have to get used to these set rules. However, you should adhere to the new daily routine from the beginning in order to avoid complications, Your effort will definitely pay off: with the help of a needs-based diet and adapted exercise schedule, you will soon see that your dog can lead a healthy, happy and full life despite suffering from diabetes.

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