There are a lot of choices you have to make when it comes to taking care of your pet. One you’ll face daily is, what do you feed them? There are loads of brands and styles and formulas, but let’s focus on one basic question: canned food or dry food? Here are some of the pros and cons of canned food as part of your pet’s daily diet.
Pro: They consume more water.
Cats in particular will sometimes not drink enough water, which can lead to or exacerbate urinary tract diseases. Of course, you can lead a cat to water, but you can’t make him drink. Canned food contains a lot of moisture, so if your pet is prone to trouble with their bladder or kidneys or you just want to make sure they stay well-hydrated, it may be a good idea to include some in their diet.
Con: It can get pricey!
Depending on the brand, the amount you feed, and how often you feed canned food, the bill can really start to add up. This is entirely a personal choice. If canned food is only a treat and it’s a strain on your wallet, see if your pets will go for the cheap stuff. Like, why buy your kid gourmet candy when they’re just as happy with the penny stuff? If it’s a big part of your pet’s diet, then it’s more important to make sure you’re choosing something nutritious. And if you can afford it? Heck, go for the gourmet stuff. Check out this article on the best canned foods for your cat based on their needs.
Pro: It’s a good way to make friends.
Cats and dogs (and, really, dolphins and hedgehogs and blue herons and every other living thing) are often pretty food-motivated. And canned food, I’m given to believe, is delicious. I’ve never tried it myself, but it sure seems popular with my animals.
I don’t know about you, but I’m a human capable of all kinds of rational thought and I’d still say one of the quickest ways to get on my good side is to bring me something I like to eat. It’s no different for animals. Some animals are instant friends with everyone and need no encouragement, but for the many who aren’t, a bit of wet food can go a long way. If your pet is new to you, shy, adjusting to a new member of the household or a major life change, canned food can help them to feel like something good is going on. It’s also a great help if your pet is wary of strangers and you’ve got someone coming to look after them while you’re away.
Con: It can make them chunky.
If you’re someone who is diligent about portion control and measures food carefully, you’re probably already aware that you should adjust your pets’ portion sizes to account for wet food. If, on the other hand, you measure with your heart or free-feed, you may notice your pet… expanding. Wet food is like dessert- they’ll often eat it enthusiastically even if they aren’t actually hungry.
Pro: It can hide medication
A pet who is dainty about their kibble may scarf down a dollop of wet food, so for some, it may be a painless way to get them to take their pills. If you do decide to use it this way, make sure you’re checking the bowl afterward for any picked-out pills.
Con: Yes, it counts if your pet is on a prescription diet!
This is a frequent frustration of many vets. Pet owners often feed their pets prescription kibble, but then give them non-prescription treats and wet food. Don’t do that! It defeats the purpose of the prescription food. Imagine if your dog were a peanut-allergic kid, for example. You know it would be a bad idea to feed him peanut butter sandwiches, but would you think it would be fine to give him a Payday bar because it was just a treat? It’s the same with animals. Most prescription diets have canned options available, so if canned is your preference or you just want something to give as a treat, ask your veterinarian.
Pro: It’s easier on aging teeth and mouths.
Okay, in all honesty, I’ve dealt with senior animals for years and, the huge majority of the time, they eat regular kibble just fine even without a single tooth in their mouth. But naturally, softer wet food is going to be easier on them if they’ve got dental issues. And, bonus, the smell and taste may encourage them to eat if they’ve been hesitant to do so due to mouth pain.
Con: If you give it every day, it’s not special.
This is really one of the primary reasons that I personally don’t give wet food very often. When I was a kid, ice cream was a real treat. I rarely got it and when I did, you’d better believe I was willing to not just eat it all, but jump through hoops to get it. Now, I’m grown and I’ve had the same pint of ice cream in my freezer for about two months. I still like ice cream, but “I’ll get you ice cream” is not the incentive it once was.
The blessed mush is similar. If it’s an everyday thing, it loses some power. And when you want to entice your ailing cat to eat something or convince your reticent dog to let you shut him in the bathroom or celebrate your pet’s gotcha day in a way they’ll actually enjoy, you want something that’s special and tempting. If wet food is just normal lunch, you have to get a lot more creative. In my case, I have a senior dog and two semi-feral senior cats, so it’s important to me to have a few things in my toolbox as their veterinary needs start to increase with age.
Ultimately? The decision to give wet food on a regular basis and what portion of your pet’s diet is canned, what portion is kibble, and what portion may be something else entirely… is just up to you! It’s down to your preference and your pet’s, what you’re hoping to achieve, and your pet parenting style. Regardless of the pros and cons of canned food, do what makes you and your pet happy!
Canned or kibble, leash or yard, allowed on the furniture or not… your pet’s care is up to you as well! Whatever you choose, we’re here to make sure your pet is taken care of your way while you’re away. If you have to leave your best pals at home for the work day or your vacay, check out our pet-sitting services for personalized care just the way you want it!
Janie founded 4-Legged Kids, Inc in St. Louis, Missouri, in 1997 and provides education through her PetBizHIVE podcast and her PetBizMBA membership and courses. She is a Certified Professional Animal Care Operator, Fear Free certified and a Certified Professional Pet Sitter. Learn more about the Founder, Janie Budnick.