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Expert Advice on Pet Health and Nutrition

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WebMD Expert Discussion: Canned vs. Dry Pet Food?

The smell of canned cat or dog food isn’t exactly appetizing to most humans. On the other hand, most animals seem much more tantalized by the taste of “wet” food rather than dry. Which is actually better for your pet?

When it comes to the average healthy pet, dry wins hands down, says Will Draper, DVM, a guest expert in WebMD’s Caring for Your Pet Community. Dry diets are better for the teeth and for an animal’s intestinal health.

But canned food has much higher water content, so if your pet is struggling with hydration because of kidney disease, diabetes, or constipation, you may choose “wet” food for him. (It’s also helpful for animals that have trouble chewing because of dental problems.)

One woman wasn’t convinced, wondering if dry cat food might predispose a cat to urinary problems. She noted that the high-carbohydrate, low-protein content of dry food could be a factor in weight gain, because cats have bodies made for a high-protein diet. Draper agrees that if there is any worry about a pet not getting enough water, or a risk of obesity, canned food might be a better choice. But he points out that for many working pet owners, dry is also much more convenient.

Dry pet food has its advocates among pet owners. One woman feeds her three large dogs a “premium” brand of dry food, and loves how healthy their coats are. Dry food is also more economical, she said. Her dogs could easily each go through two or three cans of food every day. Dry food can also be left out for a period of time, while canned food needs to be picked up quickly.

Still, some pet owners prefer canned food because of their own experiences with their pets. One woman who works inside the home said she feeds her picky cat multiple small meals of canned food each day. It’s worth the effort to ensure that her cat eats enough. And more than one person noted that canned food can be very useful as a “delivery vehicle” for medications that a reluctant pet might not otherwise eat.

Whether you feed dry or canned food, it’s important to remember that younger kittens need more protein than older cats because they are still growing. Whether it’s dry or canned, Draper advises that kittens get specific “kitten food” with a recommended protein content of 30% to 40%. (Adult cat food has a protein content of about 25%.) Once a kitten is a little over a year, it’s time to transition her to adult food. Cats with weight problems will do better on food with even lower protein content, about 15% to 19%, he says.

Discussion led by William Draper, DVM Guest Expert
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Guest Expert

Dr. Will opened Georgia’s first accredited small animal emergency room in 2000. He’s been named Best Vet by Atlanta Magazine since 2004... More

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Pet Health and Nutrition Advice

Veterinarian Will Draper gives tips on the best nutrition and health care for your dog or cat.
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