Should a dog eat only dry food or wet food?

One of the most common questions I get asked is about the type of food to give a dog: only dry or only wet?

To answer, we need to understand how a dog approaches its food: by sight (as we often do)? By taste? Or by smell?

If we put ourselves in our dog’s shoes, we know we can put the food’s visual appearance in last place: a dog certainly does not pay attention to whether the food offered is presented nicely.

So, taste and smell remain therefore a good recipe will be the first thing that attracts their attention. Let’s take a look at the differences to see which sense prevails in the choice of food.

TASTE PERCEPTION 

No. of taste buds

– Human 9.000
– Dog 1.700
– Cat 470

SMELL PERCEPTION 

Square centimetres of olfactory mucosa (where the smell receptors are found)

– Human 3-4 cm²
– Dog 18-150 cm² (size will vary according to the conformation of the dog’s nose)
– Cat 20 cm²

A dog actually chooses its food first and foremost using its nose and then tastes it.

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However, we should also explore the behavioural aspect that affects nutrition. The dog is a social animal used to living in a (family) pack; its meal plays a key role in its co-existence with other dogs and, in our case, humans. Food gratification is a method often used by humans to encourage appropriate behaviour and to strengthen the relationship between them and us. To serve our dog, a rewarding meal is not only a gesture of affection but also a behaviour that will lay a solid foundation in our relationship with our four-legged friend.

Considering the choice between dry and/or wet food from a nutritional point of view, we can say, without a doubt, that if we choose a high quality dry food, the needs of the dog will be totally satisfied. The dog – unlike a cat – has no problem with fluid intake: if fed only kibble (dry food), they will drink more water to keep their hydration at optimum levels.

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On the other hand, if we serve just dry food, we could lose much of their food gratification because a biscuit will never be as aromatic as a wet food. We would also lose some of the “natural” nutritional benefits of a wet food, such as vitamins and minerals; being less processed than kibble, a wet food also retains more nutrients naturally contained in the ingredients.

If we just feed our dog wet food, we could lose the many benefits associated with chewing – our furry friend would eat the meal much faster avoiding mastication, which is the first stage of digestion. In addition, soft food does not massage the gums, which helps when dogs are teething, nor does it help with dental cleaning.

What to do? 

One tip is to feed your pup both dry and wet food to take advantage of the positive features of each option.

Mixing one tablespoon of wet food into your dog’s dry food will also help make the meal an important event between you and them, as it will not only satisfy their hunger, it will also satisfy their taste buds. Furthermore, the dry food will play its role, aiding nutrition, digestion (chewing) and teeth cleaning, and the wet food will play an equally nutritious role providing a small amount of nutrients while satisfying the senses of our faithful friend.

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Dr Benedetta Giannini, veterinarian and nutrition expert