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Wet Canned Pet Food

Updated: Dec 16, 2021

Just imagine walking into your local pet store. Dogs are pulling humans all over the store looking for the newest squeaky toy. You are drug up and down aisles of pet products and soon come to the pet food section. Shelving unit after shelving unit is stacked high with all kinds of colorful and creatively named wet food cans labeled with mouth-watering recipes enticing you to try them. How could you say no?!

A wet food diet is probably the second best well known type of pet food out there. It is readily available at your local grocery store and pet store and provides plenty of variety in an easy to open can. Heck you don’t even need a bowl for this one! Similar to a dry food diet, the ingredients mainly meats, vegetables, fruits, grains, vitamins, minerals, thickeners and more are mixed together. The empty storage container is then filled and sealed before being heated. After cooling the can is labeled and sent out for distribution.

In a survey of 110 participants 27% feed their companion wet food. Keep in mind this can include owners that feed wet food in addition to another type of pet food (i.e. dry, freeze-dried etc.) The most popular reasons owners choose to feed their companion a wet canned food includes veterinarian and family recommendations. Ingredients and cost were also major considerations when choosing this food type. Other influences included breeder recommendations, personal research and an attractive food packaging.

Out of the total participants 45.6% believed this diet was good for their pet. Of those that explained most believed that it was good because it contained more water than dry kibble and was easier to digest. Other reasons included It was good as long as it was used as a treat or in moderation and as long as owners made sure it was a good quality wet canned food. On the other hand, 16.5% of participants believed this diet was not good for their companion. Of those that explained their answer participants said it was mainly because their pet didn’t like it or that is was not good for their companion’s teeth. Others explained it was just plain gross and was bad for their companion’s digestion. Finally, 37.8% of participants were unsure if a wet canned food was good or not. Reasons included that it depended on the quality of the wet canned food while others were unsure but thought it was healthier and closer to their companion’s natural diet.

One of the most defining characteristics of this food is it high amount of water content. Canned food typically contains about 70% or more of moisture compared to dry food which contains only around 10%. The advantage of wet food for cats especially is its water content. Felines tend to retain any water that they consume regardless of its availability. Typically, a cat will take around six days to relieve dehydration whereas a dog will do so within 24 hours (1). When cats don’t drink enough water this can not only dehydrate them but also put extra strain on their kidneys and increase the chances of urinary tract infections and even crystals (2) that can be very painful and may need surgery to relieve. This is especially more prevalent in male cats since the tube that releases urine is much smaller than that of a female (3).

Although increased water content means your pet may urinate more frequently it also means that the water will make your companion feel more full actually helping with weight loss as well (4).

Even if you do not have a cat, hydration and water content is extremely important and should be taken into account when choosing the proper diet for your pet. A good rule of thumb is your companion should drink 60-70ml of water per kilogram of body weight each day (1).

Another unique benefit to a canned food diet is that canned foods contain a higher amount of protein than most dry foods per serving. The reason for this is that canned food is made often with more meat ingredients. Due to this factor, one can understand why a wet food may be more expensive than its dry counterpart.

In order to effectively compare protein content there is a special equation that is needed especially when comparing a dry food and a wet food. Unfortunately, what is on the can or bag is not the actual amount of protein.

Refer to your pet food nutrition label to obtain percentages. First remove the percent moisture from the total make up or 100% by subtracting. This will give you the dry matter basis. Then, divide that amount by the percent of protein in the food.


A can of wet food has 75% moisture and 10% protein. A bag of dry food has 10% moisture and 30% protein. At first glance you would assume that the dry food has 20% more protein in it. Now let’s do the math

  1. Subtract the percent moisture by the total

    1. 100%-75%=25% (wet food)

    2. 100%-10%=90% (dry food)

  2. Divide this number by the amount of protein

    1. 10% / 25% = 40% Protein in the wet food

    2. 30% / 90% = 33% protein in the dry food​

So, as you can see once the protein content is calculated the dry food actually has almost 10% less protein in it than the wet canned food!

Wet canned food also has less carbohydrates in it. Just like in humans, carbohydrates are an energy source but that also means given too much it can turn into fat leading to obesity and even diabetes (5). Although not the best diet, this also makes it a better diet for cats who need a very low carbohydrate content in their diet.

Wet foods also have few to no preservatives. This is all thanks to the canning process (6). Most pet owners use a can of food immediately in one meal or day versus opening and closing a bag of dry food over several weeks or months. The can seals in all the freshness reducing the need for preservatives artificial or natural.

One concern to think about however is Bisphenol A or BPA. This product is common in a lot of plastic products including the lining of most canned foods. BPA has been proven to cause dangerous developmental, neural, and reproductive health problems (7, 8). This product is also found in plastic storage containers as well as plastic dog food bags, food bowls and toys. So this point is a concern in more ways than one, however a consideration regardless.

Like any product out there on the market there are several myths that surround wet canned food.

Myth #1 Wet food is bad for my companion’s teeth.

The biggest concern when it comes to pet foods and tooth decay is keeping in mind that relying on your pet’s diet to keep up with your pet’s dental hygiene is not a good plan in the long run unless you are feeding a raw meaty bones. Just imagine if you followed the same path of logic. Most people brush their teeth not just once a day but sometimes after each meal, floss and even use mouth wash multiple times a day. As soon as we eat we can feel the build-up on the surface of our teeth. Something further to consider is the carbohydrate and other sugar source content. Just like in humans, a larger sugar intake leads to more tooth related problems(9, 10) including decay and bad breath. Unfortunately, sugar and exact carbohydrate content and statistics are not clearly labelled on pet foods. The only way to protect your companion’s teeth is to brush and get them cleaned at your veterinarian on a regular basis or feed a raw diet and include raw meaty bones.

In short there are several pros and cons to consider when determining if this diet is the right one for you and your family.


  • Conveniently located (grocery store, pet store etc.)

  • Lots of variety

  • Easy to store

  • Little to no preservatives (but not a guarantee)

  • More water content (especially important for cats)

  • More protein

  • Less carbohydrates (but often not free of grains, fruits or vegetables)

  • Perfect for older pets

  • Better for weight loss


  • More expensive (depending on the quality)

  • Cannot be left out for long periods after opening

  • Often unnatural sources of vitamins and minerals are added (11)

  • BPA lined cans (not all companies)

  • Can include preservatives, additives, colors, flavors, texturizers etc.

  • Additional oral hygiene practices required

Just like dry food there is varying qualities of wet canned food therefore it is important to do your research. This means looking at the nutrition label and ingredients as well as looking into the company that produces the food.


  1. National Research Council. 2006. Nutrient Requirements of Dogs and Cats. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.

  2. Hodgkins, Elizabeth M. Your Cat: A Revolutionary Approach to Feline Health and Happiness. 1st ed., Thomas Dunne Books, 2007.

  3. “Urethra Chapter 38.” Feline Soft Tissue and General Surgery, by Sorrel J. Langley-Hobbs, Saunders Elsevier, 2014, pp. 433–447.

  4. Pappas TN, Melendez RL & Debas HT (1989). Gastric distension is a physiologic satiety signal in the dog. Digestive Diseases and Sciences 34: 1489-1493.

  5. Verbrugghe, Adronie, and Myriam Hesta. “Cats and Carbohydrates: The Carnivore Fantasy?” Ed. Jacquie Rand. Veterinary Sciences 4.4 (2017): 55. PMC. Web. 19 July 2018.

  6. "The Brief History of Canning Food". The Spruce. Retrieved 2017-07-24

  7. NIH. “Bisphenol A (BPA).” National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 24 May 2017,

  8. Konieczna, A, et al. “Health Risk of Exposure to Bisphenol A (BPA).” Advances in Pediatrics., U.S. National Library of Medicine, 2015,

  9. Kienzle E. 1993. “Carbohydrate metabolism of the cat. 1. Activity of amylase in the gastrointestinal tract of the cat.” J. Anim. Physiol. Anim. Nutr. (Berl.) 69:92–101.

  10. Lonsdale, Tom. Raw Meaty Bones: Promote Health. Rivetco P/L, 2001.

  11. Scott, Dana. “Why 99% Of Dog Food Is Fake.” Dogs Naturally Magazine, 9 May 2018,

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