Dry Dog Food Versus Canned Dog Food — The Great Debate

Which Is Better—Canned Or Dry Dog Food?

Dry and canned dog foods generally have the same vitamin, mineral, and amino acid ingredients, however the nutritional values are quite different. What follows are descriptions of some of the advantages and disadvantages of each.

Some of the clear advantages of canned dog food are that it contains more whole foods (poultry & meat) and higher quality protein. It has fewer chemicals and preservatives. Artificial colors and flavors are much less common. Surprisingly, canned foods have fewer calories and are more filling. But canned food has its disadvantages as well. Dry food is much easier to handle in bulk and it can be of very high quality. Let’s explore how dry food is made.

How Is Dry Dog Food Made?

The first step in making dog kibble is creating a dough that will work in the machinery that shapes the nuggets. The dough is made from one of the grains and then blended with a meat-product meal such as poultry by-product meal and whatever additives are in that company’s recipe. Then the dough is put through a dog food extruder, a machine that pushes the dough through a long tube. There are different kinds of extruders (which are used to make sausages and many other foods and products) but this kind often uses high heat while pushing the dough through. At the end of the extruder, there are small openings—like cake decorating tips or those on a pasta machine—so that the dough exits in the chosen shape and then is cut and dried in a variety of ways. Because extruders cannot handle wet or greasy materials, dry dog foods have a large proportion of starch or grains like potato, wheat, or corn. Once the bits of dough are dried, most products are sprayed with fats or other flavorings.

What Are The Advantages Of Dry Dog Food?

  • Convenience—You can travel with dry dog food, store it in automatic feeders, it doesn’t have to be refrigerated once opened, and is less messy to prepare.
  • Economics—Dry food is less expensive. If you have multiple dogs or one large dog, food that is economical would seem to make sense.

The debate is whether to follow the clear conclusion that canned is better. Suppose it costs an extra dollar, even two dollars a day to feed canned food: that’s less than one Starbucks drink. Good quality dog food (dry or canned) costs us more because it costs the companies more to make it: chicken feet, feathers and beaks cannot cost a manufacturer as much as beef muscle meat.

Why It’s Important To Keep Dry Dog Food Fresh

Dry dog food can become rancid, moldy or otherwise compromised. If the food does not look right—a different color than usual, moldy—it has probably gone bad. If a food does not smell right and the dog is reluctant to dig in, it’s possible that the antioxidant agents that preserve the food are not doing their job. The higher-quality dog food manufacturers are using natural preservatives, which are less effective than the BHA, BHT or ethoxyquin found in lower-end products. No matter what type of preservatives are in your dog’s food, it can turn rancid quickly if it is exposed to hot temperatures and oxygen. Dry dog food is supposed to be stored in a cool, dry location which people often do not do.

How To Safely Store Dry Dog Food

The original dog food bag is considered the best storage vessel by almost every manufacturer. Most recommend keeping that bag inside a dog food storage container that can be sealed with a lid. The bag was designed to keep moisture out and vitamins in. Many people like to pour the food into a plastic tub of some kind. If you want to empty the bag, be sure the plastic container you pick is FDA-approved food-grade plastic, not just any garbage can. Wash and dry any container before you put in a new bag of food to eliminate any remnants of the previous bag that may have gotten old. Watch out for a dog hesitating or refusing to eat: the food may be rancid.

What Are Some High-Quality Dog Food Brands?

There is no one “best” dog food—in fact there are more excellent ones all the time. Here are just a few of the names of manufacturers of high-quality dog foods—most make canned and dry foods:

  • Active Life
  • Artemis
  • Avo-Derm
  • Azmira
  • Boulder Creek Farms
  • California Natural
  • Canidae
  • Drs. Foster & Smith
  • Evolve
  • Excel
  • Flint River Ranch
  • Innova
  • Lamaderm
  • Lick Your Chops
  • Merrick Pet Foods
  • Natural Balance
  • Natural Life
  • Neura
  • Newman’s Own Organics
  • Nutro Natural Choice
  • Pet-Guard
  • Pinnacle
  • Prairie
  • Sensible Choice
  • Solid Gold
  • Spot’s Stew
  • Triumph
  • Wellness
  • Wysong

Study the dog food ingredients, pick the one you like and try any of the foods to find one your dog likes. Try a food for a few weeks, and if you have a dog who is healthy but just isn’t looking terrific, try your second choice for a while. Keep in mind that as your dog ages, their nutritional needs may change. But in general, any food utilizing safe, nutritious ingredients is a great choice.

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