Pros and Cons of Feeding Canned Dog Food

Should you feed ‘Fluffy’ canned dog food? That is a tough decision and one that can have far-reaching ramifications. The choice is often more emotional on the part of the owner then that of what is best for the dog and canned dog food is marketed to appeal to the senses of humans, not their pets.

Pros of Feeding Canned Dog Food

  • Highly palatable so even the pickiest of eaters usually devour their dinner
  • Easy to eat and digest
  • Good for dogs that are missing teeth or recovering from an illness
  • Excellent choice for dogs with limited kidney function as the extra moisture increases urination and overall kidney health (moisture accounts for approximately 75% of the total volume)
  • Has a long shelf life (one to three years depending on the brand)

Cons of Canned Dog Food

  • More expensive then kibble – prices range from 50 cents to $6.00 a tin with the average around $2.50 for a mid-quality 14 oz/398ml tin (the $6.00 a tin would be pure organic venison – not your standard tin of dog food by any means)
  • Once opened, the tin must be used up in a few days and kept in the refrigerator
  • Dogs that eat solely canned dog food require more frequent dental cleanings on average
  • Increased moisture content means more trips outside
  • Can cause loose stools in some dogs
  • Low calorie content means that large dogs must consume several tins per day to equal required calories to maintain weight

One of the most confusing parts of canned food is comparing the protein and fat content with that of a bag of dry dog food. Due to the high moisture content (75 – 78% on average), the percentage of protein and fat is low as is the caloric density. Nutrient and caloric values of the two foods are as such:

Dry Food Canned Food
Protein 22 – 29% 8 – 15%
Fat 7 – 15% 2 – 15%
Carbohydrates 35 – 50% >5%
Moisture 12% 75 – 78%
Kilocalories per Pound 1400 – 2000 375 – 900

Like humans, the quantity of food a dog eats is dependent on his caloric requirement. If your dog needs 500 calories to maintain his ideal weight, he would need a 1/3 – 1/4 lb of dry food and ¾ to 1 lb of canned food. If a 40 lb bag of high quality dry dog food costs $60 then the cost of kibble is around 40 cents a day. In canned food, the equivalent is one tin of high quality dog food at around $2.25 per day. That is a substantial difference in cost and was based on an adult dog with a moderate activity level that weighs only 15 pounds. An 80 lb dog requires nearly four times that amount per day.

Most veterinarians do not recommend feeding canned food as a stand-alone diet. Often the small breeds are the ones on an all canned food diet and since they already have compromised dentition due to too many teeth in a small jaw, they then require more frequent dental cleanings. Kibble, on the other hand, helps to scrape plaque and tartar off teeth, aiding in overall dental health.

The other argument against canned food as a stand-alone diet is that because of the high palatability of it, dogs can develop rather fussy appetites and refuse anything else. This becomes frustrating to say the least. In theory, no healthy dog will allow themselves to starve death in protest of the kibble in their dish but in a hospital situation where they are already compromised, a day of not eating slows their recovery considerably. It is amazing how many dogs that do not get canned food at home will gobble it down in the hospital like its ice cream. Now, if only we could say the same thing about the food in human hospitals!

Therefore, what do you put in Fluffy’s food dish? What about a combination of kibble with a little bit of canned food mixed in for added palatability? Is that even necessary? Only if Fluffy says it is but in truth you are doing her more good by feeding her straight kibble and saving yourself a few dollars in the process. Keep the canned food as a treat for special occasions or when you need to give her some medication as canned food easily hides pills and makes giving medication much easier! Fluffy will never know what she is missing and her pearly teeth will stay that way for years to come.



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