Puppy-parenting is an exciting time, but thanks to the myriad questions you’ll face, it is also quite challenging.
One of the most common questions first-time puppy parents have relates to their choice of food. Specifically, owners frequently wonder whether they should feed their new pooch a wet food or a dry food.
We’ll explore the issue below and recommend the best option for your new pup (spoiler alert: there isn’t really a clear “winner” and plenty of fence-sitting will follow).
All dog food is essentially comprised of the same basic stuff: Some proteins, some fats, some carbs, some water, and a tiny bit of other stuff that doesn’t matter at the moment (apologies for the technical jargon).
The relative amounts of each differ from one food to the next, but the primary way by which wet, dry, and semi-moist foods differ relates to their water content. And, as I’m sure is already painfully obvious, wet foods have a bunch of water, dry foods don’t, and semi-moist foods fall somewhere in between.
Generally speaking, the three types of food vary along a somewhat consistent gradient. This means that semi-moist foods occupy a middle ground between the two extremes. Given this, and the fact that semi-moist foods are much less popular than the other two varieties and often expensive, we’ll be concentrating on wet and dry foods from here on out.
Puppies have different nutritional requirements than adult dogs do, so you need to feed them a food formulated specifically to address their unique needs. This not only includes differing amounts of amino acids but also the total protein content of the food too.
Adult dogs need only 18% of their calories to come from protein sources, while puppies need 22% of their calories from protein sources.
Additionally, puppies grow best when provided with a little more fat, so the AAFCO recommends that at least 8% of their calories come from fat sources, while adults need only 5% of their calories to come from fat.
Fortunately, you don’t have to worry very much about these differences; you can just purchase a high-quality, AAFCO-compliant food that is formulated specifically for puppies. This way, you can rest easy knowing that your dog is getting exactly the type of nutrition he needs.
This also means that whether you select a kibble made for puppies or a wet food formula for puppies, either type will provide the nutrition your growing pup needs.
Wet puppy food offers a variety of benefits for dogs, including:
Most dogs find wet food more palatable than kibble. In fact, wet foods can be used as “toppers” to help encourage your picky puppy to eat his kibble.
Canned dog foods are typically made without artificial colors or preservatives.
Wet foods contain more water than dry foods, which keeps your dog feeling fuller than dry kibble that provides the same number of calories will. Wet food’s high water content also has the added benefit of keeping your dog a bit more hydrated, which can be especially helpful if you’re worried about dehydration in warmer climates.
The meats included in canned foods are often, yet not always, in a more “natural” state than those in kibbles.
Most wet foods are richer in protein and fats than dry foods, which tend to have more carbohydrate content.
Very long shelf-life while unopened.
However, wet food also presents a few problems. Some of the most notable include:
Canned foods are more expensive per calorie than dry foods are.
Canned foods are more of a hassle to open and prepare than dry foods are.
Canned foods cannot be left in your puppy’s dish for more than an hour or so before they’ll spoil.
Unused portions of canned food must be refrigerated.
Very short shelf-life after being opened.
Wet foods can be very messy.
Just like wet foods, dry foods present a combination of benefits and drawbacks.
Some of the benefits kibble provides include:
Dry food is typically much more affordable than wet food is.
Some owners and veterinarians believe that dry food helps to clean your puppy’s teeth.
Dry food doesn’t require any special preparation: Simply scoop out the correct amount of food and pour it into your pup’s bowl.
Dry foods often include ingredients which are high in omega-3 fatty acids.
Some dry foods contain probiotic supplements to promote proper digestive function.
Shelf-life is pretty long, whether opened or still sealed.
Cleanup is easy when you feed kibble.
On the flip side, some of the drawbacks of dry food include:
It doesn’t appear to taste as good to dogs.
It is harder for some young pups to chew dry food.
Many dry foods contain artificial preservatives and colors.
Your puppy’s nutritional requirements not only mean that he should be given a different type of food than adult dogs, they also mean that your pup should be fed on a different schedule than adult dogs should.
For example, weaned puppies should typically be fed four times per day until they reach 12 weeks of age. It may be necessary to moisten the food of young puppies with a bit of water, but they should be able to handle crunchy kibble (if that’s what you decide to provide) by about 9 to 13 weeks of age – larger breeds are capable of making the switch more quickly than small breeds are.
Sometime between 3 and 6 months of age, you’ll want to provide the same amount of food each day, but you’ll want to split it up into three meals, rather than four. After another 6 months, you can further reduce the number of daily feedings to two.
Once your dog is about 12 months old, he’ll probably be ready for adult food. However, you should always consult with your vet before making the switch and stick with puppy food if you have any doubt.
Additionally, as when making any food change, try to do so gradually, by mixing increasingly large portions of the new food in with your dog’s current food over a period of a week or so.
There is no clear “right” or “wrong” answer regarding the wet vs dry debate, but most owners would probably agree that the benefits of wet food make it the preferred choice for those who can afford it and don’t mind foregoing the convenience of dry kibble.
Nevertheless, the quality of the food you provide is undoubtedly more important than the amount of moisture in it, so focus on finding the best food for your puppy, no matter which type you decide to offer.
What kind of food do you feed your little pup? Do you prefer the convenience and low-cost of kibble, or do you like to spoil your little four-footer with canned foods? Does your dog have a preference? Let us know all about your experiences in the comments below.
Ben is a proud dog owner and lifelong environmental educator who writes about animals, outdoor recreation, science, and environmental issues. He lives with his beautiful wife and spoiled-rotten Rottweiler JB in Atlanta, Georgia. Read more by Ben at FootstepsInTheForest.com.