Canned Dog Food – Expensive But Worth It?

Most owners feed their dogs dry food. The benefits of kibble are hard to overlook.
Convenience — Dry food can be left out in a bowl for long periods of time without becoming rancid or contaminated with bacteria. Owners can even load up an automatic feeder and more or less forget about it for days at a time. Canned food should be discarded if it hasn’t been eaten in a couple of hours and opened cans need to be covered and refrigerated before being used in the next meal.
Cost — Canned dog food is more expensive than dry… and I mean WAY more expensive. Take a look at this comparison. I used a major pet food manufacturer’s high quality, chicken-based dry and canned products available through a large pet supplier and pretended I was feeding a 60# dog the average of the amount range recommended on the label.
This dog should eat 3.8 cans per day. The food is being offered at $23.90 per case (12 cans). The cost of feeding this dog canned food is ($23.90/12) x 3.8 = $7.57/day.
In comparison, the manufacturer recommends that a 60 pound dog eat approximately 3 ½ cups or 358 grams of dry food per day. A 30 pound (13607.8 gram) bag of this food is available for $39.99. The cost of feeding this dog dry food is $39.99/(13607.8 g/358g) = $1.05/day.
In this case, you would end up spending more than seven times as much feeding your dog canned versus dry food.
Don’t get me wrong. Canned food is a superior choice is certain cases:

Canned diets do not have to contain preservatives since the canning process makes them unnecessary. If your dog has a dietary sensitivity to the preservatives commonly used to make dry dog food, canned diets are an excellent way to avoid them. Canned dog foods also do not typically contain artificial flavors or colors, so the same reasoning could apply, although manufacturers are now making more dry diets with only natural flavors and colors.

Dry foods must contain relatively high carbohydrate levels, otherwise the kibble will not hold together. If you are looking for a very low carbohydrate (and therefore high protein and/or high fat) diet for your dog, canned is the way to go.

The biggest difference between canned and dry foods is their water content. In general, dry foods are made up of around 10% water while canned diets are typically in the range of 68-78% water. This high water content can be helpful when managing certain health conditions, like obesity (it helps dogs feel full on fewer calories), kidney disease, bladder stones, and dental/oral diseases.

Many dogs simply prefer the taste of canned food. If keeping your dog’s weight up at a healthy level is difficult on a dry diet, the solution may be as simple as switching to canned.

But let’s say your dog seems to be doing well on a dry food. Is it worth the expense of switching to canned as some people recommend? Unfortunately there simply isn’t any definitive evidence either way. If the added expense and inconvenience is simply not a concern for you, why not give it a try and see if you notice any changes in your dog’s wellbeing… and please report back to us here!

Dr. Jennifer Coates