Navigating all the dog food choices and marketing, as well as all the nutritional advice out there, can be a daunting task. Obviously, you want to feed your assistance dog the most wholesome, nutritious pet food available—but which products are those exactly?
It’s a complex questions with a lot of considerations, a surprising amount of conflicting information from the experts, and not a whole lot of one-size-fits-all right answers. For now, let’s take a closer look at one of the most basic feeding questions people grapple with:
Should you feed your guide, hearing, or service dog canned wet food or dry kibble?
To cut straight to the answer, the best one appears to be that you should feed your assistance dog a combination of the two types of pet food, while favoring canned wet food. Each has its pros and cons, which we outline below, though wet dog food seems to have a little more going for it than dry.
Here’s a look at the more significant differences:
Canned food has higher protein and fat content and lower carbohydrate content than kibble. The prevailing opinion seems to be that domestic dogs do best on an omnivorous diet that strongly favors the carnivorous side. That means they should be getting most of their calories from animal-based protein and fat, though they do need some carbs from vegetables, fruit, or whole grains. Wet food offers this proportion, while dry food contains significantly more carbs than canned.
Wet food is more nutrient-dense than dry dog food. In other words, it packs more nutritional value into fewer calories. Dry food is the higher-calorie option, so it can more easily contribute to your assistance dog becoming overweight. Of course, if your canine companion is underweight, what is often a negative can become a positive. That’s why individual factors always come into play with these sorts of questions, and why there usually isn’t one right answer for every dog and every situation.
Canned food is more natural than kibble. The canning process eliminates the need for chemical preservatives, and most wet food is free of artificial preservatives, colors, and flavors. Some synthetic ingredients in pet foods have been tied to health problems, and, while the issue is complicated and fraught with contradictory information (as it is for humans), we believe it’s safe to say that in general, it’s best to feed your assistance dog as many natural ingredients and as few artificial ingredients as possible.
Wet pet food contains much more water than dry. The increased moisture can be a pro or a con. It makes wet food more filling, an important consideration for weight management. It also means some assistance dogs might not consume enough calories to be fully energized for their work. Canned food supplies extra fluids, which is great in hot weather or on particularly active days, if your dog isn’t drinking enough, or if she has a condition that benefits from increased water intake. However, it can also have inconvenient side effects like making her have to pee more frequently or having loose stool.
Kibble is cheaper and more convenient than canned pet food. Dry food is the more economical option if you’re watching your budget. It comes in larger, cheaper packages. It’s also far less perishable once opened. While unopened canned food has a longer shelf life, dry food lasts a long time after the package is opened, plus you can let servings sit out for your assistance dog. Once you open cans of wet food, they must be used in a day or two, refrigerating unused portions, and served portions can’t sit out for more than an hour or two.
Dry dog food is better for your assistance dog’s dental hygiene. Wet food can stick to the teeth and gums, contributing to damaging buildup. Kibble, on the other hand, can actually scrape food particles and tartar off the teeth and gums during chewing; specially designed dry food is even available to maximize this benefit. However, canned food is easier to eat if your dog has missing teeth, tooth pain, gum disease, or other problems in her mouth.
Why a Combination of Wet and Dry Food Works Well
While it may seem like there’s a compelling case for feeding your guide, hearing, or service dog a diet of exclusively canned wet food, most veterinarians recommend a combination. And this approach makes sense.
It allows you to take advantage of the pros of both canned food and kibble while limiting the cons to the best of your ability. Also, it helps prevent your assistance dog from becoming too picky. Wet dog food is considered the more palate-pleasing of the two types; if you offer it exclusively for a time, you may find your dog turning her nose up at dry food the next time you want to use it.
Please Note: Inquiries, questions or concerns regarding your dog’s balanced diet and/or the specific use of any dog food, should always be referred to your veterinarian.