The Best Canned Dog Food

Whether or not grain-free or organic dog foods are truly healthier for your pet are subjects of debate, but before you even need to make the choice between an all-natural formula or one that’s listed as “certified organic,” every dog owner has to make one crucial decision: Wet or dry?

When considering this most basic of distinctions, many pet owners might wonder if canned dog food or dry dog food is the better choice for their pet — but of course, the decision is not as easy as “which is better.”

Instead, it’s best to think about the pros and cons of each kind of dog food — convenience and cost, for example, are two of the major distinguishing differences — and consider the needs of your individual dog. From there, the best course of action is to find a formula that offers optimal ingredients and the right balance of nutrients.

What We Learned

Why choose canned dog food?

Canned dog food offers many benefits to pets and pet owners, the first of which is that dogs tend to prefer it over kibble. For picky dogs, wet food can be the difference between malnourishment and a healthy diet. Similarly, its soft texture makes it easier to eat for older dogs, very small dogs, puppies, or dogs with dental issues. For these reasons alone, canned dog food might be the best choice for your pet.

However, even if your dog is not picky and has no trouble eating kibble, you may still be curious about canned food as a potentially healthier alternative.

Whereas dry food often contains preservatives or fillers to ensure its shelf stability, canned dog food is often made with more real meat, leading to a lower-carbohydrate, higher-protein formula. In fact, canned dog food routinely has as much as 10 percent more protein than kibble. And, like dry food, canned dog food offers complete canine nutrition, meaning a single can of food is all that it takes to ensure that your dog is meeting all of his or her daily needs.

It may seem counterintuitive, but canned dog food can also help overweight or obese dogs lose weight. The higher moisture content of wet dog food helps dogs feel fuller longer, and can make it easier to restrict the caloric intake of a dog whose health is being put at risk by extra weight.

However, there are some drawbacks to canned food. By weight, it tends to be quite a bit more expensive than dry food, and is less convenient. Wet dog food is heavier, making it harder to travel with or pack around.

The perishability of canned dog food can be a very real safety concern. But the refrigerator isn’t the only place where canned food can become unsafe; even just leaving wet dog food in your dog’s dish for more than a few hours can put your pet at risk. Dog owners who choose canned food, then, must be vigilant about safe storage.

That said, canned dog food’s many benefits may be enough to convince dog owners to seek the very best possible choice they can.

What makes a great canned dog food?

When shopping for a wet dog food, look for formulas that list real meat (that’s named from the source and the animal, like “beef liver” or just “chicken,” as opposed to “mechanically separated chicken parts” or simply “animal fats”) as one of the first ingredients. Then, look for other healthy ingredients, like eggs and wholesome fruits and vegetables, such as sweet potatoes and carrots.

Avoid canned dog foods that contain vegetable by-products, though — potato starch, for example, isn’t a healthy whole vegetable, but rather, a filler designed to cut the cost of manufacturing.

Unlike dry food, which often has grains (but not necessarily fillers, like corn or soy), wet food almost never needs to contain wheat, wheat gluten, or other added starches. Still, it’s important to look for any of these kinds of ingredients, which add bulk but no nutrition.

Other ingredients to avoid: “natural flavors,” sweeteners (like beet juice), and artificial colors.

Be sure to read the label to find out about fat content and carbohydrates, too. Canned dog food can vary wildly in what it offers to your pet, so checking the total overall content is very important.

The Bottom Line

Just like dry food, raw food, or grain-free food, the most surefire way to select the best canned dog food is by reading the label and familiarizing yourself with the ingredients. Our recommended canned dog foods contain no fillers, no artificial colors or sweeteners, and no ingredients that may potentially harm pets — but there are still many more formulas that do include all of those things.

Canned dog food can offer a lot of benefits for pets, but as an owner, it’s your job to carefully read the labels on any dog foods you select.

Top Picks

Earthborn Holistic Chip’s Chicken Casserole Grain-Free Natural Moist Dog Food

Eagle Pack Lamb Formula Canned Dog Food

Fromm Four-Star Nutritionals Shredded Chicken Entree Canned Dog Food

Addiction New Zealand Brushtail & Vegetables Entree Canned Dog Food