Wet dog food has one substantial advantage over dry dog foods.
“Dry foods contain 6 to 12 percent moisture. Wet foods typically contain 65 to 78 percent water, which may have health benefits for some dogs,” Lindsey Bullen, DVM, DACVIM (Nutrition), a board-certified veterinary nutritionist at Friendship Hospital for Animals in Washington, D.C., told The Spruce Pets. “For example, wet food may help with hydration in senior dogs with orthopedic issues, which make it uncomfortable for them to get up and down so they’re not drinking as much as they should.”
We’ve researched the best wet dog foods that meet your dog’s nutritional requirements during a variety of life stages, based on guidance from Dr. Bullen and criteria listed by the American College of Veterinary Nutrition, the Association of American Feed Control Officials, and World Small Animal Veterinary Association, the Pet Food Institute. But no amount of research should replace discussing your dog’s specific needs with your veterinarian, especially if they have underlying health conditions such as kidney disease.
Our favorite wet dog food is Purina Pro Plan Complete Essentials for its palatable texture, reasonable cost, range of flavors, and availability. If you’re shopping for a puppy, we recommend Royal Canin Puppy Canned Food, which provides for the specific nutritional needs of a growing dog.
Purina Pro Plan Classic Adult Complete Essentials Wet Dog Food
Often recommended by vets
Huge array of flavors
Some flavors sell out quickly
One can may be too large for small dogs
Purina Pro Plan Complete Essentials comes in a huge selection of flavors ranging from combinations such as chicken and rice to more unusual flavor profiles such as chicken and duck, turkey and chicken, and turkey, duck, and quail. None of the flavors contain artificial colors, flavors, or preservatives.
The pate-style food has a thick texture and strong aroma, which may appeal to dogs who are picky eaters or are hesitant to eat because of dental issues, such as a loss of teeth. But just like people, dogs have individual taste preferences. The wide range of flavors is beneficial because even if your dog doesn’t like one type, he or she may love another.
The food, which is often recommended by vets, is fortified with 23 vitamins and minerals designed to make it a complete and balanced meal, according to AAFCO standards. Ingredients can be traced directly to the companies that supply them, so quality control is closely monitored. The food is manufactured in a U.S. facility, which is important to many pet parents.
Another reason we like Purina is their commitment and dedication to supporting shelters and rescue groups. Their nonprofit Petfinder Foundation donates 91 percent of every dollar toward programs that help homeless pets, including grants to humane organizations across the country.
Best for Puppies
Royal Canin Puppy Canned Dog Food
Suitable for all breed sizes
Multiple protein sources
Only one flavor profile
Formulated specifically for puppies, who have different nutritional needs from adults, Royal Canin Puppy Canned Dog Food meets AAFCO standards for optimal growth. It provides protein and fatty acids from a wide variety of sources, including chicken, pork, chicken liver, and salmon. It includes a full selection of vitamins and minerals, plus digestive-supporting beet pulp and fish oil.
Large breed puppies require a different calcium to phosphorous ratio than adult foods since overfeeding calcium can cause orthopedic issues. However, this wet food is complete and balanced for all breed sizes. You can use it alone or as a special treat to top off dry kibbles.
Royal Canin analyzes 100 percent of its raw ingredients and keeps a sample for two years to ensure quality and safety standards are met. The manufacturer recommends this for feeding small breed puppies to age 10 months and large breeds to 15 months.
Best for Senior Dogs
Purina Pro Plan Classic Adult 7+ Complete Essentials Wet Dog Food
Only two flavors
Can too large for small dogs
Just like people, dogs’ nutritional requirements may change as they get older. Although no organization has determined official dietary needs for older dogs (partially because they vary so much in their needs), we do know that senior dogs need protein to maintain muscle mass and also may benefit from food that contains supplements for brain and joint health.
It may not be necessary to switch to a senior diet if your dog is healthy. But if your vet recommends a change, Purina Pro Plan Adult 7+ is a high-protein diet designed for dogs ages 7 years and older to maintain muscles and ideal body condition. With a thick pate texture and strong aroma that’s appealing to most dogs, it’s a good choice if your senior has become a picky eater or has dental issues. It’s produced in the U.S.
Pedigree Choice Cuts in Gravy Adult Wet Dog Food
Tap top which doesn't require can opener
Variety pack of flavors available
Cans too large for small dogs
The cost of wet foods can range widely, but more expensive foods don’t necessarily equate to better health. Foods that meet the AAFCO standards for “complete and balanced” are available at a wide range of price points, so it’s fine to stick with budget options that are complete and balanced.
Pedigree Choice Cuts meets AAFCO standards for complete and balanced nutrition. Available in several flavors, the food contains 82 percent moisture and has a chunky, stew-like consistency that appeals to many dogs. It can be used as a main course or to top your dog’s dry kibbles to add some variety. The food comes in two can sizes (13.2 and 22-ounces) and is manufactured in the U.S.
Best for Weight Management
Hill's Science Diet Adult Perfect Weight Hearty Vegetable & Chicken Stew Canned Dog Food
Often recommended by vets
Appealing combination of textures
High moisture content
Only one flavor
If your vet has recommended a weight management plan for your dog, Hill’s Science Diet Adult Perfect Weight canned dog food offers complete and balanced nutrition in wet form. It also contains no artificial colors, flavors, or preservatives.
This brand is often recommended by vets and has a long history of testing to produce quality products. According to feeding trials by the company, the majority of dogs lost weight within 10 weeks on this food.
The high moisture content (84 percent) also makes it appealing for dogs who don’t tend to drink enough water. Its blend of chunks and gravy, which creates the “stew” formula, may entice seniors or dogs whose dental issues make it uncomfortable to chew. It’s also available in a pate form if your dog prefers a different texture.
Natural Balance Platefulls Wet Dog Food
Easy portability and storage
Package sized well for smaller dogs
Food can be difficult to spoon out of pouch
Pouches provide convenience to pet parents. Like canned food, it doesn’t have to be stored in the fridge if unopened. When serving, no can opener is needed, and the entire pouch is often consumed in one sitting, depending on the dog’s size. That means you won’t need to keep leftovers in the fridge or wonder when you opened the container (open food should be consumed within 3 to 5 days).
Natural Balance Platefulls Savory Duck and Pumpkin has a firm texture that’s less soupy that some other canned products. This consistency may appeal to some picky eaters. The food is complete and balanced and can be used as a main course or topper.
What to Look for in Wet Dog Food
AAFCO Nutritional Adequacy Statement
The Association of American Feed Control Officials, or AAFCO, identifies safe ingredients and recommends nutrient profiles for pet foods based on the most recent research. However, they do not inspect, approve, certify or regulate pet foods. Instead, the organization provides a standard for each state’s feed laws.
However, in order to be marketed as “complete and balanced,” foods must meet nutritional standards outlined in AAFCO’s minimum requirements. The statement is based on either meeting AAFCO’s minimum standards or by doing animal feeding tests using AAFCO procedures.
Complete and Balanced
The label should state that the food is ‘complete and balanced’ for the life stage the diet is designed to feed.
Pet foods are developed for specific stages in your dog’s life. Diets are formulated for Growth and Reproduction (puppies and pregnant dogs), Adult Maintenance (adult dogs), or All Life Stages.
According to the American Veterinary Medical Association and the American College of Veterinary Nutrition, raw food is not recommended for any dog. Although some advocates say they’ve had positive experiences with raw food diets, there’s no scientific evidence to suggest raw pet food is better than any other kind. Raw food also may contain pathogens such as listeria or salmonella, which can make both pets and people sick.
While proponents of grain-free foods claim it’s healthier, there’s no reliable evidence or nutritional studies that support the use of grain-free foods in dogs that haven’t been diagnosed with food allergies.
In addition, it’s not recommended to give your dog a grain-free diet because it has been associated with an increase in dilated cardiomyopathy in dogs, a potentially fatal condition. In fact, the FDA and other organizations are now investigating an increase in dilated cardiomyopathy associated with grain-free diets.
If your dog has been diagnosed with food allergies and you prefer to feed them wet food, your vet can recommend a limited-ingredients option that eliminates a lot of common allergens.
Is wet food good for dogs?
Both wet and dry foods must meet the same nutritional standards, as determined by AAFCO, in order to be labeled “complete and balanced.” As long as you’re feeding a food that’s a complete and balanced diet and appropriate for your pet’s life stage (Growth and Reproduction, Adult, or All Life Stages), wet food is nutritionally sound, says Dr. Bullen.
Some dogs, such as those who don’t tend to drink enough water, or dogs with underlying health issues such as kidney disease, may benefit from the increased moisture content in wet foods. For the highest moisture content—wet foods that are more than 78 percent water—look for descriptive words like “stew,” “gravy,” “broth,” or “in sauce.” Or look under the “Guaranteed Analysis” line on a dog food’s label for a listing of moisture content, alongside protein, fat, and fiber levels.
How long can wet dog food sit out?
While many commercial pet foods do contain some preservatives, uneaten food should not be left out for more than an hour to prevent the growth of organisms that could make your pet sick. “As it dehydrates, wet food also becomes dry and unappealing, which leads to a decline in aroma and palatability,” says Dr. Bullen. For refrigerated or frozen foods that contain no preservatives, pick them up soon as your dog stops eating.
Is it okay if my dog only eats wet dog food?
It’s fine for your dog to eat only wet food, as long as it’s labeled as ‘complete and balanced’ and is designed for your pet’s specific life stage such as Growth and Reproduction, Adult Maintenance, or All Stages, says Dr. Bullen.
Does wet dog food need to be refrigerated?
Read the package label, but many unopened cans or pouches do not need refrigerated until opened. Once opened, use a can lid cover designed specifically to fit snugly on the top of the can to make an airtight seal and store in the fridge. Discard opened food within 3 to 5 days, says Dr. Bullen.
How long does an open can of wet dog food last in the fridge?
Like human foods, refrigeration slows but doesn’t prevent all microbial growth. For this reason, toss an open can if it’s been in the fridge for more than 3 to 5 days, says Dr. Bullen. Jot the date on the label to keep track of when it was opened.
Why Trust The Spruce Pets?
This article was written by Arricca SanSone, a lifelong dog lover, who shares her home with two papillons who are the least food-motivated dogs she’s ever met. She researched the market based on an interview with a board-certified veterinary nutritionist and criteria from the American College of Veterinary Nutrition, the Association of American Feed Control Officials, World Small Animal Veterinary Association, and the Pet Food Institute. She is a health and lifestyle writer for Prevention, Country Living, Veranda, House Beautiful, PureWow, and many others.