Have you been feeding dry dog food to your dog only because you were told that it prevented tarter and dental disease? Do you feel guilty when you add canned food because of the harm that it may cause? Dry food does not prevent dental disease and wet or canned food does not cause dental problems. Each type of dog food has its own benefits and drawbacks. A combination of wet and dry combines the best of both foods.
The Dog’s Unique Feeding Style
The belief that dry food prevents dental disease is derived from the belief that chewing causes abrasion on the tooth surfaces to prevent or shave off tarter. And that is true, but dogs do not chew their food! Anyone who has witnessed or stepped in dog vomit knows that the vomit looks just like the food, just wetter.
As pack animals, dogs killed and feasted in very competitive groups. Individuals tore flesh from the carcass swallowed and then repeatedly dove back into the frenzy for more. Taking the time to chew would have meant less food and possibly starvation.
This feeding habit has not changed in our modern dogs. Examination of a modern dog’s mouth reveals that they share the same sharp, pointed teeth of their flesh eating ancestors. They grab, maybe crunch once, swallow and grab again. No abrasive cleaning action of the teeth takes place during a meal.
Dental Tarter and Food Type
Wild dogs and cats don’t eat any dry food. Studies show that they have less dental tarter than pets fed commercial food, wet or dry. The fact is that dental disease is more complicated than what type of food is eaten. Dental hygiene is less dependent on diet and more dependent on routine care. Regular teeth brushing and availability of hard chew toys has a greater impact on dental health than the type of food. Owners can be comforted that they can feed how they want without guilt.
Dry Dog Food
The major benefits of dry food are convenience and price. Open the bag and scoop, no mess. This makes traveling with a dog much easier. It is also very inexpensive compared to wet food. A 50lb dog can be fed for as low as 13 cents a day.
The major drawbacks of dry food are its quality and the reluctance of dogs to eat it when they are ill.
All ingredients of dry food are put in huge pressure cookers and turned into a liquid at high temperatures. This means any form of protein, carbohydrate or fat can be used. That is why this method is perfect for using meat, grain and processed food scraps as well dead, decayed animals rather than real cuts of meats and whole grains and vegetables.
After the hot slurry reaches the proper time and temperature it is injected through super-heated extruders. As the liquid leaves the extruders the cold air causes it to “pop” into various shapes depending on the mold of the extruder exit. The dry kibble is then sprayed with oil and vitamins before bagging to replenish some of the nutrients lost in this double heat process.
Dry kibble will not “pop” without sufficient carbohydrates. That is why dry dog food tends to be lower in protein and higher in carbohydrates than wet or canned food.
Although dogs eat their dry food when they are healthy, they often refuse to eat it when they feel ill. The refusal to eat can lower their nutritional status and ability to heal. This downward spiral often leaves these dogs very fragile when they are finally taken to the vet. Would you eat shredded wheat without milk if you were sick?
Canned Dog Food
The major benefits of canned food are taste and quality. Only rarely will sick dogs refuse to eat canned food. When wet food is mixed with dry food, dogs eat more heartily. The larger variety of flavors of canned foods allows for more diversity in the diet. Canned food is generally higher in protein than dry food. With canning, ingredients are cooked in the sealed can so nutrients are not lost during the heating process.
A major drawback of wet food is that it is more expensive than dry food. Also many owners object to the smell of canned food and dislike storing partial cans in the refrigerator. And certainly opening a can is more complicated than scooping from a bag.
Why Not Feed Both?
Since food is not a culprit in dental disease, why not spice up your dog’s diet with a combination of canned and dry food? Using the wet enhances the quality, flavor and enthusiasm for mealtime. Adding the dry reduces food costs. Everybody wins. Having wet food available can help maintain your dog’s appetite during illness.