We’d bet it’s safe to say that pretty much every dog will happily gobble down a can of wet food—but certain dogs will benefit from a wet food diet more than others. Dogs with kidney issues, senior dogs and puppies, dogs with oral pain or tooth loss, and dogs who are picky eaters will all benefit from a combined or fully wet food diet.
With so many brands on the market and types of dog food, choosing the right one for your pet is a difficult task. The best wet dog food brands should provide both complete nutrition and genuine enjoyment for your pup. Below, we spoke to veterinarians and dog behaviorists in our network to get their insights on exactly how to switch to a wet food diet—and which brands and ingredients to look for.
Wet vs Dry Dog Food: Which Is Better?
Wet dog foods are certainly becoming more popular, especially as we learn more about what our dogs need out of their diet in order to thrive. While there are tons of benefits that come along with wet dog food, it’s important to remember that it does have its pros and cons when compared to dry dog food and even raw dog food.
“Wet dog foods are palatable for dogs, made with less room for additives or artificial ingredients, and they are often easier to digest,” says Jen Jones, professional dog trainer and behavior specialist. “However, wet dog foods also contain less carbs, which are helpful to keeping your dog feeling full and satiated.”
Some wet dog foods can also upset your dog’s stomach if they are not made with quality ingredients. Be sure to choose dog foods that are high quality and contain real meat protein. Avoid wet dog foods with additives, preservatives, dyes, byproducts, or other unnecessary fillers.
“Canned food is higher in protein and moisture than dry food, which is the primary benefit for feeding a combination of both canned and dry food,” adds Dr. Sarah Wooten, a Colorado-based veterinarian.
Wet Dog Food Benefits
The price of wet dog food might be a bit higher than dry kibble—but the benefits of switching to a wet food diet might be worth it for certain pet parents and their dogs. Here are a few benefits that come with switching to a wet food diet or mixing wet and dry dog food:
Great for preventing dehydration: Wet dog food is great for dogs who are dehydrated. “If your dog is not drinking enough water, wet food will help increase their water intake,” explains Dr. Sara Ochoa, a small animal veterinarian. “For many dogs with kidney or urinary issues, I will recommend they switch to wet dog food to help increase their water intake.”
Helpful for dogs with a low appetite: “Most wet dog foods are healthy and filled with quality ingredients that you can see and smell,” says Jones. “This is one of the reasons wet dog foods are so popular with owners who have dogs with poor appetites.”
Lasts for a very long time: Wet dog food has a long shelf life and can often last for years when canned—this makes for a great option to store in the pantry to ensure you always have food on hand or to buy in bulk to cut some of the cost of wet food.
Easy to ensure high-quality protein: According to Jones, wet dog food is generally rich in quality meat proteins and less likely to contain the same number of additives that certain dry foods do.
Wet Dog Food: What to Look For
There are endless wet dog food options on the market—but certain brands and formulas significantly outperform others in terms of quality of ingredients and nutritional value. Here’s what to look for when shopping for the best wet dog food:
Seek out the AAFCO statement: AAFCO stands for the Association of American Feed Control Officials, which is an organization that checks to make sure that the food your pet is eating is formulated correctly to support health. There will be a statement on the can that says “this food is certified by AAFCO to be complete and balanced for all life stages.” If that statement is not present, Wooten suggests choosing a different food.
High-quality meat: “Canned food should be primarily meat and water, so look for canned food that has an identifiable meat source as the first ingredient, and water or broth in the first three ingredients,” Wooten recommends.
Avoid gluten: Gluten is often used as a binder in canned foods, but Wooten suggests avoiding it if you can. Choose foods that do not have corn gluten, wheat gluten, or white rice—you just don’t need it in canned food. “Instead, choose foods that use potato starch or potatoes, just make sure these ingredients are listed after the top 6-7 ingredients (which should be identifiable protein sources and broth or water),” she says.
Fruits and veggies: Fruits and veggies are good to have in canned food as well, but the same rule applies—they need to be further down the ingredient list.
Look for convenient sizing: Ochoa suggests looking for food that allows you to give your dog only one or two packages of food each day. “You will not want to have to save food for the next day as this can go bad very quickly once open,” she explains.
The 7 Best Wet Dog Food Formulas to Try
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If you’re wondering what is the best wet dog food for your canine companion, check out some of our favorite picks below!
- Best Wet Dog Food Overall Winner: Open Farm Grass-Fed Beef Rustic Stew Wet Dog Food
- Best Affordable Wet Dog Food: Pedigree Choice Cuts in Gravy Country Stew Canned Dog Food
- Best Vegetarian Wet Dog Food: Natural Balance Vegetarian Formula Canned Dog Food
- Best Grain-Free Wet Dog Food: Wellness CORE Grain-Free Formula
- Best Senior Wet Dog Food: Purina Pro Plan Savor Adult Classic
- Best Wet Dog Food for Puppies: Hill’s Science Diet Puppy Chicken & Barley Entree
- Best Wet Dog Food for Sensitive Stomach: Royal Canin Veterinary Diet Hydrolyzed Protein Adult HP Canned Dog Food
Best Wet Dog Food: Overall Winner
Looking for a high-quality, science-backed wet dog food that you can feel good about serving your pup? Open Farm fits the bill. The well-loved pet food brand takes care to ensure it’s only using the best ingredients, ethically sourced from family farms. Open Farm’s Rustic Stews are 100 percent human-grade and great for finicky eaters. The grass-fed beef recipe features certified-humane beef raised without antibiotics, non-GMO pumpkin, and superfoods like coconut oil and turmeric. Serve it as a complete and balanced meal, or as a topper!
- Packed with hearty ground beef, nutrient-rich veggies, and superfoods
- Single-protein option
- No grain or potato
- No artificial flavors, colors, or preservatives
- No antibiotics or added growth hormones
- The BPA-free cartons are easy to seal and store in the fridge
- Recyclable packaging
- Available in other proteins, including turkey, chicken, or salmon
Things to Consider
- Certain pet parents report that their dogs took time to warm up to this formula
Sample buyer review: “Our boy loves this food! If we leave the stew out of his food, he will refuse to eat his kibble! Eventually we would love to just have him purely on the stew. Love the company too, such an easy process and superb customer service! Very happy to order from Open Farm again!”
Best Affordable Wet Dog Food
This affordable wet dog food is an ideal option for topping or mixing with dry kibble thanks to its added gravy and chunky cuts of meat. The tasty flavor is also a favorite among picky dogs and pet parents trying to ensure a balanced diet.
- The balanced formula is highly digestible and easy on the stomach
- Includes optimal levels of oils for a healthy coat
- Formulated and packaged in the United States
Things to Consider
- Chunky formula may be hard for some dogs to chew
Sample buyer review: “So far so good. We are two months into it…we use it as a topper for his dry dog food. He scarfs it down as soon as he comes from outside. That’s where he heads. I like the fact that Pedigree is reasonably priced and yet with good products.”
Best Vegetarian Wet Dog Food
If your dog has food allergies or sensitivities to meat and dairy, and you are considering a vegetarian or vegan dog food, Natural Balance Vegetarian Canned Dog Food is a premium option. It’s designed to provide all breeds of adult dogs a complete and balanced alternative to a meat-based diet. This formula offers dogs the same essential nutrients found in diets with meat as the primary protein source, but it is made with no animal or dairy products.
- Vegan formula
- Premium energy sources including brown rice, oatmeal, and potatoes
- Natural health support from green peas
- Supports healthy skin and shiny coat
- Complete, balanced nutrition for adult dogs
Things to Consider
- Before switching to a vegetarian or vegan diet, work with your veterinarian to ensure it’s a good fit for your pet
Sample buyer review: “We have been battling some type of allergy in our flat coated retriever. Dog was put on hypoallergenic then back on sensitive skin formula and we are now eliminating animal protein as a source of the allergy so tried this Natural Balance food. Thought she would not touch it, especially the dry. I was wrong. She loves it! The dry food is eaten plain and the wet smells like hickory smoke and is gobbled right up. Never thought I would be feeding vegetarian diet to my dog but hey…. Skin and ear issues seem to be improving. May switch my Aussie over to it too.”
Best Grain-Free Wet Dog Food
Our pick: Wellness CORE Grain-Free Formula
Looking for a wet dog food formula without unnecessary filler and additives? The Wellness CORE Grain-Free Formula is not just grain free, it’s also free of gluten, corn, soy, and peas, resulting in a highly nutritious blend of lean protein and superfoods like spinach and kale.
- The filler-free formula is packed with lean protein and nutritional supplements
- Picky dogs love the full flavor taste
- Helps skin and coat as well as digestion
Things to Consider
- Rather expensive compared to other brands
Sample buyer review: “My dogs love this food. They would eat it until they gained thousands of pounds if possible. I’ve also noticed that their fur has become softer and more shiny. They seem to have more energy and they play harder everyday when they eat this. They just generally look healthier, and they are more active.”
Best Senior Wet Dog Food
Our pick: Purina Pro Plan Savor Adult Classic
Senior dogs or pups with missing teeth or oral pain will particularly enjoy the Purina Pro Plan Savor Adult Classic for its soft pate formula and energy-boosting rice and lean protein. The tasty chicken and rice formula is also packed with added carrageenan, which will help boost the immune system and protect against canine colds.
- Great price-to-quality ratio
- Packed with energy-boosting complex carbohydrates
- Very easy for senior dogs or dogs with oral pain to chew
Things to Consider
- Certain pet parents report that the formula can be quite watery
Sample buyer review: “Having to change the feeding plan for our 13-year-old female Scottish Terrier. He eats this canned food (mixed with ProPlan dry) like it is candy. She is gaining weight and looking good. Putting the puppy back in our girl.”
Best Wet Dog Food for Puppies
Starting your puppy on a diet supplemented with wet food is an excellent way to ensure they’re getting enough balanced protein and liquid in their diet. The Hill’s Science Diet Puppy Chicken & Barley Entree comes highly recommended by vets for its high-quality ingredient list and easy-to-chew pate.
- Intentionally crafted to foster immunity and mobility
- Very popular among veterinarians
- Formulated in the United States
Things to Consider
- The formula is quite clumpy and can be hard to serve
Sample buyer review: “This product was recommended by our vet. My honey was at the hospital because she wasn’t eating well. Her sugar dropped so she ended up having a seizure. This product has really helped her. She loves it and she’s been gaining weight. I can tell she feels better and has even more energy!”
Best Wet Dog Food for Sensitive Stomach
Trying to feed a dog with tummy troubles can be a learning curve; you want to make sure your pup is eating and getting all the nutrients they need to stay healthy and active but you certainly don’t want to see them getting sick or having irregular bowel movements. The Royal Canin Veterinary Diet Hydrolyzed Protein Adult HP Canned Dog Food works to take triggering proteins and ingredients out of the equation without sacrificing a balanced diet and ample nutrition.
- Great for a wide variety of digestive issues
- Highly recommended by vets
- Packed with vitamins and oils to foster a healthy coat
Things to Consider
- Requires authorization from your veterinarian
Sample buyer review: “After multiple visits to the veterinary hospital, and almost losing him to a stroke, the vet gave us a prescription for this food. He no longer licks his paws constantly and his fur is no longer discolored. Regardless of price, I will continue to use this food as it saves me money in the long run. And more importantly, he’s healthy and happy!”
Wet Dog Food Safety Tips
Keep in mind that wet dog food requires a bit more care than a simple dry kibble. Make sure you take the time to practice these food safety tips in order to ensure your pup’s health:
Keep a clean food bowl: Most dogs will gobble down their entire serving of wet food in one go—but if your dog is more of a picky eater, be sure to keep track of how much food is left in their bowl and for how long. Wet food shouldn’t sit at room temperature for more than four hours and a wet food bowl should be washed between every feeding.
Use within three days: Due to the general lack of preservatives and additives, wet dog food is made to be eaten in three to five days or less. Be sure to cover it up and store it in the fridge.
Check the expiration date: Canned dog food will typically last unopened for up to five years—but if you’re buying in bulk or planning to store food in your pantry for a while, consider double checking the date on the bottom before grabbing the can opener.