Should You Add Water to Dry Dog Food?
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Most dogs have a diet based on dry food, also known as kibble. There are many practical reasons why this is the case. Dry food is relatively inexpensive, it is convenient, it does not require preparation time and a good quality dry food should meet your dog's nutritional and dietary needs. Dry food needs to be kept dry for storage purposes, otherwise it will spoil. However, you may have heard of some guardians adding water to dry dog food.
If you are unsure whether this is something you should be doing, AnimalWised asks should you add water to dry dog food? We look at the benefits of adding water to kibble, whether it is something suitable for your dog and how you should do it, if so.
Advantages of dry feed
If you are a dog guardian, you will know they tend to prefer wet food over dry food. Since it is closer to fresh meat in its consistency, scent and flavor, it is generally more appetizing to them. Additionally, it contains 60-70% water, so it is better for hydration. However, it is important to remember that dry feed has its own advantages. They include:
- Prevents periodontal disease: the mechanical effect of chewing dry feed allows dental plaque to be removed and delays the appearance of tartar. In addition, kibble helps to strengthen the periodontal ligament, which prevents the loss of teeth at advanced ages.
- Contributes to the feeling of satiety: chewing not only facilitates the digestion of food, but also helps engender the feeling of fullness. Dry feed requires longer and more laborious chewing than wet feed. This means the dog takes more time to ingest it and consumes fewer calories. This is especially important for overweight or voracious dogs. Dry feed helps control their food intake and helps control their hunger throughout the day. Speak to your veterinarian if your dog is overweight and check out some homemade recipes for dogs with obesity.
- Lower cost: as a general rule, dry feed is usually cheaper than wet feed. This helps lower-income households have a dog as a companion.
- Better conservation: having a lower-water content, kibble is more stable and is preserved for longer periods once opened.
For these reasons, in most cases it is preferable to offer a diet based on dry feed. This should always be supplemented with fresh and clean water available at all times. However, there are certain situations in which it may be convenient to provide a wet feed or a moistened dry feed.
Why should you mix water into dry dog food?
Although dry food is designed to be eaten as it is sold, there are occasions when adding moisture to their feed can provide some benefits. These are related to certain conditions in which your dog may find themselves, both physiological and pathological. In the following cases, it may be recommended you add water to your dog's dry feed:
As with other young mammals, puppies should be fed exclusively with breast milk during the first stages of their lives. Generally, this period will last between a month to a month and a half during their mother's lactation period. After this time, their mother will start to wean them onto solid food. This occurs as their first teeth start to develop. Weaning in puppies needs to be a progressive process from an exclusively liquid diet to a solid diet.
To achieve gradual weaning, a puppy-specific kibble should be moistened with water or puppy milk formula. This will create a porridge which can be more easily ingested by the still-teething puppy. It is a step in between milk and solid food. It will not only help the dog adapt to more solid food, it will also better avoid gastrointestinal problems. It can be particularly useful when providing a diet for a prematurely weaned puppy.
Oral health problems
Dogs with problems in the oral cavity (e.g. gingivitis, periodontal disease, mouth ulcers, etc.) may have some difficulty grasping and chewing hard food. For this reason, it is often advisable to offer the moistened food in these cases. This will prevent pain when chewing or aggravating existing lesions in the oral cavity.
For more information on maintaining a dog's oral health, take a look at our article on why a dog's gums are bleeding.
Dogs with digestive problems due to gastrointestinal disorders may benefit from adding water to dry dog food. Symptoms of gastrointestinal problems include vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain or constipation. Wet food is more easily digested than dry feed, so it can help to aid intestinal motility. The additional water in the feed can also provide hydration to a dog which may be dehydrated, something exacerbated when they have vomiting and diarrhea at the same time.
It is important to note that not all gastrointestinal problems will be the same. You will need to consult your veterinarian to ensure you provide the correct diet to help aid digestion.
Convalescent dogs that are recovering from a pathological problem or have undergone surgery often lose their appetite. Their overall health is at risk if they have a reduced food intake. In these cases, it is advisable to moisten the kibble in order to enhance its flavor and stimulate appetite.
General appetite loss
It is not always the case that a dog will lose their appetite due to a health problem. Sometimes they are just fussy. This is especially the case when we change brands. There are many reasons we may change our dog's commercial feed, but implementing the change should be done progressively. Mix a little of the new dry feed in with the old incrementally until only new kibble is served.
Additionally, adding a little water to the new dry dog food can make it seem more appetizing. However, since appetite loss is a symptom of various pathologies and medical conditions, you will always need to check with a veterinarian to diagnose the reason for the dog's appetite loss.
Dogs that refuse to drink water
Although it is a more typical behavior of cats, we can also find some dogs that refuse to drink water. In the case of animals in a state of dehydration, it will be necessary to establish a fluid therapy plan to correct this situation. However, in mild situations or as general maintenance, you can choose to moisten the feed with water to increase the hydration of the animal.
Learn more about the reasons a dog may be dehydrated in our article on why a dog doesn't drink water.
Can you only mix water into dog food?
As we can see, adding moisture can benefit certain dogs in specific situations. However, there are various ways we can do this. Here we explain your options when hydrating dry dog kibble:
- Water: the simplest and cheapest option. You shouldn't add cold water as this can make it unappetizing. However, you can mix the feed with water at room temperature. Adding a little warm water might be the most appetizing if using water only as it better simulates fresh prey.
- Broth or stock: in adult dogs you can also consider the option of mixing the kibble with broth. This can be chicken, meat or vegetables. In this way, you will not only improve the palatability of the feed, but also increase the nutritional value of the feed. However, it is very important you make the broth or stock yourself. This is because you need to avoid the common ingredients found in commercial products such as onion, garlic and salt which are bad for the dog. Find out more with our article on forbidden food for dogs.
- Formula milk: in the specific case of weaning puppies, it is preferable to mix the dry feed with specific formula milk for dogs. You can find this available at any good veterinary clinic or pet store. At the beginning of weaning, it is preferable that you mix the kibble with warm milk, since puppies are used to consuming food at body temperature (about 38 ºC/100 ºF). As weaning progresses, you can reduce the temperature of the milk, until you provide it at room temperature.
It is important to clarify that you should never mix dry feed with milk from another animal species, such as cow's milk. This can cause diarrhea, something which can have fatal consequences in newborn puppies.
How to mix water with dog food
When you decide to mix the feed with water or other liquids, you must do it at the time you are going to offer the portion to your dog. Depending on their preferences, there are a number of considerations to take into account:
- You can mix the feed with warm or room temperature water, but not when it is hot. Do not add boiling water to dog food as it could burn their mouth.
- You must check the texture so that it is to their liking and add the appropriate amount of water based on this guideline.
- Food that is too liquid is usually not pleasant for most dogs. We recommend you initially make a rather thick paste, and then adjust the texture based on your dog's preferences.
Even if you moisten your dog's food, you must always also offer them a bowl with fresh clean water. Even if you add water to your dog's food, it is likely this will not be enough to maintain adequate hydration levels, so it is essential they always have access to freely available water.
Advantages and disadvantages of adding water to dog food
As you have been able to see throughout the article, adding water to dog food can provide a series of benefits in certain situations. It also has a series of disadvantages and drawbacks when compared to dry food alone.
Advantages of adding water to dog food
The main advantages of adding water to dog food are:
- Palatability: by moistening the kibble, its flavor and smell are enhanced, thus making the food more palatable and appetizing for dogs.
- Digestibility: compared to dry feed, wet feed is more easily digested and requires less effort from the digestive system to process.
- Hydration: wet food helps to increase the hydration level, which is especially important in dogs that refuse to drink water.
Disadvantages of adding water to dog food
The main drawbacks of adding water to dog food are:
- Less practical: when we decide to moisten the feed with water or any other liquid, it is important to do it at the time we are going to offer the food. If we prepare it too far in advance, it is likely that a paste will form that your dog does not like. Wet food is also more likely to attract insects and other pests. You must prepare the mixture at feeding time and remove it within 20-30 minutes if your dog does not consume it.
- Risk of periodontal disease: unlike dry kibble, wet food favors the proliferation of bacterial plaque and the development of dental tartar. Learn more about a dog's oral health and how to manage it with our article on common dental diseases in dogs.
As you have seen, both the supply of dry and moistened feed have certain benefits and drawbacks. Deciding the best option for your dog will depend on their needs and the assessment made by your veterinarian in each case. As a general rule, the supply of dry kibble should be prioritized, but when necessary, you can opt for wet feeding for as long as you consider appropriate.
If you want to read similar articles to Should You Add Water to Dry Dog Food?, we recommend you visit our Homemade diets category.
- European Federation of Pet Food Manufacturers. (2017). Nutritional guides for complete and complementary foods for dogs.