Adding a spoonful or two of canned food to your dog’s normal dry kibble or feeding wet food solo is a choice many owners make at some point in their dog’s life. Whether you introduce wet food to entice a picky eater to take in more calories or because your dog has trouble chewing, choosing a quality canned diet is key. Canned food usually contains more meat protein and is made with fewer carbohydrates making it crucial for your dog’s health and development, says Cynthia Garcia
Just as with dry food, there is a range of canned foods available. Some are made with low-quality ingredients that are as bad for your pup as they smell to you, while others can be even healthier to feed than the top dry foods.
In this article, we’ll look at the different benefits of canned diets, how to spot a quality one, and then review our top five picks of the best canned dog foods.
Best Canned Dog Food
Reviews of The Best Canned Dog Foods
#1. Nutro Wild Frontier Grain Free Wet
First up on our list of the best wet dog foods is a super-protein packed diet with an average amount of fat that is perfect for most dogs. Nutro’s Wild Frontier canned food combines quality ingredients with a calorie density to support the average dog’s health.
This food is available in eight flavors. Some of those flavors are in traditional loaf form, while others come in a savory gravy and chunk form. While most dogs will enjoy both, the gravy type is especially good for mixing with dry kibble to get picky eaters to finish their meals.
All flavors have a minimum of 50% protein and about 19% fat. But most importantly of all, all eight flavors get 99% of the protein from animal ingredients.
In fact, while there are some filler plant ingredients in these recipes, like potato starch, most of the ingredients are meat and the first ingredient after chicken broth is always a quality meat like lamb, chicken, or beef.
This food does not contain any carrageenan or other chemical additives. And, priced at mid-range, this food is one of the best rated canned dog foods you’ll find.
#2. Solid Gold Leaping Waters Grain-Free
Next on our list of the best wet food for dogs, is a holistic diet that integrates healthy plant ingredients in with a base of quality meats to bring more natural nutrition to your dog’s diet. Solid Gold Leaping Waters canned food is a higher calorie diet for more active dogs.
This loaf-type wet food is a great choice if you are trying to add more calories to your dog’s diet or just have a higher energy pup who burns a lot of fuel.
This food contains about 36% protein and 30% fat. While it doesn’t have quite as much protein as our first choice of food, it does still contain many quality meat ingredients like chicken, white fish, and salmon.
It also contains some healthy plant-foods including flaxseed, spinach, and blueberries. Unfortunately, some of the protein content likely comes from the added peas, a less desirable source than animal protein for your dog’s digestion.
If you are looking for the best organic canned dog food but don’t have the budget for certified organic, this all-natural wet food is a good choice.
At about the same price as our first choice food, this diet is still a great option, especially for those with younger dogs or owners who need a tasty, quality topper for their dog’s dry food. In fact, with enticing fish ingredients and extra fat, this is one of the best wet dog foods to mix with dry to get your picky eater to dig in.
#3. Blue Buffalo Blue’s Stew
If you’re looking for something with a little more protein and less fat that still packs a lot of calories into each serving, Blue Buffalo Blue’s Stew line might be the right choice for you. This food comes in third on our list of the best quality canned dog food for containing premium ingredients and because it is available in multiple flavors to fit every dogs’ needs.
This diet is available in five tasty flavors including Irish lamb stew and hunter’s stew. All flavors are made in chunk and gravy form and are perfect for adding to dry diets.
The amount of protein varies by flavor, but all offer between 38 and 44%. And, with a lower fat percentage between 19 and 27%, you can easily find the right calorie density to fit your dog’s needs.
All five flavors contain a different quality meat as the first ingredient, like turkey, lamb, and duck, and a handful of other meats listed in the top seven ingredients like liver, salmon, and chicken. Unfortunately, these stews do contain some less desirable plant ingredients, including peas and potato starch.
But overall, this canned food is a great choice for your pup and one that they would likely vote as the best tasting wet dog food on our list.
#4. Merrick Lil’ Plates Small Breed Canned Diet
Our next wet food was included on our list for those owners looking for the best wet dog food for small dogs. Merrick’s Lil’ Plates wet diet is perfect for the small dog who is too good for dry kibble.
This mini-medley pack comes complete with three different flavors to keep your little dog interested. All contain about 44% protein and 16% fat.
Like all our choices so far, these flavors contain multiple quality meat ingredients listed first, including chicken, salmon, and whitefish. Also like many others on this list, this food likely does get some of its protein from peas and contains the filler ingredient potato starch.
But this is still one of the best wet dog food for small breeds because it contains high quality ingredients tailored to the nutritional needs of your small dog. Like most small dog specific foods, this canned diet will cost you more than the other choices on our list.
#5. Purina ONE True Instinct Canned
Have you been trying to find the best wet dog food brands to buy on a budget? Our final choice of the best soft dog food is by far the most affordable on our list.
Purina’s True Instinct Chicken and Duck Recipe is an all-meat canned diet at a bargain price. This food contains only real meat ingredients like chicken, pork lungs, and duck and added vitamins and minerals.
All that meat means this food has a ton of protein, 41% to be exact. This food also has a high fat percentage at 36%.
If you have a high-energy dog or a working breed, this food is perfect for them.
Of course, at such a low price, there are some down-sides to this diet. Most notably, it contains carrageenan.
It also lists liver from unknown origin as the fourth ingredient. But, given the price point and lack of added starch, this food is still a good choice for those owners who need to feed a large breed dog only wet food or those owners trying to stick to a tight budget.
The Benefits of a Wet Food Diet
Kibble is by far the most common type of food fed to companion dogs. It’s cheap and you can purchase a large quantity at once.
And as long as you pick a high-quality dog food, just about any type of food can be a healthy choice for your dog. But how does canned dog food compare to dry dog food?
Considering dry food’s popularity, you may be surprised to find out that wet food, on average, may actually be better for your dog. One big reason for this has to do with how canned food is processed and packaged.
Because of the way dry dog food is processed, some amount of plant starch must be used in the recipe. Because dogs have no nutritional need for carbohydrates, these added ingredients often take up space that could be used by more nutritious ingredients.
Wet diets, on the other hand, don’t require any starch or plant ingredients for processing. Some very high-quality canned foods contain only meat ingredients and added vitamins and minerals.
Rendered meats and meat meals are also key ingredients in most dry dog foods because they lend themselves well to the kibble processing method. While these meat meals can be nutrient-dense, they are nowhere near as fresh as the meats you would choose to feed your dog yourself if you could.
Canned foods often contain fresher meats that haven’t been rendered. These ingredients are closer to their natural state and are more recognizable to your dog’s system.
Despite the low moisture content of dry diets, they still require preservatives to keep from spoiling. And many lower quality dog foods use artificial, chemical preservatives.
Like all canned food, wet diets don’t require preservatives of any kind. And unopened cans last much longer than unopened bags of dog food.
Most importantly of all, wet diets tend to contain more protein and fat and fewer carbohydrates overall than dry food. According to Dog Food Advisor, the average canned diet has 28 to 50% protein compared to just 18 to 32% in dry foods, and 20 to 32% fat compared to just 8 to 22% fat.
Things to Watch Out for If Your Choose Canned
Of course, all that extra fat can get your dog into trouble if they are trying to watch their figure.
If you are feeding canned food, keep this higher calorie count in mind and make sure to adjust your dog’s portions based on their body condition. Because of the extra moisture content, your dog will feel fuller after eating a bowl of wet food than they would eating a bowl of dry, which helps.
Even though new canned food has a long shelf life, opened canned food does not. If your dog doesn’t finish their bowl of wet within a couple of hours, you should throw it out and offer them fresh food at the next meal.
Canned food can become contaminated with bacteria quickly, and because there are no preservatives, this bacteria will multiply quickly at room temperature.
Opened cans can be stored in the fridge, but use them within three days to be safe.
You should also be aware of a frequently used wet food additive called carrageenan. This common thickener is present in low-quality wet diets, but less common in the top 10 best canned dog foods and quality brands.
A component of carrageenan, poligeenan, has been found to cause cancer in both humans and animals. For your pup’s long term health, you should avoid this ingredient as well as any other chemical additives like BHT, BHA, and ethoxyquin.
How to Spot a Quality Canned Diet
While the average canned diet is likely to be healthier for your dog than the average dry diet, that doesn’t necessarily mean all canned diets are great. In fact, there is a plethora of unhealthy, even damaging, wet food on the market.
To make sure you don’t fall victim to the clever marketing tactics of these less-than-optimal diets, you’ll want to look past the front label and examine the back of any wet food before you buy it.
Start with the guaranteed analysis section. The percentage of protein in the food should be relatively high.
Unfortunately, comparing protein amounts between different types of wet food can be tricky since they all contain varying levels of moisture. The best way to determine the exact amount of protein in a food is to look at the dry matter percentage.
To do this, first look at the amount of moisture listed. Minus that number from 100 to get the amount of dry matter in the can.
Take the dry matter percentage and divide it into the percent listed for protein. That answer will tell you how much protein is actually in the food compared to other canned diets.
For example, let’s say you have found a food with 82% moisture and 9% protein. To figure the protein by dry matter, you would use these equations:
100 – 82 (moisture percentage) = 18; 9 (protein percentage) / 18 = 50% protein by dry matter
You can calculate the fat percentage by dry matter the same way. The more protein and fat in a food, the fewer unnecessary starch additives it has.
Of course, not all meat is made equal either. Always look for canned food that contains a named animal ingredient like “chicken,” “turkey,” or “lamb” as the first ingredient listed.
The more named meat ingredients listed compared to other types of ingredients, the better.
Avoid any meat ingredients without a clear source, such as “by-product meal,” “animal digest,” or “heart.” These ingredients are often mixed leftovers from the slaughterhouse floor and some types may even come from animals that died of other causes including euthanized pets.
Frequently Asked Questions
While it is easy to find quality adult wet food diets on the market, finding a quality canned puppy food is another matter. Many budget companies make puppy specific wet diets, but the higher-tier lines and smaller, natural-focused companies still have little to offer in this realm.
But, if you look hard enough you can find some puppy-specific quality diets, just follow the same guidelines we discussed above for picking out premium adult foods. Just make sure the can says “puppy” or “all life stages” so you know that it is formulated to meet your growing puppy’s needs.
Moist dog foods appear to be a compromise between canned and kibble diets. The diet is made of small pieces similar to kibble, but they are soft and malleable and easy to chew even for dogs without teeth.
Unfortunately, these foods do not carry the same quality found in wet or dry diets. They are often made with corn syrup and soy oil and contain preservatives and chemical dyes.
Because of the low-quality ingredients and questionable additives, it is better to avoid moist diets altogether. Instead, opt for a quality canned food or soak your dog’s kibble in water before feeding them.
Both wet foods and dry foods have their advantages, and if you choose a quality brand in either form, your dog is likely to get all the nutrients they need to thrive. However, that doesn’t mean you should choose just one.
Mixing wet and dry foods together is a great way to entice your stubborn dog to eat or spoil your special pal. Or, you can rotate between wet and canned diets to give your dog some variety and expose them to foods with varying nutrient profiles.
What is the Best Canned Dog Food?
After performing multiple canned dog food reviews and examining the highest rated wet diets on the market, we chose Nutro Wild Frontier Vital Prey canned food as the best canned dog food. This diet combines quality meat with nutrient-rich plant ingredients and a calorie-density perfect for the average dog.
And since this food is available in multiple flavors, you are sure to find an option that will work for your dog, whether they are a picky eater or you are just hoping to spoil them with some extra-good food.
Of course, if you are looking for something a little different, maybe the perfect food for your small breed pup or an affordable wet food option, we have some of those listed above as well.