Understanding moisture content or water content in dog food
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Understanding moisture content or water content in dog food

Dogs
Health & Safety

Most dog owners go through the process of assessing whether wet food or dry food is the best fit for their own dog at some stage, and one fact that is often referenced as part of advice and information on this topic is that dry food only has a moisture content of around 20%, while wet food has about 75%.

This means that dogs that eat dry food need to drink more water to remain appropriately hydrated, and this need for extra water can, in the long term, potentially lead to an increased propensity to urinary tract and kidney issues in the older dog. The flip side of this of course is that dogs that eat wet food are more likely to need special care taken of their teeth, as wet food is more likely to adhere to the teeth and in the long term, lead to dental decay.

As well as this basic information on moisture content in dog food and of course, the relative nutritional content of food as well as the other factors to bear in mind, many dog owners do not really understand what is meant by the moisture or water content of food. Some people assume that a water or moisture content of 75% or so means that the food uses water as filler, in place of nutrients.

In this article we will take a more in-depth look at what moisture content or water content in dog food really means, how it relates to nutritional content, and whether a high water content in wet food is a good thing or a bad thing. Read on to learn more.

Common misapprehensions about water content in dog food

The average dog owner reading the label of a pet food can easily become confused by the different ways ingredients are listed and nutritional contents are outlined. When it comes to water or moisture content this is one of the areas where the greatest misapprehensions are made, and information often misinterpreted.

Many dog owners think of moisture or water content being filler, or used in place of proper ingredients or nutrients-and this theory would mean that a food that has a moisture content of 75% would have 75% water added to just 25% of actual ingredients.

It is understandable in some ways when we look at how water or moisture content is reflected in human foods-for instance, some products commonly have water added to bulk them out, particularly products like cooked or processed meats.

For instance, if you buy a value brand of sliced ham, this might have 10% (or more) water added, which ups the weight of the item and so, makes it poorer value. Because this is a common thing in UK pre-packaged food products, when dog owners read that their dog’s food contains 75% or so moisture or water content, they assume that it means that 75% additional water is added to just 25% of actual food, when this is not the case.

Water or moisture content in dog food does not mean that water is added-it is a reflection of the natural moisture content of food.

Muscle meat, the most nutritious type of meat and that which is the main meat content of dog food is 75% moisture anyway, and vegetables often have a higher water content again.

Ergo, when a dog food says 75% moisture, this is a reflection of the natural water or moisture content of the total ingredients, and not a statement of water added to bulk it out!

Dry food versus wet food and moisture content

So, the next question from many dog owners is, “if the natural ingredients have around 75% moisture content and wet food contains the same, how come dry food contains just 20% or so, and is this better value like for like?”

The answer to this question has various different elements to it, and understanding them properly can help you to make an informed decision about the best type of food for your own dog.

Dry food has a much lower moisture content because it is deliberately dehydrated, to remove the moisture content to provide a longer shelf life, and like for like, a smaller package.

You have probably noticed this if you have compared the feeding guidelines for dry food versus wet; you need to feed a smaller amount of dry food like for like than you do of wet food, to provide your dog with the right amount of food and nutrients.

However, as the body of the dog is made up of around 75% water-just like their natural foodstuffs, and pre-packaged wet foods-a dog that eats dry food rather than wet food will need to drink more water, in order to balance this out.

If you feed your dog’s food dry, they will need to drink more water to balance this out, and some dog owners soak their dog’s dry food in water prior to feeding it, in order to raise the moisture level.

In general terms, feeding dry food generally works out cheaper than feeding a wet food of an equivalent nutritional makeup and quality, and of course, it takes up less room to store and has a longer shelf life when opened.

However, feeding dry food means that your dog will need to drink more than otherwise, and if they do not get enough water with their dry food, they can become dehydrated, which over the long term, can affect their urinary tract and kidney health.

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