Does Your Canned Food Hold “Water” ? Yes It Does…

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Today’s session is about Canned dog food and how you can compare it to Dry dog food. We have guest writer Mark Whitney, Certified Canine Nutritionist and head of West Chester Canine Nutrition. Mark brings his 25 years of experience to Daisy’s Rescue to help shed some light on nutrition for your dog.

Does Your Canned Food Hold “Water”? Yes It Does…

I get this one often “My Vet wants me to put my dog on canned food because my dog has blah, blah, blah and he/she instructed me to buy canned food because it’s a LOW protein and/or LOW fat and that will help with my problem”  Unfortunately (and a little frightening…) this is untrue!!! I always like to assume they heard their Vet incorrectly…(it helps me sleep at night). At first glance that statement may seem to hold “water”…but therein lies the problem. All canned foods contain anywhere from 70% to 85% water which is an important factor when reading the nutrient level and how your dogs body handles and breaks down those nutrients.

That’s because pet food companies report the nutrient content of their products using something known as
Guaranteed Analysis. The Guaranteed Analysis is the dog food industry’s version of the Nutrition Facts panel printed on every package of human food sold in North America.
According to AAFCO rules, the guaranteed analysis must consist of the following:

  •  Minimum Percentage of Protein
  •  Minimum Percentage of Fat
  •  Maximum Percentage of Fiber
  •  Maximum Percentage of Moisture

But when using this method can be misleading.
That’s because the system used for reporting the percentages fails to consider water content
Even the Food and Drug Administration admits to the importance of this problem on its own website…Interpreting Pet Food Labels FDA

“To make meaningful comparisons of nutrient levels between a canned and dry product, they should be expressed on the same moisture basis.”

Let’s me show you how you can choose a better option for your dog.

How to Calculate Dry Matter Basis

The formula is quite simple.

Percentage of Guaranteed Analysis Component Divided by Percentage of Dry Matter
Multiplied by 100

Assuming a can of dog food contains:

  •  9% protein
  •  4% fat
  •  1% fiber
  •  81% moisture

At first glance, 9% protein looks on the very low side compared to dry dog food. Now watch this number after we convert it.
1.  Calculate the dry matter of the canned food by deducting the moisture
percentage (81%) from 100.   i.e. 100 – 81 = 19% or .19
2.  Now, using this dry matter figure of .19 apply the formula to each of
the components, as follows:
Protein: 9 divided by .19= 47.4%
Fat: 4 divided by .19= 21%
Fiber: 1 divided by .19= 5.3%
Notice the protein percentage now. Not really a LOW Protein and/or LOW Fat that you may have been looking for huh? You will find in many cases, canned dog food values tend to exceed that of dry dog food.

At first glance the dry kibble looks to be higher protein and fat compared to its canned counterpart. Take a look at the protein values after converting the data to dry matter basis…
Can you see how the canned product now lists 40% protein, compared to kibble’s 26% figure?
If you had simply followed your vets suggestion and chose the canned food because of its lower protein and lower fat content, you’d have been wrong.
The wet food actually contains much more protein and fat (on a dry matter basis) than does the kibble.

The Bottom Line

Don’t be fooled by a dog food label’s protein or fat numbers. And remember, numbers are just numbers. They can’t reveal the true quality (or the digestibility) of the product’s proteins or fats.
Be sure to take the time to look over the ingredients list. Your dog will surely be better off for your effort.

Thank you Mark. Hopfully this sesion has given you some insight on how to buy the best dog food for your dog. Mark can be contacted at or you can call 610-314-6124. Mark’s company is West Chester Canine Nutrition.

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