Throughout my career as a veterinarian, I’ve had many pet parents ask me, “Can I mix dry and wet dog food or cat food?”
Usually, my answer is yes, mixing wet and dry pet food together generally is OK. But first, you’ve got to take into account your pet’s health, their preferences and dietary needs, and your budget. After you’ve considered all of those factors, you can determine what the best decision is for your pet.
Can I Mix Wet and Dry Pet Food?
Mixing wet and dry dog food or wet and dry cat food is fine as long as both options are of high quality and meet your pet’s nutritional and other health needs.
Quality wet and dry foods are formulated to provide your pet with all the protein, fat, vitamins, minerals and other nutrients they need to thrive. However, if your dog or cat suffers from a health problem and needs a specific type of diet, like wet food for kidney disease, do not make a change without first talking to your vet.
Benefits of Mixing Wet and Dry Pet Food
There are several reasons why pet parents might consider mixing wet and dry pet food.
1. Increases Palatability
Mixing wet food into dry food can make the diet more palatable for many pets. If your pet is not eating their dry food, then wet food may be the “secret sauce” you need to get them to eat their food. I’ve noticed that many pets find wet food tastier than dry.
2. Increases Water Intake
Moisture content is the main difference between wet and dry pet foods. Dry diets contain only about 10 percent water while wet formulations are generally between 68 percent and 78 percent water.
If your pet needs to take in a little extra water, adding in some wet food is a simple way to increase their water intake. Get other tips for preventing dehydration in cats and tips for preventing dehydration in dogs.
3. Helps With Weight Management
Adding wet food to your pet’s diet can also help with weight loss since the extra water allows pets to feel full and be more satisfied after their meals. In contrast, adding in some dry food can provide extra calories for dogs who struggle with eating enough wet food to meet their energy requirements. Dry food is more nutrient dense since it is less diluted with moisture.
4. Cost-Effective Combination
You may be wary of switching from dry food to wet food completely because wet food is generally more expensive than dry food of comparable quality. That’s the beauty of mixing the two together. In order for your pet to reap the benefits of wet food without breaking the bank, you can feed wet food and dry food mixed together in comparison to feeding just wet food alone.
How to Mix Food Properly
When mixing wet and dry pet food, how much of each you incorporate will be based on your pet’s goals. If you’re looking to give your pet more of the benefits of wet versus dry, try a wet and dry dog food ratio along the lines of 75 percent wet and 25 percent dry. If you just want a little flavor enhancement, 10 percent wet mixed in with 90 percent dry should suffice.
Count the Calories
What’s vital, however, is to ensure that the total amount of food you offer supplies your pet with the appropriate number of calories. That means you’ll need to know your pet’s energy requirement for the day (your veterinarian can give you a ballpark figure if you need) and parcel it out into wet and dry portions.
So, let’s say your dog has been eating 100 percent Hill’s Science Diet chicken and barley dry dog food, and you want to switch to 50 percent wet and 50 percent dry by mixing in the Hill’s Science Diet chicken and barley wet dog food. If you know that your dog’s energy requirement is 1,200 kcal per day, you’d want to give 600 kcal of wet and 600 kcal of dry food every day. The label on each food will give you their caloric content (364 kcal/cup of dry and 372 kcal/can in this example), and some simple math will let you know the volume of each that you should feed every day.
If you’re feeding multiple times per day, you also need to make sure you split the portions appropriately. In the above example, you’d use 300 calories of each type of food per meal if you were serving two meals per day. If you upped it to three meals per day, you’d use 200 calories of each at each feeding.
Mixing When Your Pet Is on a Prescription Diet
If you wish to mix wet and dry foods and your pet is on a prescription diet, it’s very important that you use only the prescription diet in both wet and dry forms. For example, if your dog is on dry Hill’s Prescription Diet z/d Skin/Food Sensitivities dry dog food due to a food allergy, you should only mix it with Hill’s Prescription Diet z/d Skin/Food Sensitivities canned dog food, or you run the risk of negating the beneficial effect of the prescription diet.
Similarly, if your cat is on Royal Canin Veterinary Diet Urinary SO canned cat food and your veterinarian says it’s OK to mix in a little dry, Royal Canin Veterinary Diet Urinary SO dry cat food would be your best option.
The Dos and Don’ts
Do speak with your veterinarian about what type of food and how many calories per day your pet should be eating. If you’re not comfortable calculating how much wet and dry pet food you should offer, they’ll help with that, too.
Do measure your pet’s food with an appropriate measuring device like Dexas Popware for Pets collapsible scooper.
Don’t assume every pet food is the same. I cannot stress this enough, especially when it comes to prescription diets. For example, if your veterinarian prescribes a combination of Blue Buffalo Natural Veterinary Diet W+U wet cat food and Blue Buffalo Veterinary Diet W+U dry cat food, do not make a substitution without first talking to them. Mixing in a different type of food, even if it is labeled for weight management or urinary care, could lead to undesirable weight changes or urinary problems.
Can you mix wet and dry cat food or wet and dry dog food? Yes. Just make sure that you’re using high-quality foods that are appropriate for your pet and that you’re feeding the correct portions. Talk to your veterinarian if you have any questions or concerns.
Dr. Jennifer Coates was valedictorian of her graduating class at the VA-MD Regional College of Veterinary Medicine and has practiced in Virginia, Wyoming, and Colorado in the years since. She is also the author of numerous articles, short stories, and books, including the Dictionary of Veterinary Terms, Vet-Speak Deciphered for the Non-Veterinarian. She lives in Fort Collins, Colorado with her husband, children, dog (Apollo), and cat (Minerva).