Best Canned Dog Foods

Lori Ennis
by Lori Ennis
Today’s pet food market is vast, with more offerings regularly coming out. You may be overwhelmed when it comes to choosing the best canned dog foods. You want to find something your dog will enjoy eating, but will also benefit from in health and nutrition.

But that’s why we’re here! We’ve scoured ingredients and labels, as well as reviewed and tested tons of wet dog foods in search of what you might need for your furry friend. Not every dog parent will have the same needs when it comes to finding the best canned dog foods. Some are looking for specifics due to an age or stage in life. Others may need to pay attention to diet restrictions or weight management as well. Others still may want something delicious and budget-friendly, and we’ve done all the work for you to find the best canned dog foods for your pups.

Why Look For The Best Canned Dog Foods?

Did you know that from a nutrition standpoint, water is even more critical to a dog’s diet than what ingredients are in his dog food? It’s true. Dogs naturally lose water all day long–they sweat through their paws and lose water as they pant. When they do their business, whether it’s the tinkle or the poop, they lose water.

Generally, experts suggest about an ounce of water a day for every pound your dog weighs. That means that your 50-pound Lab mix ought to get at least 50 ounces of water a day. That’s almost a liter and a half of water (think of soda bottles) and without enough water, dogs can get very sick and die.

Canned/wet dog foods help replace and maintain water in your dog’s diet. Particularly useful if your dog doesn’t seem to drink as much as he or she should (and you really should keep track of how much a day they drink), canned dog foods are a great way to keep your dog hydrated. And, because canned dog foods have a high water content, dogs can eat more substantial portions with fewer calories. This will leave them feeling more satiated than if they were to just to eat dry kibble and can help with weight management as well.

Picky, Picky, Picky: Canned Dog Foods To The Rescue

And, if you have a picky dog, you know that canned dog foods can be miracles in that they can be used as toppers with dry foods. In our house, we call the canned dog food toppers ‘sprinkles,’ and our dogs love them. Canned dog foods as toppers are great because they can help break the humdrum of the same daily kibble up in ways that are easy to vary and delicious for your dog. Plus, if you have multiple dogs with multiple dietary needs, you can easily meet each need with specifically targeted canned foods.

Picky dogs prefer canned dog foods too simply because they smell better. If your dog is picky, an enticing smell may encourage eating, and if you have older dogs who may not have keen senses of smell any more, canned dog foods may encourage them to eat too.

What To Look For In The Best Canned Dog Foods

When you’re looking for the best canned dry dog foods, you need to become a label investigator. Not every canned dog food is created equal, and you don’t want to waste hard-earned money feeding your dog something that doesn’t have good nutritional content or value. Worse, you don’t want to feed them things that aren’t good for them, as we want them to be with us as long as they can be.

Look for canned dog foods that have meat as one of the first and main ingredients. Look for real meat–those that have real meat as a primary/first ingredient will most likely offer your dog the right amounts of lean protein they need for fitness and health, as well as energy and strength.

When looking at the labels, try to stay away from anonymous meat ingredients and generic animal fats. Good canned dog foods don’t have to use them, and your dogs won’t really benefit in the long run if you’re not sure about the transparency. As well, you want to pay attention to the fat-to-protein ratio and the carbohydrate content. A moderate fat-to-protein ratio is desirable and carbohydrate content should be modest.

And while many fear grain-free diets these days, experts say that there’s simply not enough evidence to support that grain-free diets are harmful to dogs, so don’t shy away from a good canned dog food simply because it isn’t grain-free. That said, there are plenty of offerings on the market now for grain-free, so there really is a canned dog food for every pet parent.

Also, watch out for coloring agents and chemical preservatives. To a degree, canned dog foods need preservatives to make them shelf-stable, but they certainly don’t *need* high-risk coloring chemicals, nor do they need preservatives that researchers are finding could cause cancer. While it is dog food you’re considering, it’s for your best friend, so if you don’t feel safe with the ingredient for your family member, it’s most likely not great for your furry ones either.

Last, look for what you need in a canned dog food for your dog’s specific needs. If you have a puppy, many canned puppy foods will have DHA supplementation for the healthy development of eyes and puppy brain, while canned dog foods for senior dogs often contain glucosamine or CoQ-10 to help those old bones and joints. You can find canned dog foods that have probiotics in them if you’re looking to bulk up robust immune systems, and there are some companies who cater to specific sensitivities and allergies in their canned dog foods too.

To Store Or Not To Store–How Is The Question?

Storing canned dog foods obviously is different than how one would with dry kibble. If you have medium-to-bigger sized dogs, you most likely will go through a can or two (or more) each feeding and you may not need to store them. But, if you have a smaller dog, or you use canned dog foods as toppers, you want to be careful about a few things for protection against bacteria.

You can freeze canned dog food, in a freezer-safe bag for typically up to six months. When you do so, you’ll want to serve in portion sizes, so that you can take it out of the freezer and thaw it to room temperature before you serve it to your dog. Some pet parents even warm canned dog food up, and this is okay to do but obviously do so in a warming-approved dish (never use the can as a container if warming food up).

After a can has been opened, however, if you don’t freeze extra, you can typically store it in the refrigerator for about seven days. Most dog food manufacturers advise against keeping it in the fridge for any longer than that due to the risk of bacterial contamination. It’s okay to store it in the can it came in–there are nifty little covers for doing so–but honestly, experts advise that if you have leftover food in the cans, you should transfer to a refrigerator-safe dish until the next use.

And, once the canned dog food has been served to your dog, it’s important not to let it sit out for more than about four hours. Just like our food, it is subject to spoiling and contamination if left out for longer, and so when feeding picky dogs, you may just want to dish out small portions at a time so you don’t waste any. Always wash your dog’s food bowl after serving canned dog food with hot soapy water to be sure there are no wet tidbits left that can become contaminated and make your dog sick.

But Won’t It Rot Their Teeth?

That seems to be the question that pet parents ask all the time; won’t wet food rot their teeth? There seems to be the myth that dry kibble tends to be the best food for a dog’s teeth because it will help keep tartar from building up on their teeth. But think about this–do you think it’s better to brush your teeth with Oreo cookies or an organic superfood smoothie? While that’s not exactly comparing apples to apples, it’s somewhat archaic thinking when we assume that dry kibble is better for the dental health of a dog’s mouth and teeth. The reality is that proper dental care can come from good habits like chewing on dental toys/bones and brushing your dog’s teeth. Dry kibble can sit on a dog’s teeth just as easily (and get smeared across) as wet food can, and since the water content of a canned dog food is so much higher, your dog has a better chance of dissolving more wet food and removing from their teeth with saliva and swallowing than they do with dry.

Best Canned Dog Foods For Every Dog Parent

We looked at ingredients and reviewed several different canned dog foods to find the best canned dog foods we could. We spoke with experts about what makes the best canned dog foods, and we looked at the ingredients, flavors and options for different ages and stages of dogs. We also talked to dog parents from all over and got their picks, as well as high Amazon reviews and have compiled the only list you’ll really need!

1. Vet Pick: Hills Science Diet Wet Dog Food

Hill’s Science Diet Canned Dog foods are often the recommendation of veterinarians because they are easily accessible, address many issues for different dogs, and use high-quality ingredients for your dog’s nutrition. The first ingredient is water, followed by meat and veterinarians agree that this essential primary combination helps offer protein and hydration to your dog.

Hill’s Science Diet is probably one of the most popular ‘vet’ brands, and their appeal is using science in their approaches to developing dog foods. They have a large variety of flavor and dietary need options, and the canned dog foods are made to be easily digestible for your dog’s microbiome. Time and again, Hill’s Science Diet is a number one veterinarian-recommended brand and has high Amazon reviews as well. It’s made in the United States.

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2.Vet’s Runner-Up: Eukanuba Adult Beef and Vegetable Stew

Another highly recommended by veterinarians product also due to its accessibility and reasonable pricing when looking to meet specific dietary needs for your dog. It comes in seven different recipes and has a nice balance of proteins, carbs, vitamins and minerals to give your dog proper nutrition. Additionally, it’s rich in antioxidants and helps build a healthy immune system. It’s an excellent adult formula dog food.

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3. Best Budget Canned Dog Food: Blue Buffalo Homestyle

Real meat is the first ingredient in the five different flavors, and we know that as much as we love our pups, we also have to keep an eye on the budget. That’s why Blue Buffalo’s Homestyle recipe is our favorite for budgets because it is enhanced with vitamins and minerals and made without wheat, which sometimes is what less expensive canned dog foods will use as thickening agents in the food. Blue Buffalo’s Homestyle Recipe doesn’t use any by-product meals, nor corn, nor soy and it doesn’t have any artificial flavors or preservatives. It’s an excellent choice for canned dog foods, particularly if you’re working from a budget.

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4. Best Grain-Free Canned Dog Food: Weruva Dogs In The Kitchen Grain-Free

As if we don’t love the names alone (Love Me Tender, The Double Dip and Lamborghini are some of our faves!), these canned dog foods are grain-free and feature sustainably sourced ingredients. They’re produced in human food facilities and are complete and balanced diets for adult dogs. They are not just grain-free; they don’t have any corn, soy, wheat, artificial colors or preservatives, nor do they have any gluten, carrageenan, MSGs and they’re GMO-free. Weruva is a family-owned company founded and operated by two pet parents, and pet parents love Weruva for their commitment to the earth and to dogs.

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5. Best Organic Canned Dog Food: Castor and Pollux Organic Dog Food

Organic meat is the first ingredient and the Organix blends include flaxseed, blueberries and coconut flour for antioxidant energy and immune-building. It’s also grain-free but additionally guaranteed to be free from chemical pesticides, artificial preservatives, synthetic fertilizers or meats that have had added growth hormones or antibiotics. All batches are cooked in the US, in an organically certified kitchen and there are multiple recipes from which even the pickiest eater can choose.

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6. Best Canned Dog Foods For Picky Eaters: PetKind Tripett Green Venison Tripe Canned Dog Food

Speaking of picky eaters…one taste of the venison tripe and even the pickiest eaters are hooked! It’s a grain-free product that is nearly 100% pure meat and tripe (what’s not to love?) so your dog gets tons of essential fatty acids and digestive juices. The venison is a high protein, low-cholesterol and calorie food and with just four ingredients, there’s not too much for your dog to turn its nose up to. Winner!

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7. Best Canned Dog Food for Senior Dogs: Wellness Senior Formula

Wellness is a family-owned company that uses premium meats, fresh fruits and vegetables to give your senior dog the right balance of energy, minerals, vitamins, proteins and antioxidants. Wellness Senior formula doesn’t have any meat by-products or fillers, nor does it have any artificial preservatives. The Senior formula focuses on the signs of wellness in a dog when it comes to preparing a nutritional blend: skin and coat, eyes/teeth/gums, energy, immunity and digestive health. All ingredients are chosen to support those signs and formulated to be delicious for seniors who sometimes lose their appetites. To boot, there are 4 flavors available: chicken, duck, lamb, and seafood.

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8. Best Weight Control Canned Dog Food: Solid Gold Weight Management

Solid Gold is free from fillers but is a holistic, natural grain- and gluten-free dog food that is rich in fiber so your dog will feel full and satisfied while counting calories. It’s balanced with omega fatty acids for shiny and soft coats and full of superfoods that build up robust immune health. There’s no wheat, soy or corn and no artificial colorings or preservatives and dogs lap it up (because it’s delicious; not because they’re so hungry!) and it keeps the fluffiest pups looking their best.

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Other Contenders For Best Canned Dog Foods

You may not necessarily need to have a specific type of canned dog food, but you’d like to feed your dog wet food and would like to know your options. As we’ve said, the pet food market is enormous, and growing by the day, but here are a few other favorites that pet parents and experts find their dogs can’t get enough of.

9. Merrick Chunky Grain-Free Dog Food

Made without artificial colors, flavors, preservatives or by-products, this canned dog food doesn’t compromise on quality or healthiness of the formula but still delivers fantastic flavor that dogs love. The first ingredient is real USDA-inspected deboned beef, followed by veggies in a savory gravy that will have your pooch’s mouth water. This chunky, meaty grain-free recipe is crafted in the company’s Hereford, Texas kitchen and cooked in the USA to ensure only the best quality for your four-legged bestie. In addition to beef, there are other proteins to choose from, such as smokey sausage, glazed chicken, pork, lamb, or turkey, all prepared differently for a variety of flavors.

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10. Natural Balance Limited Ingredient Diet

Grain-free and made with limited ingredients to eliminate the unnecessary fillers from the formula, this canned dog food is a great choice for dogs with sensitivities and delicate tummies. A select, high-quality protein source combined with all essential vitamins and minerals and limited carbohydrates that are grain-free provides a complete and balanced diet for adult dogs all the while removing frequent allergens from the ingredient list. There are plenty of flavors to choose from, including chicken, fish, buffalo, duck, or venison – each in combination with sweet potato, except duck which is made with regular potatoes.

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11. Whole Earth Farms

Wholesome and naturally nutritious, this grain-free canned dog food offers everything your pet needs to obtain a balanced and complete diet, from high-quality ingredients to the right type of nutrients in the right ratios. Cooked in the USA, this food has USA-raised chicken meat as the first ingredient, followed by turkey and wholesome veggies and fruits, including sweet potatoes, apples, and carrots – both to deliver essential nutrients and to ensure a rich flavor your pet will absolutely adore. This formula contains no no corn, wheat, or soy.

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12. Canidae Pure Limited Ingredients

There is a reason the first position on the list of ingredients is so important, it tells you what the primary ingredient is for the recipe. Canidae’s number one ingredient is packed with real high-quality protein. You can choose from their five delicious flavors: chicken, lamb, duck and turkey, salmon and mackerel, or lamb, chicken and turkey. With each choice you can be assured that that protein on the label is the number one ingredient inside the can. This is a grain free formula and its limited ingredients of seven or less makes it a great choice for any dog that is having allergy issues, has a sensitive stomach or is getting on in years. These simple ingredients help to maintain long, lean muscles from its proteins and wholesome farm fresh vegetables teeming with antioxidants to help boost their immune system, while the Omega 6 and 3 fatty acids provide a shimmering healthy coat all the while contributing to a healthier planet for pets and people alike.

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13. Nature’s Recipe

Made with high-quality meats and highly digestible sources of carbohydrates, this formula works great for the needs of dogs with sensitive stomachs, but any pooch could benefit from this wholesome canned food. There are no artificial flavors, corn or wheat in the ingredients list, so if your pet is allergic to any of these, this type of food will suit their needs. The available flavor options include chicken with rice and barley (ground or stew) or lamb with rice and barley (just stew). To boot, this food contains natural sources of antioxidants such as peas and carrots and is enriched with vitamins and minerals to be nutritionally up to standards.

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14. AvoDerm

Formulated to promote a healthy skin and coat, this formula stands out because of its omega-rich California avocados: not only are they chock full of essential fatty acids, but they are also nutrient dense and a good source of crude fiber. Still, the first ingredient on the list is real chicken meat, as dogs need their protein, and there is no wheat, corn, soy, artificial flavors, or preservatives in the formula – only the good stuff. Proudly made in the USA, this food is crafted to suit all life stages as it is enriched with all the essential vitamins and minerals and is a good source of healthy protein, fats, and omegas for a lustre coat and itch-free skin.

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How much canned food do I need to feed my dog per day?

Canned dog food and dry dog food are different in many ways, including their nutritional and caloric value, so you’ll have to adjust the portions accordingly. Your pet’s age, weight, and activity levels all play a role in setting a portion size: obese dogs would need a smaller meal sizes, underweight or young, developing dogs need a bit more fuel to function, and so on. Luckily, all manufacturers include a feeding guide for adult dogs based on their size printed on the can itself, so you can follow their instructions and tweak if there are any modifications necessary (such as reducing the portion for overweight dogs). Since formulas are different, so is their caloric and nutritional value, which means that not all canned food will have the same recommended portion size.

How long is canned dog food good for after opening?

One of the biggest disadvantages of canned dog food is that it won’t last long after opening and has to be kept in the fridge: once opened, canned dog food needs to be stored in the refrigerator for up to seven days at the very most. When you open the canned food and serve it in your pet’s bowl, it can sit in it for up to 3 to 4 hours before starting to go bad, so in case your pet doesn’t finish their meal straight away, refrigerate the leftovers immediately or discard if they’ve been sitting at room temperature for more than the recommended time. Luckily, dogs love wet food so this rarely happens!

How long does canned dog food last?

Even though canned dog food doesn’t stay good for more than a week after you open it, when it’s unopened, its shelf life is pretty long-lasting. In general, most canned dog foods last for up to two years after the date of manufacture, and are safe to serve to your pet within that time frame. If you’re unsure about the longevity and safety, don’t worry, all canned dog foods have clearly displayed manufacture and best by dates on the can or/and the printed label.

How much canned dog food equals dry food?

It’s not easy to convert canned food to dry food and vice versa, simply because it’s not just about the bulk amount – the nutritional and caloric value will vary, with each brand. The most precise way to get the calculations right is to take the dry food and the wet food you want to compare, and see their labels – note how much protein, vitamins, minerals, etc. is in each cup (or 100 grams, or a pound – whichever measure you prefer) of dry and wet food. This will give you insight into how much nutrients and calories your pet gets with a set portion of each – and how much canned dog food or dry dog food you’ll have to serve in order to substitute one another.

How to store opened canned dog food?

Once opened, canned dog food has to be stored in the refrigerator. If you don’t use up the whole can for one meal, store the leftovers in the fridge for up to a week and serve again when needed. If you don’t want the food to be cold when served, pour a little hot water over it and mix it together, or leave it sitting at room temperature until it’s no longer cold – it can be at room temperature for 3 to 4 hours before going bad.

Can food give dogs diarrhea?

Every dog is different, so there’s no rule how they’ll react to new food being introduced to their diet, including canned dog food. A change in the diet itself can cause diarrhea – which doesn’t mean the food is bad, just that their digestive system is not used to it – but there can also be other causes for food giving your dog diarrhea. They could be sensitive to certain ingredients in the food (e.g. grains or type of protein) or the food could have gone bad, so try to eliminate all of the potential causes if your pet does get diarrhea after eating certain foods. If the diarrhea doesn’t go away in a day or two, contact a vet.

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Lori Ennis
Lori Ennis

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