A common question that veterinarians often get regarding dog or cat diets is whether dry or canned food is preferred. Unfortunately, as with medical doctors, training on species-appropriate nutrition is sadly lacking in veterinary medical school educations, as most of us receive a basic 2-hour course in nutrition during our third year of veterinary school, while relying on commercial pet food manufacturers telling us in private clinical practice how pets should eat.
In my own experience of 24 years, the issue with dogs is not as important as to the quality of the pet food. The situation with cats, however, is starting to become much clearer. Given the obligate meat eating carnivorous nature of the feline, cats do much better when dry food is restricted, and an all canned and/or wet food/meat based diet is fed. Unfortunately, most of the commercial processed dry foods fed to cats are loaded with carbohydrates, and many unknowing guardians mistakenly leave dry food down for cats to nibble on throughout the day. This practice has been shown to lead to many potential health problems in cats, including the increased risk of diabetes and obesity (because of consumption of too many processed carbohydrates), as well as the increased risk of urinary tract crystals and inflammation, chronic dehydration and kidney stress, as well as pancreatic and/or digestive issues in cats.
By feeding a species-appropriate, preferably natural commercial canned or proper homemade meat-based diet, feline guardians can provide the foundation of excellent health in their feline companions for years to come. The issue with dogs is not as critical, although in my opinion, too many processed or refined carbohydrates are also linked with weight gain issues and other chronic inflammatory medical conditions. I prefer lower carbohydrate dry foods, as well as including some variety of wet foods or healthy homemade treatment options.
The book, Dr. Pitcairn’s Guide to Natural Health for Dogs and Cats, by Richard Pitcairn, DVM, PhD, has some excellent home recipes for both dogs and cats. In spite of popular opinion, feeding dry kibble based foods does not typically prevent dental tartar and periodontal disease. In fact, the recommendation of feeding dry kibble to prevent dental issues would be analogous to human dentists telling their patients to chew on cereal to help prevent tartar, cavities and tooth decay.