Disadvantages of Dry Food

Diarrhoea in dogs

Dry food declarations are often challenging to understand and not straightforward for the customer.

We at Dog Food Info have investigated this in an attempt to provide clarity on the disadvantages of dry food. We have also offered some comparisons of the benefits of feeding wet dog food along with self-tests.


Although a dog can go without food for 2-3 weeks (in extreme circumstances), the same can not be said for water. A lack of water in a dog’s body is extremely dangerous.

Dry dog food contains very little moisture, making it hard for the dog’s organs to break down and digest. In comparison, wet food is less stressful on the dog’s body during the feeding process.

During the eating process, the dog’s stomach absorbs any supplied liquid contained in the food. This amounts to around 10% in most dry food, which will not fully hydrate the animal. 

The consequences of a permanent shortage of moisture can have a severe impact on the dog. For example, internal organs can be damaged, and diseases can develop and/or spread. Also, the dog’s kidneys can not be sufficiently flushed. 

All these consequences are caused by a lack of water and moisture in the dog’s body. Primarily, this is the lack of moisture in the dry food being fed. 

Self Test Example

If you feed your dog only ordinary dry food on one day and a few days later feed exclusively high-quality and nutritious raw meat with a moisture content of up to 85%, you can quickly tell the difference.

Your four-legged friend will drink considerably less when consuming wet food compared to during the dry-food phase. Your dog will also urinate significantly more, which is good for the kidneys. 

Also, after eating wet food or raw meat, dog faeces will be softer, making it much more comfortable for the animal and preventing straining.

The same can be said for humans, as we can also recognise healthy bowel movements with a healthy diet.

Dog asleep and looking ill

Heavy Digestibility of Dry Food

Due to its compressed and firm consistency, dry food is challenging for dogs to digest. The briquettes must be split and broken down in the dog’s body, requiring a large amount of water in the stomach and a lot of space.  This is not possible with the anatomy of dogs and the size of their stomachs.

In addition, if the food only expands a little and the inferior nutrients are only partially absorbed. The rest of the mass is excreted and unused.

This not only creates a permanent shortage of nutrients but also the amount of faeces significantly increases.

Self Test Example

For a dog to sufficiently soften the usual daily ration of dry food in the stomach, they would have to drink around 4-6 times the food quantity in water.

You can test this yourself by taking the equivalent of a full days meal and then trying to drink 4 to 6 times more. As you will find, it is not physically possible, and even trying to reach this level would likely cause painful cramps in the stomach and could also cause other health implications.

More Grain than Meat

The basis of dry food is primarily grains and cereals. It is a low-cost, long-lasting filler, which is used to compensate for the low meat content.

However, our dogs are not omnivores, and they are carnivores and need meat proteins in their diet!

With this in mind, dogs can only consume small amounts of grain and carbohydrates. Ideally, the limited amount of carbohydrates should come exclusively from the stomach contents of the prey, where the grain or carbohydrates were already pre-digested.

Even thousands of years of domestication have not changed the eating habits and needs of our dogs. Yet today, we use feed that is entirely against the nutritional habits of our four-legged friends.

Ultimately, when it comes to dry food, it can be assumed that it is cheap food, which is not tailored to the needs and requirements of our dogs.

Poor Nutrition Usability and Faeces

No food that a dog ingests can be processed entirely by its body. As a result, substances and indigestible components are excreted.

The number of faeces produced can quickly tell if the food is appropriate to the species or not. Of course, different types of food also have different usability based on nutritional processes in the gastrointestinal tract.

The statistics and results are listed below:

  • Moist food with approx. 70% meat content – usability of 85-95%
  • Cooked meat – usability of approx. 90%
  • Cooked Meat – Usability of about 80%
  • Industrial wet food with 4% meat content – approx. 45-55% usability
  • Dry food – usability of approx. 30 – 40%

With these statistics in mind, it is easy to see that a high proportion of the dry matter ingredients leave the body unused. In the long term, this leads to a shortage of nutrients and the increased production of faeces, putting a heavy strain on the dog’s organs.

Preservatives and Flavour Enhancers

If grain is added to dry food, there is typically a lengthy processing period required for preservation.

In most cases, substances such as BHA, BHT, ethoxyquin, and formaldehyde are added to the mixture. These are not only considered long-acting toxins but are also proven to be responsible for the development of allergic reactions in dogs (and cats).

If you ever see the words “free of preservatives” on packaging for dry food, then questions should be raised! Many manufacturers only provide information about what happens during their phase of production. 

Adding of Sensory Additives

Like preservatives, sensory additives also have a significant role in dry food. 

There are typically small amounts of meat in dry food, resulting in very little smell or taste that is appealing to the dog. Therefore, the manufacturers rely entirely on the addition of sensory additives that provide both an intense odour experience (which is necessary so that the dog is interested in the feed) and an intense taste experience. These additives ensure that the dog eats the food.

If these additives were not added to the feed, the dog might not eat it, and the owner would not repurchase it, thus impacting the pet food brands profits. 

Relating to previous points, the addition of additives in food is not natural in a dogs diet. The inclusion of sensory ingredients in dry food comes at the expense of the health of the animal.

Damage to Teeth and Gums

The influence of dry food permanently changes the pH of the saliva. As the dry food in the stomach absorbs any liquid, it produces much more concentrated stomach acid. This, in turn, has a significant influence and impact on the formation of saliva. It causes the animal to have a high pH value, which damages the teeth and contributes to the formation of tartar.

Thus, a diet with dry food leads to severe tooth damage and decay which affects both the teeth themselves and the gums, which are constantly under attack. 

pug on the weight scales

Overweight Issues and possible Stomach Rot

Since dry food consists mainly of carbohydrates and grains, these are converted into sugar. This tends to lead to the dog becoming overweight, especially if they lack energy or exercise. 

Additionally, vegetable proteins also provide a significantly less energy source for the animal when compared to natural protein sources. A low energy source can directly contribute to low movement levels, and in turn, this creates an increased chance of overweight issues for the dog. 

Deprived of Natural Ingredients

Various ingredients are used in the production of dry food, including cereals, plants and different fats. All these ingredients are combined into a thick, almost solid pulp.

Subsequently, the rather unattractive mass can also include added chemical additives such as colourants, attractants and preservatives.  

The unappetising pulp is then filled into a suitable mould, pressed under very high pressure (up to 300 bar) and brought into the desired shape. The whole mixture is then dried at temperatures reaching up to 400 degrees Celsius.

The extreme temperatures are primarily to create a long shelf life. Subsequently, only residual moisture of about 4-6% remains.

Mites and Mould

Grain and grain dust is mostly always contaminated with mites. These mites are not only considered to be the leading cause of allergies in humans but also our pets. 

Even sensitive animal feed, adapted to the needs of allergic animals, can be supplemented with cereals containing mites. The result is a vicious circle that steadily promotes the allergies of our animals and increases their symptoms.

In addition, identical production lines are often used for a wide variety of dry foods. Therefore, dry foods that are specifically chosen to help with specific allergies and intolerances can easily be contaminated with products from the same production line.

Ideal Habitat for Mould

The composition of dry food can provide an ideal habitat for the growth of mould. An infestation of mould or fungi on dry food is usually only visible when it is too late. 

Thanks to the numerous preservatives and production processes, an open sack of dry food can be stored for a long time, and this creates the ideal opportunity for many types of mould and fungi to spread throughout the whole bag.

Mould can be the cause of numerous allergies, intolerances and even skin rashes, risking the health of your animal.  

Risk of Salmonella

Another problem with dry food is the risk of salmonella.

Although the dog’s stomach generally has no problem with destroying salmonella in the body and then excreting it via the faeces, constant feeding with contaminated dry food naturally leads to health problems and an excessive burden on the stomach acid.


It is important to remember that our dogs rely on us to make the right choices for them. Providing them with a high-quality and nutritious diet is one of the most important choices we can make for our furry, four-legged friends. 

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