Does wet dog food cause soft stool?

Photo by shrub75 on Flickr

Diarrhea is one of the most common problems that make concerned pet owners take their dogs to the vet.

According to a 2010 study, 28.6% of the dogs visiting their vet had diarrhea as their main symptom or had experienced such GI problems in the past month. 

Besides the strain of dealing with the terrible mess, most dog owners are afraid diarrhea might be the symptom of a serious health problem, but there are also those who are worried the issue was caused by their pet’s food, with wet food being singled out as the main culprit.

Does wet food cause diarrhea? Let’s see what the experts have to say. 

Can wet dog food cause soft stool?

Pet owners who rely on processed food for their dogs buy mostly kibble as it is more affordable, easier to store and has a higher nutritional value. 

Wet food has a much smaller share of the market so it cannot be (fully) responsible for the prevalence of diarrhea incidents among dogs.

The main reason people assume canned food is giving their dogs diarrhea is the high water content as compared to kibble, but, in reality, the water is not the problem. 

In itself, wet food does not cause soft stools, but it might create GI problems for certain dogs. 

Dogs with a sensitive stomach might get an upset tummy as a reaction to the high fat content in many types of canned food. When your dog has a greasy gray stool it’s a sure sign that his food has too much fat in it. If this is the case with your dog, the obvious solution is to look for a low-fat wet food. 

The short answer is “no”, wet food does not cause soft stools, but you might want to check all the ingredients and see if there’s something in it that doesn’t agree with your dog. 

5 main causes of diarrhea in dogs

[1] Scavenging

When their pet starts having soft watery stools many dog owners assume their pet must have eaten something that he shouldn’t and, indeed, scavenging is one of the main causes of diarrhea.

The problem is you cannot know exactly what your pet found so palatable, so it’s hard to tell how dangerous that unexpected treat might be.

If the problem persists for less than 14 days it is labeled as acute diarrhea, but if you’re pet keeps having frequent watery stools for a longer period that is chronic diarrhea.

[2] Parasites

Parasite infections are common causes of diarrhea episodes, whether the dog has roundworms, tapeworms or other nasty buggers.

[3] Other infections

Viral, bacterial or fungal infections are also accompanied by bouts of diarrhea.

[4] Changes in diet

In many cases, the quite noticeable change in your pet’s bowel movements has dietary causes. A sudden change in diet, like switching from dry to wet food can often cause soft stools, but so can buying another food brand which might contain ingredients your pet is intolerant or allergic to. 

[5] Toxic exposure

If none of the above apply you might suspect toxic exposure to heavy metals, drugs or poison, in which case you should see a vet right way.

[6] Other diseases

Finally, diarrhea might be causes by a disease, such as acute pancreatitis, acute haemorrhagic diarrhea syndrome or an intestinal obstruction. 

How to introduce wet food in your dog’s diet

Take it easy! Dogs tend to have a very limited diet, they can eat basically the same thing for years and be quite happy about it. Therefore, any dietary changes must be introduced slowly.

If your dog has been on a kibble diet and you want to switch to canned food make sure to splash just a dollop of it and mix it with his regular dry food. As you increase the quantity of wet food make sure to decrease the kibble. Overfeeding is one of the causes of diarrhea in dogs so don’t be too generous. Your pet will probably appreciate the flavor, wet food is generally tastier than kibble, but don’t overdo it if you don’t want to spend the next days cleaning after Fido!

What to add to wet dog food in order to get firm stool

When your dog has soft stools but the situation doesn’t seem serious enough to warrant a trip to the vet you can try one of your grandma’s old recipes to cure an upset stomach.

If your dog’s happy and much his normal self, apart for the watery stools, you can add some plain boiled rice to his bowl of wet food. Another great idea is to mix in some pumpkin, canned or sauteed, which never fails to produce firm stools. Mashed carrots are also a good option or you can add some boiled skinless chicken breast to the wet food.

Another way to tackle the problem is to put some probiotics in his food so you might want to give your vet a call and see what he recommends. 

In any case, don’t overfeed the dog as that’s never a good option when a dog has diarrhea. 

Which is more nutritious, wet or dry dog food?

Wet food is generally more expensive and of a better quality than your regular kibble. However, wet food is less nutritious and can prove impractical when you have a large dog to feed. 

The main reason wet food is less nutritious is the high water content, which can be as high as 84%. It will make the dog feel full quickly which may be of great help when your pet is a bit chubby. 

On the other hand, the high water content is what makes wet food a great choice for dogs with urinary tract infections or pets who do not drink enough water on their own. 

What foods are known to cause diarrhea?

One of the main ingredients that upset a dog’s stomach is wheat gluten and this can be found in many types of dry food, especially those that have less meat and many fillers to make it cheaper. On the other hand, the same ingredient can be found in many dog treats, bread, pasta, or the occasional biscuit your dog is practically begging for. 

Large amounts of dairy products in your dog’s diet can also result in unpleasant surprises on the carpet, so stick with the occasional treat and nothing more. 

Also, don’t ever give your dog chocolate, avocados, grapes os raisins.

This is a no-brainer, but make sure your pet doesn’t stick his nose in the garbage can as spoiled or mouldy food can and probably will give him diarrhea. 

What is the best dog food for firm stools?

No matter if you prefer to feed your pet friend wet or dry food keep in mind they are both processed food and might not provide your dog with all the required nutrients. Also, most products on the market contain added chemicals that have no place in your dog’s diet. 

Advocates of raw food for dogs say this is the only way to ensure your dog’s dietary requirements. At the same time, raw food eliminates all your dog’s bowel issues and he will have normal and smaller stools. Oh, and not so smelly, too!

Before you jump on the raw food bandwagon make sure you have the correct mix of bone, muscle meat and soft meat. As a rule, you should aim for a diet with 70% raw meaty bones.

A dog on a raw diet should be presented with a bone, preferably with some lean muscle meat still hanging on it. You can also give your dog ground bone mixed in one of his meals. Your dog’s diet should also include organs like kidneys or liver from time to time.

Raw food is not only about meat, as that doesn’t provide all the nutrients a dog needs. You can supplement your dog’s raw meat diet with eggs, vegetables such as spinach, broccoli and celery, and don’t forget about some dairy products, such as yogurt or a bit of cheese. 

There is a wide range of commercially available raw meat products for dogs, but you can also make sure your dog gets exactly what he needs by contacting a butcher in your area to have a constant supply of fresh bones and meat. 

When you switch to raw food keep in mind that a growing pup has different dietary needs than a senior dog and plan their meals accordingly.

Final thoughts

Wet food as such does not cause soft stools in dogs, but you might have a smelly problem on the carpet if your pet has a sensitive stomach.

If you want to give your dog wet food start with small portions to allow his digestive tract to adapt to the new food. Don’t forget that wet food is way tastier than kibble and your pet might want to stuff himself silly. Don’t indulge him!

You can also keep your dog on a mixed diet, serving hims dry and wet food. It’s preferable to offer them at different hours and keep to a schedule, so his bowels can keep a schedule, too.

When a dog keeps having stomach problems with processed food, it might be a good idea to explore raw food and allow your pet to revert to his natural carnivore state, or almost carnivore.