Quench or Crunch? Weighing the Pros and Cons of Putting Water in Kibble

by | Products, Dog Food

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If you’re a pet parent, chances are you’ve considered whether or not to add water to your pet’s kibble. It’s a topic that often confuses, with conflicting opinions in every corner of the pet-loving world. This article aims to help shed light on this debate and provide a balanced perspective.

The importance of this discussion cannot be overstated. As responsible pet owners, our primary concern is the health and well-being of our furry companions. Knowing the best ways to serve their food can significantly affect their nutrition and overall health. This is especially true with kibble, one of the most common pet foods worldwide.

This article will begin by understanding what kibble is, how it’s made, and the popular beliefs surrounding it. Following this, we will explore the pros and cons of putting water in kibble. Finally, we will summarize the discussion and provide key takeaways to aid in your decision-making process.

Understanding Kibble

What is Kibble?

Kibble refers to a type of pet food that is processed and dry. It is popular among pet owners due to its convenience, affordability, and long shelf-life. Kibble is made for dogs and cats, and it comes in various sizes, shapes, and flavors, designed to cater to the specific nutritional needs and preferences of different breeds, ages, and health conditions.

How is Kibble Made?

The production of kibble involves a process known as extrusion. High-quality meats, grains, vegetables, and other essential nutrients are ground together to form a dough-like mixture. This mixture is then cooked under high pressure and temperature. After cooking, it is pushed, or extruded, through specially shaped dies, giving kibble its distinctive shape. The kibble is then dried and cooled, packaged and distributed.

Popular Beliefs About Kibble

Despite its widespread use, beliefs about kibble vary. Some pet owners hail it as a practical and nutritious option, citing its balanced blend of proteins, carbohydrates, and essential vitamins and minerals. Others, however, raise concerns about its low moisture content, the use of preservatives, and potential allergens. In the next section, we will explore these concerns further, particularly focusing on the moisture content and the practice of adding water to kibble.

Reasons for Adding Water to Kibble

Enhancing Palatability

One of the primary reasons pet owners add water to kibble is to enhance its palatability. Water softens the kibble when added, making it easier and more appealing for pets to eat, especially for those with dental issues or seniors who might struggle with hard food. Moreover, adding water to the kibble can release the food’s aroma, further enticing your pet’s appetite.

Promoting Hydration

Another advantage of adding water to kibble is the promotion of better hydration. Kibble, a dry pet food, contains a low moisture content, typically around 10%. Especially for pets who do not drink water regularly, adding water to their food can effectively increase their daily water intake and prevent dehydration.

Facilitating Digestion

Adding water to kibble can also facilitate better digestion. Hydration begins to break down the food, making it easier for your pet to digest. This can be particularly beneficial for pets with sensitive stomachs or those prone to gastrointestinal issues. Furthermore, the added water helps soften the stool, potentially reducing the incidence of constipation.

Helping with Dental Health

While it may seem counterintuitive, adding water to kibble can aid in maintaining your pet’s dental health. The softened kibble allows your pet to chew more effectively, which can help in reducing plaque buildup. However, it’s worth noting that this does not replace regular dental hygiene practices such as teeth brushing and professional dental cleanings.

Pros of Adding Water to Kibble

Makes Kibble More Appetizing

Adding water to kibble often enhances its taste and texture, making it more appetizing for pets. The softened kibble can make eating a more pleasurable experience, especially for pets who prefer a softer texture or those with dental problems that make chewing hard food difficult. Moreover, the water releases the food’s natural aromas, which can further stimulate your pet’s appetite.

Provides an Additional Source of Hydration

Hydration is essential for your pet’s overall health, vital to their kidney function and temperature regulation. Kibble has a low moisture content, but adding water can increase the total hydration your pet receives throughout the day. This can be especially beneficial for pets who do not drink enough water alone.

Aids in Digestion

When water is added to kibble, it can make the food easier for your pet to digest. The water begins the breakdown process of the food, making the nutrients more accessible and easier for the body to absorb. This can be particularly helpful for pets with sensitive stomachs, helping to minimize digestive issues such as gas and bloating.

Potentially Supports Dental Health

While it is not a replacement for regular dental care, adding water to kibble may support dental health. The softened kibble encourages more thorough chewing, which can aid in the mechanical removal of plaque. This benefit should be considered supplementary to established dental care practices, like regular tooth brushing and professional dental cleanings.

Many veterinary professionals and pet nutritionists support the benefits of adding water to kibble. They cite its role in enhancing palatability, promoting hydration, aiding digestion, and supporting dental health. It’s always recommended, however, to discuss any changes in your pet’s diet with your veterinarian or a pet nutrition expert to ensure it’s suitable for your pet’s specific needs and health condition.

Cons of Adding Water to Kibble

Risk of Bacterial Growth

One of the potential drawbacks of adding water to kibble is the risk of bacterial growth. Once water is added, the food becomes a more suitable environment for bacteria to thrive, especially if left out for extended periods. This can potentially lead to foodborne illnesses, making it crucial to discard uneaten, moistened kibble within a few hours.

Decreased Dental Cleaning Effect

While the softened kibble can aid in the mechanical removal of plaque, it can also lessen hard kibble’s potential dental cleaning effects. Kibble’s crunchy texture can provide a natural abrasive action on your pet’s teeth, helping remove plaque. This abrasive action is lessened when water is added, potentially leading to increased plaque and tartar buildup.

Potential for Weight Gain

Another potential drawback of adding water to kibble is the possibility of weight gain. Because moistened kibble is generally more palatable, pets may eat larger quantities, which could lead to weight gain if not monitored closely. Maintaining a balanced diet and providing appropriate portion sizes is important based on your pet’s age, breed, and activity level.

Some Pets Might Not like Altered Texture

Some pets may not enjoy the texture of moistened kibble. Pets are often creatures of habit, and changing the texture of their food might be off-putting. If your pet doesn’t adapt, they may eat less, potentially impacting their nutritional intake.

Various veterinary professionals and pet nutritionists also acknowledge the potential drawbacks of adding water to kibble. Concerns typically center around the risk of bacterial growth, decreased dental cleaning effect, the potential for weight gain, and some pets’ aversion to the altered texture. As always, any changes to your pet’s diet should be discussed with a qualified professional to ensure it suits your pet’s specific needs and health condition.

Deciding Whether to Add Water to Kibble

Factors to Consider

Your Pet’s Age

Puppies, kittens, and senior pets may find softened kibble easier to eat and digest. However, during the teething stage, puppies and kittens may benefit from the abrasive effect of dry kibble on their gums and developing teeth.

Your Pet’s Health

Adding water to kibble could be beneficial if your pet has certain health conditions such as dental, digestive, or dehydration risks. Always consult your vet before making dietary changes, especially if your pet has a chronic condition.

Your Pet’s Preferences

Some pets prefer their kibble dry, while others may enjoy it more when it’s moistened. Observing your pet’s eating habits can provide insights into their preferences.

Recommendations of Your Veterinarian

Your vet knows your pet’s health history and can provide tailored advice. It’s always wise to seek their opinion when adding water to your pet’s kibble.

Balancing the Pros and Cons

When deciding whether or not to add water to your pet’s kibble, it’s important to weigh the pros and cons carefully. Consider the potential benefits, such as increased palatability, added hydration, and easier digestion, against the possible drawbacks, such as the risk of bacterial growth, decreased dental cleaning effect, and potential for weight gain. Personalize your decision based on your pet’s age, health, and preferences. Ultimately, it’s about finding the best balance for your pet’s health and well-being.

Alternative Methods of Feeding

Wet Dog Food

If you’re concerned about your pet’s hydration or dental health, wet dog food can be an alternative or supplement to kibble. Wet food typically contains more moisture than dry kibble, aiding in hydration, and is often softer, making it easier for pets with dental issues to consume.

Raw or Home-cooked Meals

Providing raw or home-cooked meals can offer an alternative way to feed your pet. These diets can be tailored to your pet’s specific nutritional needs, and many pet owners find them a rewarding way to bond with their pets. However, they require more preparation and a careful balance of nutrients. Consult a vet or pet nutritionist before transitioning your pet to a raw or home-cooked diet.

Hydration from Other Sources

Hydration doesn’t have to come solely from your pet’s food. Fresh, clean water should always be available to your pet. Additionally, pet-friendly broths or frozen treats can offer supplemental hydration and nutrition.

Final Thoughts on the Pros and Cons of Putting Water in Kibble

Adding water to your pet’s kibble can present potential benefits and drawbacks. On the plus side, it can enhance the palatability of the food, promote hydration, facilitate digestion, and potentially support dental health. On the downside, it may pose risks like bacterial growth, decreased dental cleaning effect, and the potential for weight gain, and some pets may not like the altered texture.

As a pet owner, making informed decisions about your pet’s diet is important. Adding water to your pet’s kibble depends on several factors, including age, health status, personal preferences, and your vet’s recommendation. Always consult a professional before making any changes to your pet’s diet. Remember, the ultimate goal is to support the health and happiness of your beloved pet.


Should I always add water to my dog’s kibble?

No, you don’t always need to add water to your dog’s kibble. The decision depends on factors such as your dog’s age, health, and personal preferences. It might not be necessary if your dog enjoys dry kibble and drinks enough water separately. However, if your dog has dental issues or is prone to dehydration, adding water to the kibble can be beneficial. Always consult with your vet to make the best decision for your pet.

How much water should I add to the kibble?

There’s no one-size-fits-all answer to this as it depends on your pet’s size, dietary needs, and the type of kibble. Generally, a good starting point is to add enough water to moisten the kibble without making it soupy. Some pet owners prefer to add an equal volume of water to kibble, but it’s best to experiment and see what your pet prefers and consult your vet if you have any concerns.

Can adding water to kibble lead to weight gain?

Adding water to kibble doesn’t inherently lead to weight gain, as water doesn’t contain calories. However, because adding water can enhance the palatability of the food, some pets may eat more, potentially leading to weight gain. Monitoring your pet’s eating habits and maintaining appropriate portion sizes is important.

Does adding water to kibble make it less nutritious?

No, adding water to kibble doesn’t make it less nutritious. The water changes the texture and palatability of the food but doesn’t alter its nutritional content. However, if the moistened kibble is left out for a long time, it could degrade some nutrients.

What do veterinarians say about the pros and cons of putting water in kibble?

Veterinarians’ opinions on adding water to kibble can vary based on each pet’s specific needs. Some vets recommend it for pets with certain health conditions, like dental issues or dehydration risk. Others might caution against it due to concerns like potential bacterial growth. It’s always best to consult your vet before making dietary changes for your pet.