Home Dog Food What’s Semi-Moist Dog Food and How It Compares to Other Types

What’s Semi-Moist Dog Food and How It Compares to Other Types


The semi-moist dog food type is likely a term you haven’t heard before, but it’s probably a food variety that you would recognize by sight. We’re going to take a look at everything you need to know about this pricier dog food variety and if you actually ever need it.

Most veterinarians will advise against using semi-moist dog food, sometimes referred to as semi-dried dog food, and any other consistency will usually be preferred first. Semi-moist/semi-dried dog food brands are also some of the least popular among pet owners. I'll explain why that's the case, and if you need to worry about it.

Generally, if you have been contemplating semi-moist dog food for your dog but you’re not sure whether it’s the right choice, talk to your vet first. Different types of dog foods aren't only about the nutrition. For example, dogs with digestive issues, dental problems and missing teeth may not be able to chew dry kibble. Likewise, semi-moist dog food and canned/wet dog food products may not be a good option for all dogs.

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What Is Semi-Moist Dog Food?

What’s Semi-Moist Dog Food

A Refresher on the Different Types of Dog Food

Before we look at what is semi-moist dog food, here’s a quick refresher on the different types of dog foods you might be a little more familiar with.

1. Kibble/Dry Food

Kibble is the most commonly fed dog food. While the ingredients of dry food vary, all kibble varieties have a moisture content of around 10%. This low moisture content creates the crunchy “rock-like” texture of kibble.

2. Wet Food

Wet food is frequently fed to older dogs and dogs with dental health problems. Wet foods are almost always sold in a can or single serving portion pack and have a moisture content of around 75%. Wet food is more expensive than kibble but less expensive than semi-moist food.

3. Raw Food

Raw food is gaining popularity with dog owners for its nutritional quality as well as the frequent recalls among other commercially produced foods. Raw food diets vary considerably but consist of various meat, bone, organ, supplement, grain, vegetable combinations. Feeding raw can be quite expensive depending on where meat is being sourced.

I have experience feeding raw, and the health benefits I noticed in my older dogs were amazing. That said, if your dog has any type of fecal incontinence or if you are not extremely thorough in cleaning house, this isn’t the best feeding option for you.

4. Dehydrated Food

Dehydrated food is another popular alternative to larger commercially produced dog foods. Dehydrated food maintains the nutrition found in whole food products, but has 90-95% of moisture removed for lighter packaging and reduced bulk. Dehydrated dog food is rehydrated prior to feeding. This is an expensive food choice particularly if you have a larger dog, but it has a convenience not found with other feeding options.

5. Freeze-Dried Food

Freeze-dried food is often confused with dehydrated food, but although similar in appearance, the freeze-dried food contains less moisture. The average moisture content of freeze-dried meal options is 2-3% having had 98-99% of moisture removed.

Some dog food manufacturers combine freeze-dried food pieces with dry food for a mixed food. Not all freeze-dried food options require rehydrating before feeding, but some do.

Freeze-dried dog food is one of the most expensive feeding options there is, but again, it provides convenience and increased nutritional value. I have fed my own dog freeze-dried food in the past and I have to say that it is one of my favorite feeding options. If you have the budget but don’t want to tackle raw feeding, this is a worthwhile feeding option.

6. Home-Cooked Food

Home-cooked food is a diet that is comprised of human whole-foods that are safe and nutritionally balanced for dogs. The moisture content of home-cooked foods varies based on the ingredients used in the meal. Some companies make and sell “home-cooked” foods (these are exceptionally expensive) but it is also possible to learn how to make balanced home-cooked meals yourself.

Home-cooked food is something I have done myself. During the massive pet food recalls many years ago, I decided to start making my dog’s meals. While it was a good short-term solution, I soon found it to be expensive and that I lacked the knowledge to make well-rounded meals with all of the necessary nutrients.

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Pros and Cons of Semi-Moist Dog Food

Where does semi-moist dog food fit into the mix?

Semi-moist dog food has a moisture content of between 60% and 65%. Most varieties of semi-moist food for dogs look more like treats than pet food. This type of food is more expensive than either dry or wet dog food brands.

There are a couple of benefits that semi-moist food offers over other products. It's a good choice for dogs that are picky eaters, because it’s more appealing in flavor and texture. Semi-moist dog food is also convenient for feeding, since it is usually served in sealed serving packages that stop the food from drying out.

It's not without its drawbacks, however. Unfortunately, most semi-moist dog food brands will have a higher sugar content than dry or moist dog foods. While this makes the food more appealing, it also makes it terrible for dental health and dogs prone to obesity.

Semi-moist dog food also has higher salt content, which makes the food more flavorful but is detrimental to dogs with certain health concerns like heart disease. Unlike kibble, semi-moist dog food does not provide the scraping and crunching benefits for your dog’s teeth. In theory, this may result in increased tartar buildup, which means more cavities and doggy breath (but the juries are still out on this one).

Semi-moist dog food often includes more artificial ingredients and flavorings, which isn't something any pet owner would like to feed their canines.

Semi-Moist Dog Food vs Other Types

Each dog food variety has its drawbacks and benefits, but how do they compare to each other? Here's a direct comparison of semi-moist dog foods and other varieties.

1. Semi-Moist Dog Food vs. Kibble/Dry Food

Semi-moist food is more appealing taste-wise, but it offers fewer healthier or all-natural options, so it tends to be an unhealthier choice overall. That said, a decent-quality semi-moist food is a healthier option than a low-grade budget kibble option as far as the nutrients it delivers.

Of these two foods, a high quality, natural kibble will always be the better choice for any dog owner, since it provides dental benefits as well as nutritional benefits. It also doesn't contain as many ingredients that most of us would like to avoid.

2. Semi-Moist Dog Food vs. Wet Food

Wet food is almost always preferred over semi-moist food when it comes to taste. Although since it’s visually similar to treats, some dogs show an initial preference for the semi-moist food choice. Both of these foods are poor choices for dogs prone to dental decay, but good options for dogs with a suppressed appetite.

When comparing the visual appearance of both of these foods, a wet food will look like one solid can-shaped chunk of meat or it will look like small pieces of meat in a gravy-like sauce. Comparatively, a semi-moist food has a more solid appearance and no gravy-like sauce; it can better be described as a soft dog food.

Nutritionally, semi-moist and wet food are similar and depend upon the quality of the individual pet food brand and variety. In most cases, semi-moist foods will still have more salt and/or sugar in them.

3. Semi-Moist Dog Food vs. Raw Food

Comparing raw food to semi-moist food is like comparing a steak dinner to McDonald's. Raw food offers higher quality nutrition, health benefits not seen in commercial foods (due to bone and collagen), and no filler or artificial ingredients.

There are many myths surrounding raw feeding, but many are untrue. Raw food is always going to be a better feeding choice, unless health conditions (such as a compromised immune system due to chemotherapy) prohibit raw feeding.

Raw food does come with the risk of cross-contamination; however, it should always be prepared in a clean and sanitary kitchen that is fully sanitized after serving your dog. It is also mandatory to thoroughly clean your dog’s bowls following a meal.

4. Semi-Moist Dog Food vs. Dehydrated Food

Semi-moist food contains lower quality nutrition than dehydrated food due to the difference in cooking process and cooking times. Semi-moist dog food also has a much shorter shelf life than dehydrated food and is much bulkier to transport or travel with. Most dehydrated foods appear as a powder with small chunks in the food.

Once rehydrated, dehydrated dog food has an oatmeal-like consistency or it may take on the appearance of an “add water and serve” stuffing mixture. Dehydrated food does come at a higher price, however, and carries the same dental challenges as wet and semi-moist foods.

Given the option of feeding semi-moist and dehydrated dog food, dehydrated food is always the better option nutritionally (and more pricey).

5. Semi-Moist Dog Food vs. Freeze-dried Food

Freeze-dried and dehydrated foods are similar in the benefits that they offer and tend to differ only in their moisture content and texture. Freeze-dried dog food almost always has the appearance of dried up food, it is lightweight and crisp to the touch.

Once rehydrated, this food looks more like a stew with chunks of food in it. As with dehydrated food, freeze-dried dog foods are almost always a better nutritional choice but are more expensive.

6. Semi-Moist Dog Food vs. Homemade Dog Food

Home-cooked dog food is becoming an increasingly popular feeding option, particularly for dogs with specific health conditions like kidney failure. Home cooking involves the selection of dog-safe human foods and cooking, and balancing those foods to create nutritionally sound meals.

Homemade dog food food provides better nutrition (when quality food is purchased, meals are well balanced and meals include variety) but are quite costly and require a lot of time. Additionally, home cooking requires knowledge of safe and unsafe foods for dogs, as well as how to balance meals with vitamins, supplements, and whole food sources to prevent malnutrition. Compared to semi-moist dog food, however, home-cooked food is by far the better option for overall health.

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Popular Semi-Moist Dog Food Options

You now know what is semi-moist dog food, but what options are available? There are multiple semi-moist dog food brands on the market today, but nowhere near as many as dry kibble or wet food options. They are also much less popular among pet owners, which is clearly visible due to lack of dog food reviews for this type.

A few semi-moist dog foods you may want to consider:Purina Moist and Meaty

We do not advocate feeding any of these semi-moist food options over another. Every dog’s diet should be built upon their individual nutritional needs and existing health concerns. Remember that veterinarians do NOT usually recommend semi-moist dog foods, and will choose most of the other types mentioned above beforehand.

Keep in mind that a large number of semi-moist dog food options are produced by pet food manufacturers who have a history of poor quality food and many pet food recalls. There are a few exceptions to the rule, but if you are worried about contamination of your dog’s food, it’s preferable to switch him to wet, raw or home-cooked diet instead.

Is Semi-Moist Dog Food Right for You?

Now that you know what is semi-moist dog food and are aware of its benefits and side effects, you may wish to decide if this is an appropriate diet for your pet. With all of the above considered, here is a quick guide that you can follow to help you decide:

Maybe No
Your dog is genetically prone to poor dental health
Your dog is a picky eater
Your dog has a suppressed appetite from medication or a health condition
Your dog has heart disease or another health condition that can be exacerbated by increased salt intake
Your dog is already overweight
Your dog is a picky eater and needs to gain a little weight
You are concerned about the nutritional value of your dog’s food
You want a food with a longer shelf life
You are on a tight budget
You are on a tight budget BUT have a picky eater
You are worried about contamination of commercial foods
Your dog doesn’t consume enough water during the day
Your dog has trouble feeling sated after eating dry dog food
Your dog has higher protein requirements √ (some semi-moist dog foods contain more protein than dry foods.) You can also feed another variety of high protein dog food like kibble.

With everything mentioned above, and using this table, you should be able to decide whether semi-moist dog foods are the right choice for your pet. Remember to discuss this with a veterinarian, too, although it's unlikely he or she will be supportive of the choice.

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