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How to Soften Hard Dog Food: 4 Great & Easy Tips

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By Nicole Cosgrove

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Dr. Paola Cuevas

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Dry dog food or dog kibble has been one of the most reliable dog food options for dog owners everywhere. Dogs think it’s delicious, it’s affordable, and it’s super easy to store and feed. However, kibble can become difficult for older dogs to eat.

For this reason, many dog owners switch to canned dog food for older pups. But the fact is that canned dog food is astronomically more expensive than dry dog food, making it a less-than-ideal option for those on a budget. Not to mention, some dogs might not like the switch if they have had dry food their entire life.

If you don’t want to switch to canned dog food, you can soften dry dog food instead. Softening the dog food will allow your dog to get all the nutritional benefits from their food while making the food much more chewable. So how can you soften kibble?Divider 1

Why Should You Soften Dog Food?

As dogs get older, their teeth naturally begin to deteriorate, much like human teeth. As their teeth become more brittle and sensitive, they can experience more pain when chewing. Not to mention, their teeth can start falling out or cracking as they get older, making the issue even more difficult.

mini pinschers eating
Photo Credit: Gavriella Pet photography, shutterstock

Makes Eating Less Painful

When this happens to their teeth, dogs cannot eat as much dry dog food, even if they are hungry. Dry dog food is naturally pretty hard, making it a painful experience to eat for senior dogs or dogs with dental issues.

By softening the dry dog food, you make it less painful for your dog to eat. Though soggy kibble may seem appetizing to us, most dogs are more than happy to lap up soften dog food because it fills their belly without hurting their teeth or gums.

Tastier Flavor

Depending on the softening method you select, you can even make their food tastier. The broth or canned food options are often more delicious to dogs than simple kibble or kibble softened with water. Obviously, your dog will view this softened dog food as even tastier than before if you mix it with one of these ingredients.

Even if you opt for the water method, your dog will still be grateful for you because it allows them to get their nutrition without hurting in the process.Divider 4

Softening Dry Dog Food: Things to Consider

Before selecting a dog food softening method, there are a few things you need to consider. These factors can help you determine which method is right for your dog regarding their mouth, health needs, and diet. Before we show you how to soften hard dog food, you may want to think about this:

Your Dog’s Health Needs

Most importantly, think about your dog’s overall health needs before selecting a dog food softening method. If your dog needs to be on a strict diet and cannot take on any more calories, select the lightest option, such as the warm water method.

On the contrary, your dog may need additional vitamins, minerals, or calories. If this is the case for your dog, feel free to experiment with a different softening method that adds more nutrients. For example, mixing dry food with bone broth will add nutrients while making the food taste delicious.

Additionally, make sure to talk to your veterinarian before switching up your dog’s diet if they have any special health needs. Your vet may suggest a different diet route if your dog has any special needs.

Make sure you’re feeding your dog the right amount of food and the correct type for their lifestyle, check out our dog food calculator here.

The exact amount of calories an individual animal needs to maintain a healthy weight is variable and influenced by many factors including genetics, age, breed, and activity level. This tool is meant to be used only as a guideline for healthy individuals and does not substitute veterinary advice 

Your Dog’s Preferred Diet

Normally, senior dogs that struggle to eat food are happy as clams to eat up soft dog food. However, some dogs are super picky and refuse to eat anything unless it meets their exact stipulations. If your dog happens to be a food snob, you want to consider that when selecting a softening method.

Some softening methods don’t add any additional flavor to the food. Warm water, for instance, will soften the kibble and bring out its natural aroma, but it won’t add anything new. However, softening the food with broth, goats’ milk, or canned food will add much more depth and flavor.

Your Budget

Finally, you also need to factor in your budget. If you are looking to soften your dog food, you are likely not wanting to spend a fortune, or else you would buy canned food. Most of the methods listed below are incredibly affordable, and we guarantee you can find something within your price range. Select a softening method that fits your budget.

Plan Your Timing

No matter what dog food softening method you select, there’s one thing you have to do to get started—plan the timing. Even though kibble is naturally porous, it does take some time to absorb the liquid. If you use cold liquids to soften the food, you will need at least an hour to soften the kibble adequately, though we recommend more.

Warm liquids take much less time to permeate into the kibble. Nevertheless, it still requires a bit more time than serving regular dog food. You can’t just throw hot water in the bowl and expect the kibble to be soft within 5 seconds.

For this reason, make sure to time the softening process to match your dog’s normal eating time. Of course, the exact timing is a learning process. When you first start softening the dog food, it’s best to give yourself extra time to ensure your dog gets fed at its normal time. Your dog would rather have soft food than hard food it can’t eat.

Image Credit: Phuttharak, Shutterstock

Divider 8Top 4 Tips for Softening Dry Dog Food:

Dry dog food is naturally porous. Because of this, you can easily soften dry dog food by mixing it with some other liquid ingredients. Depending on your budget or your dog’s taste buds, you can soften the dry dog food with one of the methods below.

1. Warm Water

The easiest and fastest method for softening dry food is mixing it with warm water. Plus, the heat will release the flavor and aroma, making the food smell tastier for your dog. Given that older dogs tend to have issues with their sight and smell, they definitely will appreciate these enhanced features.

With this warm water method, all you need to do is pour however much kibble you want to feed your pup into a bowl. Then, add warm water to that bowl. Mix the ingredients together so that all of the water is absorbed. You can add more water if the kibble is not soft enough. As soon as the food reaches the desired consistency, feed it to your dog.

Distilled water
Image Credit: rawpixel.com, Pxhere

2. Broth

If your pooch is a picky eater, make their kibble more appetizing by softening it with broth. It’s important to select a broth made from all-natural ingredients, such as all-natural chicken or all-natural beef broth. More so, select a low-sodium option so as not to overload your dog with sodium. It is very important to remember that a dog-safe bone broth is cooked without onion or garlic since both are toxic to dogs.

The broth softening method is similar to the warm water method. Begin by warming the broth. It doesn’t need to be boiling, but it should be warm to shorten the softening time. Once the broth is warm, apply it to the food. Continue to add broth to the bowl until the kibble has reached your desired consistency.

If you heated the broth to a high temperature, make sure to give the food time to cool down before giving it to your dog. You don’t want your dog to burn its mouth. After that, give the bowl to your dog. They will be drooling every night from this softening method.

3.  Goat’s Milk

For dogs that need additional probiotics, vitamins, and calcium, you can soften the kibble using goat’s milk. Goat’s milk will add a lot of nutrition to the food, as well as flavor. In fact, many breeders feed newborn puppies kibble softened with milk formula for its tastiness and health benefits.

The one downside of the milk method is that it is not for every dog, as many dogs are lactose intolerant. You should investigate if your dog can properly digest goat’s milk by offering only a spoonful and closely observing how its digestive system responds. This also takes a bit longer than the other methods. Because goat’s milk is typically cold, you will need to give the kibble more time to absorb the cold milk. We recommend placing the kibble and milk mixture in the refrigerator a few hours before dinner time. This will give the food plenty of time to soften.

milk in glass
Image Credit: Couleur, Pixabay

4. Canned Food

Finally, the last softening method is simply mixing canned food with dry food. This is a super easy method because all it requires is mixing the kibble with some canned dog food. The juices from the canned dog food will seep into the dry food, resulting in an overall soft meal.

Divider 2Final Thoughts

Softening your dog’s dry food is an easy and affordable way to help your senior dog get all the nutrients they need without hurting their mouth. Depending on your dog’s health needs and diet, as well as your budget, you can choose between warm water, broth, goat’s milk, and canned food methods. All four methods are effective and dog-approved!

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Featured Image Credit: Sharaf Maksumov, Shutterstock

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