Canned Dog Food

Understanding Dry Matter In Dog Food

Written By Vedrana Nikolic | Canine Coach, B.A Ethnology & Anthropology, M.A Semiotics.
Edited & Fact Checked By Renae Soppe | B.A Journalism & Science. 
Last Updated: 7th January 2024

When it comes to selecting the best food for your furry companion, understanding the content of your dog's food is vital. But how do you do that? You probably already know about guaranteed analysis, but did you know you can’t simply compare the percentages on the labels of two dog food brands?

If you’ve tried comparing dry dog food to wet dog food, you’ve probably already noticed that the percentages are vastly different. Understanding “dry matter” and how to calculate nutrient percentages on a dry matter basis will help you make sense of this mess.

What Is Dry Matter in Dog Food?

Dry matter basis (DMB) in dog food refers to the portion of the food that remains after all the moisture content is removed. This measurement includes all the solid components such as proteins, carbohydrates, fats, and essential nutrients. In contrast, the as-fed basis refers to the complete food with its original moisture content, which often varies depending on the type of food, e.g., dry kibble, canned, or raw.

“Understanding DMB allows comparison of dry and canned foods, with their very different moisture content, in a fair way. It allows the pet-food shopper to compare apples to apples, so to speak.” - Elizabeth Hodgkins, DVM - Veterinary Practice News (1)

The significance of evaluating dog food on a dry matter basis lies in its ability to provide a level playing field for comparing products with varying moisture levels. For instance, canned dog food naturally contains a higher moisture content than dry kibble. Comparing these two types of food without considering dry matter content would be like comparing apples and oranges.

Why Is Dry Matter Important in Dog Food?

Understanding the nutritional contents of dog food based on dry matter is crucial for several reasons:

  • Comparative Analysis: Dry matter basis allows pet owners to compare dog foods accurately, regardless of their moisture content. This comparison ensures you are making a more informed decision about the nutritional value of the food.
  • Accurate Nutrient Evaluation: Dry matter basis is used to assess the concentration of essential nutrients in dog food. This helps in determining whether the food meets your dog's specific dietary needs.
  • Cost Consideration: When comparing dog food prices, dry matter basis helps identify which food offers more value for your money. You can determine the cost per unit of nutrients, allowing for a more budget-friendly decision.

How to Calculate Dry Matter Basis

Calculating dry matter basis is relatively straightforward. Here's a step-by-step guide to help you compare different dog foods effectively:

Step 1: Read the Label

Start by examining the dog food label, where you'll find information on moisture content, protein, fat, fibre, and other nutrients. The percentages are usually provided on an as-fed basis, but not always.

“But now we run into a problem. Some pet food manufacturers report their guaranteed analyses on an “as fed” basis. This means just as the product comes out of the bag, can, etc. Other companies use a “dry matter” basis, meaning after water has been removed. You can’t directly compare guaranteed analyses that are reported on an “as fed” and “dry matter” basis.” - Jennifer Coates, DVM - PetMD (2)

If the percentages are listed on a dry matter basis, this will be stated on the label. In that case, you don’t need to do anything for that particular food - the moisture has already been taken out of the equation.

Step 2: Calculate the Dry Matter Percentage

To calculate the dry matter percentage, subtract the moisture content from 100%. For example, if the moisture content is 10%, the dry matter content is 100% - 10% = 90%.

Step 3: Determine Nutrient Content on a Dry Matter Basis

Now, divide the nutrient percentage you're interested in (e.g., protein or fat) by the dry matter percentage you calculated in Step 2. For instance, if the protein content is 25% on an as-fed basis and the dry matter content is 90%, the protein content on a dry matter basis is 25% / 90% = 27.78%.

Step 4: Compare the Results

Repeat the above steps for each nutrient you want to assess. This will give you the dry matter basis percentages for protein, fat, carbohydrates, and other essential nutrients in the dog food you're evaluating. Compare these figures to make an informed decision about the product's nutritional value.

Example Calculation

Suppose you are comparing two dog food brands. Brand A has 12% protein, 6% fat, and 2% fibre with 10% moisture content, while Brand B has 10% protein, 8% fat, and 3% fibre with 8% moisture content.

  • Brand A (Protein on Dry Matter Basis): (12% / (100% - 10% moisture)) * 100% = 13.33%
  • Brand A (Fat on Dry Matter Basis): (6% / (100% - 10% moisture)) * 100% = 6.67%
  • Brand A (Fibre on Dry Matter Basis): (2% / (100% - 10% moisture)) * 100% = 2.22%

Repeat the same calculations for Brand B and then compare the dry matter basis percentages for protein, fat, and fibre to make a more informed choice.

As you can see, the calculation is not terribly difficult to do. Once you get the hang of it, it becomes quite straightforward. However, if you are allergic to maths and would rather skip that, you can use a simple calculator like this one to help you.

My Final Thoughts

Understanding and calculating dry matter basis in dog food is essential for making informed decisions about your pet's nutrition. By accounting for moisture content, you can accurately compare various dog food products and determine which one best meets your dog's dietary needs.

This knowledge not only ensures your pet's health but also helps you make more cost-effective choices. So, the next time you're shopping for dog food, be sure to consider the dry matter basis for a well-rounded evaluation of the options available. Your furry friend will thank you for it!


  1. Hodgkins, E. April 17, 2009. “How To Read And Interpret Pet Food Labels”. Veterinary Practice News. Retrieved October 23, 2023.
  2. Coates, J. January 1. 2016. “How to Compare Pet Food Nutrient Profiles: Part 1”. PetMD. Retrieved October 23, 2023.

Vedrana Nikolic

Vedrana Nikolić is Gentle Dog Trainers Canine Coach, Professional Writer, Anthropologist & dog lover.

With a Masters Degree in Semiotics & Bachelors Degree in Anthropology, studying the communication between animals and humans, Vedrana is able to use her expertise to analyse and review dog products and write informative posts on canine behaviour and training.

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