How to Soften Dry Dog Food for Seniors & Dogs with Bad Teeth

Last Updated: October 29, 2023

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Since it first came to the commercial market in 1860, dry dog food has been the go-to for dog owners around the globe. What's not to like about it?

Most dogs have no problem gobbling the stuff up. Not only that, but it's affordable, easy to store, and can actually improve the quality of your pup's teeth.

But what happens when your dog is unable to chew kibble anymore?

softened dog food

As dogs get older, their teeth become more brittle and sensitive. This results in significant pain while chewing. The same can be said about dogs with dental issues, such as missing or cracked teeth.

Sure, you could make the switch to canned food. However, the price of canned food for senior dogs with bad teeth is significantly higher than kibble.

When you consider the fact that canned food is not as nutritionally dense as dry food, you're looking at a notable increase in costs.

Instead of going for a full diet of canned food, you can moisten your dog's existing kibble.

Softening dry dog food allows your dog to take advantage of all of its nutritional benefits without the need for intense chewing on your dog's part.

Here are a couple of ways that you can soften your pup's dry food.

Soften your Dog's Kibble by Adding Water

The easiest way to soften your dog's kibble is by adding some water. Kibble is naturally porous. When you add water to the mix, the kibble will slowly absorb it over time.

As a result, the crunchy texture starts to break down into a soft mush.

After the water has been absorbed fully, you can serve it to your dog as is. The individual pieces will still hold their shape.

However, they'll grow in size and won't take nearly as much force to break up in your dog's mouth.

Alternatively, you can smash it all with a fork. This creates a soft consistency that your dog can lick up.

How Much Water to Add to Dry Dog Food?

This all depends on your dog's needs. Kibble will soften from the outside in, allowing you to control the amount of crunch the food has.

You can start out by adding only a few tablespoons of water and see how that works for your pooch. Just add more water to get the right level of softness.

If it needs to be moistened to a soft paste, the easiest method would be to add as much water as you did the kibble. A 1:1 ratio ensures that the kibble will be softened all the way through. Though, it does take some time.

* It's best to prepare this a few hours before dinner time to give the food plenty of time to absorb everything.

Using Warm Water

Turning dry food into wet paste is much easier if you use warm water. The process is sped up quite a bit, as the food has an easier time absorbing the water.

Instead of waiting for hours, the process can be done in only a fraction of the time.

Plus, warm water has the added benefit of releasing flavor and aroma. The moment that you pour the warm water in, you'll notice a strong smell emanating from the bowl.

This is great for older dogs with bad eyesight or pups that avoid eating due to dental pain.

The smell will have them salivating in no time. Just make sure that the food has enough time to cool down completely before you let your dog scarf it down.

Add a Boost of Flavor with Broth or Milk

Want to enhance the flavor of the food while softening it? Use milk or broth instead of water. A nice low-sodium broth is great for kicking the food up a notch.

Make sure to read the ingredients before you start moistening the food. Avoid broths with any harmful ingredients or unnecessary additives. All-natural chicken or beef broth is best.

To soften the food, just warm up the broth and add it to the kibble. Give the food some time to absorb the liquid and cool down before feeding it to your pup.

Milk is also a great option. Many dogs love milk just as much as cats do. Milk-softened kibble is actually a popular food option for breeders looking to feed newborn pups, so you shouldn't have any problems getting your dog to eat it.

Milk adds plenty of flavor and has the added benefit of vitamins and calcium.

Mixing Canned Food with Dry Food

Lastly, you can mix wet canned food with dry kibble to create a soft and delicious meal. Before you do this, consult with your vet first. It's important to use food that compliments your dog's dietary needs. 

Canned food is high in moisture and doesn't contain as much nutritional content, so you'll have to make some adjustments to keep things healthy.

All you have to do to moisten the food is mix the canned product in. Stick with the ratios that your vet recommends. The juices from the canned food should soften the kibble.

If it doesn't provide enough moisture, you can add a few tablespoons of water as well.


With a bit of time and know-how, you can transform your dog's hard food into a soft meal that they will have no problem eating. You don't have to eliminate dry food from your dog's diet to get them to eat.

Whether you have a stubborn senior dog or a pooch that's experiencing dental problems, softened kibble may be the thing they need to get some relief and address their growling stomach.

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About the author 


Steve is a writer with over 10 years of experience in dog training and nutritiion.

His goal is to educate dog owners about the ins and outs of canine behavior as well as keeping up with the latest scientific research in the field.