Want a Healthier Labrador? Benefits of Adding Water to Your Dog’s Food

If you have a Labrador Retriever, then you know a thing or two about labs and water! Our dogs usually love to swim and play in the water, and occasionally, they like to get water all over your house!

With all that water around it’s hard to believe that your labrador might not be getting enough water with their daily meals. If you’re up for a simple change, there are many benefits of adding water to their dry dog food.

I had the chance to interview Johnna Devereaux, a clinical pet nutritionist, who shared a simple yet effective tip that can have a big impact on our Labradors’ well-being. She told me that adding water to their meals is one of the most effective and simple things you can do for your dog’s health. 

In this blog post I share the great advice I got from Johnna and also examine the pros and cons of adding water to your dog’s food. I hope the information I share here inspires you to make small changes that have a big impact on your dog.

adding water to your dog's food

Your Dog Needs Water To Digest Their Food

When we talked, Johnna Devereaux shared an important aspect of dog nutrition that’s often overlooked – hydration.

“Dogs have very powerful digestive juices in their stomach, and those digestive juices are meant to break down and assimilate the nutrients from the food,” she explains.

By adding water to dry kibble, we help the pre-soaking process, making it easier for our dogs to digest and absorb nutrients more effectively.

“Water every day in every meal is what I say,” advises Devereaux. She emphasizes that this is a simple and effective habit.

So adding water or another healthy liquid to your dog’s dry food will actually make the most of the nutrients in the food. There are so many reasons why your dog will thank you for this. Here’s a few!

Why Your Dog Will Thank You for Adding Water to their Dry Food:

  • Enhanced Hydration: Labradors are active dogs. They need to stay hydrated to maintain their energy levels and overall health. Adding water to their regular food ensures they get the necessary fluids they need each day. This is especially important for dogs who are less inclined to drink enough water throughout the day (so not my Labs, but I’m sure they’re out there!)
  • Improved Digestion: The added moisture helps break down your dog’s food, making it easier for them to digest. This can be especially good for puppies or older dogs with sensitive stomachs.
  • Skin and Coat Health: As Devereaux points out, “adding water to food helps the digestion process”, so our dogs’ bodies don’t need to pull moisture from other organs to digest their food. Since your skin is your biggest organ, not having enough moisture with meals can lead to dry dry, flaky skin.
  • Prevention of Health Issues: Proper hydration can also help prevent urinary tract infections, support kidney health, and reduce the risk of dehydration-related health problems.

reasons to add water to your dogs dry food

Is Adding Water to Dog Food Good for Labradors?

If you’re reading this post, there’s a good chance you’re a lab lover. Welcome to the pack!

As I was researching and writing this post, I got thinking about how adding water to dry food is especially good for Labradors versus other dog breeds. And it turns out, it is!

Here are some of the reasons why adding water to kibble can be especially beneficial for Labrador Retrievers:

  1. Risk of Bloat: Labradors, like many large breeds, are at risk of bloat, a serious and potentially life-threatening condition. Eating too quickly can be a risk factor for bloat. When kibble is moistened with liquid, it may slow down how quickly your dog eats, and help to prevent bloat caused by eating too fast.
  2. Joint Health: Labradors are prone to joint issues such as hip dysplasia. Proper hydration is essential for joint health, as it helps to maintain the lubrication of joints and the elasticity of cartilage. Adding water to their kibble ensures they are consuming additional fluids, supporting joint health.
  3. Digestive Health: Adding water to kibble can aid in digestion, as previously mentioned. This is beneficial for Labradors, as they can sometimes experience digestive issues due to their healthy appetites!
  4. Hydration: Labradors are an active breed and require good hydration to support their energy levels. Increasing water intake through moistened food can help them stay hydrated, especially in warm weather or after a good play session.

Moisture in their Food Helps Your Dog’s Digestion

We know that adding warm water to kibble is especially helpful for our dogs. This is better than cold water. And of course, you never want to give your dog boiling water because they can get burned.

I add about 1/3 cup of warm tap water to my dog’s bowls for breakfast and dinner. I’ve been doing this for years, ever since talking to Johnna on my podcast!

My dogs like it because I think it makes the food smell better and the water gives them lots of tasty “broth” to slurp up from the bowl. And who doesn’t prefer a warm meal over a cold, dry one?

Beyond them liking it, and it being easy for me to do each day, there’s science behind why this is a good thing to do for our dogs.

Your Dog Needs Water To Digest Their Food

Adding warm water to your dog’s food helps their digestion:

  1. Water Help Digestive Enzymes Work: Healthy digestion involves various enzymes in your dog’s stomach and digestive tract that break down food into nutrients that can turn into energy. Warm water with meals can help the enzymes along. By adding slightly warm water to your dog’s food, you help these enzymes work more effectively at breaking down fats, proteins, and carbohydrates.
  2. Breakdown Food More Easily: When dry food is softened with some warm water, it becomes easier for your dog’s digestive system to break it down. This pre-softening can be especially helpful for dogs with digestive issues.
  3. Good Poops: The added moisture from warm water helps to move food smoothly through the digestive system. Moisture helps prevent constipation, too. For good poops, make sure your dog is getting enough liquids!
  4. Gets Picky Eaters Interested: Dog food warmed up with some warm water can have more of an aroma, something that might appeal to picky eaters.  Plus, did you know that the smell of warm food can activate the digestive system? Smelling food tells your dog’s body to fire up the digestive enzymes and start making saliva.
  5. Prevents Dehydration: Proper hydration is important for every step of the digestion process. From saliva in the mouth to the final absorption of nutrients in the intestines. Water plays a big part! By adding some warm water to your dog’s dry kibble, you help them maintain a healthy hydration level, which supports the entire digestive process.

Pretty interesting, right?

I thought it was so cool to learn that smelling food gets your body ready to digest it. Have you ever noticed your dog drooling before dinner? That’s their body making extra saliva to start digesting their food!

What is the Best Way to Add Water to Your Labrador’s Meals?

First of all, always ensure the water you’re about to add is warm, not hot, to prevent any burns. That’s really the most important thing to know! Beyond that, adding water to your dog’s food is this easy:

  1. Begin with Lukewarm Water: Start by mixing a few tablespoons of lukewarm water into your dog’s dry food. You can let it soak for about 5-10 minutes. I wouldn’t recommend much longer than that because it won’t be warm anymore.
  2. Observe and Adjust the Amount of Water: Monitor your dog’s reaction to the new consistency of their food. Some dogs may prefer more or less water, so adjust the amount based on their individual preferences.
  3. Maintain Consistency: Once you find the right balance of the amount of water and temperature, incorporate this healthy habit into every meal.

how to add water to your dogs food

Are there Cons to Adding Water to your Dog’s Kibble?

Adding water to your dog’s food is generally safe and beneficial. However, it’s essential to introduce this change gradually to prevent any digestive upset.

Issues such as diarrhea or bloat are rare when water is added correctly and in moderation.

Beyond that, there are a few considerations to be aware of when adding water to your dog’s dry food:

  1. Bacterial Growth: Moisture can create an ideal environment for bacterial growth. If moistened food is left out for too long, it can become a breeding ground for bacteria, which can lead to gastrointestinal upset or food poisoning. It’s important to discard any uneaten moistened food after a few hours. Of course, if you have a labrador, this is unlikely to be a problem for you!
  2. Dental health concerns: One of the benefits of dry kibble is that it can help in maintaining dental health by scraping off plaque. When kibble is softened with water, it loses this abrasive quality. Dogs that consistently eat softened food may be at a higher risk for dental issues like tartar buildup and gum disease, so you might want to start brushing your dog’s teeth.
  3. Choking Hazard for Some Dogs: This is a long shot, but some dogs might inhale pieces of softened kibble, leading to coughing or choking. This is more likely in dogs that tend to eat quickly. If you have this issue, I recommend a slow feeder bowl. You can see the one I have in the photo above.
  4. Your dog might get picky: Some dogs might develop a preference for food with warm water added and refuse to eat dry kibble in the future. This could be an issue if you need to feed them dry food on a road trip or another time when you don’t have access to warm water. To avoid this, you could offer a few meals a week with no water. But again, if you have labradors, “picky eater” isn’t in their vocabulary!

Ready to Make Your Dog’s Meal Healthier?

I hope you have all the info you need to start adding warm water to your dog’s food. It’s one of the easiest – and cheapest – things you can do to improve their health.

Want an alternative to water? Think bone broth, goat’s milk and more… Check out my friend Jessica’s blog for more tips about adding liquid to your dog’s dry food.

I’m so thankful for Johnna Devereaux’s expertise, and that I’m able to share her insights with you through my blog. If you want to get to know her better, I have a podcast interview with Johnna and I also wrote a review of an awesome doggy toothpaste that she developed! It’s the only one I will use with my dogs, Burt and Lucy.

Remember, always consult with a veterinarian or a clinical pet nutritionist like Johnna when making changes to your dog’s diet, especially if your dog has specific health issues or dietary needs.

Did you enjoy this post? Here’s more to check out: 
What to do if your dog chokes? Dog choking prevention tips
9 Best All Natural Chews for Aggressive Chewers
Doggy Cannoli: A Stuffed Trachea Treat!
Healthy Kong Stuffing Recipes my Labradors Love


  1. Zoey Samson

    My husband and I just brought home a labrador. We ordered a bunch of food for him from PetCareRx and Petco. But we were still wondering whether we’re meeting his nutritional needs. Your posts has given me some ideas on keeping my pup healthy.

    • Tori Mistick

      Thanks for checking out my blog! If you have a puppy (anything under 1 year old) then puppies need to eat more than adult dogs. Some people are surprised how much puppies eat! It sounds like you’re headed in the right direction and going to do what’s best. I”m here if you have other questions and I have a lot of blog posts that might be helpful. Congrats on your new lab!!


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Tori Mistick Labrador Dog Mom Blog

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Tori Mistick is a blogger, podcaster and certified Canine Enrichment Specialist. You might call her a professional dog mom! Tori has a soft spot for senior dogs and loves the color pink. Based in Pittsburgh, PA.


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