Can Dogs Eat Warm Food? Our Top Safety Tips

warming up dog food in a microwave

Although dogs can eat warm food (assuming it’s not scolding hot), it’s important to remember that heating food can reduce enzymes and antioxidants in the food. This may make the food harder for your dog to digest. Feeding warm food to your dog a few times per week is fine, but don’t make it a daily habit. 

There is nothing like a warm, tasty meal to make you feel good. Many of us microwave food because it is quick and convenient. Frozen food is also cheap and can be purchased at just about every grocery store, which means it’s great when we are in a rush.

However, dog food is rarely marketed as being designed for the microwave. Despite this, many people feed their dogs’ food that has been heated in the microwave. 

Is this safe? Should you not be doing this? We’ve done the research and have come up with a conclusion. 

Spoiler: the answer is not clear-cut, but we have our recommendation. Let’s start with some basic facts about dog food to make our final answer more clear.

Types of Dog Food

Dog food comes in multiple forms, with the main two being dried kibble and canned food. Dried kibble is best stored in a dry cabinet or anywhere else where there is little moisture. 

Canned food, which is usually fairly moist, can also be stored in a cabinet. However, if you won’t be using it for a while, storing it in the refrigerator is an excellent way to preserve the food so that it can be kept fresh and flavorful for your dog.

How Many People Heat Food for Their Dogs?

According to the American Kennel Club, 24% of dog owners heat their dog’s food. Since this is roughly a quarter of all owners, this is certainly a sizable amount!

Why Do People Heat Food for Their Dogs?

There are many reasons dog owners will heat their dog’s food. By far, the most common reason is that the canned food has been in the refrigerator. 

Canned dog food takes around two hours to reach room temperature after being removed from the refrigerator. 

A large majority of owners may not have the time to wait, such as coming home from work later in the day or needing to leave home within those two hours after removing it from the refrigerator.

Is It Safe to Heat Your Dogs Food? 

There are solid arguments for and against heating dog food. Many companies that manufacture pet food, such as Purina, recommend pet food to be served at room temperature. 

This is primarily for two reasons. First, most dog food is designed to be served at room temperature. Since this is the case, it makes sense to avoid serving it heated or chilled. Second, food served at room temperature is easy for dogs to easily make out what the food is and fully taste the flavor.

However, despite this recommendation, Purina also has said that it’s ok to microwave canned food (after being removed from the can). 

They stress, though, that feeding food that is too warm to your dog is dangerous and can burn them. 

On the opposite end, they warn you not to feed your dog canned dog food chilled, as this can be bad for your dog’s digestion. 

In addition, heating dog food (whether canned or dry kibble heated with minor amounts of added water), can bring out a stronger aroma in the food. 

For sick dogs with a low appetite or older dogs who have a harder time smelling, this can be an enticing way to encourage them to eat their food if they were not interested in eating it.

Though many professionals and companies like Purina have suggested it’s ok to microwave dog food, many others are opposed to microwaving dog food for several reasons.

The biggest reason many are against it is that microwaving dog food can remove or reduce enzymes and antioxidants in the food. As a result, heated dog food is harder for your pup to digest than dog food served at room temperature. 

Primal Pet Foods, for instance, advises to never microwave pet food due to the removal of fat molecules, which makes it harder to digest and, ultimately, is unhealthy for your dog in the long term.

Additionally, microwaving your dog’s food can remove many of the healthy nutrients that are in the food. 

Veterinarian Deva Khalsa has stated that “Microwave cooking destroys many important nutrients. Just two seconds of microwaving can destroy all the enzymes in grains and vegetables.” 

Microwaving your dog’s food removes a large part of why you are feeding them: to provide them with a variety of nutrients that will keep them healthy.

Finally, a third major reason people suggest not microwaving your dog’s food is that microwavable plates, bowls, and other containers can give off chemicals when heated. Plastic containers are especially risky, as they have various chemicals that can be bad for your dog’s health when heated. 

The following are a handful of chemicals that plastics contain that you will want to be aware of:

  • Xylene
  • Toluene
  • Benzene
  • Phthalates
  • Polyethylene terephthalate (PET)
  • Bisphenol A (BPA)

Beyond just plastics and other types of containers, even plates and containers marketed as microwave safe will still not be 100% safe to use. 

Plates and containers marketed this way will still leak chemicals, just at a slower rate than other materials. 

According to Frederick Von Saal, a biologist at the University of Missouri’s Endocrine Disruptors Group, “There’s no such thing as microwave-safe plastic. As you heat it, you degrade the chemical bond. You can’t see this happening. You can’t taste it, you can’t smell it.” 

This means that microwaving dog food, no matter how you do it, will leak chemicals into your dog’s food.

We Do Not Recommend Warming Your Dogs Food

While microwaving your dog’s food will not immediately harm them, we would still recommend avoiding it. 

Microwaving your dog’s food may be convenient for you in the short term, but it comes at the price of removing many of the healthy vitamins and minerals your dog needs to stay healthy.

Here is a suggestion we feel will work for most people. For canned food that is refrigerated, we recommend you take it out for at least two hours to warm it back to room temperature. 

If you are going to be out of the house for more than a few hours that day (say, for work), we recommend taking out your dog’s food from the refrigerator before you leave. Then, when you return, the food will be at a healthy temperature to feed your dog. 

Canned dog food can sit out for an extended time, so you won’t have to worry about it spoiling if it’s only going to be out of the refrigerator for a handful of hours.

As for dried dog food, we recommend coating it in a very light amount of water for a short time in a warm room. Then, after the food has been moistened, drain the remaining water, if there is any, and feed it to your dog. This will make the food more wet and easier to chew while also helping to bring out the aroma for them.

In short: there is no immediate danger to heating your dog’s food every once in a while, but it’s not something we recommend doing every day.

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