In the quest to provide your dog with the very best, you have a lot of decisions that you need to make every day. If you find yourself pondering, ‘should I be warming up my dog’s food?’, you aren’t alone nor the first to ask. Today, I will be walking you through whether this is a good idea, if you should do it, and some things to consider along the way.
So, can dogs eat warm food? Dogs can eat warm food, though whether or not you should will come down to you and your dog’s preferences. Warming dog food can be useful if the food has been refrigerated or stored in a cold place. It can also be useful for picky eaters. That being said, most dogs will eat food at any temperature at which it is provided.
That’s the gist of it.
But I’m sure you have more questions and want further information.
So let’s continue to explore the possibility, shall we?
Should You Warm Your Dogs Food?
Whether or not you should warm your dog’s food comes down to context. It may be preferable for some owners/dogs, and it may even be required in some cases. Otherwise, and for the most part, it’s entirely optional.
Most dogs can safely eat warm food, and some dogs even prefer to have their food warmed slightly before eating.
Gently warming food is a good way to tempt a picky eater to take some bites of their meal.
That being said, most dog foods are perfectly fine to serve to your dog at room temperature without any further warming.
Food that has been frozen or refrigerated may need to be warmed before your dog eats it.
If you are serving your dog a new-to-you food, you will want to read the label carefully for the manufacturers serving suggestions that may include advice about heating the food.
Most of the decisions about warming your dog’s food will depend on you and your dog’s personal preferences.
Let’s take a closer look at when dogs can and cannot eat warm food.
When Dog Food Should Be Warmed
There are several times that you should definitely consider warming your dog’s food. Let’s explore some times when warming your dog’s food is a good idea.
When Your Dog’s Food Is Below Room Temperature
With the increased popularity of raw food diets and dog foods that need to be refrigerated to stay fresh before serving, it isn’t uncommon for dog food to be stored at cool temperatures.
Even so, it is often best to heat cold stored food to room temperature before serving it to your dog.
Food that is very cold can lack its intended scent and flavor, which may make it less desirable to your dog.
Heating the food to room temperature makes it more enjoyable for your dog.
If Your Dog Is Eating Less With Age
Like people, a dog’s sense of taste and smell can begin to diminish with age. This means that many dogs who were never picky eaters
may suddenly become less interested in their meals.
When food is heated, the scents and flavors are encouraged to release and can often be tasted and enjoyed once again by your older pup.
Heating food has helped me keep more than one senior dog well-fed through their picky later years.
Your Dog Is Exhibiting Signs Of Being Cold
If your dog is showing signs of being a bit chilled (overly cold dogs need to be seen by a veterinarian), a warm meal can help heat them gently from the inside out.
Think about the effect of hot cocoa on a cold winter day – a warm meal can have the same effect on your dog.
You Are Making A Slurry For Young Puppies
Young puppies begin the process of weaning by being offered a slurry which is usually a mix of dry dog food soaked in warm water or puppy formula.
Making this slurry a bit warm makes it more like their mother’s warm milk the puppies are used to living on.
Always consult a veterinarian before beginning to wean puppies, and be willing to give warming their slurry a try to increase their exploration of this new food source.
When Dog Food Should Not Be Warmed
Your Food Is Dry Kibble At Room Temperature
If you are feeding your dog a diet of dry kibble, the warmest the kibble needs to be is room temperature.
Trying to warm dry kibble far beyond room temperature could result in burnt kibble or end up with food that is accidentally too hot and burns your dog’s mouth.
Your Dog Is Currently Very Hot
If your dog has been out in the sun or has been exercising vigorously over a period of time, it may already be quite warm.
Warm food given to a dog who is already very hot may result in an upset stomach.
It may also encourage the dog to drink water quickly, which could lead to vomiting.
If you know your dog prefers warm meals but they are currently panting and hot, wait until they have had time to cool down before serving them their usual meal.
Your Veterinarian Advises Against It
It can be tempting to give your dog the comfort of warm meals that seem tasty and enjoyable.
However, if at any point your veterinarian has expressed that your dog should not eat warm food for medical reasons, resist the urge to heat up their grub.
How Warm Can A dog’s Food Be?
Dogs can safely eat foods that are room temperature up to, at most, just slightly above their body temperature, which is in the 101-103 degrees Fahrenheit/38 – 39 degrees Celsius range. Food that is above this temperature could burn your dog’s mouth or throat, leading to harm.
You don’t need a special thermometer to measure the temperature of your dog’s food; simply try touching the food with a clean hand – it should feel warm but not burning hot.
If the food hurts to touch, it’s too hot for your dog and should cool some before being served.
Why Do Dogs Like Warm Food?
Dogs like warm food for many of the same reasons that people do! The number one reason is that warm food has a wider range of flavors and smells than room-temperature foods. Heating the food encourages the release of scents and refreshes flavors which is great for picky dogs.
Most things a dog does are driven by their sense of smell, and when they can catch a pleasant scent coming from their food bowl, they are more likely to chow down.
Some dogs also find comfort in warm foods when they are cold or sick.
Warm food can help heat up a chilled dog from the inside out and be soothing after a stressful event such as an illness.
Warm food cannot make up for medical attention if your dog isn’t feeling well, but it might help raise their spirits and their appetites.
How To Warm Up Your Dogs Food
You have a few options available for how to warm up your dog’s food. Many people will choose the microwave method because it is quick and fairly hassle-free.
There is no research proving microwaving dog food is harmful to dogs, but some owners may be hesitant to microwave their dog’s food.
These owners can use a double broiler to heat wet food or use the addition of heated liquids to their dog’s food to raise the temperature of the food.
Microwaving Your Dog’s Food
Microwaving your dog’s food is easy with a few simple steps:
Add Food To Dish/Bowl
Remove your dog’s food from the can or other packaging and place it on a microwave-safe dish or bowl.
Metal cans are not safe to place in a microwave, and many packaging products may melt in a microwave.
Using a microwave-safe plate or dish prevents incidents during the heating process. You may also be able to find microwave-safe dog dishes at some stores.
Spread Food Evenly
Spread the food evenly in the bowl or dish.
Being spread evenly across the dish helps the food to heat evenly and can reduce the presence of hot spots and prevent overcooked portions of food from developing. This will also lower the required heating time.
Heat The Food For 10 – 15 Seconds
It shouldn’t take long to heat your dog’s food to room temperature or slightly above.
The exact time will depend on the amount of food you are heating and the strength of your microwave.
It is almost always best to heat for a shorter time and need to microwave more than once than risk going too long and overheating or burning your dog’s food.
Remember, the goal for food warming is to bring refrigerated food to room temperature or warm room temperature foods just enough to give them a few degrees of added heat.
Stir The Food To Cool Any Hot Spots
One risk of microwave heating is the creation of hot spots in the food.
To lower this risk, simply stir the food after heating it and check the temperature by touching the food or holding your hand close enough to feel the amount of heat coming off the food.
Serve Your Dog
If you plan to serve your dog its food from the microwaved bowl or dish, make sure the dish isn’t overly hot to the touch.
You should be able to comfortably pick up and move any dish you feed from with your bare hands.
If you microwave the food and want to feed it in a separate bowl, simply transfer the warm contents and let your dog enjoy!
It is best not to try to save and reheat food once it has been warmed. Start with fresh food each time.
Heat With A Double Broiler
For owners who do not wish to microwave their dog’s wet food, double broiling is an option.
A double broiler is a kitchen utensil that allows cooks to heat food over a bath of boiling water on the stovetop.
This method takes longer than microwaving but provides a good alternate way to heat food evenly and safely.
- Step One: Add an inch or two of water to a cooking pot.
- Step Two: Place the pot of water on the stove over medium to medium-high heat.
- Step Three: As the water starts to bubble, insert your double broiler bowl into the pot.
- Step Four: Empty dog food from the can into the double broiler bowl.
- Step Five: Heat for 5 – 10 minutes stirring the food occasionally and keeping a check on the temperature.
Don’t have a double broiler? No problem.
- Step One: Try filling a medium to large pot about halfway with water and turn the temperature to medium/medium-low. Then add your dog food to a water-tight, heat-safe container or baggie.
- Step Two: Submerge the container bottom in the water as it warms, and your food will be warmed through.
This method takes some time and trial and error to find the best combination of pot and food container, but it is effective for heating without a microwave.
Heating With Warm Liquid
This method is best for those who desire to heat up dry kibble or very thick wet foods.
Adding liquid will change the consistency of your dog’s food, but adding warmth and maybe a touch of broth to a meal can make it more appealing to your dog.
To heat with liquid, simply warm up a low-calorie, dog-safe liquid such as water, low-sodium chicken, or vegetable broth, or for puppy slurry, a warm milk replacer works too.
Add small amounts of your warm liquid (½ cup or less) to your dog’s food and stir to heat through.
I have used this method with warm broth to encourage a dog who didn’t love their veterinarian’s recommended kibble.
Of course, always check with your veterinarian before making any major changes to your dog’s diet.
Whether or not to heat your dog’s food is a personal choice that depends on what you feed your dog and how they like to eat.
Some dogs may be happy to eat food at any temperature it is offered, while others can be quite demanding of the perfect level of warmth.
Don’t be afraid to test out different temperatures and heating methods to find out what works best for you and your dog.
Do dogs like their food warm or cold?
Dogs like their food on the warmer side, a little over room temperature is considered best. This increases the flavor and releases the aroma of the food. Though not all food will warm well, and you must be careful how you do so.
Can you warm up dog food in the microwave?
You can warm up dog food in the microwave, so long as you are meticulous and routinely stir the food through at regular intervals during cooking. It is, however, not considered the best, nor necessarily the safest, way to warm dogs’ food.
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I am an experienced pet owner with decades of experience owning a number of different pets, from traditional pets like dogs and cats, to the more exotic like reptiles and rodents. I currently own a Cockapoo (pictured) called Bailey. I am also the main writer and chief editor here at Pet Educate; a site dedicated to sharing evidence-based insights and guidance, based on my vast pet ownership knowledge, experience, and extensive research.