Best Dog Food Brands for 2018

Thorough brand reviews and ingredient analysis.

How we Tested

How we tested the best dog food

  • Reviewed 119 dog food brands to understand their company values, product selection, and quality of ingredients
  • Calculated the estimated nutrient content of 1386 dog food formulas
  • Researched and analyzed hundreds of dog food ingredients
  • Developed an algorithm to rate each dog food based on the nutrient content and top 10 ingredients
  • Collected all dog foods with a rating of 10.
  • Narrowed results by eliminating dog foods with questionable ingredients
  • Confirmed the final list by interviewing veterinarians

Our Top 10 Dry Dog Foods

BrandFavorite FormulaAverage Price per PoundMain Protein SourcesPrice 
OrijenRegional Red$3.84/lbBeef, Boar, Goat, LambView on Orijen
  • 33.44%

    Protein

  • 15.84%

    Fat

  • 50.72%

    Carbs

ACANAAppalachian Ranch $3.24/lbBeef, Pork, LambView on ACANA
FrommGold$1.52/lbDuck, Chicken, Lamb, EggsView on Amazon
ZiwiMackerel & Lamb$13.37/lbMackerel, LambView on Amazon
WellnessCORE$2.31/lbTurkey, ChickenView on Amazon
ZignatureZssential$2.22/lbTurkey, Salmon, Lamb, DuckView on Amazon
CraveLamb & Venison $1.87/lbLamb, Chicken, VenisonView on Amazon
NuloLamb & Chickpeas $2.62/lbLamb, Turkey, SalmonView on Amazon
HaloLamb & Lamb Liver $2.76/lbLambView on Amazon
Blue BuffaloWilderness$2.08/lbSalmon, ChickenView on Amazon

Dog Food Ingredients: Good vs Bad

Good Ingredients

Good dog food ingredientsDogs are considered omnivores meaning that they can survive consuming both meat and plant based diets. Proteins that are commonly found in dog food include beef, poultry such as chicken and turkey, lamb, and pork. Additional meat based protein sources for dogs can include game meats like venison and rabbit as well as non-traditional meats such as bison and even kangaroo. Fish is also commonly found in dog foods that are focused on a high-protein diet. Dogs with protein allergies to poultry often find a new protein source in fish-based food. Many dog owners become concerned with where the protein meat source is coming from for their pet. It is important to understand that common meats, such as beef, chicken, and pork are often produced in an industrial-like environment. Cage-free and range-free meat choices from organic manufacturers can provide enhanced nutritional values to dogs.

Fruits and vegetables are also extremely important to a dog’s diet. Green vegetables such as green beans are common ingredients of specialty dog foods. Both of these vegetables provide fiber to a dog’s balanced diet. Carrots provide a great source of beta-carotene to dogs while also providing a source of fiber for a dog’s diet. Carrots can also be used a great snack for dogs while providing great benefits for canine dental health.

Fruits such as apples and pears provide dogs with nutritional vitamins essential to their diets. These items are often found in dog snacks and treats. When feeding these items to dogs, it is crucial to remove all seeds and to cut fruit slices into small bite-size pieces for your pet. Blueberries are a common treat ingredient, providing much needed antioxidants to the animal. Bananas serve as another excellent choice as a treat for your dog. They are low-calorie snacks but should only be given in moderation.

However, there are also vegetables and fruits that should be avoided, including onions, mushrooms, tomatoes, and grapes, among others. Thankfully, you shouldn’t come across these foods within an approved dog food on the market.

Vitamins and minerals should be part of your dog’s daily diet. Vitamin D is an essential vitamin that should be included in all dog diets. The source of Vitamin D can come natural from a multitude of fish sources as well as through dairy products. Vitamin D provides the body with the ability to absorb specific elements. Most vitamins can be found with a variety of plant based sources such as leafy greens, orange vegetables such as carrots, pumpkin, and sweet potatoes, as well as in animal fat, tissue, and organ meat. As a result, many individuals believe that whole prey diets are the best balanced diet to feed a canine.

Many dog food manufactures have researched the whole prey diet advice and enhanced their recipes using the entire animal including the bones, muscle, tissue, organs, etc. The ideology behind this is that the canine will receive all required nutritional values from the organic source of the animal as opposed to missing those essential vitamins and minerals in their diet and having to supplement with an artificial source.

Controversial Ingredients

Controversial dog food ingredientsThe most common controversial ingredients in dog food that consumers most hear about are “by products” and “meat meal”. By products are often the results of a meat protein source after the lean protein has been removed. This can include organ parts of an animal such as the brain, intestines, stomach, etc. While providing a protein source in the food, it does not necessarily provide the most balanced and nutritional source of protein for the canine. While organ meat is important, it should be consumed along with the lean protein muscle of the animal.

Where animal by-product is the remainder of the protein organ source of the animal, “meat meal”, such as chicken meal, is everything else but the kitchen sink. This can be hooves, beaks, bone, etc. that is finely ground up and cooked down to provide additional substance to the dog food.

Often times these ingredients appear within an ingredient list on dog food manufacturer bags as “chicken by-product” or “chicken meal” as if the word “chicken” or “beef” listed before the word will hide the less than stellar ingredients that are within the food.

Some ingredient lists will also include “natural flavor”, which again can be misleading as to what exactly “natural flavor” is. Additional items such as food dyes or coloring are also controversial because they serve no benefit of being in the food in the first place.

AAFCO Guidelines and Why Every Dog Owner Should Know Them

Protein to carb ratio for dogsThe Association of American Feed Control Officials provide guidelines for consumers to assist in understanding how to read food labels for their pets. One good news for pet owners, food manufactures are required to meet regulations and guidelines for manufacturing and the labeling of pet food. According to the AAFCO, each ingredient list must have ingredients listed in the order of highest to lowest quantity in weight of each ingredient.

This leads to what is also required, a Guaranteed Analysis, on each label. Four basic nutritional guarantees are required within dog food including: the minimum percentage of crude protein, the minimum percentage of crude fat, the maximum percentage of crude fiber, and the maximum percentage of moisture. Keep in mind that the term “crude” is a term used to describe the measurement of each item (protein, fiber, fat) and does not describe the quality of the ingredients within the food (http://petfood.aafco.org/Nutritional-Labeling). All food fed to your pet should have a balance of mostly protein, followed by fats, a small amount of carbohydrates, along with the essential vitamins and minerals.

Main Types of Dog Food

Dog food can come in many different forms: dry kibble, wet canned food, de-hydrated, raw meat, and homemade. Whatever method you choose, ensure that is it well balanced between protein, fat, and carbohydrate content.

Dry Dog Food

Dry food, often referred to as kibble, proves to be a very cost effective, low maintenance choice for many dog owners. Dry food can provide many benefits to both owners and pets – it can be left out for a period of time without spoiling if you are an owner who leaves a bowl of food for your pet to ensure at their leisure. It also holds its shelf-life relatively well when placed in an airtight container or bag. Dry food has also proven to have some dental benefits for dogs who are prone to plague buildup as to the crunchy nature of the food can assist in keeping teeth healthy.

Wet Dog Food

Wet dog food, often referred to as canned, is also an option for dog owners. Wet food is a great option for dogs who may have dental issues (such as missing teeth). Wet food once opened must be eaten immediately or refrigerated and used within a day or two. Depending on the size of your dog, wet food can become more costly than its dry food comparison by the same manufacturer. Wet food also provides additional water content that dry food does not have should you have a dog that does not drink enough water to stay completely hydrated.

De-Hydrated Dog Food

De-hydrated food is often found in specialty stores. In our experience, this type of food has proved to be the most expensive option. The food is often considered part of a “raw diet” whereas the food is freeze dried or frozen at the peak ripeness to preserve all flavor and essential vitamins as if you were feeding your dog a raw diet. Again, depending on the size of your dog, this option can become quite expensive but a very healthy choice for your pup.

As mentioned earlier, raw dog food is exactly as it sounds: raw. In nature, a dog would have be hunting its prey and eating its kill raw. A raw diet plays on that scenario in which an owner would feed their canine a diet consisting of raw meats. Some criticism of this method has been shown to include risks of food-borne illnesses of consuming raw meat.

Homemade Dog Food

The last type of dog food we will mention here is a homemade diet. Homemade dog food can often be made as long as the owner has a balanced diet for the dog consisting of protein, fats, and carbohydrates. You can find many recipes online for dog food that can be made in large batches in crockpots or the like. One thing to keep in mind with this method of feeding is to ensure that your dog is not missing any essential vitamins and nutrients from his or her diet. Some vets have reported this method of feeding to be risky if the diet is not balanced, putting your dog at risk of illness. This method can provide similar costs to wet or dry dog food but will definitely take more time out of your day to prepare a meal for your dog.

Age and Breed

According to the AAFCO, labeling of dog food must also describe what life stage the food is designed for. The recognized life stages according to the AAFCO include: gestation/lactation, growth, maintenance, and all life stages. Complete means that all nutritional requirements are met within the food and balanced refers to all nutritional values are in the correct ration meeting standard dietary requirements (http://talkspetfood.aafco.org/readinglabels). Dog food manufactures are required by the AAFCO to label their food appropriate to the set guidelines for each of these life stages if they should market their food in that way. Knowing the life stage and activity level of your dog, you should look into the analysis of protein content and ingredients of any food that you plan on feeding to your dog.

Some manufactures tout their specialized formulas based on dog breed. For instance, a high energy farm dog who corrals livestock all day may need a much higher protein content food than a American Bulldog who spends the majority of his days laying on the couch. If you own a dog who is prone to specific diseases, periodontal illness, or congenital conditions, you will want to research specific ingredients to see how they may effect your dog by feeding to them daily and make a choice on which brand and type of food to feed them.