Finding the right dog food for our furry friends often feels like a culinary quest that only the most devoted of pet parents are willing to embark on. Just last week, as I was meticulously scanning the aisles of the local pet store, a fellow dog owner, overwhelmed by the plethora of choices, turned to me and said, “How do I choose the best one? They all claim to be the best.” This question isn’t new to me. Over the years, I’ve had countless conversations with pet parents eager to provide the best for their dogs but finding themselves lost in a sea of options, from grain-free and high-protein to organic options. However, not all dog foods are created equal.
In this article, we’ll explore some of the best dog food brands in the world, focusing on their ingredients, nutritional value, and how they cater to different health needs and life stages of dogs.
Best Dog Food Brands
|The Farmer's Dog
|A Pup Above
|Taste of the Wild
How We Tested
- 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
1. NomNom Now
- Customized meal plans tailored to individual dog’s nutritional needs
- Fresh, whole-food ingredients with no preservatives
- Pre-portioned meals for convenience
- Recipes formulated by veterinary nutritionists
- Wide variety of recipes to suit different tastes and dietary restrictions
- Promotes optimal health with tailored nutrition
- Convenience of home delivery on a regular schedule
- High-quality, fresh ingredients support better digestion
- Eliminates the guesswork of portion sizes
- Can lead to visible improvements in coat, energy levels, and overall health
- Higher cost compared to traditional dog foods
- Requires freezer or refrigerator space due to the freshness of meals
- Personalized meal plans based on dog’s health, age, and breed
- Fresh, human-grade ingredients
- Convenient delivery schedule
- Easy-to-store packaging
- Nutritionally balanced recipes designed by veterinarians
- Tailored nutrition enhances overall health
- Fresh ingredients promote better digestion and appetite
- Flexible delivery options to fit your schedule
- Packaging is designed for easy storage and minimal waste
- Supports a variety of dietary needs including allergies
- Premium pricing, higher than conventional dog food
- Requires refrigeration due to the freshness of meals
What makes Ollie unique is their innovative approach to meal preparation and delivery, ensuring every dog receives meals that are not just tailored to their dietary needs but also incredibly convenient for pet owners to serve.
I find that their recipes, developed by veterinary nutritionists, strike the perfect balance between wholesome nutrition and taste, a combination that’s not always easy to find. The fact that Ollie offers a variety of recipes means that even the pickiest eaters have options, something I find particularly helpful. Beyond the quality of their food, the packaging and delivery system Ollie employs simplifies the process of feeding your dog a healthy diet, removing common obstacles like time constraints and food storage issues.
3. The Farmer’s Dog
- Customized meal plans based on a detailed dog profile
- Uses only USDA-approved fresh ingredients
- Environmentally friendly packaging
- Continuous adjustment to dietary plans as your dog ages
- Exclusive use of locally sourced ingredients
- Meal plans adapt over time to your dog’s changing health needs
- Supports local farmers and sustainable practices
- Reduces carbon pawprint with eco-conscious packaging
- Fresh, whole ingredients support optimal health
- Easy transition plans for dogs switching to Farmer’s Dog
- Higher cost due to premium ingredients and customization
- The subscription model may not fit all budgets or preferences
The Farmer’s Dog offers a refreshing take on dog nutrition with its focus on delivering fresh, customized meals directly to your door. Their approach is simple yet revolutionary in the pet food industry, prioritizing the health and well-being of dogs through diets that mirror homemade meals more closely than traditional commercial options.
What stands out immediately about The Farmer’s Dog is their commitment to using high-quality, USDA-approved ingredients. This ensures that every meal is not only safe but packed with the nutrients dogs need to thrive. The range of recipes available caters to various dietary requirements and preferences, ensuring there’s a perfect match for every dog, regardless of breed or size. This inclusivity makes it a versatile choice for pet owners looking for a one-stop solution to their dog’s dietary needs.
On top of that, the subscription model of The Farmer’s Dog adds a layer of convenience that busy pet owners will appreciate. As such, once you create a profile detailing your dog’s age, weight, and any health concerns, The Farmer’s Dog crafts a meal plan tailored to your pet’s specific nutritional requirements. This bespoke approach is something I find particularly appealing, as it takes the guesswork out of feeding your dog a balanced and nutritious diet.
Packaging is another area where The Farmer’s Dog shines. Their use of eco-friendly materials reflects a commitment to sustainability, aligning with the values of environmentally conscious consumers. The packaging is not only good for the planet but also designed to keep meals fresh and easy to store, which is a win-win in my book.
However, the premium ingredients and personalized service come at a higher price point, which may not fit into everyone’s budget. Additionally, the subscription model, while convenient, might not suit those who prefer shopping for dog food as needed rather than committing to regular deliveries.
4. A Pup Above
- Sous-vide cooked to lock in nutrients and flavor
- Human-grade ingredients in every recipe
- Transparent sourcing of all ingredients
- Balanced meals vetted by veterinarians
- Subscription service with customizable delivery options
- Enhanced flavor and nutrient retention through sous-vide cooking
- High digestibility for dogs with sensitive stomachs
- Assurance of quality with human-grade ingredients
- Easy to manage feeding schedule with flexible subscription service
- Support for overall health with vet-approved meal formulations
- Premium pricing reflects the high-quality ingredients and cooking method
- Limited availability outside of subscription service
A Pup Above’s adoption of sous-vide cooking is a game-changer in dog food preparation. This method not only ensures that meals are delicious and appealing to even the pickiest eaters but also maximizes nutrient retention, a crucial aspect often lost in conventional cooking processes. Each ingredient is chosen for its nutritional value and sourced with an emphasis on quality and sustainability, mirroring the care a pet owner would take in preparing home-cooked meals.
The brand’s commitment to creating balanced, vet-approved formulations means that every meal supports your dog’s health, catering to specific dietary needs without compromising on taste or nutritional value. The subscription model A Pup Above employs simplifies mealtime, offering a hassle-free way to ensure your dog enjoys fresh, top-notch meals regularly.
Get $50 Off your 1st Order with code WW50
5. ACANA Dog Food
- Locally sourced ingredients
- Fresh ingredients used the same day they are purchased
- Wide variety of formulas catering to different life stages and dietary needs
- Manufactured in the United States
- Follows a “Biologically Appropriate” philosophy
- High-quality, fresh ingredients support optimal health
- Promotes sustainable and ethical sourcing practices
- Catered nutritional profiles for specific breeds and sizes
- Enhances coat health and energy levels
- Transparency in ingredient sourcing and production processes
- Higher price point compared to some other brands
- Specific formulas may require transition time for digestive adjustment
- Packaging may not be as convenient as other brands
First on our list is — you guessed it — Orijen’s sister company called ACANA. It’s crafted in the United States and edges out slightly in terms of affordability compared to Orijen, which comes from Canada. What really draws me to ACANA is its unparalleled commitment to ingredient quality. It’s not just talk; their entire operation, from how they select ingredients to their community engagement, echoes this commitment.
Another guarantee from this brand is that every ingredient is locally sourced and made into their dog foods on the very same day they’re purchased. This rapid process from field to factory in under 48 hours isn’t just impressive—it’s a testament to their dedication to freshness and nutritional integrity. For breeds like Goldendoodles, who often come through our clinic, finding food that supports their health and vitality is crucial, and ACANA does just that, making it one of the best dog foods for Goldendoodles.
6. Fromm Dog Food
- Family-owned and operated
- High standards for ingredient quality
- Offers holistic nutrition options
- Provides grain-free formulas
- Uses US-raised meats and grains
- Affordability compared to premium brands
- Variety of formulas for different dietary needs
- No artificial preservatives
- Catering to a wide range of palates with high-quality meats and plant-based products
- Balanced nutrition for specific breeds like Pomeranians
- Limited availability in some regions
- Some formulas may not suit dogs with very specific health issues
Fromm is a family-owned and operated dog food manufacturer that holds incredibly high standards for ingredient quality and company values. Fromm is one of our favorites and most recommended dog foods for those looking for quality ingredients and holistic nutrition without spending a ton of money. Fromm Gold, our favorite formula from the brand, comes in at roughly $1.52/lb, while our #1 dog food Orijen costs about $3.84/lb for the Regional Red formula. Fromm stands out as the top pick for best dog food Pomeranians.
I’ve found that all of their pet foods are made with only US-raised meats and grains, and never have any artificial preservatives added to them. On top of that, grain-free options are also available, and the company makes use of a wide variety of high-quality meats and even plant-based products to ensure that every palate can be appropriately catered to.
7. Orijen Dog Food
- Utilizes only the freshest, highest quality ingredients
- Ingredients are biologically appropriate for dogs
- No use of “natural flavors” or artificial additives
- Regional Red formula showcases an impressive Estimated Nutrient Content
- Competes closely with sister company ACANA and other premium brands
- Leads the premium dog food industry in quality and nutritional value
- Ingredients list free from questionable additives
- Dogs show a strong preference for Orijen flavors
- Supports overall well-being with biologically appropriate formulas
- Maintains high company values and standards in ingredient sourcing
- Premium pricing makes it less accessible to all pet owners
- Limited availability compared to more mainstream brands
Orijen truly sets a high bar in the dog food industry. I’ve found that its commitment to using only the freshest and highest quality ingredients does make a difference in the health and happiness of dogs. Pet owners have confided in me that their dogs exhibit noticeable improvements in energy and coat health after switching to Orijen. The lack of “natural flavors” in their formulas, a point I’ve always appreciated, hasn’t deterred my dog Sasha’s enthusiasm for their products one bit. In fact, Sasha loves Orijen.
While looking at the specifics of their Regional Red formula, I was impressed by the Estimated Nutrient Content percentages, which are indicative of the brand’s dedication to providing nutritionally rich food. The absence of questionable ingredients in Orijen’s lineup reassures me that I’m offering Sasha not just food, but a foundation for a healthy life. Orijen is so far ahead in the premium dog food industry that one of its main competitors is its sister company ACANA (in addition to From and Zignature).
8. Zignature Dog Food
- No chicken in any of their dog food formulas
- Suitable for dogs with chicken allergies and all breeds and sizes
- Offers a variety of unique meats, including Kangaroo, Guinea Fowl, and Catfish
- Some ingredients have the lowest environmental impact of any animal protein
- Highly recommended as one of the top dry dog food brands
- Ideal for dogs with dietary restrictions or allergies to chicken
- Broadens dietary variety for dogs with unique protein sources
- Supports environmental sustainability with low-impact animal proteins
- Versatile enough for any breed and size, ensuring a wide appeal
- Unique protein sources may be more expensive than traditional proteins
- Some formulas may be harder to find due to their specialized ingredients
I’ve found Zignature to be a real game-changer for many pet parents, myself included. The fact that they avoid chicken in all their formulas is a rarity that sets Zignature apart in the crowded market of premium dog foods. My dog Sasha, for instance, benefits from the variety Zignature offers, rotating between ACANA and Zignature’s Zessential recipe every few bags. It’s been a revelation seeing how well Sasha, and indeed many dogs, respond to these unique proteins, especially considering how common chicken allergies are. The inclusion of environmentally friendly proteins like Kangaroo and Catfish not only appeals to my eco-conscious side but also adds an exciting twist to Sasha’s diet. In addition, Zignature’s commitment to such unique and sustainable ingredients also easily places it at the top of the list of the best dog food for Beagles.
9. Wellness Dog Food
- Offers balanced and complete formulas, protein-focused and grain-free recipes
- Limited ingredient and slow-baked recipes available
- Sells single-ingredient dog treats, like dried beef
- The wellness CORE line features high protein content and no grains
- Community involvement through recycling programs and the WellPet Foundation
- A wide range of formulas to suit different dietary needs and preferences
- High-quality, single-ingredient treats that dogs love
- CORE selection is ideal for dogs requiring high-protein diets without grains
- Commitment to community involvement and sustainability
- High protein content in the CORE line may not suit all dogs, especially those with sensitive stomachs
- Premium pricing reflects the quality and variety of their offerings
I’ve always been impressed by Wellness for its comprehensive approach to dog nutrition. Their balanced and complete formulas, along with specialized options like grain-free and protein-focused recipes, cater to a wide array of dietary needs. From a personal standpoint, single-ingredient dog treats, such as dried beef, are a huge hit at home; our dog just can’t get enough of them. Our go-to has always been the Wellness CORE line because of its high protein content, which is perfect for dogs like ours who thrive on a grain-free diet. It’s reassuring to know, however, that if we ever need to switch gears due to dietary sensitivities, Wellness’s Complete Health line is there as a well-rounded alternative.
Furthermore, Wellness’s commitment to community involvement and environmental sustainability, evident in its recycling initiatives and the work of the WellPet Foundation, aligns with our values. It’s heartening to support a brand that not only focuses on the well-being of pets but also gives back to the community in meaningful ways.
Wellness CORE has proven to be one of the best dog foods for Corgis, a breed known for its energy and playfulness.
10. Taste of the Wild Dog Food
- Grain-free formulas with real roasted meats
- Designed to reflect pets’ ancestral diets
- Includes healthy probiotics for digestion and immune support
- Competitive pricing for the quality of ingredients
- Widely available in stores, making it accessible to many pet owners
- Grain-free options cater to dogs with sensitivities or preferences against grains
- Real roasted meats appeal to dogs’ natural carnivorous inclinations
- Added probiotics support overall health, digestion, and immunity
- Affordably priced without compromising on the quality of ingredients
- High accessibility in retail stores compared to some other premium brands
- While ingredients are high quality, some brands may offer superior options
- May not suit all budget constraints, despite being more affordable than some premium brands
I’ve found Taste of the Wild to be a fantastic option for those of us looking to provide our dogs with a diet that mirrors their ancestral eating habits. The grain-free formulas, made with real roasted meat, not only sound appetizing but have been a real hit with the dogs I’ve worked with. It’s clear to see how such ingredients can make mealtime exciting and nutritionally rewarding for them. The addition of healthy probiotics is something I particularly appreciate about Taste of the Wild. It reassures me that, beyond just feeding, we’re supporting our dogs’ digestion and immune system, contributing to their overall well-being.
When considering the cost-to-quality ratio, Taste of the Wild offers pretty impressive value, especially for those of us keeping an eye on our budgets. It’s been my experience that while there are indeed higher-end options like Orijen, Taste of the Wild holds its own as a quality choice, particularly for those of us who prioritize both nutritional value and affordability.
Therefore, if you’re on a budget, we recommend either Fromm or Taste of the Wild since they both come in around $1.50/lb (although Taste of the Wild will be much easier to find in stores). Taste of the Wild is a standout choice for the best dog food for Huskies.
11. Crave Dog Food
- High-protein recipes that cater to a dog’s natural carnivorous diet
- Includes real meat as the first ingredient for every formula
- Offers both grain-free and grain-inclusive options to suit various dietary needs
- No chicken by-product meal, corn, wheat, or soy protein
- Manufactured without artificial colors, flavors, or preservatives
- Supports strong, lean bodies with high levels of animal protein
- Real meat first ingredient ensures quality and taste dogs love
- Versatility in dietary options supports dogs with different health and wellness needs
- Focus on ingredient transparency and quality reassurance for pet owners
- Contributes to the overall health and vitality of dogs with carefully selected ingredients
- Premium pricing may not fit all budgets
- Limited variety compared to other premium dog food brands
The folks at Crave really hit the nail on the head with their philosophy that “every pet shares a connection to their wild side.” It’s something I’ve always believed in, and seeing a brand align so closely with this idea is refreshing. They’re committed to crafting dog foods that mirror our dogs’ natural diets and cravings. What I particularly appreciate about Crave is their unwavering commitment to ensuring meat is the star of every bag. This approach not only aligns with what I look for in quality dog food but also provides our furry friends with the protein they need to thrive.
I’ve noticed that Crave doesn’t just talk the talk; they walk the walk when it comes to ingredient quality, securing themselves a spot among the good dog food brands. This has been a game-changer for many dogs, especially those that have had issues with other foods in the past. It’s clear to me that Crave is doing something right, so it gets a spot on the list of best dog foods for American Bully.
12. Nulo Dog Food
- Utilizes high-profile celebrities and athletes for promotion
- Simple and effective recipes with a high protein content
- Excellent ingredient quality
- Freshness is guaranteed through small-batch manufacturing and shipping
- Patented probiotics included in all foods
- High protein content supports dogs’ muscular health and energy levels
- Commitment to ingredient quality ensures nutritious meals
- Small-batch production means food is fresher upon purchase
- The inclusion of a patented probiotic supports digestive health
- Premium pricing due to high-quality ingredients and production methods
- High-profile endorsements may not appeal to all consumers
Nulo has always caught my eye, not just because of the celebrities like Michael Phelps who stand behind it, but more so for what’s inside the bag. Their approach to dog food—keeping it high in protein with top-notch ingredients—resonates with what I believe is best for our dogs. What stands out to me about Nulo is their commitment to freshness. By manufacturing and shipping in small batches, they ensure that their food remains as fresh as possible, whether it lands on store shelves or directly at your doorstep.
Running an independently owned company with some of the brightest minds in the industry certainly sets Nulo apart. Learning about their patented probiotic that’s included in all their foods impressed me greatly. The probiotic, BC30, “supports your pet’s immune system, provides improved nutrient absorption, reduces gas and improves stool quality, and prevents the growth of yeast organisms that may cause skin problems and ear infections.” This level of care and innovation is what makes Nulo a standout choice for me and many other pet owners who are looking for something truly beneficial for their furry family members.
- Focuses on holistic dog food recipes for easy digestion
- The slogan emphasizes the effectiveness of their food: “The Proof is in the Poop”
- Utilizes whole meats instead of meat meals
- Offers a wide selection of formulas to cater to various dietary needs
- Promotes healthy digestion, evident in improved bowel movements
- High-quality ingredients with a focus on whole meats for better nutrition
- A diverse range of formulas accommodates different preferences and dietary restrictions
- Encourages optimal health outcomes, as seen in pets’ digestive health
- Premium ingredients may result in a higher price point compared to other brands
- The unique emphasis on digestion may not cater to all specific health needs or preferences
Halo dog food truly stands out with its commitment to holistic nutrition, something I’ve always been a proponent of. Their unique approach, captured in the slogan “The Proof is in the Poop,” not only catches your eye but genuinely delivers on its promise because transitioning one of our dogs from a high-protein diet like ACANA’s to Halo was a revelation. It was incredible to see such a positive change in her digestive health, moving from one to three healthy bowel movements a day. This change wasn’t just impressive; it was a tangible sign of the food’s quality and effectiveness.
What impresses me about Halo is its dedication to using whole meats over meat meals, ensuring pets get the most natural and nutritious ingredients possible. Their broad selection of formulas also means that there’s something for every dog, regardless of their unique dietary needs or preferences. This commitment to quality and variety makes Halo a standout choice for those of us looking for food that supports our dogs’ health from the inside out.
Another area we absolutely love to highlight is their community and charity involvement. The Halo Pet Foundation donates a minimum of ½% of sales—five times the national corporate giving average—to the Halo Pet Foundation and to provide food for shelter pets.
14. Ziwi Dog Food
- Utilizes an artisanal air-drying process for dog food
- Preserves meats and eliminates bacteria while protecting nutrients
- Premium quality ingredients and production method
- Considered one of the most expensive dog food brands on the market
- Recognized as one of the best dog food companies for quality
- The air-drying process retains more nutrients compared to traditional dog food manufacturing
- Higher safety standards with the elimination of harmful bacteria
- Premium ingredients ensure optimal health and nutrition for dogs
- Acknowledged for superior quality and effectiveness in canine diets
- The high cost may not be feasible for all pet owners
Ziwi truly sets the gold standard for what premium dog food can be. The cost, while notably higher, speaks volumes about the quality and care put into every batch. Their artisanal approach to air-drying not only impresses me but also reassures me that I’m giving my dog the best nutritional care. This process not only preserves the meats in the most natural way possible but also ensures the elimination of harmful bacteria without sacrificing the vital nutrients dogs need to thrive.
It’s clear why Ziwi has earned its place among the top dog food brands, despite the higher price point. The difference in my dog’s vitality and overall health since switching to Ziwi is a testament to the brand’s superior quality and effectiveness.
While my dog absolutely loved this food, I simply can’t afford to feed this to a 50lb shepherd mix daily. However, I do continue to purchase the smaller bags on Amazon and use them as treats. If you have a small dog, using Ziwi as an everyday food may be an option because they are one of the best producers of premium dog foods.
- Customized to your dog’s specific nutritional needs
- Fresh, whole-food ingredients without artificial preservatives
- Each batch is taste-tested to ensure palatability
- Conveniently delivered to your door
- Backed by veterinary nutritionists
- Tailored nutrition enhances your dog’s health and wellbeing
- Fresh ingredients promote better digestibility and nutrient absorption
- Subscription service removes the hassle of buying dog food regularly
- High palatability ensures your dog will love every meal
- Customization and quality come with a higher price tag
- Requires a subscription, which may not suit everyone’s preference
I’ve been on the lookout for a dog food that not only meets the nutritional needs of my furry clients but also aligns with my philosophy of feeding as close to nature as possible. Unkibble hits the mark with its fresh, whole-food ingredients and a unique customization process. It’s fascinating how they tailor each batch to the specific needs of your dog, taking into account everything from age and weight to activity level and health concerns. This level of detail reassures me that we’re not just feeding our dogs; we’re nourishing them.
Having meals delivered to your door that are backed by veterinary nutritionists and guaranteed to be loved by your dog is a relief. I’ve seen firsthand how dogs transition to Unkibble and the positive changes it brings to their health and energy levels. The fact that each batch is taste-tested for palatability means even the pickiest eaters are catered for. While it’s true that premium care comes at a premium cost, the investment in your dog’s health is worth it.
Check Our Other Dog Food Reviews
|Read Acana Review
|Read Addiction Review
|Chicken Soup for the Soul
|Read Chicken Soup for the Soul Review
|Read Adirondack Review
|Read Alpo Review
|Read Annamaet Review
|Read Artemis Review
|Read Blue Buffalo Review
|Read Crave Review
|Read Fromm Review
|Read Hill's Review
|Read Orijen Review
|Read Purina Review
|Read Royal Canin Review
|Read Solimo Review
|Read Sparkle Review
|Taste of the Wild
|Read Taste of the Wild Review
|The Honest Kitchen
|Read The Honest Kitchen Review
|Read V-Dog Review
|Read Wag Review
|Read Wellness Review
|Read YaDoggie Review
|Read Zignature Review
Dog Food Ingredients: Good vs Bad
In my day-to-day conversations with pet parents, I often dive into the topic of what dogs eat. They’re omnivores, which means they do well with a mix of meat and veggies in their diet. When we talk proteins, there’s a whole variety we can choose from — beef, chicken, turkey, lamb, and even the less common ones like bison or kangaroo. It’s fascinating, really, how diverse their diet can be. And fish? It’s a great option, especially for dogs that might not do well with poultry.
Now, where these meats come from does raise some eyebrows. I get a lot of questions about this. The truth is that not all meat is equal. Industrial farming is a reality, but opting for cage-free or organic options can really bump up the nutritional value of what we’re feeding our furry friends. It’s something I always encourage you to consider.
Moving on to veggies and fruits — they’re not just fillers; they’re packed with nutrients. Green beans, for instance, are a staple in many high-quality dog foods, offering fiber and a bunch of other good stuff. Carrots are another winner, great for snacking and even better for dental health. And let’s not forget about fruits. Apples, pears, blueberries, and bananas can be fantastic treats, loaded with vitamins and antioxidants. Just remember, moderation is key, and always, always chop them up to avoid any choking hazards.
However, it’s just as important to know what’s off-limits. Onions, mushrooms, tomatoes, grapes – these are a big no-no. Luckily, you’re unlikely to find these in any reputable dog food brands.
In addition, 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. Vitamin D plays a crucial role in the body, mainly by enhancing the absorption of certain elements. You can find this vitamin in a mix of plant-based foods, including leafy greens and orange vegetables like carrots, pumpkins, and sweet potatoes, as well as in animal-based sources such as fat, tissue, and organ meat. This diversity in sources has led many to advocate for whole-prey diets as the most balanced approach for feeding dogs.
Reflecting on this, several dog food manufacturers have taken to heart the advice on whole prey diets, adjusting their recipes to incorporate the entire animal—bones, muscle, tissue, organs, and all. The thinking here is straightforward: by feeding dogs a diet that mirrors the complete nutritional profile found in nature, they’re more likely to get all the vitamins and minerals they need directly from these organic sources, rather than having gaps in their nutrition that might require artificial supplements to fill.
When people talk about what’s in dog food, “by-products” and “meat meal” often come up, and not always in a good way. By-products are what’s left after taking away the meat we usually eat, like the muscles. This could mean parts like the brain, intestines, or stomach. Sure, they’re protein, but they’re not the most nutritious kind for dogs. It’s like saying organ meats are good for them, which is true, but dogs should also get to eat the muscle meat, not just the leftovers.
Then there’s “meat meal” – think of it as a mix of everything that’s left, like hooves, beaks, and bones, all ground up and cooked to add more bulk to the dog food. It might sound resourceful, but it’s not exactly prime dining for your pet.
You’ll often see things like “chicken by-product” or “chicken meal” on the dog food bag, making it sound better by adding “chicken” or “beef” in front of it. But that doesn’t change what’s really in there.
And then there’s “natural flavor.” It sounds good, but it’s pretty vague about what it actually means. Also, some dog foods have added colors or dyes. These things don’t do anything good for your dog’s health; they’re just there to make the food look better to us, not them.
AAFCO Guidelines and Why Every Dog Owner Should Know Them
The Association of American Feed Control Officials, or AAFCO, helps us understand pet food labels better. If a dog food matches up with AAFCO’s nutrition standards, you’ll see that mentioned right on its label. According to AAFCO, ingredients in the food are listed from what there’s the most of to what there’s the least of, by weight.
There’s also something called a Guaranteed Analysis on every dog food label. This part tells you the minimum amount of protein and fat and the maximum amount of fiber and water in the food. When they say “crude,” it’s just a way of measuring these nutrients; it doesn’t say anything about the ingredients’ quality. Hence, when picking food for your pet, look for something that’s mostly protein, with some fat, a little bit of carbs, and important vitamins and minerals.
Main Types of Dog Food
When it comes to feeding our furry friends, we’ve got quite a few options: dry kibble, wet canned food, dehydrated, raw meat, and even homemade meals, among others. From my own experience, the key is finding a balance that suits your dog’s needs, focusing on the right mix of protein, fats, and carbs.
Dry Dog Food
Dry food, or kibble as we often call it, is a good choice for its convenience and cost-effectiveness. I’ve found it to be suitable for those busy days when I have a few minutes to spend with my pet. You can leave it out for your dog to munch on throughout the day without worrying about it spoiling. Plus, storing it is easy — just keep it in an airtight container. Another perk I’ve noticed is its dental benefits; the crunchy texture helps keep my dog’s teeth clean by reducing plaque buildup.
Wet Dog Food
Wet food, on the other hand, is something I consider for dogs with dental issues or older dogs who might struggle with hard kibble. It’s got to be eaten quickly once opened or kept in the fridge, but it’s a great way to make sure your dog stays hydrated, especially if they’re not big drinkers. Though it might be more expensive than dry food, the extra hydration and the soft texture are suitable for some pets.
Dehydrated Dog Food
Dehydrated food is something I’ve explored in specialty pet stores, and it’s definitely on the pricier side. It’s part of what’s often called a “raw diet,” designed to mimic what dogs would eat in the wild. This food is freeze-dried to lock in all the goodness — flavors, vitamins, you name it — offering your dog a nutrient-packed meal. While it can be costly, especially for larger breeds, the health benefits are something I’ve seen firsthand and can vouch for.
Homemade Dog Food
Crafting meals for your dog lets you control exactly what they’re eating. There are tons of recipes online for whipping up large batches of food that can last a while. The catch? You’ve gotta make sure you’re covering all the nutritional bases to avoid any deficiencies. Some vets caution against homemade diets if not properly balanced, but with the right research and dedication, preparing your dog’s meals can be a rewarding way to meet their dietary needs. Plus, it’s a labor of love, showing your pup just how much you care by taking the time to make their meals from scratch.
Fresh Dog Food Delivery
A new market recently sprouted up within the dog food industry to help owners feed their dogs a “homemade” diet without worrying about creating a balanced meal. This market was once dominated by FreshPet, which stocks grocery stores with cold fresh dog food. But new Fresh dog food delivery services use trained veterinarians and scientists to create recipes containing real fresh food (most often marketed as human-grade food).
Not only does it eliminate a lot of the worrying about creating a balanced diet, but it’s also incredibly convenient because they tailor each package to your dog’s specific calorie requirement. They will send a custom-sized package of meals out every 14 days; simply toss them in your refrigerator or freezer and feed one package per day. Our personal favorite at the moment is NomNomNow (check out our review for more info).
Best Organic Dog Food Brands
Why buy organic dog food? Many dog food brands pack their doggy meals full of artificial fillers in case you didn’t know. Non-organic foods containing fillers can be difficult for your dog to digest and cause stomach aches and irritation.
Organic dog food has plenty of antioxidants that are beneficial to your pup’s health and digestive system. The food is more nutritious and healthy, and not to mention it tastes far better. Castor & Pollux ORGANIX Dry Dog Food and Honest Kitchen Dehydrated Organic Dog Food are fantastic organic dog food brands.
Best Grain Free Dog Food Brands
Orijen Grain-Free Dry Dog Food, Instinct Raw Boost Grain-Free Dry, and Dr. Tim’s Grain-Free Dog Food stand out as the best dog food for breeds like Schnauzers with sensitive stomachs and allergies to grains. Just like some of us suffer from wheat intolerances, so can our pets, so do not let them suffer and choose an appropriate dog food for them.
Best Vegan Dog Food Brands
In the world of vegan dog food, Wild Earth and V-Dog stand out as top choices. They’ve managed to pack their foods with high-protein ingredients and superfoods to ensure that even without meat, your dog gets all the nourishment and energy they need.
It’s interesting to note that some brands tailor their formulas based on the breed and lifestyle of the dog. For example, a high-energy farm dog, who spends the day herding livestock, will have different nutritional requirements compared to an American Bulldog who might prefer lounging on the couch most of the day. If your dog is prone to certain health issues, like periodontal disease or specific breed-related conditions, it’s crucial to dive into the ingredients of these vegan options. Understanding how each ingredient can impact your dog’s health daily is key to making an informed decision about which brand and type of food will best support their well-being.
Dog Food Choices Based on 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 being in the correct ratio meeting standard dietary requirements.
Dog food manufacturers 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. The following are some categories based on pet age and breed:
Best Dog Food Brands For Small Dogs
There are plenty of dog foods that have been specially formulated to fit the needs of small dogs. Most of the major dog food brands have high-quality food options for small breeds. Blue Buffalo, Wellness Complete Health, Diamond Naturals, and Canidae Pure have the best dog foods for small breeds like Cavalier King Charles.
Best Dog Food Brands For Large Dogs
Large dogs often have many health issues associated with their size. Back problems, heart issues, and joint pain are just a few health hurdles large dogs are faced with.
Feeding your pup food that is appropriate for its size and breed is vital to making sure your dog is in tip-top health. Some dog food brands add vitamins and minerals to dog food for large dogs to strengthen their bones. We like Merrick Backcountry Raw Infused Large Breed Adult and Horizon Complete Large Breed Adult dog food for large breeds. You can learn about other Merrick products here.
Best Senior Dog Food Brands
When choosing food for an older dog, you are going to need to be very particular in your choices. You will need to think about whether your furry friend requires wet or dry dog food and pay attention to whether they have an intolerance to corn, wheat, or soy. Fresh Pet, Purina, and Nutro have brilliant senior dog food options to choose from, making them our top senior dog food brands.
See related articles: Best Wet Foods for Senior Dogs
Best Dog Food Brands For Puppies
Choosing the right food for your puppy is crucial for their development and future health. Puppies have delicate stomachs, and picking food that’s not suited for their specific needs can lead to uncomfortable issues like diarrhea or constipation. Trust me, it’s not something either of you wants to deal with!
To ensure your puppy gets off to a great start, I recommend looking into brands like Victor Purpose Nutra Pro Dog and Puppy, Iams ProActive Health Smart Puppy, or Hill’s Science Diet Puppy Food. These brands are known for their quality and have options tailored to puppies’ unique nutritional requirements. Plus, they offer a variety of choices including dry, wet, and grain-free formulas to suit any puppy’s preferences and dietary needs. Make sure to check these options out to find the best fit for your furry friend’s early life stages.
How to Switch Your Dog’s Food
It requires careful planning to ensure the transition is smooth and doesn’t upset your dog’s stomach. Whether you’re switching due to a change in dietary needs, life stage, or simply trying a new brand, it’s important to do it gradually. A sudden switch in food can lead to digestive issues, including diarrhea and vomiting. To avoid this, the transition from old food to new food should take place over 7 to 10 days. This gradual approach allows your dog’s digestive system to adjust without causing discomfort. Here’s how to manage the transition based on your dog’s life stage:
Puppies are growing rapidly and require nutrient-rich food to support their development. If you’re transitioning your puppy to a new food, start by mixing a small amount of the new food with their current food. Gradually increase the amount of new food while decreasing the old food over a week. Puppies have sensitive stomachs, so watch for any signs of digestive upset and adjust the transition speed as needed.
For adult dogs, the transition process is similar. Begin with a mix of 75% old food and 25% new food. Over the next 7 to 10 days, gradually adjust the ratios until you’re feeding your dog 100% new food. It’s crucial to monitor your dog’s reaction to the new diet during this period. If you notice any adverse effects, slow down the transition pace.
Senior dogs may have more sensitive digestive systems or specific dietary requirements. When switching their food, take extra care to ensure the new diet meets their nutritional needs. Start with a smaller proportion of new food to old food, possibly 80% old food to 20% new food, and very gradually shift the balance. Given their age, it’s also advisable to consult with a vet before making any dietary changes to ensure the new food supports their health conditions and lifestyle.
Tips for All Life Stages
Monitor Your Dog: Keep an eye on your dog’s bowel movements, appetite, and behavior during the transition. Any negative changes may indicate that the switch is happening too quickly or that the new food isn’t suitable.
Stay Consistent: Try to stick to feeding times and amounts to provide stability during the change.
Hydration: Ensure your dog has constant access to fresh water, especially important when changing diets.
How Dog Food Can Help with Health Issues
I find that the composition can play a significant role in their overall health, impacting everything from their weight to chronic conditions. Let’s explore how specific dog foods can help with common health concerns.
For dogs that are overweight or prone to obesity, I’ve noticed that selecting a dog food formulated for weight management can make a big difference. These foods are typically lower in calories but still provide all the necessary nutrients. They often contain higher fiber content, which helps dogs feel fuller longer, reducing the urge to overeat. Managing your dog’s weight can significantly reduce their risk of diabetes, joint issues, and other obesity-related health problems.
Dogs with sensitive stomachs or digestive issues can benefit from foods designed for digestive health. These diets are usually easy to digest and contain prebiotics and probiotics to support healthy gut flora. Ingredients are selected for their gentle nature and nutritional value, avoiding common irritants that can upset sensitive systems. By improving digestion, these foods can help reduce symptoms like diarrhea, vomiting, and gas.
Skin and Coat Health
The condition of a dog’s skin and coat can often reflect their overall health and diet quality. Foods rich in omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, found in ingredients like fish oil and flaxseed, can promote healthier skin and a shinier coat. These nutrients help combat dry skin, reduce inflammation, and can even alleviate some allergies. For dogs suffering from itchy skin or dull coats, I recommend switching to a diet with these healthy fats to provide relief and improve their appearance.
As dogs age, their joints can start to show wear and tear, leading to conditions like arthritis. Dog foods that include joint-supporting supplements such as glucosamine and chondroitin can help maintain joint health and mobility. These ingredients work by supporting cartilage repair and reducing inflammation, offering relief to dogs with joint concerns and helping to prevent further deterioration.
I find that kidney-supportive dog foods are formulated to be lower in protein, phosphorus, and sometimes sodium, helping to reduce the workload on the kidneys. These diets also tend to have higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids to reduce inflammation and support kidney function. It’s crucial to work closely with a veterinarian to select the appropriate food for dogs with kidney health concerns.
FAQs on the Best Dog Food Brands
What is the best dry dog food for my pet?
The ideal dry dog food for your pet largely depends on their individual health needs, preferences, and any specific dietary requirements they may have. Factors to consider include your dog’s age, breed, activity level, and whether they have any food sensitivities or allergies.
Will the food I choose for my dog have anything to do with my dog’s breed?
Yes, the breed of your dog can influence the type of food that will best meet their nutritional needs. Different breeds have varying energy levels, growth rates, and potential health predispositions that can be supported or mitigated through proper nutrition. For instance, large breed dogs may require food with specific ratios of calcium and phosphorus to support bone health, while active breeds might benefit from higher protein content. Many dog food brands offer breed-specific formulas designed to cater to these unique requirements.
Which brand is better, Royal Canin or Purina?
Choosing between Royal Canin and Purina depends on your dog’s specific needs and your personal preferences. Royal Canin is renowned for its breed-specific formulas and veterinary diet lines, offering precise nutritional solutions for a wide range of health conditions and breed-specific needs. Purina, with its extensive range of products, including Purina Pro Plan, Purina One, and others, provides options for every life stage, dietary preference, and budget, with a strong focus on science-based nutrition. Both brands have a long history of research and commitment to pet health, so the “better” choice will vary based on individual dog needs and owner values.
Should I let my dog eat food containing chicken or fish meal?
Chicken or fish meal in dog food is generally considered safe and can be a highly concentrated source of protein. These meals are made by cooking and drying the meat, which removes water and fat, leaving a nutrient-dense powder. This process increases the protein content per volume, making it an efficient way to deliver high-quality protein to your dog’s diet. However, it’s important to choose dog foods from reputable brands that source their ingredients responsibly. Always check the ingredient list to ensure the meal is specifically named (like “chicken meal” or “fish meal”) rather than generic terms like “meat meal,” which can be ambiguous regarding the source of the protein.
Is grain-free dog food better for my dog?
Grain-free dog food is often chosen for dogs with specific grain allergies or sensitivities. However, it’s not necessarily better for all dogs. Some studies have raised concerns about a potential link between grain-free diets and heart issues in dogs, though research is ongoing. It’s important to choose a diet based on your dog’s individual health and nutritional needs, rather than trends. Consulting with a vet can help determine if a grain-free diet is appropriate for your pet.
How often should I change my dog’s food brand or type?
Changing your dog’s food isn’t something that should be done frequently or without reason, as it can cause digestive upset. However, transitions may be necessary at different life stages (puppy to adult to senior), if your dog develops health issues, or if you notice they’re not thriving on their current diet. When a change is needed, do so gradually over a week or more, mixing the new food with the old to allow your dog’s digestive system to adjust.
Can diet affect my dog’s behavior?
While diet primarily affects physical health, it can indirectly influence your dog’s behavior. Nutritional imbalances or deficiencies might lead to energy level changes, irritability, or difficulty focusing. A diet that’s high in quality protein and balanced fats can support better overall behavior by promoting a healthy energy level and mental sharpness. Always ensure your dog’s diet meets their nutritional needs for the best physical and behavioral outcomes.
Final Woof: What’s in Your Dog’s Plate?
NomNom stands out as the top choice for its personalized, fresh, and nutrient-rich meals tailored to meet the specific needs of each dog, ensuring optimal health and vitality. As a solid alternative, The Farmer’s Dog offers an excellent balance of quality, customization, and convenience, focusing on fresh, USDA-approved ingredients and environmentally friendly practices. Meanwhile, A Pup Above emerges as an exceptional option for pets with sensitive stomachs, distinguishing itself with its unique sous-vide cooking method that locks in nutrients and flavor.
Each of these brands brings something unique to the table, catering to the diverse needs and preferences of our furry friends. As such, make the decision based on factors like your pet’s life stage and health status because the food you select influences everything from their digestive health to their energy levels and even their coat’s condition. That’s why it’s crucial to opt for brands that prioritize quality ingredients and offer a balanced nutritional profile.