Top 10: Best Dog Foods
Not looking for kibble? We reviewed all major fresh dog food subscription brands as well. Here are our rankings:
- Best overall: NomNomNow (50% off coupon)
- Runner-up: The Farmer’s Dog (50% off coupon)
- More we like: Ollie
- More we like: Pet Plate
|Brand||Favorite Formula||Average Price per Pound||Main Protein Sources||Price|
|Orijen||Regional Red||$3.84/lb||Beef, Boar, Goat, Lamb||View on Orijen||
|ACANA||Appalachian Ranch||$3.24/lb||Beef, Pork, Lamb||View on ACANA|
|Fromm||Gold||$1.52/lb||Duck, Chicken, Lamb, Eggs||View on Amazon|
|Ziwi||Mackerel & Lamb||$13.37/lb||Mackerel, Lamb||View on Amazon|
|Wellness||CORE||$2.31/lb||Turkey, Chicken||View on Amazon|
|Zignature||Zssential||$2.22/lb||Turkey, Salmon, Lamb, Duck||View on Amazon|
|Crave||Lamb & Venison||$1.87/lb||Lamb, Chicken, Venison||View on Amazon|
|Nulo||Lamb & Chickpeas||$2.62/lb||Lamb, Turkey, Salmon||View on Amazon|
|Halo||Lamb & Lamb Liver||$2.76/lb||Lamb||View on Amazon|
|Taste of the Wild||High Prairie||$1.63/lb||Buffalo, Lamb||View on Amazon|
Orijen Dog Food
Orijen tops our list of best dog food and is our most preferred brand due to the quality of ingredients and amazing company values. Orijen is so far ahead in the premium dog food industry that their main competition is their sister company ACANA. If you’re looking for the best dog food, Orijen is it. Period. They promise to make use of only the freshest, highest quality ingredients that are biologically the best fit for our animals’ wellbeing.
After analyzing the ingredients in their Regional Red formula, the Estimated Nutrient Content percentages were phenomenal. Moreover, simply reading through the ingredients list proves the quality – there are no questionable ingredients found in this. What I personally enjoyed the most is that Orijen does not use “natural flavors” in their dog foods, yet my dog Sasha absolutely goes crazy for Orijen.
ACANA Dog Food
Next on our list is – you guessed it – Orijen’s sister company called ACANA. There’s really not too many differences here. ACANA is manufactured in the United States and is a tiny bit cheaper, while Orijen is manufactured in Canada and is slightly more expensive. ACANA has, arguably, some of the highest quality ingredients in the entire industry. These high standards are held throughout the company, from ingredients selection and variety to company values and community involvement. ACANA lands among the top of our list as one of the best dog foods you can buy.
Perhaps most unique about ACANA foods is the fact that they promise that all of their ingredients come from locally sourced goods, and are made into their foods the very same day that they are purchased. ACANA has, arguably, some of the highest quality ingredients in the entire industry, striving to get their products from field to factory in less than 48 hours.
Fromm Dog Food
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 favorite 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.
All of their foods also are made with only US raised meats and grains, and never have any artificial preservatives added to them. 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.
Ziwi Dog Food
If premium is what you’re after, Ziwi has it; however, premium obviously comes at a cost. Ziwi is our most expensive dog food to make it on our best dog food list, and the high cost is because they use an artisanal approach to air-drying their dog food. This delicate process essentially preserves the meats and eliminates any nasty bacteria while protecting the nutrients in their ingredients way better than traditional dog food can.
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.
Wellness Dog Food
Wellness is a brand that covers the whole spectrum: balanced and complete formulas, protein-focused and grain-free recipes, limited ingredient recipes, and even slow baked recipes. The brand also sells a variety of single ingredient dog treats, such as dried beef, which our dog absolutely loves. As for basic dog food, our favorite line is the Wellness CORE selection which have a high amount of protein and no grains (if your dog’s stomach can’t handle high protein, opt for their Complete Health line).
Another reason we feel good about buying Wellness dog food is because of their community involvement and donations, which include recycling programs for dog food bags and their very own WellPet Foundation, which donates hundreds of thousands of pounds of dog food.
Zignature Dog Food
Zignature has a rather unique aspect to their brand: none of their dog food formulas contain chicken! This is incredibly tough to find anywhere, since chicken is often one of the cheaper meats to include in dog food for added protein. While there are plenty of dogs out there with chicken allergies that will benefit from Zignature, their formulas are also perfectly suitable for any breed and size, even if they do not have chicken allergies. My dog Sasha actually rotates (every few bags or so – remember, variety is the spice of life!) between ACANA and Zignature’s Zessential recipe.
But the fun doesn’t end there. Zignature recipes contain incredibly unique meats as their main ingredient, with recipes including Kangaroo Formula, Guinea Fowl Formula, and Catfish Formula. Some of these also contain the lowest environmental impacts of any animal protein in the world.
Crave Dog Food
The Crave company believes that “every pet shares a connection to their wild side,” and sticking to this belief strives to make a product that is as close to the natural demands and cravings all dogs have. In order to do this, Crave always makes sure that meat is always the main ingredient in every bag, and provides animals with plenty of protein to keep them going at their best.
Crave seems to have an incredibly high standard for ingredients, netting itself the much coveted top 10 dog food brands award for 2018. This is due in large part because of the high volume of meat that goes into each bag, and the absence of unnecessary fillers or grains that have been known to cause problems for some dogs.
Nulo Dog Food
Nulo often utilizes high profile celebrities and athletes with their dogs to promote their product; however, behind the Michael Phelps marketing strategy, Nulo dog food recipes are simple and effective: very high in protein and containing excellent ingredients. The company also promises that their food will be the freshest recipes you will find on store shelves or arrive at your door because they are manufactured and shipped in small batches to ensure they spend less time sitting on a shelf.
This independently owned company also has some of the brightest minds in the industry on their team, which now holds a patented probiotic that they include in all of their foods. The probiotic, BC30, “supports your pet’s immune system, provides improved nutrient absorption, reduces gas and improves stool quality, and prevents growth of yeast organisms that may cause skin problems and ear infections.”
Halo Dog Food
Halo dog food aims to create holistic dog food recipes that are easy to digest. Believe it or not, one of their slogans is actually “The Proof is in the Poop”! And let me tell you this, it definitely works. We transitioned one of our dogs to this from ACANA (which can be tough for digestion due to the really high protein) and she went from one bowel movement per day to THREE (all were healthy, too).
The ingredients also use a lot of whole meats instead of meat meals and they have a rather wide selection of formulas. 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.
Taste of the Wild Dog Food
Taste of the Wild provides a number of grain-free formulas made with real roasted meet. Each of their formulas are meant to be in line with your pet’s ancestral diet, and also has healthy probiotics added into the mix to aid in digestion, support the immune system, and contribute to the overall wellbeing of your dog. The ingredients overall are pretty good considering the price, however there are definitely better (such as Orijen). If you’re on a budget when it comes to dog food, 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).
Dog Food Ingredients: Good vs Bad
Dogs 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.
The 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
The 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.
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. Fresh dog food delivery services use trained veterinarians and scientists to create recipes containing real fresh food (most often market it has 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).
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.