Best Senior Dog Food
Best Cheap Dog Food
Best Sensitive Stomach Dog Food
Best Natural Dog Food
Best Raw Dog Food
Best Holistic Dog Food
The most-asked question any underpaid and overworked high school pet store employee gets is a simple one:
“What’s the best dog food?”
While it may seem tempting in the moment to trust a pubescent display of raging hormones and profound awkwardness in a polo, they’re most likely not the leading authority on dog nutrition.
So we ask you to leave that poor teen to his world of twerking and dabbing (that’s what kids do nowadays, right?) and do your own research before heading to the pet store.
What Does Your Dog Need?
Choosing the best food for your dog boils down to choosing the kibble with the best combination of high quality protein, fat, and essential nutrients.
On average, healthy adult dogs need foods with:
Keep in mind that these are minimum estimates, and I might even argue extreme minimums.
The size, life stage, and breed of your dog can mean they require much more than the minimum, so it’s worth it to investigate what your specific dog requires.
To determine which food has the best quality and quantity of these ingredients, you’ll have to look in a couple places:
- The ingredient list.
- The guaranteed analysis.
General rules when reading the dog food ingredient list are:
- Avoid foods with generic sounding ingredients (“animal fat”, “meat meal”, or some meaty “by-product”)
- Immediately throw foods with the preservatives BHA, BHT, propylene glycol, TBHQ, propyl gallate, or ethoxyquin out the nearest window, because that shit is toxic.
- If you come across artificial sweeteners (a.k.a. the sweet, sugary stuff) like corn-syrup or sorbitol, sigh loudly as you place the bag back on its shelf. Why in the hell does your dog need sweets?
You’ll also notice that all foods have a guaranteed analysis as required by law, which is basically the dog form of nutrition facts.
However, the way they calculate the guaranteed analysis is pretty convoluted and requires some math to get actual amounts of nutrients within the food.
An extremely comprehensive review of how to interpret and understand the ingredient and guaranteed analysis components of dog foods can be found here.
Who doesn’t love Canadians?
Seriously, their love for ice hockey, maple syrup and poutine knows no bounds.
In fact, the best way to find a Canadian is to place Wayne Gretzky in the middle of the forest and serve him maple syrup-covered poutine and see who emerges from the darkness.
Anywho, that got away from me.
In all seriousness, ACANA is known for its meat-based formulas that contain locally sourced ingredients.
Crude Protein content…….27% – 35% (depends on recipe)
Crude Fat content…….17%
Overall quality…….ACANA has always prided itself on being one of the best foods on the market and it’s easy to see why.
There’s no mystery when it comes to deciphering their ingredients; they simply pack in the good stuff.
Castor & Pollux
Castor & Pollux distinguishes itself from other brands by setting high standards for their ingredients.
They tout most of their ingredients as “natural” or “organic,” which a lot of other companies say as well.
But what separates Castor & Pollux is that they actually have the certifications to back their claims up.
In fact, they’re set to release new recipes in the summer of 2017 that actually carry the prized USDA organic seal, which is incredibly difficult to obtain.
Crude Protein content…….22% – 38% (depends on recipe)
Crude Fat content…….11% – 17% (depends on recipe)
Overall quality…….Castor and Pollux make several, high quality mixes for dogs of all sizes, breeds and life stage. Their organic ingredients set them apart from most of their competitors, as they can actually back up their claims with proper certifications.
Overall, we can definitely stand behind the Castor and Pollux crew!
Fromm Family Dog Food
First and foremost, I have to say that just based on the Fromm Family’s website, they could probably sell me a house on a plot of land that was used as an ancient Native American burial ground and my only question would be,
“Where do I sign?”
That being said, the Fromm family has created a dog food brand that is beloved by their customers.
Crude Protein content…….24% – 35% (depends on recipe)
Crude Fat content…….10% – 19% (depends on recipe)
Overall quality…….The ingredients in Fromm’s dog food are well-rounded, and their formulas seem to rely heavily on plant-based protein sources.
Overall, your pooch will likely be overjoyed at mealtime, particularly for their Salmon Tunalini blend which reviewers say smells to high heaven but doesn’t last long!
Horizon Dog Food
Noticing a theme here?
Order your Mountie action figures while supplies last!
Horizon is all about sourcing, manufacturing, packing, and shipping their product from their own plants in good ol’ Saskatchewan.
They push this statement so hard on their website that it puts Salt-N-Pepa to shame.
Push it real good, Horizon.
Crude Protein content…….24% – 36% (depends on recipe)
Crude Fat content…….10% – 18% (depends on recipe)
Overall quality…….Horizon foods contain locally sourced ingredients direct from Canadians.
No middlemen. No BS.
This is reflected in their high quality foods.
Most of their protein comes from plant sources, with the exception of their Legacy formulas, which are heavily meat-based.
There’s no doubt your wee one will thank you for choosing Horizon.
Merrick Dog Food
Customers love Merrick dog food so much that I wouldn’t be surprised if they had a small shrine to Garth Merrick set up in their homes.
It’s evident from our own DogFood.co “best dog food” survey that people love this USA owned and operated company, and Merrick knows it.
It’s easy to see why when you dig a little deeper into their recipes.
Crude Protein content…….25% – 40% (depends on recipe)
Crude Fat content…….8% – 17% (depends on recipe)
Overall quality…….Merrick says that it only uses the highest quality, USDA approved meat in their recipes and they stress that they never get any ingredients from China. It’s refreshing to see a company outright claim these things and saves you a lot of research time.
Nature’s Variety Instinct
Nature’s Variety Instinct is packed with meaty, meaty protein that your dog is sure to love.
Their ingredients (like most others on this list) are sourced locally and made in the USA.
In addition, visiting their website makes me as a human (shocking, I know) very hungry.
Crude Protein content…….23.5% – 47% (depends on recipe)
Crude Fat content…….11% – 22.5% (depends on recipe)
Overall quality…….Nature’s Variety Instinct is one of the highest quality foods on the market.
Overall, Nature’s Variety Instinct easily deserves a spot in our (and you/your dog’s) top 10.
Orijen is incredibly good for your pet with the awards to prove it.
Seriously, be careful not to get lost when you pull up the awards page on their website.
You might notice that Orijen and ACANA look remarkably similar, and that’s because they are.
They are both made by Champion Pet Foods, and both are wonderful products.
Crude Protein content…….38% – 42% (depends on recipe)
Crude Fat content…….13% – 20% (depends on recipe)
Overall quality…….Orijen has that meat-based protein your dog craves and will thank you for. It’s incredibly high protein content is ideal for highly active dogs and the fact that it’s made in Canada makes it that much better.
Who doesn’t like Canadians, eh?
Alright, so I’ve avoided talking too much about raw foods for the sake of comparisons between each of these brands, but Primal exclusively makes raw food.
No, don’t leave!
Raw food is great for your little furry nugget and Primal is the bee’s knees at manufacturing the stuff.
Primal Pet Foods takes the guesswork out of preparing raw meals yourself and it comes in a balanced and complete package.
Crude Protein content…….12% – 59%** (depends on recipe)
Crude Fat content…….6% – 38%** (depends on recipe)
**disclaimer: Most (but not all) of Primal’s options are straight up raw and bloody: no freeze-drying involved. Which means they’re wet. Which means crude protein and fat from the guaranteed analysis is lower in some of these mixes. But remember, the guaranteed analysis isn’t equivalent to the dry matter content. Remember when I told you you’d have to do a little math? Now is the time for it!
Overall quality…….Primal is simply fantastic.
The meat it uses is human-grade as well as steroid-free and antibiotic-free, meaning you could even eat it (and one might argue should eat it).
In addition, the fruits and veg they stick in their recipes are organic.
Stella & Chewy’s Dog food
Another raw contender!
Stella and Chewy’s has a variety of options available for your pet, all of which are excellent choices.
They have everything from tubes of raw meat to raw-coated kibble.
If you’re not comfortable feeding a totally raw diet, they have raw “mixers” to sprinkle over their regular kibble.
They truly have it all.
Crude Protein content…….12% – 50%** (depends on recipe)
Crude Fat content…….9% – 36%** (depends on recipe)
**disclaimer: Most Stella and Chewy’s recipes are freeze-dried, but some are frozen meaty bits. This meat has a high moisture content, meaning the crude protein and fat listed in the guaranteed analysis should be further looked at using math — these numbers aren’t equivalent to the dry-matter protein and fat content.
Overall quality…….Stella and Chewy’s is a stellar dog food product.
Stella and Chewy’s is a serious player in the raw food market with ingredients that contain no hormones or antibiotics.
They also stress that their products are made from farm-raised, cage-free, and grass-fed animals. If the meat doesn’t come from a farm, they’re caught in the wild.
Taste of the Wild
Hands down, Taste of the Wild has the coolest artwork of any of the other brands listed here.
I could stare at the different bags for longer than I could look at artwork in a gallery.
Artistry aside, Taste of the Wild has arguably some of the most loyal customers out there (probably initially lured in by the pretty pictures on the bag).
Crude Protein content…….25% – 32% (depends on the recipe)
Crude Fat content…….15% – 18% (depends on the recipe)
Overall quality…….The high quality kibble that Taste of the Wild creates has an overall balanced nutritional profile that your dog needs.
The ingredients are chock-full of the good stuff and your dog will take notice.
Wellness Core Dog Food
Wellness Core has a high reputation for providing high-quality, meat-based recipes to beloved pets nationwide.
They hold their suppliers to some strict guidelines, some of which they mention are stricter than those in place by the FDA.
For these reasons alone, it’s easy to see why customers love Wellness Core.
Crude Protein content…….30% – 38% (depends on recipe)
Crude Fat content…….10% – 22% (depends on recipe)
Overall quality…….Wellness Core has a few options for your precious poochie, and customers seem to love all of them. The protein in their recipes primarily comes from meaty sources, making this kibble delicious and nutritious for your dog.
Puppies bring out the best in all of us, no matter who you are.
The current temperature of your heart, whether it’s warm and loving or frosty and evil, doesn’t affect your reaction when you encounter a puppy.
We all turn into incoherent sacks of mush that are only capable of speaking in a language exclusively made up of kissy noises.
We would do anything for a puppy in the moment. We’d shower it with treats, play with it, take a bullet for it, even commit a felony for it.
It’s just a fact that humans melt for soft, fluffy, slightly wobbly puppies, plain and simple. Therefore, we all want what’s best for puppies when it comes to their dietary needs.
What do Puppies Need?
The building blocks for growth come from protein and fat.
Puppy-specific foods are formulated with this in mind and generally have more of these nutrients than adult foods.
It’s recommended that your puppy’s diet consists of:
It’s recommended that your puppy’s diet consists of 28% protein and 17% fat, but they may need more or less depending on their breed.Your puppy’s diet should consist of 28% protein & 17% fat, but certain breeds need more or less. Click To Tweet
And it’s important to note that not all protein is created equal, so choose foods with the highest quality of these nutrients. Doesn’t your new best friend deserve the best?
(The answer to that better be ‘yes’ or you shouldn’t have a puppy and I’m coming now to take it from you).
How Much to Feed a Puppy?
First and foremost, puppies need twice as many calories per pound of body weight than adult dogs.
Exactly how much per feeding depends on the breed and the type of food you purchase.
Luckily for you, most brands give you an idea of how much to feed your puppy right on the bag. However, this should only be considered a starting point. After that, it’s up to you to monitor your puppy and cut back if they’re gaining weight or add more if they’re looking too slim.
They should maintain a healthy and visible waist when viewed from above. As always, consult your vet if you’re worried about your puppy’s growth.
When Can Puppies Eat Puppy Food?
Puppies can start transitioning from their mother’s milk to puppy food at about four weeks.Puppies can start transitioning from their mother’s milk to puppy food at about 4 weeks. Click To Tweet
This is the time when their nutritional needs are going to start becoming more than what mom can provide.
Once they’re firmly on a dry food diet and until they are six months old, they should be eating three to four times a day.
Again, this is dictated by the needs of their breed and the quality of their food. After six months, you can transition them to eating the standard of two meals per day.
The Best Puppy Food for All Size Puppies
Castor and Pollux Organix Puppy Food
Castor and Pollux are a trusted manufacturer of high quality dog foods.
They have a solid following of owners who swear by their formulas and pray to the Organix alter every night, and it’s easy to see why.
As you might have guessed by the name, most of their ingredients are organically sourced, meaning there are no nasty chemicals or preservatives that you might find in other commercial dog foods.
Just like the above brands, the puppy formula is a great start for your puppy’s transition to an adult Organix formula.
Overall quality…….This kibble from Castor and Pollux is above average, plant-based, and composed of wholesome ingredients.
While slightly lower on the protein and fat side of things, the well-rounded ingredient list means it’s a stellar food for most puppies.
Nature’s Variety Instinct Raw Boost Puppy
Nature’s Variety has a reputation for making high quality kibble for both dogs and cats.
But the interesting thing about Nature’s Variety is their added raw bits in their Raw Boost formulas.
To be clear, they also make food that is exclusively made up of these raw bits.
If a raw diet is what you plan on feeding as your puppy transitions into adulthood, Nature’s Variety might be a lifetime companion for you. If not, the added sprinkle of a little raw goodness into your pup’s diet is a great way to give them the meat they crave.
Overall quality…….This kibble has everything your little fluff ball needs, and then some. The amounts of high quality, meat-based protein and fat will provide your pup with the nutrition they need.
Wellness Core Puppy
Wellness is a company that prides itself on its wholesome ingredients and variety of products.
In the case of puppy food, Wellness makes a protein-rich formula known as Wellness Core.
They stress that they provide what all growing puppies need in their formula with especially high levels of DHA, a compound that supports brain and eye development.
Because they also have Wellness Core formulas for adults, this might make the transition to adult food that much easier for you and your lifelong friend.
Overall quality…….Wellness Core is an excellent choice to feed your puppy as it has high-quality protein sources and high levels of both protein and fat.
This kibble is a wonderful choice to keep your new friend feisty and healthy.
The Best Puppy Food for Small and Medium Dogs
All puppies start off as small bundles of pure fluff and love. But after a few weeks, puppies begin to take on sizes dictated by their genetics. It soon becomes clear which dogs be able to sit in your lap comfortably for the rest of their lives and which dogs will not (although big dogs will try, but might inadvertently smother you in the process).
What sets your small breed puppy apart from larger breeds is that their metabolism is extremely high. It makes sense when you think about it, especially if you’ve ever seen a Yorkie run in circles, seemingly unprovoked.
So forget about wind and solar, just harvest the energy from a room full of excited Yorkie puppies and bingo!
Energy crisis solved!
In all seriousness, because of their high rates of metabolism added to the fact that they’re growing puppies, they need to be fed high calorie, nutrient-dense food three to four times a day. In fact, they require more calories per pound than larger dogs do and they need foods higher in protein and fats to keep their tiny little hearts fluttering happily.
If their nutrition requirements aren’t met, small breed puppies can develop hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) which can initially leave them feeling weak and lethargic. But if they aren’t taking in enough calories for long periods of time, more serious conditions can develop including seizures, muscle tremors and in some cases, death.
So what have we learned here so far?
Compared to your little dog’s body weight, he should be eating a massive amount of high quality, nutrient dense food.
Let’s take a look at the best small to medium-sized puppy specific dog foods that provide the good stuff for your little tyke:
Stella and Chewy’s Super Beef Dinner Patties
Stella and Chewy’s is primarily a raw dog food brand which sells fantastic and nutritionally complete meals for dogs of all sizes and life stages.
Their Super Beef Dinner recipe comes as freeze dried patties which can be fed as-is (if you make sure your puppy drinks lots of water at mealtime) or can be easily rehydrated beforehand (just add water).
Caloric Content…….300 – 750 kcal/serving *serving size depends on size of your puppy
Overall Quality…….As always, Stella and Chewy’s gets two, vigorous thumbs up from us (watch out or you might get an enthusiastic thumb in your eye).
The ingredients can basically be boiled down to beef, organs, bone, and organic fruit and veg. Realistically, I should be eating this food. I’d get better nutrition from Stella and Chewy’s than I would from some of the God-awful choices I have to deal with at the grocery store.
Go! Fit and Free Puppy by Petcurean Pet Nutrition
Straight out of the gate we have our first contender from maple leaf country. Petcurean is a proudly Canadian company that is, according to their website, “fiercely independent.” This independence shines through in their Fit and Free Puppy recipe which is high in protein, fat, and calories per cup.
Caloric Content…….451 kcal/cup
Overall Quality…….Go! Fit and Free Puppy is a meat-based, low carbohydrate food that is perfect for growing small- to medium-sized puppies.
The recipe contains no by-products or harmful preservatives and is chock-full the calories your puppy needs to be his cutest, bouncy self.
Horizon Legacy Puppy formula by Horizon Pet Nutrition
I’m beginning to think most Canadians make dog food during the day and play hockey at night.
That has to be what’s going on, because there is no way to explain how so many great dog foods are streaming out of Canada.
Horizon is another company crafting fine Canadian kibble and their Legacy formulas are no exception.
They were made with your dog’s meat-craving, primal brain in mind.
Caloric Content…….476 kcal/cup
Overall Quality…….Horizon’s Legacy recipes are meat-based and high in protein and fat, which your new little darling requires to grow. It also packs a wallop in the calorie department with a little less than 500 kcal per cup.
Overall, Horizon is a fantastic choice for growing pups. They can stick with the Legacy brand into adulthood by just making the easy shift to Horizon Legacy’s Adult kibble.
Now Fresh Grain Free Puppy by Petcurean Pet Nutrition
Twice in one list!
Petcurean is doing pretty well for itself in the puppy food department.
Their Now Fresh Grain Free Puppy recipe is popular among puppy-lovers everywhere. Maybe maple syrup has an unknown connection to better brain performance, hence why Canadians are so good at developing delicious and nutritious dog foods.
Caloric Content…….412 kcal/cup
Overall Quality…….Petcurean’s Now Fresh recipe is a smidge lower in protein content than some of the other recipes listed here, but its ingredients are the real deal. Once again, they’ve got no wonky stuff going on in the ingredient list and they are straight-up about their manufacturing process.
Overall, puppies seem to love the taste of Now Fresh and it keeps them healthy and happy to boot.
Holistic Select Grain Free Puppy Health
Holistic Select is a subsidiary of WellPet, which is a company that owns several brands of dog foods that specialize in making naturally sourced and holistic foods.
They are a company made up of dog and cat people that clearly put animals first when it comes to crafting their recipes.
Crude Protein…….28% – 30% (depends on recipe)
Crude Fat…….17% – 20% (depends on recipe)
Caloric Content…….403 – 446 kcal/cup (depends on recipe)
Overall Quality…….There are a couple recipes Holistic Select has to choose from, which can be a relief for you if you’ve got a puppy with a picky palate. Both have excellent sources of protein and fat and a high dose of calories per cup.
Overall, this formula is sure to put your little one on the right track to leading a healthy and active life.
Merrick Classic Puppy Recipe
Merrick is one of the most beloved dog food brands on the market today and it’s easy to see why.
They’re a proudly American company which prides itself on creating wholesome foods for all life stages.
Caloric Content…….347 kcal/cup
Overall Quality…….Merrick’s Classic Puppy recipe has an overall lower protein, fat, and calorie content than the other foods on this list, but it no doubt still packs a powerful nutritional punch for your pooch (not an actual punch, but a figurative one).
The Best Large Breed Puppy Food
There’s nothing quite as adorable as a large breed puppy. With their oversized paws, floppy ears and budding personalities, it’s hard not to instantly feel overwhelmed with love for the little fluff balls.
If you were to stick a human baby and a large breed puppy in the same room together, it would be pretty easy for me to decide who to play with, just saying (the puppy, hands down, every time).
If that makes me a monster, so be it. At least I’m an honest monster. 🙂
Large breed puppies take longer to grow than small breed puppies, but the amounts they grow are astonishing. If humans grew as fast as large breed puppies, your child would be full grown by the time they reached 2 – 3 years of age.
I don’t know about you, but having an adult-sized two-year-old would change the phrase from “the terrible twos” to “the terrifying twos.”
Because of their rapid amount of growth, large breed puppies are at risk for a host of musculoskeletal disorders.
Therefore, your puppy’s diet is not only important to their present health, but it can influence their quality of life into old age. It will be a balancing act for you, as feeding too much or too little of a particular food can be detrimental to your dog’s health.
We suggest diving further into the nutritional requirements of your specific large breed dog to see how their growth curves vary from other large breeds.
We can only hold your hand for so long. We can teach you to fly, but you’ll eventually have to leave the nest, buttercup!
No two puppies are the same and one nutrition plan definitely does not fit all.
But we do know this:
By choosing a large breed dog, you’ve taken on a responsibility that owners of smaller breed dogs don’t necessarily have to worry about as much.
YOU are the guardian of your puppy’s growth.
If you don’t take these first few months and years seriously, you could be putting your dog at significant risk of suffering as they get older.Large breed puppy? Take his 1st few months/years seriously, or put him @ risk of suffering later on ☠ Click To Tweet
Orijen Large Puppy Formula
It would certainly be a strange day when an Orijen recipe didn’t make a “top brands” list.
Orijen proves again and again that their high quality ingredients and meat-dense recipes go above and beyond the call of duty.
Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for the majority of dog food companies out there, and that’s just sad. I’d definitely watch a figurative fight between Orijen and Iams and would thoroughly enjoy watching Iams get its (completely figurative) ass kicked.
Caloric Content…….446 kcal per 8oz.
Overall Quality…….Reading the ingredient list of Orijen’s large puppy recipe makes me feel like I’m at a local farmer’s market browsing the catch of the day and wholesome fruits and veg. Their ingredient list seriously warms my heart (and it’s icy to begin with, so that’s saying something).
Orijen always makes quality, nutrient-rich foods for any life stage, and its large puppy recipe is no exception. Bellissimo!
Horizon Complete Large Breed Puppy
Horizon often makes our lists of top large breed puppy food brands and it’s easy to see why. They state that they live by and manufacture their products according to three principles:
- Their company is authentic (e.g. family-owned, no middlemen).
- The ingredients are as regionally sourced as possible (from Saskatchewan).
- Their finished product is affordable.
I don’t know about you, but this kind of no-nonsense straight-talk makes my ears perk up.
Caloric Content…….415 kcal per cup serving
Overall Quality…….Horizon’s large breed puppy recipe contains primarily plant-based ingredients, with protein coming from both meat (chicken) and plant sources.
Because it’s formulated specifically for large breed dogs in their earliest stages of life, this recipe contains all the necessary ingredients to help your puppy grow into a healthy and active adult.
Fromm Gold Large Breed Puppy
Fromm is the gold standard when it comes to being family-owned and operated. Its owner is the great-grandson of the original founder and they still produce their foods out of their manufacturing facilities in Wisconsin.
It’s not often that dog food companies literally put faces to their names, so right away I felt comfortable with the Fromm family. If they’re willing to put up information about themselves side by side with their products, that tells me they have high confidence in the quality of their dog foods.
Caloric Content…….389 kcal per cup serving
Overall Quality…….Like Horizon, Fromm’s large breed formula is largely plant-based, with the main sources of protein coming from plants as well as a moderate amount of meat. It has all the necessary nutrients and minerals to start a puppy off right in life. Loyal customers of Fromm’s also always comment on the remarkable palatability of their foods, saying their dogs can’t get enough of the stuff.
Wellness Complete Health Large Breed Puppy
Wellness holds itself to a high standard and does much, much more than required by AAFCO standards (which, it turns out, are shockingly low. But that’s a conversation for another time).
They pride themselves on creating high-quality and delicious foods that pets everywhere wag their tails for.
Caloric Content…….490 kcal per cup serving
Overall Quality…….Wellness is known for incorporating only high-quality ingredients into all of their foods and this recipe is definitely an example of that. It also packs a punch in the calorie department, meaning little Tank (soon to grow to a size befitting his name) will have boundless energy. The hearty ingredients are sure to keep your large breed puppy looking and feeling their best.
A Final (Puppy) Note…
By adopting a new puppy you’ve not only taken on the responsibility of ensuring the healthy growth of your puppy into adulthood, but you’ve also become the sole provider for another living thing for its entire life.
This means that you’ll have to put in some serious effort to create a wonderful and lasting relationship with your new puppy. And the quickest way to your puppy’s heart is through wholesome, delicious food.
That means you’ll have to do two things on a regular basis:
- Put down the Cheetos and pause Netflix occasionally to go out and purchase said wholesome food products, and
- Once you’re at the pet store, you have to fight the human desire to skimp on purchasing food and fork over some hard-core cash. Simply put, as price increases, so does dog food quality. And as we talked about previously, you’re either all-in with your furry pal or you shouldn’t get one at all. Period.
Dry dog food is the primary type of food most dog owners serve their pets. You can find it just about anywhere, there are many different types, recipes and blends to choose from, and you’re quite likely to find one that fits your dog’s needs to a “T”.
The very fact that you can find it on every street corner can also be a disadvantage. Especially if you’re in a rush.
Which is the best dry dog food?
Are some dry dog foods better than others are?
What do I look for in a dry dog food, specifically?
Sound familiar, inside your brain?
We’ve been to every street corner.
Wait, maybe that didn’t come out just right…
We’ve been to every street corner (researching dry dog food, of course), so lend us your brain for a minute, because here are our picks for best dry dog food:
Award-winning Acana is Biologically Appropriate™, thanks to ingredients fresh from local regions, as well as the way they are prepared in the Acana kitchens.
With coolers featuring more than adequate space (a mere 25,000 square feet) there is enough space to hold half a million pounds of fresh ingredients!
And rest assured that Acana never uses outsourced ingredients in any of their foods.
They aren’t owned by a “marketing” company either, as many pet food brands are.
Related Reading: K9 Cuisine has a phenomenal write-up on Acana’s formulas.
Acana’s original formula, using free-range poultry, fresh eggs and freshwater fish, all come from local sources they know they can trust. The benefit is then passed along to you and your dog.
These fresh ingredients have more health benefits for your fur baby as well, and you’ll notice the difference after only a short while.
Caloric Content…….396 kcal per 8oz. cup serving
Overall Quality…….Acana goes for the gold with this line, using only high quality ingredients, all locally sourced, and it definitely makes the “cut”! We’re sure you and your dog will feel the same way.
Acana’s Regionals line gets its name from the uncommon ingredients it it sources from various United States…you guessed it…”regions”:
- Kentucky farmland
- Appalachian ranch land
- New England’s seas
…all of which are unmatched by any other formula by any other brand.
Regional formulas are rich in protein, yet limited in carbohydrates. This rich and nourishing recipe line boasts ingredients such fresh meat, and poultry, eggs, fish and vine ripened fruits and veggies.
Caloric Content…….396 kcal per 8oz. cup serving
Overall Quality…….We think you can’t go wrong with such great ingredients, especially when they practically come from your back yard!
That’s what Regionals attempts to capture in this line and your dog will not only appreciate the flavor, but his overall health will show how great it is.
It might sound like a line of single-serve food portions (Kraft Singles on your grilled cheese, anyone?)…but that’s not at all the case.
Acana Singles is a limited ingredient line for sensitive dogs, featuring a single protein source that is both rich and nourishing.
Less meat isn’t part of the deal, however, and you’ll find Singles brimming with the likes of Atlantic Mackerel, Yorkshire Pork, Muscovy Duck and Suffolk Lamb (sounds like the main course of a full course dinner, amirite?!)
Caloric Content…….392 kcal per 8 oz. cup
Overall Quality……With four particular recipes to choose from, your allergen-sensitive dog doesn’t have to be stuck with the same old food, day in and day out. And that’s what we love about this Acana line. We know you’ll love it too!
Dr. Tim’s Dog Food
What started as an idea in a Michigan garage has now expanded into Dr. Tim’s brand, sourced with on the highest quality ingredients from all over North America.
This kibble is designed for every lifestyle and every life stage. No matter where your dog happens to be, you’ll find Dr. Tim’s to work in every situation. The formula contains prebiotics and probiotics so that your dog will receive a full benefit.
Caloric Content…….450 kcal per serving
Overall Quality…….Who better to design and create a nutritionally sound dog food than a Veterinarian? Dr. Tim knew there was a need for a food that catered to stamina as well as endurance and performance yet did not leave out digestion, immune health and other healthy factors either.
We give this blend an A+!
Legacy is pure innovation when it comes to grain free formula. You get all the benefits of a raw, protein rich diet in a convenient kibble, full of nutrients.
You won’t find grains or potatoes in Legacy, but you will find plenty of meat protein and fresh fruits and veggies. Higher quality ingredients mean higher quality health benefits, and who doesn’t love that?
Your dog is an omnivore. Don’t be afraid to feed him like one.
Caloric Content…….420 kcal per cup serving
Overall Quality…….We think you’ll be pleased at the laundry list of benefits in Legacy dog food. Some of the perks include prebiotics, probiotics, chelated minerals, amino acids, Yucca, Glucosamine and Chondroitin. All of these are balanced with a taste your dog will come back for, and a peace of mind that you will come back for!
Orijen Dog Food
As a dog owner, you are likely familiar with the Orijen line, and for good reason. Rich, nourishing proteins are paired with just a few carbs so that all dogs at all life stages can benefit from the formula.
Fun Fact: Both Orijen and Acana are made by “The World’s Best and Most Awarded Pet Food”, Champion Petfoods.
Additionally, about two-thirds of the meats that go into this brand are fresh, with no preservatives at all. The remaining third is air dried at about 90 degrees Celsius for concentrated proteins.
For enhanced flavor your dog will love, Orijen infuses the kibble with freeze-dried liver from turkey and chicken. Even picky dogs will love this!
Caloric Content…….470 kcal per cup serving
Overall Quality…….We have to sound the bell on this one for winning over picky eaters. You’re also likely to notice less gas, and that’s a win for everyone!
Definitely worth a try in our book, because you’ll likely be switching over once you do!
The Best Raw Dry Dog Food
Remember a couple of minutes ago when you typed “best dog food” into Google or Bing (God help you if you’re using Bing) hoping to find one single answer?
Ah, yes. You were so sweet and innocent back then.
You probably quickly found out how complicated the dog food industry is, which is why we’re creating this comprehensive list for you in the first place (you’re welcome).
You might have also discovered that there are two streams of thought on dog nutrition, with equally nutty people on both sides.
There are those that say feeding your dog kibble is the best way to go, while others swear raw is the only way your dog can get the nutrition he needs. All this back and forth between equally unqualified people telling me what to feed my dog drives me absolutely bonkers.
No proudsoccermom35, I won’t be feeding my dog a diet of chicken thighs and roasted yams, so save your suggestions for your next book club meeting.
Anyway, there seems to be a new contender in the mix that brings together kibble and raw to make a harmonious mixture that might just please both sides.
The brilliant idea was hatched to add raw bits of freeze-dried meaty bits to quality kibble.
What will they think of next!?
Castor & Pollux Natural Ultramix with Raw Bites
Castor & Pollux are a reputable dog food company owned by Merrick. In their mission statement, they say they “scour the Earth” looking for the best ingredients to put in their foods.
I don’t know about you, but no one has ever “scoured the Earth” for me, let alone my dog.
Frankly, I’m flattered. I’m sure they’re not literally moving from farm-to-farm the world over asking about cows or ducks or potatoes or whatever (clearly, I’m no farmer).
But still, it gives me some piece of mind. In my opinion, they can use phrases like this because they’ve got a quality product to back them up.
Overall Quality…….Castor & Pollux have produced a meat-based, dry food with that little extra raw kick to give your furry companion an extra energy boost. Seriously, the next time you visit the dog park, your pup will likely outperform any of those other mutts on cheap, commercial diets. And he’ll have poos that’ll put show dogs to shame, trust me. Isn’t that why we all became dog owners? To judge other dogs based solely on poo consistency?
No? Just me…?
Nature’s Variety Instinct Raw Boost
Nature’s Variety offers a quite a variety (see what I did there?) of different recipes and formulas.
If you decide that you want to start your dog on a raw diet, Nature’s Variety can set you up from start to finish.
Crude protein…….35 – 37.5%
Crude Fat…….19 – 22.5%
Overall Quality…….Nature’s Variety is known for making excellent food for your pup, and their raw boost kibbles add a little extra goodness to this already stellar base. Reviewers report seeing a boost in energy and overall well-being by switching over to Instinct Raw Boost, especially for picky eaters or those with very sensitive stomachs.
Overall, Instinct has proven itself once again as one of the top brands in the dog food industry.
Merrick Backcountry Dog Food
Merrick’s Backcountry dog food has bits of freeze-dried raw meat mixed in with high-protein kibble, much like the other contenders mentioned above.
Crude protein…….34 – 38%
Crude Fat…….16 – 17%
Overall Quality…….Merrick’s raw infused mix combines the ease of feeding a dry-kibble diet with the nutrition afforded by raw meat.
It’s a solid mix, if you ask us.
Grain has become something of a hot topic recently, not only amongst dog nutrition circles, but also amongst those who care about what humans are eating (are you telling me I shouldn’t be eating Twinkies?).
But since I only really care about furry animals that walk on four legs and have lovable faces (sorry, your beard doesn’t count), we’re just going to stick to the relationship between grains and your pet.
Grain has gotten somewhat of a bad rep in the dog food industry.
Upon a little digging (going to the infamous second page of a Google search), I found some interesting commentaries that I think hold some weight.
Basically, some dogs are just flat-out allergic to some grains.
In that case, you’ll need to isolate which grain your pet is allergic to, and potentially go grain-free to keep their tummies happy.
Fun fact – the most common thing dogs are allergic to is beef.
Beef! Can you believe it!? Beef!
If your dog doesn’t have an allergy, you shouldn’t be totally fearful of grains.
As long as grains aren’t listed in the first few ingredients and as long as whatever grains that are listed are high quality, there shouldn’t be anything wrong with your dog eating them.
Your dog can process grains, contrary to what some dog food companies want you to believe, and in some cases, a dog will do better with a little grain in their diet.
The important thing to remember is your dog is a special little individual with her own dietary needs.
If she’s having trouble with everything else you’ve tried, it might be time to try grain-free.
The Best Grain Free Dry Dog Food
Just a disclaimer, I am probably biased by the incredible story of this food’s creator.
The man was attacked by a moose (yes, it’s a thing) in the middle of the Alaskan backcountry while dog-sledding and managed to heave himself back to civilization with broken ribs and torn chest cartilage.
When he recovered from his ordeal, he decided to make high-quality dog food and prints a moose on the packaging of every bag of Annamaet food.
I don’t know about you, but if someone has a near-death experience and then decides to do something different with life, I think that “something different” is something they’re wildly passionate about and good at.
Crude protein…….30 – 33%
Crude Fat…….7 – 17%
Overall Quality…….To be honest, I’m still reeling from that moose story!
But in all seriousness, Annamaet makes a great grain-free recipe that customers love. People find success with this brand, particularly amongst those pups with lots of allergies.
Annamaet finds its strength in this loyal base, as well as that small-company charm.
Castor & Pollux Natural Ultramix Grain-Free
There’s a reason Castor & Pollux consistently make our “best of” lists. (And no, they don’t pay me to say that.)
They offer a range of formulas that are designed to tailor to individual dogs and their needs. Because when it comes to dogs, they understand that a one-size-meets-all solution is not going to be the best for your dog.
In a sea of marketing and lies, it’s nice to be able to grab onto that life-preserver that Castor & Pollux throws out for you.
Good guy Castor & Pollux has your back.
Crude protein…….30 – 38%
Crude Fat…….15 – 17%
Overall Quality…….Castor & Pollux offers different variations on their Ultramix formula, but in this case, they’ve offered a grain-free recipe for those dogs that need a little extra care at feeding time. They’ve made up for the lack of grain in their formula by packing in plenty of wholesome meats, starchy vegetables and nutrients that should really get your dog’s tail wagging.
Wellness Core Grain Free Dog Food
Wellness Core has a fantastic record of satisfying dog owners everywhere.
(Yeah, my inner child giggled at that too, but I’m being completely serious.)
The recipes made by Wellness brand are known for their straightforward and nutritious ingredients.
They are also manufactured in one facility in Indiana, with suppliers that go through a rigorous testing process before being accepted into the manufacturing process.
Crude protein…….34 – 36%
Crude Fat…….15 – 16%
Overall Quality…….Core specifically targets your dog’s primal need to eat meat-based protein, while also being grain-free. But it’s not just protein and lack of grains that make a good food. Wellness adds in all the extras that ensure a happy and healthy life for your pup.
We could rave about Wellness Core until the puppies come home, but you might just want to try it for yourself.
The Best Grain Free Wet Dog Food
Castor & Pollux Natural Ultramix Grain-Free Wet Dog Food
These guys are constantly making the rounds on our “best of” lists, and it’s easy to see why.
Their grain free wet foods are a hit amongst dog food connoisseurs the world over. Not the owners of course, although I did stumble across quite a few reviews that started with, “I tried it myself and…” and generally ended in an unexpected pleasant experience.
Will you be seeing your coworker spooning some Ultramix from a can sometime in the future and telling you about the benefits of a primal diet?
No, probably not. But still, dogs frickin love it.
Crude protein…….8 – 9%**
Crude Fat…….3 – 5%**
Overall Quality…….If your dog loves wet food, they’re likely to enthusiastically accept Castor & Pollux’s Ultramix grain-free blend. You’ll be hearing Marley’s tags clinking excitedly against her bowl as she devours her meal.
The ingredients are fantastic, with some recipes having whole cuts of meat right in the can. It doesn’t get better than that!
Holistic Select Grain-Free
Holistic Select is a company that prides itself on using only the best ingredients and creates its recipes under the strictest of quality checks.
It turns out, their claim “checks” out (I’m on fire).
Owners love feeding Holistic Select to their pooches, and in some cases, it’s the only food their dogs will eat.
Crude protein…….11 – 12%**
Crude Fat…….6 – 8%**
Overall Quality…….Holistic Select Grain-Free wet food is suitable for dogs in stages of life, and you might even find your pet being a life-long lover of this food.
Not only do dogs think it’s delicious, but it has all the necessary ingredients to ensure your pet lives a full and energetic life.
Merrick Wet Food
Proud receiver of all the love and praise from the masses since 1988.
We’re giving Merrick its own sub-section in wet food because, let’s face it, it’s a darn good dog food brand. Not only does it receive top marks from us, but people literally go nuts for it.
Seriously, I once witnessed a fight over the last can of the stuff on Black Friday and it didn’t end well. We had to call authorities, there was stew strewn everywhere mixed with what I’m pretty sure was someone’s blood — it was a complete mess.
That’s a flat out lie but I’m like, 99% sure that probably most likely happened definitely at some point for sure in the past.
Merrick is America’s answer to well-known Canadian brands like Acana, and they’re giving them a run for their money.
They tout the wholesome, American-sourced ingredients in every recipe they make. It’s easy to see why customers never fall out of love with Merrick: they’re just too good of a catch to ever let go.
Merrick Classic & Chunky Canned Dog Food
Merrick’s Grain-Free recipes leave nothing to be desired.
First and foremost, there are so many different Classic and Chunky recipes to try, your dog will likely have trouble picking a favorite.
Combine that with locally sourced ingredients (as much as possible) and you’ve got yourself some delicious and nutritious chow.
Crude protein…….8 – 9.5%**
Crude Fat…….3 – 5.5%**
Merrick 96% Grain Free Wet Dog Food
The 96% formulas contain exactly what you might think: 96% meat.
In some of them, the first ingredient is USDA inspected, deboned meat. That’s some high-quality stuff right there.
We give this wet food by Merrick two thumbs up!
Crude protein…….9 – 10%**
Crude Fat…….3 – 7%**
Merrick Backcountry Grain-Free Stews
This Backcountry wet food might be suitable for humans to literally bring them with them to eat when hiking in the backcountry. Look out, Mountain House. These recipes are drowning in delicious gravy which your pet is sure to love.
But taste factor aside, they’re chock full of protein, nutrients and minerals that combined help your dog to thrive.
Crude protein…….8 – 10%**
Crude Fat…….3 – 5%**
Remember, guaranteed analysis values for wet food don’t take into account all the water included in the can. For example, the dry matter content of protein in Castor & Pollux’s Ultramix Grain-Free would be 47%.
Confused about how I got that number?
Take a look at this article. Yes, finding the number involves math, but don’t get squeamish. It’s easy math. You’re basically just getting rid of the water and assessing what you’re left with.
Just like humans, dogs can have allergies. In fact, they’re fairly common amongst our canine companions. The types of allergies may differ, but generally they fall into three categories:
- Allergic reactions to bites
- Reactions to inhalants
- Reactions to food.
Blissfully unaware yet adorable puppies will likely develop allergies as they age, so you have to be on alert at all times.
Does this mean you need to take Beans to the vet every time she has a scratch?
Of course not.
But there are signs you should keep an eye out for.
Signs your dog has an allergy to something include:
- Scratching like there’s no tomorrow, particularly of their sides or belly.
- Chewing of paws until they’re red and raw.
- Chewing of a particular spot or spots on the skin until they’ve fully mangled the hell out of their coat and skin.
- Excessive rubbing of that perfect little face.
- Chronic ear infections.
- Hair loss and/or mutilated (that’s a violent word, isn’t it?).
It can be hard to watch your dog suffer from an allergy, so if you see these symptoms in your dog, please don’t be a terrible person and ignore them. They can’t speak to you (unless you’re Eddie Murphy) so you have to learn to read them instead.
In most cases, dogs are allergic to something in their food.
BUT, don’t jump the gun and blame wheat as the main culprit.
Interestingly, dogs are more often allergic to some kind of meat protein, such as those found in beef, chicken or lamb. This can make it extremely difficult for you to nail down the cause of Trixie’s midnight itching sessions.
Luckily for you, some companies have taken the initiative to develop simple, limited ingredient foods so you can better narrow their intake of specific ingredients.
The Best Dry Dog Food for Allergies
Acana is one of the best dog food manufacturers on the market and we’re not afraid to say it. They cater to your dog’s needs and also to yours.
Need a high quality kibble with limited ingredients?
Look no further than Acana.
Need someone to help you with your taxes?
We’re willing to bet Acana has a guy.
As you might have guessed from the name, there is only one meat ingredient in each bag of the stuff, but there’s a lot of it. As they say on their website, “Limited ingredients shouldn’t mean less meat.”
Good guy, Acana. Always has your back.
Overall Quality…….Acana has managed to create a food packed with protein and nutrients with only one named meat. This food might be perfect to start identifying your dog’s allergies or might be a saving grace for those who know what their dog is allergic to and are looking for foods without certain meats.
We can’t recommend Acana enough. No, really. We could recommend their foods all day and still have more to say.
Zignature Limited Ingredient
Zignature is a company based in the United States that creates foods with exotic ingredients like kangaroo from Australia or catfish from the Southern US.
To be fair, they also have your standard lamb, salmon, and turkey formulas (plus much, much more).
The majority of their foods are “limited ingredient” recipes, meaning they have one exclusive meat in each formula.
Crude protein…….26 – 32%
Crude Fat…….14 – 18%
Overall Quality…….Zignature makes a variety of healthy foods that center around one main meaty ingredient. They make the claim that their foods are hypoallergenic, which is true to a point. Their foods don’t contain chicken, wheat, corn, dairy or soy, so if your pooch is allergic to any of those, this might be a winner for you. If not, there’s bound to be a formula that excludes the allergen you’re looking to avoid.
Overall, Zignature makes quality foods for your sensitive pet.
Canine Caviar Limited Ingredient
Canine Caviar was a company founded by some dude named Jeff (I assume we’re on a first-name basis) who had a Great Dane that was having severe allergic reactions to bug bites.
It got so bad that he abandoned his job as a scientific researcher in the pharmaceutical industry and started developing a holistic, alkaline food for dogs. His formula worked wonders on his Great Dane which ended up living for 17 long years.
His formula worked so well that he decided to share it with the world.
Thus, Canine Caviar was born.
Crude protein…….25 – 31%
Crude Fat…….15 – 17%
Overall Quality…….As with the other contenders, Canine Caviar’s Limited Ingredient formulas are crafted around one meaty protein source, so you’re likely to find a formula that excludes the problem ingredient that triggers a licking/scratching fit in your dog. The other ingredients listed are wholesome and healthy, which will ultimately set your dog on the right track to being his old, less-itchy self.
Nature’s Variety Instinct Limited Ingredient Diet
Nature’s Variety is known for developing healthy and wholesome foods for dogs at all stages of life and, it turns out, dogs who have a whole host of allergies.
Their popular Instinct brand also includes several limited ingredient recipes designed specifically for those dogs with some of the most extensive lists of allergies.
Crude protein…….23.5 – 29%
Crude Fat…….16.5 – 18%
Overall Quality…….Nature’s Variety limited ingredient formulas include one main meat and one main vegetable source while excluding several of the most common allergens including: grain, dairy, eggs, beef, chicken, fish, sweet potato, potato, chickpeas, corn, wheat, soy, artificial colors and preservatives. This food takes a more general approach to food sensitivities, as in they pretty much just exclude anything and everything that is known to cause allergies in dogs.
Nicely done, Nature’s Variety!
The Best Wet Dog Food for Allergies
EVO 95 Percent
At first glance, Evo might seem like the food that hardcore bikers and manly men might feed their attack dogs (just look at their website. If it doesn’t scream “metal” to you, I don’t know what will).
But behind the leather and chaps lies a secret gem: a wet food that might work for your food-sensitive dog.
Crude protein…….8.5 – 9%**
Crude Fat…….4.8 – 6%**
Overall Quality…….Evo’s two main “95 Percent” formulas contain chicken and beef as their first ingredient. So if you know your puppers is allergic to either of those, you might want to skip this one and read the review below. If not, this food might be just the charm for your little one. It’s packed full of the good stuff, and from what we hear, it’s delicious to boot.
Koha Limited Ingredient Diets
Koha is manufactured in the United States, but sources its protein from some pretty fancy places, including New Zealand, France and Australia, or as I call them, Kiwiland, Baguetteland, and Nopeland.
The owners built Koha into a reputable brand after they became frustrated with the dog food industry.
They had two dogs with extreme sensitivities and just couldn’t find the right foods to give them. So naturally, they created their own.
Crude protein…….9.75 – 12%**
Crude Fat…….6 – 8%**
Overall Quality…….Koha has developed a food that is ideal for dogs undergoing elimination diets or dogs on a rotational diet. Each recipe has one animal protein source and they range from kangaroo to wild salmon. In addition, they also don’t contain other common allergens like corn, soy, wheat, or grain.
Koha would be an excellent addition to your sensitive doggo’s diet.
Nature’s Variety Instinct Limited Ingredient Diet
Above we mentioned Nature Variety’s Instinct Limited Ingredient dry kibble, but here we have its wet counterpart.
It’s an equally appealing and healthy food to feed your pup.
This particular wet food is a hit with owners everywhere, particular those owners who have dogs with extreme food allergies.
Crude protein…….10 – 10.5%**
Crude Fat…….4.5 – 8%**
Overall Quality…….Again, only one animal protein is within each of these foods, combined with a few other ingredients formulated to best suit your dog’s needs. In addition, none of these foods include these common allergens: chicken, beef, fish, eggs, dairy, grain and gluten. If your dog prefers wet food, this just might be the winner you’re looking for.
Remember what we talked about with wet foods? Guaranteed analysis numbers don’t take into account all the water included in the can.
For example, the dry matter content of protein in Evo’s 95 Percent Beef formula is 50%. Holy hullabaloo!
Confused about how I got that number?
Take a look at this article. Yes, finding the number involves math, but don’t get squeamish. It’s easy math. You’re basically just getting rid of the water and assessing what you’re left with.
That’s All Folks
You made it.
Give yourself a pat on the back.
We feel pretty good about sending you out into the chaos and confusion that is your local pet store now, and we hope you feel ready to leave the nest. There’s no doubt that wading through the hundreds of different pet foods available is a daunting task, but you’ve got to tough your way through it.
Your dog is counting on you to step up and help him live as long and as healthily as possible.
So when you see all those bright and shiny packages with beautiful healthy-looking dogs on them, put your defenses up.
As a responsible dog owner, your only duty is to hunt for that boring ol’ ingredient label on the back and make the best decision possible.
So good luck!
Don’t forget what you’ve learned here today.
And don’t forget to check back often, because we’re hard at work completing our “best of” roadmap!
OR … make it easy on yourself, shoot us your contact info, and we’ll automagically let you know when we publish our newest and best dog food winners.