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Best Dog Food Brands

Profile picture of Dr. Ken Tudor
by Dr. Ken Tudor Pet Food Contributing Editor

Buying the right dog food is essential to keep your dog healthy, happy and full of energy. Different dogs need different types of food, and the kind needed can vary based on the dog's stage of life, general health and special needs. This means your dog’s needs can change over time, so knowing which dog foods are best during different stages of life can improve your dog’s quality of life.

Talk to your vet about the best type of food for your dog, keeping in mind that your dog’s nutritional needs will change as your dog ages and experiences other changes, including pregnancy and illness.

Compare Reviews for Top Dog Food Brands

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Canidae Pet Foods
Read 1542 Reviews

Diets include chicken and turkey for all life stages, salmon for small breeds and bison or lamb with antiallergenic elements for sensitive dogs. All recipes include probiotics, antioxidants and omega oils. Prices start at $8.99.

NomNomNow
Read 83 Reviews

This fresh pet food company offers customized meal plans for dogs and cats using restaurant-quality ingredients, delivered pre-cooked and pre-portioned to your home.

Taste of the Wild
Read 1096 Reviews

Ingredients are Angus beef, turkey, trout, lentils, tomato pomace and sunflower oil. All formulas contain K9 Strain and Viables Probiotics, no GMO, no preservatives and no artificial flavors. Price range is $25-$50.

Freshpet
Read 57 Reviews

Proteins come from beef, poultry and fish. Fruits and vegetables provide fibers and antioxidants. Stored in grocery fridges, these dishes contain no preservatives, fillers or meat powders. Prices range from $10 to $50.

Diamond Pet Foods
Read 383 Reviews

Made with real beef, chicken or fish, superfoods and phytonutrients. Grain-free formulas boost digestion and limit exposure to allergy triggers. Probiotics are added after cooking to preserve good bacteria. Prices start at $16.08.

Purina Pet Foods
Read 1440 Reviews

Dog meals come with savory beef steak and smoky chicken flavors. Offers therapeutic diets and probiotic supplement that help guard against allergic reactions, diabetes and arthritis. Your dog can enjoy a T-bone steak for $1.48.

Blue Buffalo Pet Foods
Read 1843 Reviews

Natural, healthy and holistic, dry food treats include biscuits, chewy meat morsels, meat jerkies and dental training goodies. Packed with antioxidants, their LifeSource Bits help prevent cancer. Prices range from $10 to $100.

Nutro Dog Food
Read 2990 Reviews

Recipes are made of either beef, wild boar, chicken, turkey or fish and vibrant superfoods, like coconut, chia, kale and blueberries. Food processors use only the cleanest ingredients and safest methods. Price range is $5.59-$50.

Pedigree Pet Foods
Read 1041 Reviews

Formulas are packed with protein, dietary fibers, vitamins C and E, zinc and linoleic acid for healthy skin and coat. A patented oral care kibble helps reduce plaque and tartar buildup. Prices start at less than $2.

Royal Canin Pet Foods
Read 492 Reviews

Features over 50 nutrients from natural protein, fat and fiber sources blended in precise balance. Specific formulas provide the unique needs of dogs of all sizes, ages, breeds and lifestyles. Prices range from $10 to $200.

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Types of dog food

Watch a video about what type of dog food is best for your dog

Dry food

Dry food is made up of hard, bite-sized chunks, biscuits or pellets dogs crack with their back teeth. The food is available in a number of formulas and comes packaged in easy-to-store bags. Sometimes referred to as “kibble,” dry food contains higher levels of carbohydrates than other types of dog food and is typically the most affordable dog food option available.

Wet Dog Food

Wet dog food comes in a few different varieties, including cans, pouches and tubs. Wet dog food contains a higher moisture level, as much as 75 percent, than dry dog food, which contains 10 percent on average. The higher the moisture level, the more hydrated the dog will be, which can help improve overall kidney and urinary tract health. The lower the moisture level, the longer the shelf life of the food. Dogs with dental or mouth problems may find it easier to eat wet dog food, which is softer than dry dog food. Canned dog food is typically more expensive than dry dog food.

Semi-moist food

This type of food has moisture halfway between dry and wet food. It can be in pellet or chunk form and has a soft, chewy texture. Semi-moist is packaged in easily stored bags, and so has the same convenience as dry food. Many dog treats are also semi-moist. Semi-moist food usually carries a similar price tag to canned food. preservatives may be necessary in some brands to prolong shelf life.

Raw dog food

A raw dog food contains raw meat, whole bones, fresh fruit and vegetables and occasionally dairy, eggs and other fresh ingredients. Raw dog food diets claim to increase energy levels as well as coat and dental health. There are always potential risks with bacteria when it comes to consuming raw meat. People often feed their dogs raw dog food as an alternative to commercial dog food, but there are pre-packaged raw frozen or freeze-dried dog foods available for purchase for a more convenient, pre-portioned raw meal.

Types of dog food comparison

Compare the different types of dog food that is available:

 DryWetSemi-MoistRaw
PreservativesYesNoYesNo
Moisture6-10%Up to 75%15-30%Varies
Expense$$$$$$$$
BenefitsConvenient and helps with dental tartarEasier for older dogs to eatHas the storage ease of dry food with the softer consistency of wet foodGives pet owners total control over the food their dog is consuming

 

Wet vs. dry dog food

Dry dog food is ideal for dogs facing dental issues, as the kibble helps clean their teeth, and is the budget-friendly option for pet owners. Wet dog food, on the other hand, is best for dogs with choosy appetites, as the fragrant aroma entices them to eat, and it can be a lifesaver for senior dogs who can no longer chew hard foods.

  • Wet dog food
    • Easy to eat
    • Enticing to picky eaters
    • Rich in flavor
    • Can help with weight management
  • Dry Dog Food
    • More affordable
    • Longer shelf life
    • Wider variety
    • Helps clean plaque and tartar off dog’s teeth

What to look for in dog food

Watch a video about important factors when selecting dog food

Ingredients to look for

As a general rule of thumb, look for dog foods that have high-quality, meat-based protein, high natural fats and oils and few carbohydrates. Omega 3s, vitamins and minerals should be included as well.

  • Quality meats: Protein provides many essential nutrients. Puppies and dogs with diabetes and some intestinal diseases need food with more protein, so check out the meat content on your favorite brands.
  • Carbohydrates: Grains, beans, potatoes, fruits and vegetables provide energy, antioxidants, other nutrients and fiber that is important for intestinal health.
  • High fat: Dog food with lots of fat may be recommended for working dogs or dogs with kidney disease or cancer.
  • Copper: Some breeds cannot tolerate even normal amounts of copper in their food. This metal can build up in the liver and cause serious health problems.
  • Zinc: Malamutes and Siberian Huskies need more zinc in their diet; dog food that is not high in zinc can cause skin problems for these breeds.

Ingredients to avoid

You’ll want to check your dog’s food for unnecessary preservatives and chemicals, like food dyes. Natural preservatives, like vitamin C and E are good. Also avoid artificial flavors, added sweeteners and low-quality materials like feed-grade ingredients, listed as “meals” and “by-products.”

  • Chemical preservatives:
    • Butylated Hydroxyanisole (BHA)
    • Butylated Hydroxytoluene (BHT)
    • Ethoxyquin
  • Artificial ingredients:
    • Food Dyes: Red 40, Yellow 5, Yellow 6, Blue 2
    • Artificial flavors
    • Artificial sweeteners
  • Low-quality ingredients:
    • Rendered fat
    • Meat meal
    • Meat by-products

How to read dog food labels

  1. On the nutrition label, begin with the guaranteed analysis. This indicates the minimum or maximum level of nutrients in the food. It is broken down by crude protein, crude fat, crude fiber and moisture. Note that “crude” refers to the method of testing the food, not the quality of the product. For dogs to lose weight, their meals should have a high protein content (25–28 percent) and low-fat content (9–15 percent).
  2. Next, check the ingredients, which are organized by weight. Proteins like chicken, beef and lamb should be listed first. Watch out for similar items that are broken down into smaller groups, like flaked corn and ground corn. This allows the manufacturer to label corn farther down on the list, even though the amount of corn may actually be quite high.
  3. Check for the complete and balanced seal. Many dog foods will claim to be “complete and balanced,” which means they provide the right proportions of nutrients that a dog needs. Check for nutrient profiles approved by the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) to be sure the claim is valid.

What dog food is best for my dog?

Watch a video about tips for purchasing dog food

Active, healthy dogs

Active dogs need a diet with the proper balance of protein, fat and carbohydrates. Meat, oils, vegetables and grains will help give them the energy they need.

Puppies

Puppies need a high protein, high-fat diet to support their growth. Puppies also need more calcium and phosphorus than adult dogs for strong bone growth.

Pregnant or lactating dogs

Pregnant dogs need more calories than adult dogs, and lactating dogs need a diet similar to that for puppies.

Senior dogs

Senior dogs need diets higher in proteins to prevent muscle loss with higher fiber and lower calories to help prevent age-related obesity.

Dogs with special medical needs or chronic illness

Dogs with chronic illnesses may need a diet to control their illness. For example, diabetic dogs and dogs with cancer need a high fat, high protein and low carb diet.

If your dog has certain health issues, the vet may suggest a special diet. You can get foods to meet your dog's health needs at the vet's office or at some pet stores with a veterinary prescription.

  • Cancer: Dogs with cancer usually need a low carb diet in order to starve cancer cells and stop their cancer from spreading.
  • Kidney and liver disease: Dogs with kidney disease, some liver problems and certain bladder stones need diets low in protein.
  • Heart disease: Dogs with heart disease need a high protein, high-fat diet.
  • Pancreatitis and intestinal problems: Dogs suffering from intestinal conditions require diets low in fat.
  • Overweight: While there are dog food formulas designed for weight loss, most dogs that are overweight can lose weight by eating smaller amounts of their current food.
  • Allergies: Dogs with allergies may benefit from a limited ingredient diet. It’s important to meet with your vet to determine the cause of your dog’s allergies so you can select the right food.

Mistakes to avoid when choosing dog food

Watch a video about mistakes when choosing dog food

6 myths about dog food

  1. If the first ingredient is meat, it’s a quality, protein-rich dog food
    The second protein ingredient, generally a meat meal, is really the primary protein in the food, not the first ingredient. While many are looking for whole meat at the first ingredient as an indication of a protein-rich good dog food, whole meat is about 70 percent water, and that water is included in its total weight, so the amount of real meat protein is actually much less than it may seem.
  2. Premium and holistic dog foods are held to a higher quality standard
    There are no legal definitions for the words “premium” or “holistic.” These dog foods do not have to meet standards that are any different from other dog foods. Be wary of misleading marketing claims.
  3. Natural dog food does not contain any synthetic ingredients
    “Natural” is defined as any ingredient coming from plants, animals or the earth. Natural dog food can be processed by any method as long as it is not mixed with synthetic products or processed by methods using synthetic products, except in small amounts that can occur unavoidably, even in good manufacturing practices. However, dog food can contain synthetic ingredients and still use the word “natural” if there is a claim on the label disclosing the presence of synthetic products.
  4. Organic dog food means 100% organic ingredients
    A dog food can only be labeled “organic” if at least 95 percent of the ingredients were raised organically.
  5. Meat in dog food is always quality animal protein
    Meat is defined as “striated muscle,” and can include tongue, esophagus, diaphragm, heart, sinew, nerve and blood vessels. In fact, everything in the chest except lungs is considered “meat.”
    • Meat by-products can include lungs and stomach. If a protein source is not specified (i.e. “beef by-products,” “chicken by-products”), the meat by-product may be from multiple animal sources.
    • Meat meal can consist of tissue, bone, hide and even feces. To ensure your dog is getting quality ingredients, look for whole meats over “meat meal.”
  6. Dog food has quality control
    Dog food ingredients do not have quality standards like the USDA quality coding for human meats and products. The FDA and USDA do not require mandatory inspections of dog food companies. Quality control is voluntarily enforced, and quality claims by dog food makers may not be what they seem.

Expert reviews for dog food brands

Canidae Pet Foods

Canidae is a premium dog food company, offering a variety of flavors and types of food to dogs throughout the United States.

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Natural Balance Pet Foods

Natural Balance is endorsed by actor Dick Van Patten and has been using nutritional science to formulate dog food since 1989. This food is often used by dog trainers.

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Freshpet

Freshpet makes all-natural pet food using real meat and vegetables. They don’t use preservatives in their food so you’ll find their product in the refrigerator section of the pet food aisle in your grocery store.

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Diamond Pet Foods

Diamond is a pet food and treat company that offer a variety of high-quality and all-natural food and treats. Diamond makes food for puppies, adult dogs, dogs with sensitive stomachs, pregnant dogs and cats.

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NomNomNow

NomNomNow is a fresh pet food company and home delivery service founded in 2015 in the San Francisco Bay Area by Alex Jarrel, Zach Phillips and Nate Phillips. NomNomNow operates under the guidance of veterinarian Dr. Justin Shmalberg, a leading expert on dog nutrition, and offers pre-portioned, fresh food tailored to an individual dog or cats’ specific nutritional needs.

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Nutro Dog Food

Nutro has been providing natural ingredients to pet food since 1926. Nutro’s commitment to healthy and safe pet food keeps their formula tailored for each stage of a pet’s life. Nutro is also active in local and national pet communities through its dog park appreciation program, its partnership with RESCUE BANK pet food distribution program, its support of the Natural Disaster Search Dog Foundation and its sustainability efforts.

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Eukanuba Dog Food

Eukanuba, named after a piece of slang from the jazz age that means "the best," strives to give dogs the best, most nutritionally sound dog food available. Eukabana has been around since the late 1960s and is a spin-off of Iams, one of the best-known pet food companies.

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Iams Dog Food

Iams has been selling dog food since 1946 and today is one of the world's best-known pet food companies. Its goal is to improve the health of dogs all over the world through nutritional offerings.

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California Natural Dog Food

California Natural is an all-natural dog food company that consults with veterinarians and breeders to create the healthiest dog food options available.

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Taste of the Wild

Taste of the Wild makes pet food for cats and dogs. All of its pet food products are grain free and include a range of ingredients, including meats, fruits, vegetables, antioxidants, chelated minerals and probiotics. Taste of the Wild focuses on producing nutritionally balanced pet food products that help support and enhance pet health.

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EVO Dog Food

Evo is an all-natural, grain-free dog food company that believes dogs should be given a diet similar to what they would get in the wild.

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Ultra Holistic Dog Food

Ultra-Holistic Dog Foods uses a blend of ingredients to provide dogs with nutrition, help the strength and shininess of their coats and keep them healthy.

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Nature's Variety Dog Food

Nature's Variety is an independently owned pet food company that makes its own pet food using all natural ingredients. It offers a variety of pet foods to support different diets that dogs may need to follow for their health.

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Purina Dog Chow

Purina Dog Chow is one of the best-known dog food brands. Its products can be found in most supermarkets and pet stores.

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Compare Reviews for Top Dog Food Brands

Iams Dog Food
Read 775 Reviews

Diets cater to the needs of specific breeds, like bulldogs, dachshunds and chihuahuas. Ingredients are chicken, cornmeal, sorghum or dried egg products and vegetables and fruits. A 3.3-lb bag of dry mini chunks sells for $6.99.

Beneful Pet Foods
Read 1854 Reviews

Diets contain real beef, lamb, chicken, turkey, salmon, liver or egg mixed with whole grains, sunflower and fish oils, and fresh vegetables and fruits to create nutritious and great-tasting dog meals. Price range is $2-$34.

Natural Balance Pet Foods
Read 362 Reviews

Formulas contain venison, bison, buffalo, lamb, chicken, duck or salmon and whole grains, brown rice, sweet potato, green peas or garbanzo beans. Food processing goes through 9 safety tests. Products are available for $10-$100.

Kirkland Pet Foods
Read 533 Reviews

Made with beef meal, lamb meat or meal, turkey meal, chicken meal, fish meal and oil, or cooked or dried whole eggs. Natural flavors are blended in for taste and probiotics added to enhance the immune system. Prices start at $25.

Science Diet
Read 395 Reviews

Specializes in nutritious, science-based dog food at each life stage. Puppies and smaller breeds like smaller bites and kibbles. Adults and larger breeds need whole grains due to increased activity. Price range is $4.50-$5.

Hills Pet Foods
Read 212 Reviews

Essential ingredients include high-quality proteins, fats and carbohydrates blended with a precise balance of nutrients. Prescription diets take care of specific organ care needs. Prices range from $3.69 to $99.99.

Ol Roy Pet Foods
Read 527 Reviews

Offers diets made of meat and bone meal, poultry meal or soybean meal mixed with animal fats and ground yellow corn. Preserved with citric acid and beta hydroxy acid and enhanced by natural flavors. Price range is $2-$24.

Purina Dog Chow
Read 182 Reviews

Meal mixtures include beef or chicken meat, bone meal, poultry by-product, naturally preserved animal fat or eggs mixed with whole grain wheat or corn and a variety of essential vitamins and minerals. Prices start at $2.70.

Rachael Ray Nutrish
Read 7 Reviews

This pet food brand has nutritious foods made with real ingredients for dogs and cats that you can buy online or in many pet stores. Request a sample online. A portion of all sales is donated to help animals in need.

Alpo Dog Food
Read 228 Reviews

Made from high-quality real beef, chicken, lamb or turkey and 23 essential vitamins and minerals. Also offers signature wet meals of ground and gravy recipes with a meaty dog-driven taste. Price range is $0.68-$19.

Evanger's Pet Foods
Read 83 Reviews

Brings hand-packed healthy meals to your puppies, adults, seniors and sensitive furry friends. Raw ingredients are packed in cans and cooked in the sealed cans to lock in the nutrients and flavors. Price range is $10.99-$45.10.

Avoderm Pet Foods
Read 13 Reviews

Features beef, lamb, chicken, turkey, salmon and trout as protein sources. Recipes are packed with California avocado for wholesome nutrition for pets of all life stages, sizes, breeds and lifestyles. Price Range is $2.35-$54.99.

Eukanuba Dog Food
Read 16 Reviews

Offers diets of chicken, lamb, fish or egg blended with cereals and fats in perfect proportions. Processing goes through 120 quality tests that span from the suppliers to when the bags are sealed. Price range is $1.70-$49.99.

Ultra Holistic Dog Food
Read 35 Reviews

Offers a blend of chicken, lamb or salmon and dried fruits and vegetables. It’s balanced to meet the unique needs of all puppies, adults and seniors of any size and breed. An 8 lb bag of small breed adult food costs $17.49.

Wysong Natural Pet Food
Read 19 Reviews

Diets contain organic chicken, lamb, turkey, crab meal, fish meal or eggs mixed superfoods like colostrum, coconut oil and chia seeds. Prices start at $2.89 for a can of beef pate. Buy in bulk to save on canned, raw and dry food.

Nature's Variety Dog Food
Read 17 Reviews

Natural and often freeze dried, recipes contain 90% protein sourced from the real meats of beef, lamb, chicken, duck, rabbit and salmon mixed with fruits and vegetables. Tapioca is used to bind kibbles. Price range is $1.49-$60.

Big Heart Pet Brands
Read 49 Reviews

Offers pet food meals and goodies from big brands, such as Rachel Ray Nutrish’ specialty meat recipes, Milk-Bone’s biscuit snacks, Kibbles‘nBits’ crunchy, meaty kibbles, Pup-Peroni’s beefy snacks and Gravy Train’s gravy treats.

Petguard Pet Food
Read 17 Reviews

Known for their USDA-certified organic chicken and vegetable entrees. Meats include chicken, turkey, lamb, beef and liver. Their canned meals are ideal for puppies, seniors and less active pets. Prices range from $11.70 to $47.89.

California Natural Dog Food
Read 21 Reviews
Out of Business

California Natural dog food blends are based on a basic protein & carbohydrate formula. These include chicken & rice, lamb & rice, and herring & sweet potato. Varieties are available for puppies, weight control & senior dogs.

EVO Dog Food
Read 16 Reviews
Out of Business

EVO dog food is formulated to match the nutritional intake of your dog's ancestor, the wolf. High in protein and low in carbs, EVO foods are grain-free. Recipes include chicken and turkey, herring and salmon, and red meat.

Simmons Pet Food
Read 67 Reviews Out of Business

Simmons no longer makes or sells pet food.

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Profile picture of Dr. Ken Tudor
Dr. Ken Tudor Pet Food Contributing Editor

A recognized expert and leader in pet nutrition, Dr. Ken Tudor has written over 200 articles on the subject. He also has a featured weekly blog on petMD, is published in major veterinary journals and is a frequent internet media guest expert. He is the founder of Hearthstone Homemade, a recipe and supplement program for pet parents wishing to feed nutritious homemade dog food.