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Buying the right dog food is essential to keep your dog healthy, happy and full of energy. Use our guide to research the best dog food brand for your budget. Different dogs need different types of food based on their stage of life, health and special needs. Knowing which dog foods are best during different stages of life is crucial and can improve your dog’s quality of life.

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    Types of dog food

    best type of dog food video

    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:

    Moisture6-10%Up to 75%15-30%Varies
    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 good for dogs with 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

    important dog food factors video

    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?

    tips for purchasing dog food video

    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 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. Some dogs may do better on a grain-free 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. Make sure you understand how much to feed your dog.
    • 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

    common mistakes when choosing dog food video

    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.

    Dog Food FAQ

    What is the healthiest food to feed your dog?

    The healthiest food for your dog depends on your dog’s age, size and dietary needs. Quality dog foods contain a mixture of meat, vegetable, fruits and grains. Healthy dog treats follow the same guidelines.

    What puppy food do vets recommend?

    For a growing pup, vets recommend food with higher contents of fat, protein and other nutrients to keep up with energy demands and help with joint, bone, organ and muscle development. Talk to your veterinarian about what food is most beneficial for your puppy.

    Is organic food good for dogs?

    There currently isn’t enough evidence to say whether organic dog food is superior to conventional dog food. When you’re choosing the best food for your dog, it’s more important to look for one made with quality ingredients and a balanced nutrient profile designed with your dog in mind.

    What ingredient in dog food is bad?

    Certain additives, like butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA), butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT) and propylene glycol (PG), may be linked to cancer or kidney damage. Other unhealthy ingredients, like corn syrup, can lead to diabetes and weight gain. If you’re unsure about the safety of a specific ingredient, ask your vet.

    What can I feed my dog instead of dog food?

    If you find yourself with no dog food and your pet store is closed, you can make homemade dog food by mixing a lean protein with complex carbohydrates. Plain, cooked chicken with rice works great. Be sure to avoid foods with added sodium or excess fat. For a long-term option, consult your vet.

    Is a high protein dog food good for dogs?

    Dogs require different amounts of protein based on their age, activity level and body condition. Pregnant and lactating dogs need extra protein, but high-protein diets can be detrimental to dogs with kidney or liver issues. Speak with your vet to see how much protein your dog needs.

    Author 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.

    Read 1717 Reviews
    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.

    Read more about Natural Balance Pet Foods

    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.

    • Brands: Freshpet brands consist of Freshpet Select, Vital and Nature’s Fresh as their refrigerated fresh food. They also make Freshpet baked recipes made with 100 percent fresh chicken or turkey. Dognation and Dog Joy are their chewy dog treat brands and Vital Mix-ins is their whole-blend, vitamin enhanced food.
    • Product selector: Freshpet’s product selector walks you through choosing the best food for your dog or cat through a series of questions. Questions include pet breed, weight, food preferences, feeding routine and where you shop for your pets food. The matching tool sets you up with the best Freshpet brand based on your answers and location.
    • Food finder: Freshpet has a product finder on their website so you can find a specific brand at a store near you. Simply select the brand you want, enter your zip code and choose the mileage from your zip code you’re willing to travel. Their brands are also available online at Amazon, Jet and freshdirect.
    • Comparison tool: Freshpet’s comparison tool lets you select the type of pet you have (dog or cat) and the type of food you’re currently feeding them. It pulls a list based on your selection and compare both brands’ ingredients.
    • Price: While no price is listed on Freshpet’s website, their pet food is right at the same price range of other all natural pet food on sites like Walmart and Amazon.
    Read 619 Reviews
    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.

    • Diamond original: Diamond’s original dry food blend comes in a variety of options. There are blends for puppies, adult dogs, hunting dogs and athletic dogs.
    • Diamond Naturals: Diamond Naturals are all-natural food options for dogs of all sizes and lifestyles. These food blends come in both dry and canned food options.
    • Grain-free options: If your dog has trouble digesting grains, you can purchase grain-free food from Diamond. These are specialty brands from the Diamond Naturals line that uses no unnatural preservatives.
    • Online ingredient list: If your dog has allergies or trouble with some ingredients, you can check to see if your blend contains those ingredients. Diamond lists all of its food ingredients online.
    • Diamond Blog: The Diamond Pet Food Blog features regular blog posts. Subjects include transitioning your rescue dogs to a new diet, tips to give medicine to your pet, how to find a diet for a diabetic pet and more.
    Read 642 Reviews
    Nom Nom

    Nom Nom 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. Nom Nom 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.

    • Availability: Nom Nom offers delivery to the 48 contiguous states.
    • Fresh food without the prep work: Pet food is cooked in Nom Nom’s facility using fresh restaurant quality ingredients. Each meal is delivered in a sealed, pre-portioned bag ready to be served or frozen.
    • Individually formulated for your pet: Nom Nom customers are asked to fill out a pet profile that outlines the age, weight, health concerns and activity level of their pet. The profile is used used to select the right formula and caloric intake for each pet’s individual needs with more detailed nutrition consultations also available.
    • Options: Nom Nom offers dog food (beef, turkey, chicken, pork, egg & veggie), dog treats (human grade chicken or beef jerky) and cat food (fish, chicken).
    • Nom Nom cost: Depending on the size of your pet, pricing for small dogs and cats starts around $30/week.
    Read 365 Reviews
    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.

    Read more about Nutro Dog Food
    Eukanuba Dog Food

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

    Read more about Eukanuba Dog Food
    Iams Dog Food

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

    Read 827 Reviews
    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.

    • Focus on nutrition: Taste of the Wild enlists the help of veterinarians and other pet care professionals in developing nutritionally sound pet food products.
    • Guaranteed probiotics: Every pet food formula contains guaranteed probiotics intended to aid digestion and support a healthy immune system.
    • Real meats: Many Taste of the Wild pet food formulas contain real meats and fish, such as lamb, venison, bison, trout and salmon.
    • Purified water: All of Taste of the Wild's dry pet foods are made using water purified using reverse osmosis in order to remove pathogens and potentially harmful chemicals.
    • Ancestral-style diet: The company produces pet foods similar to the diet cats' and dogs' ancestors once ate, giving each pet formula a blend of tastes and varied nutritional profiles.
    Read 1474 Reviews
    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.

    Read more about Nature's Variety Dog Food
    Purina Dog Chow

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

    Read 248 Reviews

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