What is the best dog food? Do you need help deciphering the inconsistent information listed on pet food packaging? The good news is that you are not alone. Millions of consumers, including me, are very concerned with the unhealthy ingredients and foul materials that dog food brands are allowing inside of their products.
My life changed about 10 years ago when I spent the first night with my adorable new bulldog puppy. The funny thing is that I was never much of animal lover before that night. “Deucey” slowly hobbled towards me and spent his first night in our home cuddled up on my chest. I instantly fell in love and suddenly finding the best dog food brand was a very big deal.
I only needed to spend a few minutes looking at the label on a bag of well-known pet food to notice there was a problem. It was preserved with all of the same harmful chemicals that I try to avoid in my own diet. Making matters worse, many of the brands in that store did not include any REAL meat in their product!
“It is very important for pet owners to make responsible decisions and support the companies that are producing top quality products. This will send a loud message to the other companies that are delighted to sell you a bag of beef flavored vegetable byproduct!”
I spent the next few hours on my computer determined to find him the best dry dog food on the market. I have continued that research over the years as new brands hit the store shelves. I know how challenging it is to sort through all of the false promises and misleading information. I decided to make this guide to give pet owners all of the tools they need to form their own opinion about which food is best for them.
The ethics and philosophies of companies vary greatly from one to the next. I would like to give you recommendations of manufacturers with excellent reputations. These companies produce some of the healthiest brands on the market. More importantly, I’d also like to give you all the information you need to make up your own mind about which brand is best for your dog. In addition to my ratings, I think I can save you a little bit of money along the way as well!
This is a relatively quick read but the comparisons and analysis can be very time consuming. Click on the fast forward button if you would like to skip straight to my top pick for the best dry dog food. I will show you the best brand for puppies, adults and seniors.
What About Homemade Dog Food?
Most people will tell you that the best dog food is prepared at home with organic ingredients. I would certainly have to agree with them. However, the practicality of that approach is what I question. It takes a lot of time, resources and money to feed your pet a properly balanced homemade diet. I can’t even find the time or dedication to cook that way for myself! Besides, there are excellent companies out there producing highly nutritious products. Dry dog food is beginning to reach a standard and quality never seen before in the pet food market.
Why Dry Dog Food is the Best Choice
Pet food formulas comes in 3 different forms: dry, moist and semi-moist. Dry dog food is the best for a number of reasons. For the dog, it contains more protein, is easier to digest and best for keeping clean teeth. For the owner, it is much more cost-effective.
I believe that moist brands are inferior to dry dog food because they contain fewer nutrients. They are also more expensive and they will make your pet’s teeth prone to cavities. Unless you brush their teeth regularly, it is best to stick with a dry formula. Semi-moist formulas have similar downsides. They are more expensive than dry dog food and they are not good for canine teeth. They also contain high levels of salt, sugar and preservatives.
Step 1 of 5: Determining the main ingredients on a pet food label
The number of main ingredients varies from brand to brand. Some have 3 main ingredients while others have 10. Anything beyond the main ingredients is only added to preserve, supplement or flavor the food. Here is a little trick I read about a few years ago:
Locate the first source of fat (animal or vegetable) on the label. This fat and anything listed before it are the main ingredients. Anything listed after are flavoring agents, supplements and preservatives.
I also want to address ingredients that have been vilified due to misconceptions. In the end, it is up to you to make up your own mind about the acceptability of certain items. However, if your dog does not show sensitivity to gluten, wheat, corn, beef or brewer’s yeast, then it is not unhealthy to feed it to them. You have no reason to feel guilty about it. If your pet is showing signs of a food sensitivity or allergy, you can begin a process to determine the cause.
Step 2 of 5: What is the Amount and Quality of the Dog Food Ingredients?
This is why it is important to find a manufacturer that you trust. Dog food companies are not required to tell you how much of a certain ingredient is included in the food. Making matters worse, they also don’t list the quality or source of those ingredients.
I’ve eaten fresh organic chicken from a local restaurant. I have also eaten old brown chicken patties in my high school cafeteria. They were both classified as chicken and anyone could tell the difference. Unfortunately, there is no way to know the quality of ingredients being used in a dog food by looking at the label. The best solution is to find a trustworthy manufacturer that prides their selves on only selling healthy products.
Step 3 of 5: Top Dry Dog Food Ingredients to Avoid
The first reaction I get when someone reads this list is “overwhelmed”. I was quite overwhelmed myself. I was also horrified at all of the unhealthy and unnecessary junk that is used in the top dog food brands. Here is a list of ingredients that should be avoided when making your decisions. There are 3 reasons why these items are on this list:
- They are unhealthy or harmful
- They are completely unnecessary and only added for the manufacturer’s benefit
- They are of extremely low quality. Many of these items are inexpensive byproducts of human food processing. They offer almost zero nutritional value.
If you don’t have the time to do your own research, I listed my reviews of the 5 best dog foods. Each brand is made by a trustworthy manufacture that does not put profit ahead of health. I have carefully reviewed and researched each one of their products. Click on the button below to jump to the review of my top picks:
Fruit and Vegetable Sources
Step 4 of 5: Additional Pet Food Considerations to Make
You can feed your pet the best dog food in the world but it won’t do you any good if they refuse to eat it. In addition to the quality of ingredients, it is also important that your dog enjoys the taste. Your pet’s food preference can vary just as much as your own.
It is not necessary to feed your pet every available protein source. My research indicates that you should stick to common ingredients such as chicken, beef, fish, lamb and turkey. If your dog enjoys one of them, don’t be afraid to stick with it.
After your research is complete, start a 3-4 month trial with the best dog food that you can find. If there are signs that your pet is not tolerating the food well, you can stop at any time. During this period, monitor your animal for digestive problems, healthy stool, energy levels and overall health.
The chances that an animal will have any issues with one of the foods I listed on this site are very low. The research and due diligence you have just completed has ensured that your dog will be getting the best nutrition available.
What are the Best Dog Foods on the Market?
Here are the best formulas for:
Puppies (0-12 months)
Adults (12 months and up)
Older Dogs/Seniors (coming soon)
Dogs with Allergies (coming soon)