Navigating a sea of dog food brands and ingredients at your local pet store can be daunting, and researching the best dog food can lead to even more confusion as recommendations have changed over the years. But for most dog owners, it’s important to find and feed their dog nutritious, high-quality food. Here’s what the experts recommend.
Ingredients to choose, and a few claims to avoid
Like food for humans, the ingredients listed on dog food packaging are ranked from the highest components used to smaller amounts towards the end of the list. Following this logic, looking for real meat at the top of the ingredient list is key.
Rachel Beck, Certified Veterinary Technician (CVT) at Banfield Animal Hospital, says, “Quality pet foods contain a scientifically balanced ratio of ingredients that provide key nutrients, protein, vitamins and minerals, essential carbohydrates and more. And ideally they come in a taste and shape that your pet will enjoy.” She adds that pet labels may contain by-products, and some are even healthy for your pet.” For example, beet pulp, tomato paste, and certain organ meats (liver, heart, lungs, spleen, kidneys) can be a good source of nutrients and protein in food for pets. »
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) sets guidelines for healthy dog and cat foods, as well as for humans, and the Association of American Feed Control Officials also provides consumers with guidelines, such as: this report when choosing the right pet food. But this doesn’t mean that all dog food claims are true. Beck says you can ignore labels like « gourmet, » « holistic » and similar terms because they’re just marketing tools and aren’t regulated by a governing body that oversees the meaning of such terms.
“It can be challenging for pet owners to understand the foods that provide their pets with nutritional value. In general, animal proteins, including meat, chicken and fish, and high-quality proteins are essential for muscle tone and development and healthy skin,” she says. « Meat and bone meal are concentrated essential amino acids, calcium and phosphorus, which help your dog maintain lean muscle, as well as strong teeth and bones. Animal fat is a source of linoleic acid and fat, which provides energy, a healthy skin and fur.”
The fight for and against grain-free and raw dog food
There is a lengthy dialogue about the pros and cons of feeding your dog raw or grain-free food. Christine Caplan, AKC Pet Insurance’s certified veterinarian, recommends that any dog owner talk to their veterinarian about their dog’s specific needs before making a decision.
For a while there was a story that grains in dog food were cheap « fillers » inserted for companies to save money. But Rachel Beck, a licensed veterinary technician at Banfield Pet Hospital, says that’s not true. “When buying dog food, it can help to know that animal protein, meat and bone meal, and grains like ground whole corn and rice are not necessarily cheap fillers. In fact, these ingredients can be nutritious and easily digestible power players for pet food.”
Dogs with specific medical conditions may have differentiated dietary recommendations, and research continues to fuel this debate, the American Kennel Club reports.
“Raw food for dogs is a controversial topic for two main reasons. Firstly, there is the possible contamination with pathogens. Second, there is the lack of specific nutrients, which require appropriate supplements to ensure a complete and balanced diet,” says Ivana Crnec, DVMa veterinarian and a certified nutritionist working with vets.org. “As for grain-free foods, it’s not that vets generally don’t recommend it. Instead, they advise responsible use. Namely, not all dogs need grain-free diets – only dogs with grain sensitivities need such foods. However, grain sensitivities in dogs are not as common as pet owners usually assume. The reason vets recommend responsible use of grain-free foods is that they are associated with an increased risk of heart disease, especially in certain breeds. »
How to transition your dog from old to new food?
Slow and steady is the theme that all our experts recommend for the transition to a new food. Just as if you were suddenly told that your entire diet is changing, you may experience some side effects.
Beck explains that the general guideline is to start the week with 75% old food and 25% new food, and gradually increase the percentage of new food each day until you have completely switched over.
Caplan adds that this can take about a week, and dog parents should watch for soft stools or diarrhea during the transition, or if they lose their appetite completely. If your dog is experiencing these issues, you can hold off on the new food and call your vet for further directions.
Nutritious dog food to consider
While there are differing opinions on the best dog food and you should always consult your vet before making the switch, Caplan recommends using the Whole Dog Journal guide for canned and dry dog food as a starting point.
Crnec and Dr. Angie Krause, a holistic vet from Boulder Holistic Vetrecommends the following dog foods, all of which meet AAFCO standards, contain quality ingredients, and meet the nutritional needs of the average dog.
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If sustainability and farm animal welfare are important to you, you will understand how Open farms has made every effort to raise the standards of the dog food industry. The brand sources all their ingredients from humane and ethical farms, fisheries and producers. Their farms adhere to strict animal welfare standards, meaning the animals are growth hormone/antibiotic free, vegetarian bred and have plenty of room to roam. Each bag of food comes with a lottery number, which can be entered to find out where the food comes from.
Open Farm has a wide range of options, from: dry chunks into gently cooked (slow-cooked) meals made with human rank ingredients. There’s an impressive list of protein options, including fish, turkey, lamb, and even venison. You can also expect nutritious products such as pumpkin, sweet potato, and apple. Regardless of the variety, they all contain the nutrients your pup needs to feel happy and healthy.
- Sustainable and ethical techniques
- High-quality, traceable ingredients
- Many different types and options
Dry kibble, wet food, soft cooked food, bone broth, freeze-dried raw, supplements
Beef, chicken, turkey, fish, lamb, pork, game
Worth a look
Best for puppies
Krause says: Welfare is especially great for growing puppies. Their Complete Health puppy formula has protein for energy, flaxseed for a shiny coat and blueberries and spinach for immunity. Welfare boasts that their chunks and wet dog food is made without meat by-products, fillersor artificial preservatives. They strive to produce nutritious food with probiotics and healthy, natural ingredients. In addition to a great puppy formula, they also have options for adult dogs, including digestive formulas and bags full chunks with freeze-dried raw meat.
- Quality ingredients including produce, named meats and wholesome grains
- No meat by-products, fillers or preservatives
- Not the most flavorful option and may not appeal to picky eaters?
Dry chunks, wet food, treats
Chicken, fish, eggs, lamb, turkey
me and love you
The best for seniors
me and love you sells bags of dog food that look so delicious, you might be tempted to try it yourself. We’re particularly intrigued by the Baked & Saucy line, which is coated in bone broth – just add water to make a gravy. (This is especially useful for) dehydrated dogs who otherwise don’t get enough water.) older dog food and treats is impressively extensive, so you are sure to find something for your old friend.
- Lots of creative options
- Meat is always the first ingredient
- A small company
- Not many options with grains
Dry chunks, wet food, raw food, pantry-fresh food, delicacies, toppers
Chicken, lamb, bison, duck, beef, fish
Worth a look
The honest kitchen
Best for sensitive stomachs
It is always difficult to find the right food for your dog, but it is even more difficult if he has an unpredictable stomach. The Honest Kitchen offers human rank options made with carefully selected ingredients. All their offer is made without preservatives or artificial colors or flavors. They also sell daily boosters that can be added to the food for an extra kick. Your dog’s stomach can goat milk with probiotics or the Perfect Form Herbal Digestive Supplement.
- You can sort products on their website by nutritional needs
- Minimally processed, high-quality ingredients
Dry clusters, dehydrated foods, wet foods, treats, supplements
Chicken, beef, fish, turkey, duck, lamb
Best for performance dogs
If you have a particularly active breed, Crnec recommends Bullying Max. The high-calorie chunks is packed with protein and fat, so your little athlete has the energy they need to get through the day. The food is good for everyone life stages, and even pregnant and lactating dogs. In addition to muscle-building ingredients like chicken meal and fat, you’ll find beet pulp for gut health, barley for flavor and flaxseed for Omega 3 fatty acids.
- Great for building muscle
- Protein-rich and good for a lot of energy
Dry kibble, dehydrated raw vegetables, supplements
Chicken, lamb, pork
Best budget dog food
While there are enough of high quality options out there for your dog, it’s a little harder to find something nutritious on a budget. Blue Buffalo is still a bit pricey compared to others chunks you might be able to find it at the pet store, but it’s cheaper than luxury brands, while still providing your pet with all the necessary nutrition.
- Well-rounded ingredient lists
- Nutritious and protein-rich
- Contains many products and easily digestible starches
- May not appeal to picky dogs
Dry kibble, wet food
Chicken, beef, salmon, turkey