We all want to do the best we can for our dogs. We want them to have the best toys, the comfiest beds, the most knowledgeable vets, and as much love as we can possibly give.
But, when it comes to health and happiness, one of the most important factors for your pooch, may be what you put in their bowl. The dog food you choose for your best friend will fuel their bodies and determine whether they have the right tools to fight disease and illness.
If you’re not sure your dog is getting the best food to fit their individual needs, it’s time to reevaluate your pup’s diet. Keep reading to learn more about how to pick the right diet for your dog depending on their age, breed, and health and to see our best dog food comparisons.
Finding the Right Type of Food for Your Dog
Before you can hone in on the best dog food brand that will suit your dog’s needs, you first need to decide what form that food will take.
When it comes to the question “what is the best kind of dog food?” the answer depends on your dog. But keep in mind, you don’t have to pick just one.
Rotating between different forms of food means your dog can enjoy the benefits they each bring, just make sure you find a quality representative of each type.
By far the most popular type of dog food is dry kibble. This kind of food is economical, easy to find, and less expensive to produce than most other forms of food.
The quality of different kibble brands varies greatly, but higher-end dry diets provide balanced and complete nutrition that is perfect for most dogs. Dogs with very specific health concerns, very picky sensibilities, or severe dental problems may only be able to tolerate a partial dry diet or none at all.
It’s a popular belief that dry diets are better for dental health because the hard kibbles will clean a dog’s teeth as they chew. If you’ve ever watched your dog eat, you’ve probably already identified the flaw in this logic: dogs don’t chew!
Dogs are gulpers by nature and, unless kibble is very big, they tend to swallow it whole. In fact, dry kibble has no real health advantage over any other form of dog food.
It is, however, easier on you and your wallet because it is simple to feed and can be produced and sold in bulk.
The next most popular food type is canned or wet diets. Like dry food, canned diets contain processed ingredients that come together to form a complete and balanced meal.
Unlike kibble, canned food does not require starch for processing and can be made of 100% animal ingredients, making it more appropriate to the carnivore digestive tract that dog’s inherited from their wolf ancestors.
However, the quality and type of ingredients used in canned diets can vary just as much as they do in dry diets.
Wet food does tend to be more palatable and can be a better choice for picky eaters. Because canned food contains lots of water, it can be the best food for sick dogs with kidney issues or those with digestive problems.
But it is more expensive than dry food and it can require a lot of cans to feed larger breeds.
Soft or Moist Diets
Soft diets are becoming less popular of late, which is a good thing, as far as we are concerned. Soft or moist diets are typically made up of moldable kibble-like pieces that come in airtight packages that don’t need refrigeration.
While this may sound like the perfect mix between a dry and wet diet, the types of ingredients needed to create this consistency of food are nothing you’d want to feed your dog. Most moist diets are made of corn syrup or other sugars, flour, and soy oil.
For some reason, almost all of them also include artificial dyes as well as chemical preservatives. What they typically don’t include is a whole lot of meat.
If your dog really enjoys moist food, we recommend feeding it as an occasional snack, but not as their main source of nutrition since this is far from the best dog food for long life spans.
Freeze-Dried of Dehydrated
On the opposite end of the spectrum from moist foods are freeze-dried and dehydrated diets. This form of dog food typically utilizes fresh ingredients that are minimally processed through freeze-drying or low heat dehydration.
Like canned and dry diets, these foods are complete and balanced but tend to contain even more nutrition because the ingredients aren’t exposed to high heat or pressure.
While most of these types of food are on the higher end of the quality spectrum, they aren’t all created equal. Many great freeze-dried and dehydrated diets have high protein levels and a high number of animal-sourced ingredients, but just as many over-utilize starches that bring little to your dog in the way of nutrition they can use.
These types of foods do tend to be more expensive than dry diets and require extra prep work before feeding. But they work well for picky eaters, dogs with dental issues, and dogs with health problems that require a nutritionally-dense, easy to digest diet.
The Different Stages of Dog Food Available
Once you’ve decided on one or a few forms of dog food you want to feed, you’ll next need to decide what stage of food is best for your dog. You’ll need to consider your dog’s age, weight, and how well they have been doing on their current food.
If your dog is fully grown and maintaining a healthy weight without much effort, they will probably do best on a standard adult diet. These diets are formulated to meet the caloric and nutritional needs of the average adult dog.
If your dog is overweight but still in the middle of their life, a weight management adult diet might be a good idea.
If your dog is not yet fully grown, they should probably be on puppy specific food. These diets are formulated with higher caloric-density and very specific nutrition that puppies need to grow up healthy.
Some small breeds do ok on an all life stages small breed diets made for the high metabolism of little dogs, but if they are struggling to gain weight, a puppy diet may be a better choice.
If your older dog still acts and looks like they did when they were younger, then they are probably just fine to stay on a normal adult diet. But, if they are struggling with weight gain or loss or have new digestive issues, a senior diet may be a better idea.
Quality senior diets contain more protein and less fat to help keep your less active mature dog trim but with good muscle density. Many also have added fiber to help older stomachs perform efficiently.
All Life Stages
Diets labeled as “all life stages” meet the nutritional needs of puppies all the way through seniors. While these foods are less tailored to any one specific stage, they are a great choice for multi-dog households.
Breed-specific foods are made with the very specific caloric needs of one size or type of breed in mind. While there is very little difference between a food marketed to labs and one marketed to cattle dogs, there is a notable difference between small breed and large breed formulas, especially in the puppy stage category.
Grain-free foods are becoming more and more common. While quality grain-free diets tend to contain more meat than traditional foods, lower end grain free foods can be just as filled with potatoes and legumes as grain foods are with corn and rice.
If your dog is sensitive to grains, you will need a grain-free food. If not, look for a quality food high in meat and low in plant fillers, whether grains or not.
Limited Ingredient Diets
Limited ingredient diets (LID) also tend to be grain-free, but the limits don’t stop there. Most quality LIDs contain only one protein and one carbohydrate and are meant to be eaten by dogs with a long list of food allergies or intolerances.
Reviews of The Best Dog Food
#1. Stella & Chewy’s Freeze-Dried Raw Stella’s Super Beef Dinner Patties Grain-Free Dog Food
First on our list of the best-rated dog foods, is one we easily consider the best overall dog food for the average pooch. Stella & Chewy’s freeze-dried patties are packed with accessible nutrition, made with quality fresh ingredients, and is a food your dog is sure to love.
This freeze-dried food comes in nine adult flavors and two flavors made just for puppies. And each of them is made with quality meat ingredients like lamb, venison, and chicken, and a host of low-starch, superfood plant ingredients like kale, spinach, and pumpkin seeds.
Because this food utilizes raw meats that are never exposed to extreme heat or pressure, this diet packs all the same nutritional benefits of a raw diet without the mess or risk of contamination. And since each flavor has around 40% protein, you know they are going to help keep your dog lean and active, no matter their age.
Like all freeze-dried foods, this one requires extra steps to prepare it for your dog’s meals and costs a lot more than a typical dry diet. But if you are looking for the best fresh dog food or best meat-based dog food, this is it.
Looking for more options for natural and organic dog foods? Check out this article.
#2. Ziwi Peak Air-Dried Dog Food Recipe
When it comes to the best high-quality dog food, there’s a lot of competition at the top. Coming in at a close second is Ziwi Peak’s Air-Dried diet.
Similar to freeze-drying, air drying preserves the natural nutrients in fresh food by removing the moisture through low heat processing. So if you’re looking for a grain-free, nutrient-dense option that’s as easy to feed as kibble but higher quality, this is your food.
This food comes in six flavors, including lamb/tripe, venison, and beef. All varieties include around 37% protein, but more importantly, at least 96% of the recipe is made of animal ingredients.
If you’re looking for a food with some of the best dog food ingredients in one of the best healthy dog foods on the market, this is it. Of course, all that quality will cost you and you can expect to pay a premium for this food.
#3. Nutro Wild Frontier Vital Prey Wet Dog Food
Third on our list of the best dog foods on the market, is one chosen especially for owners looking for a quality canned diet. Nutro’s Wild Frontier Vital Prey canned food is protein-packed and made with quality ingredients that will make your dog drool.
This wet food is available in eight flavors with some in chunk and gravy form and some in traditional paté form. If you have a picky eater, they are sure to find something they’ll like with this diet.
And, since all flavors are packed with healthy, quality animal ingredients and minimal plant additives, you can feel good about feeding this to your pup either as their whole diet or as a tantalizing topper to dry kibble. Most importantly, this food contains a high 52% protein (dry matter) with 99% of that coming from the meat ingredients.
When it comes to the best premium dog foods, you aren’t going to find many wet foods that touch this protein level with these quality ingredients. And with a price that’s midrange as far as canned food goes, you’ll feel even better about buying this product.
If you like the idea of feeding canned food, you can find more great options in our article on the best canned dog foods.
#4. Instinct Be Natural Recipe Natural Dry Dog Food Formerly Prairie by Nature’s Variety
Are you looking for a more traditional dry dog food or maybe one of the best dog foods with grain? We’ve got you covered with Instinct’s Be Natural dry food.
This food utilizes both healthy meats and easy to digest grains to give your dog the nutrition and energy they need to thrive. This diet is available in four all life stages flavors and a puppy specific formula so you can pick the right bag for your dog’s needs.
All flavors contain around 25% protein, which is lower than our top three choices, but typical of a grain dry food. As you can imagine, there is less meat in this food than others on the list, but the first two ingredients are quality meats or meals in all flavors and the grains are made of quality grains like oatmeal, barley, and rice.
And, the lower protein and fat levels make this food a great choice for less active and older dogs who gain weight too easily. But, if you are in the market for a higher protein dry kibble, check out this article for more choices.
When it comes to the best kibble dog food, this one is definitely up there, but that doesn’t mean the price has to be as well. In fact, this food is surprisingly affordable given the quality ingredients.
#5. Blue Buffalo Wilderness High Protein Grain Free, Natural Adult Large Breed Dry Dog Food
If you have a large breed dog that suffers from orthopedic disease or gains weight too easily, it may be time to switch them to large breed specific food. Lucky for you, our fifth pick is one of the best adult dog foods for large and giant breeds.
Blue Buffalo’s Wilderness large breed food was formulated to keep big dogs’ joints healthy while providing a more limited caloric-density to keep them trim as well. And, as a bonus, this food is grain-free and well-tolerated by large breeds with more sensitive tummies.
Unlike most large breed kibble diets that dump protein in order to get the calorie count down, this food comes in with an impressive 32% protein. And, while some of that does come from additives like peas and pea protein, much of it is from the deboned chicken and chicken meal that top the ingredients list.
Best of all, this food is easy to find and will fit nicely into most budgets. So if you’re on the hunt for the best over the counter dog food or best grocery store brand dog food, this one is a great choice.
#6. Wellness Core Rawrev Natural Grain Free Dry Dog Food
When it comes to finding your small dog the best nutrition dog foods made specifically for their high metabolisms are the way to go. And Wellnesses Core Rawrev small breed formula is one of the best-ranked dog foods for little dogs.
What makes this dog food so unique is that it combines easy to feed, less expensive kibble with nutrient-dense freeze-dried raw bites. And, as you should expect with a small breed formula, this one contains a high 38% protein and 15% fat to keep that speedy metabolism going strong all day long.
Like many of the best quality dog foods, the ingredient list on this food starts strong with three quality meats: deboned turkey, turkey meal, and chicken meal. The food also contains pea and potato ingredients but those are complemented by less starchy, nutrient-dense vegetables like broccoli, parsely, and spinach.
While this may not be the best selling dog food for small breeds, it’s quality can’t be matched by anything you’d find in the grocery store. Of course, that also means you shouldn’t be surprised that this food costs a bit more than the bargain brands.
If you want to see more options for small breed specific diets, check out our article on the best small breed dog foods.
#7. Victor Classic – Hi-Pro Plus, Dry Dog Food
If you’re looking for the best supermarket dog food because you think it will save you some cash, you may want to consider our seventh choice pick instead. Victor Classic Hi-Pro Plus food packs a lot of protein into a low priced package.
Most bargain brand dog foods save money by loading their recipes with cheap carbohydrates. But this food is packed with protein and fat, 30% and 20% respectively, to give your dog the energy to stay active.
While this food does contain a higher amount of plant-based ingredients than we’ve seen so far on our list of dog food reviews, it also contains some quality animal ingredients like beef, chicken, pork, and menhaden fish meal, plus Victor’s signature nutrient-dense additive, blood meal.
Best of all, this food easily costs less than any other on this list and should fit into most budgets. And, since this food is formulated to meet both puppy and adult nutritional needs, it is a great choice for any active dog, no matter what age.
#8. ORIJEN Dry Dog Food, Puppy
If you have a new puppy at home and you’re looking for a quality food to get them started out on the right paw, we’ve got the perfect premium puppy food for you. Orijen’s puppy diet is formulated to be biologically appropriate and to provide all the nutrition your pup needs without the addition of synthetic vitamins and minerals.
The first 15 ingredients listed on Orijen’s puppy food ingredient list are all from animal origin, including chicken, turkey, flounder, eggs, and a host of nutrient-dense organ meats. This impressive bunch of carnivore delectables is complemented by some great superfoods like pumpkin, pears, turmeric, and sunflower seeds.
Like all Orijen diets, this one is packed with protein, 38% to be exact, and 20% fat to give your puppy the energy they need to grow strong and healthy. All those calories are perfect for the average puppy, but if you have a large breed or small breed puppy, you may want to check out this article for some better options to meet their growing needs.
What is the Best Dog Food?
When we compiled our list of the best dog foods, we found a ton of great foods that represented the best commercial dog food and lesser-known dog foods from every niche. But, when it comes to the best food for the average dog, Stella & Chewy’s Freeze-Dried diet takes the cake.
This nutrient-rich food is minimally processed so your dog receives maximum nutrition to fuel their organs, muscles, and soul. And, because it is available as a puppy and adult food, almost any dog can get in on this quality diet.
Of course, if you are looking for something a little different on our list of the best dog food ratings, we’ve included many specialized diets, such as small breed, large breed, and puppy, so you can find exactly the right food to feed your Fido.
Frequently Asked Questions
If your dog has a medical condition, your vet may recommend you put them on a prescription diet tailored to help with their particular ailment. While these kinds of diets are appropriate for certain dogs because they have been clinically proven to improve certain conditions, they are often made with low-quality ingredients and synthetic nutrients and aren’t the best choice for healthy dogs.
While neither vets, nutritionists, nor owners can agree on the best dog food in the world or even the best brand of dog food, there are some great choices for all types of needs listed above.
There really isn’t one best meat for dog foods to use or for your pup to eat. In fact, for most dogs, offering a rotating variety of different meats is the best option.
Fish, poultry, lamb, and red meats all offer different nutrient profiles. By switching the flavor or brand of food you feed every few months, you’ll assure your dog is getting all the nutrients they need to thrive.
Of course, if your dog is allergic or sensitive to any one ingredient, like chicken or beef, you’ll want to avoid any food with those ingredients. And for all dogs, it’s a good idea to always transition them slowly onto new foods, especially if they have a sensitive stomach.
Summed Up: The Best Dog Food
|Name||Stella & Chewy Freeze-Dried||Ziwi Peak Air-Dried||Nutro Wild Frontier Canned||Instinct Be Natural Dry||Blue Buffalo Large Breed||Wellness Core Rawrev Small Breed||Victor Classic Hi-Pro Plus||Orijen Puppy|
|Features||Nutrient-dense, high protein, high in meat ingredients, minimally processed||Nutrient-dense, minimally processed, high in animal ingredients||Very high protein, palatable, high in meat||Quality meats and grains, affordable, all life stages||Formulated for large dogs, high protein||Formulated for small breeds, nutrient-dense raw bites, high protein||High protein, high fat, high calorie, multiple meat meals||High in animal ingredients, high protein, formulated for puppies|