Whether you picked up your pup yesterday or they’ve been your best friend for years, pooch’s chow time is an important ritual. They might turn up their snout at dog food brands they don’t like to eat, but it isn’t always this easy to decipher if there are other issues.
Is something upsetting their stomach or causing an allergic reaction? Are they getting the right amounts of everything? Is this food actually a good choice?
What Makes Best Dog Food Brands?
A little research goes a long way when it comes to picking the best dry dog food. The best dog foods on the market don’t always overlap with the most popular, most affordable, or most accessible.
Good dog food has proteins as the most plentiful ingredients, which will be the first few items listed on the back label. When you look over the balance of what is on the label, it is always good to be able to recognize the other ingredients.
Recently, many dog owners have moved toward a raw diet or meat-heavy approach, specifically buying grain- and gluten-free kibbles for when meat just isn’t viable. While your dog will certainly enjoy such an initiative, domestic breeds have no problem eating the right carbohydrates.
When easily digestible, as the carbs in healthy dog food are designed to be, your dog uses carbohydrates as an additional energy source. Barring individual health concerns, consider rice, barley, and oats A-OK for Fido. Simply make sure these and vegetables are secondary or even third-tier ingredients and not the main bulk of the food.
Generally, all dogs have the same basic nutrition needs:
- Proteins and fats to promote development and healthy function.
- Adequate fiber content to stay regular.
- Omega fatty acids and essential amino acids are good for hair and skin.
Top-rated dog foods contain ingredients already rich in these properties and won’t hesitate to point out the benefits of the food on the label. Even the best adult dog foods tend to have more empty calories than food formulated for puppies or older dogs, but still enough nutrition to meet an average dog’s needs.
3. The Right Fit
Once you’re working with only the best dog foods, the questions you should ask yourself become much narrower in scope. Like people, dogs have their own tastes, restrictions, and requirements.
Keep a keen eye on any changes in your dog and consult with a veterinarian in order to spot problems or deficiencies. But aside from individual concerns, you can make educated guesses as to the needs of your pet overall.
Puppies and senior dogs, in particular, have different dietary needs, so there will be puppy food and senior dog food better suited to them. Active dog breeds will do better with energy-packed foods, while breeds prone to putting weight on easily might need a leaner mix. Dog food formulated with small and large breeds in mind address size-related issues.
Top 10 Dog Foods
For the average adult dog, these are some of the top-rated food brands and people’s favorite dry food formulas.
- All Life Stages Multi-Protein Formula
A dog food specifically formulated to accommodate dogs of all ages but also perfect for any young adult dog. If you have a mixed pack at home, this can make an affordable alternative to everyone getting their own dog food.
The Blue Buffalo Co.
- Blue Wilderness
- Life Protection Formula
Wilderness is the grain-free food, and Life Protection has many of the same ingredients but also includes healthy grains. They are available in large and small breed varieties.
Merrick’s line of grain-free kibble comes in meat, fish, and poultry, and formulas for large breeds, pups watching their weight, and the like. This high protein food would be excellent for working dogs or high energy breeds.
I and Love and You
- Naked Essentials
Another grain-free brand, I and Love and You’s customer favorite is their Naked Essentials line, a simple and high-quality kibble. The brand also offers a higher protein mix as well as a poultry-free, limited ingredient formula for dogs with allergies.
- ONE SmartBlend True Instinct
- Beyond Simply9
Purina manufactures a variety of brands and formulas and tries to cater to every market. Purina ONE SmartBlend True Instinct is a multi-textured kibble full of supportive nutrients that dogs of every age need, while Beyond Simply9 is a chicken-based, 9 ingredient limited recipe with added vitamins and minerals.
- Proactive Health Minichunks
IAMS is a popular and affordable brand with plenty of separate formulas for every kind of dog. The trade-off is that there are a few less than desirable ingredients, such as a large amount of corn filler, but it’s packed with a balanced suite of supportive nutrients
This simple kibble is available in the small dog and grain-free varieties, as well as for puppies. It makes a perfect lean meal, with lower protein and fat but in a good ratio to its carbs, and with no corn or wheat.
- Complete Nutrition
Pedigree is known for being a mainstay of commercial dog food, especially on a budget — not for being the best quality dog food available. This kibble’s ingredients with the added vitamins and minerals will get the job done for your dog.
Best Dog Food for Puppies
Puppy dog food meets their needs as quickly developing youngsters. They require huge amounts of protein, relatively speaking, and high caloric intake for their energetic, rambunctious activities.
There are a lot of steps along the way, which may mean constant dietary adjustments and transitions during this stage of your pup’s life. Smaller dog breeds reach their adulthood plateau a bit more quickly than larger ones — at roughly 1 ½ years compared to 2 full years.
These are some of the best dry puppy foods, including top choices for small and large breed puppy food. Remember, the littlest puppies have the littlest mouths, and not all kibble sizes are created equal.
But many of the best adult food brands also make the best puppy foods, and vice versa. A safe bet is often just to check what formulas the top dog food brands offer.
Returning Favorites: Purina, The Blue Buffalo Co., IAMS
- Pro Plan Focus
- Blue Wilderness Puppy
- Proactive Health Smart Puppy
These heavy hitters are vet recommended puppy foods for their perfect nutrition, grain-free formula, and small/medium/large breed formulas on a budget, respectively. Each one is as good a choice as the last, depending on what’s most important to or possible for you and your pup.
- Wholesome Essentials Small Breed Puppy
This puppy chow is made for small dogs of up to 1 year. They have an adult blend of the same food for a smooth transition when the time comes.
- Complete Health Small Breed Puppy
Wellness is one of the overall best puppy food brands and dog food brands with a giant lineup of different formulas for each and every good boy. This is their balanced ingredient, nutrition-packed kibble for small breed puppies, with the adult blend available for when they grow out of it.
- Science Diet Large Breed Puppy
Hill’s offers dog foods for dietary requirements big and small, but this kibble is just for large breed puppies! It’s one of the best large breed puppy foods for its balanced ingredients and nutrition, especially focused on healthy bones and joints.
- Puppy Large Breed
This puppy food is for dogs up to 15 months old and specified for the very biggest boys: those with an expected adult weight of at least 55 lbs. Although it’s high in cornmeal filler, it’s also full of vitamins and minerals to support muscles, bones, joints, and gigantic puppy energy.
Castor & Pollux
- Organix Grain Free Puppy Recipe
As organic and grain-free as the name implies, this food is right for all breeds and has relatively few and all-natural ingredients.
Best Senior Dog Food
Senior dogs require even more nutrients than a puppy or younger adult dog. While pups are growing rapidly, older dogs need help replacing and repairing what’s slowed down or been lost with age. Senior dog food has that additional nutritional support in the form of:
- Probiotics and fiber, for gut health and bowel movements.
- Antioxidants to promote immune systems and general wellness.
- Digestive enzymes to help break down the food and absorb the good parts.
- Glucosamine to support hips and joints.
- Plus, omega fatty acids and essential amino acids for skin and coat.
Older dogs have slower metabolisms and are often capable of less activity overall. So the best dog food for senior dogs has lower fat content, lean proteins to keep up muscle mass, and easily digestible ingredients for sensitive older stomachs.
- Gold Nutritionals Senior Dog Food
Pricey but worth it, Fromm Family foods are well-liked across the board. Their kibble for senior or less active members of your dog family features a wide variety of ingredients, including poultry and meat proteins, eggs, and cheese. It’s chock-full of all the right supportive nutrients.
- All Life Stages Less Active Formula
Perhaps Fido hasn’t quite hit old age, but something is slowing them down regardless, and they need extra support from their diet. It doesn’t have incredibly high protein but an optimal enough amount and plenty of easy to digest ingredients.
- Science Diet Adult 7+
Hill’s once again has many appropriate formulas for differently aged dogs, not only 7 years or older, and small and large breed kibbles. Adult 7+ is a popular choice for senior dogs, and even this one comes in a couple of varieties depending on what your older dog would benefit from most.
Instinct by Nature’s Variety
- RawBoost Senior Grain-Free Recipe
A high protein kibble plus freeze-dried raw meat equals lean, tasty energy for dogs at least 7 years old. This senior dog food is also balanced with probiotics and omega fatty acids and other nutrients to help burn fat and support digestion and health.
Holistic Select’s senior formula is grain-free and perfectly blended to be easily broken down and digested, support immune function and digestive health, and promote regular bowel movements. If your older pooch has a delicate stomach, this may be the kibble for them.
ORIJEN’s senior dog food is a popular high-protein kibble with poultry and fish and no grains. It includes organs like livers and hearts, cartilage, and plenty of vegetables for those vitamins and minerals. Any senior dog is sure to enjoy it, and although the formula comes with a steep price, you do get what you paid for.