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You love your dog — so of course, you want to provide your pup with the very best life. A big part of caring for your furry companion is feeding them well.
With the increasing focus on the canine diet, the dog food market has become flooded with countless options. There are now hundreds, if not thousands, of dog food brands and formulas to choose from. So how do you pick the best dog food for your pet?
To help find the best dog food for your pup, we examined the most popular and reputable dog food brands. We learned that what’s considered good dog food largely depends on a dog’s breed, size, age and overall health.
After narrowing down our selection to only high-quality and nutritious options, we’re proud to present the following five as the best of the best.
5 Best Dog Food Options
- Best Overall: JustFoodForDogs Chicken & White Rice
- Best for Allergy-Prone Dogs: Chippin Cricket Protein Daily Dog Food
- Best for Sensitive Stomachs: Purina Pro Plan Sensitive Stomach & Skin
- Best for Active Dogs: Blue Buffalo Life Protection Formula
- Best Grain-Free Food: Taste of the Wild Pacific Stream
Dogs are naturally omnivores. While protein makes up the majority of their diets, they also require nutrients from various plant foods such as fruits, veggies and whole grains.
Some dog owners prefer to feed their dogs dry food, such as conventional kibble formulated with meat and produce. Others prefer to feed a fresh, whole-ingredient diet or even wet dog food.
We considered this variety when selecting the best dog food brands featured here. While our Best Overall winner is fresh dog food, we suggest you consider the top-notch dry food and kibbles on this list, too.
1. Best Overall: JustFoodForDogs Chicken & White Rice
JustFoodForDogs Chicken & White Rice makes fresh dog food that’s highly palatable and suitable for all life stages thanks to a well-rounded formula containing only natural and human-grade ingredients.
This fresh, whole-ingredient dog food is shipped to you frozen in individual 18-ounce packets. You simply let it thaw and feed your dog a delicious “home-cooked” meal.
JustFoodForDogs Chicken & White Rice meets AAFCO Dog Nutrient Profiles for all life stages so that you can feed it to your dog from puppyhood on. The company is incredibly transparent about their ingredients and sourcing for added peace of mind.
This food formula contains tender chicken thighs, long-grain white rice, spinach, carrots and apples. Fish oil is added as a healthy source of omega-3s, which is known for promoting healthy skin and digestive health.
Customers love JustFoodForDogs Chicken & White Rice, especially those with fussy dogs. We saw reviews praising the food for dogs with dental disease who can’t chew kibble. Owners with dogs of varying ages appreciate being able to give this food, knowing all their pet’s nutritional needs are met.
About the Brand:
JustFoodForDogs makes all their food by hand at their kitchens in California and Delaware. Their mission is to improve dogs’ length and quality of life by providing healthy, balanced nutrition. The company uses scientific evidence to inform their decisions and formulas, and they are completely transparent in their marketing and labeling.
- Delivered frozen; just thaw and serve
- Made with fresh chicken, rice and veggies
- Preservative-free and gluten-free
- Human-grade dog food
- Meets AAFCO standards for all life stages
- Pre-portioned packages hold multiple servings for smaller dogs
- Comes in 18-ounce packages, which can be purchased in boxes of 7 or 21, or in 72-ounce packages in a box of 7.
- Autoship customers are eligible for discounts.
- JustFoodForDogs stands behind this product with a 100% satisfaction guarantee.
- Crude protein: 8% min.
2. Best for Allergy-Prone Dogs: Chippin Cricket Protein Daily Dog Food
Sometimes owners struggle to find appropriate food for dogs allergic to chicken, beef, or other common ingredients. If your dog has allergies, we recommend Chippin Cricket Protein Daily Dog Food.
This is a fantastic option if you’re looking for a dry food formula that’s nutritious and great for dogs with allergies. Made with human-grade cricket protein sourced from a family farm in Canada, this dry dog food is unique and packed with essential nutrients for your pup.
This recipe contains all 10 essential amino acids that dogs need to thrive. These amino acids can help support a healthy immune system, which is particularly beneficial for dogs with allergies.
It’s packed with omega-3s, which can help promote healthy skin and shiny coat, another bonus for dogs with sensitivities. Natural prebiotic fiber is also included to support healthy digestion. This makes Chippin one of the best dry dog food brands for dogs with sensitive stomachs.
Chippin Cricket Protein Daily Dog Food provides a complete and balanced meal crafted to promote digestive health. Developed by vets, it uses all-natural and human-grade dog food ingredients.
In addition to cricket protein, which the company claims is more digestible than chicken protein, it’s full of other nutrient-rich ingredients like kale, cranberries, flaxseed and pumpkin.
The food comes dehydrated. All you need to do is to add water to rehydrate it, wait a few minutes, and then feed your dog a delicious, soft meal. The texture is desirable for dogs with dental pain.
Customers report that this high-fiber food increases the quality of their dogs’ stool and helps improve their overall digestive health. We saw several reviews from the owners of allergy-prone dogs who became less itchy on this food. Many customers also appreciate the brand’s eco-friendly approach.
About the Brand:
Chippin makes pet foods that are better for the environment because Cricket protein can be produced with far less water than beef or chicken. The company also uses sustainable packaging and sources their ingredients locally when possible. Chippin works with vets to formulate foods that meet AAFCO standards.
- Soft, palatable texture
- Made with nutritious, human-grade ingredients
- Eco-friendly recipe and packaging
- Comes in Certified Plastic Neutral packaging
- Free from common allergens: beef, chicken, eggs and dairy
- Needs to be moistened before serving
- Comes in a 3.5-lb bag, which can be rehydrated to make 10.5 pounds of prepared food, or in a 10-lb bag, which rehydrates to form 30 pounds of food.
- Autoship customers are eligible for discounts.
- Crude protein: 26% min.
3. Best for Sensitive Stomachs: Purina Pro Plan Sensitive Skin & Stomach Salmon & Rice Formula
If your dog has IBS or a sensitive stomach, we recommend trying Purina Pro Plan Sensitive Stomach & Skin Salmon & Rice Formula.
This dry dog food is high prebiotic and probiotic content and is formulated with highly digestible ingredients, including stomach-settling rice and oatmeal. The probiotics help rebuild healthy gut flora for improved overall health and calmer digestion.
This dry food is free of common allergens, including wheat, corn, and soy. The high omega-3 and omega-6 content makes for a healthy coat and joints. This food provides plenty of protein for a kibble. Depending on the flavor you choose, the first ingredient is high-protein salmon, lamb, or turkey.
Customers say their dogs’ stool quality improves when eating this highly digestible food. Some reviewers mentioned that their dogs stopped vomiting after eating once they transitioned to it. Customers also report improvements in skin health and relief from skin allergies.
About the Brand:
Purina has always strived to innovate and shape the future of pet care in a positive way and with a focus on sustainability. They can trace every ingredient back to its trusted source. Their Pro Plan line features foods specifically formulated to meet the nutritional needs of dogs at various life stages — especially those with specific health concerns.
- Made with oatmeal and rice for easy digestion
- High in protein from quality meats or fish
- Good source of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids
- Does not contain corn, wheat or soy
- Enhanced with prebiotics and probiotics
- Three formulas available
- Kibble may be too large for toy breeds
- Three formulas: Lamb & Oat Meal, Turkey & Oatmeal, and Salmon & Rice.
- Choose between 4-pound, 5-pound, 16-pound, 24-pound, 30-pound and 41-pound bags.
- Crude protein: 26% min.
4. Best for Active Dogs: Blue Buffalo Life Protection Formula
Blue Buffalo Life Protection Formula provides your active pup with the perfect combination of high-quality protein and carbohydrates for energy. This food is well formulated for active dogs and canine athletes.
Glucosamine is added to this dry food formula to keep joints strong, and calcium and phosphorus make for healthy bones and teeth.
Blue Buffalo Life Protection Formula does not contain corn, wheat, or soy. Depending on the formula, the key protein source is real chicken, lamb, beef, or fish. Other ingredients include brown rice, barley, peas, and sweet potatoes.
The vitamins and chelated minerals are easily absorbed, so they can go to work quickly in your dog’s digestive system. and support their immune health.
We saw numerous reviews from customers who give this food to their disc dogs, agility dogs and hiking partners. Customers say this is the best dry dog food to give their pups the energy they need to perform while supporting the development of healthy muscle tissue. Dogs with sensitive stomachs respond well to the higher-fiber formula with brown rice and oatmeal.
About the Brand:
Blue Buffalo is named after the founder’s dog, an Airedale named Blue. The company believes in using fresh, natural ingredients for a healthier life. All of their products go through a 6-point quality check process. Blue Buffalo also gives back to the pet community by partnering with organizations like Sierra Delta Service Dogs for Heroes.
- Contains high-quality protein from chicken, lamb, beef, or fish
- Formulated with glucosamine for joint health
- Good source of carbohydrates and fiber
- Gentle on the stomach
- Some ingredients are sourced from outside the U.S.
- Four flavors: Beef & Brown Rice, Chicken & Brown Rice, Fish & Brown Rice and Lamb & Brown Rice.
- Choose between four bag sizes: 5-pound, 15-pound, 30-pound and 34-pound.
- Crude Protein: 24% min.
5. Best Grain-Free Food: Taste of the Wild Pacific Stream Smoke-Flavored Salmon Grain-Free Dry Dog Food
If you prefer grain-free dog food, we recommend trying Taste of the Wild Pacific Stream Smoke-Flavored Salmon Grain-Free Dry Dog Food. This impressive dog food formula includes added species-specific probiotic strains, which support a healthy digestive tract and immune system.
Taste of the Wild sources their meats responsibly from trusted partners and includes plenty of fruits and veggies – like sweet potatoes and raspberries – for balanced nutrition.
Their food aims to mimic the diet consumed by domestic dogs’ ancestors. The high omega-3 and omega-6 content makes for a healthy coat and skin, while the high protein content is great for active dogs who need help building or maintaining muscle mass.
We saw several reviews noting how energetic and healthy dogs become when fed this food. It’s a common choice for large dog breeds, such as huskies, German shepherds, and Alaskan Malamutes.
Customers whose dogs are allergic to grains like wheat and barley report their dogs are less itchy and irritable when given this grain-free dog food.
About the Brand:
Taste of the Wild is a family-owned dog food brand aiming to create balanced pet foods close to dogs’ ancestral, natural diets. They have facilities in California, Missouri, Arkansas, South Carolina and Kansas. The company conducts mycotoxin and microbiological tests to ensure the safety of their foods, and their recipes are designed by veterinarians.
- Contains nutrient-dense fruits and veggies
- Formulated with species-specific probiotics
- High in omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids
- Great source of protein for large and active dogs
- Kibble may be too large for some small dogs
- Six formulas: High Prairie, Pacific Stream, Pine Forest, Sierra Mountain, Southwest Canyon, and Wetlands.
- Choose between 5–pound, 14-pound and 28-pound bags.
- Crude protein: 25% min.
How We Made This List
With thousands of dog foods on the market, how did we choose just five to feature in this list? Selecting the best dog food brands requires a systematic approach and attention to detail.
First, we made a list of dog foods that meet AAFCO standards for adult dogs. This ensured that the food provided adequate nutrition. Then, we took a closer look at each food on that list. Here are the core qualities we considered:
- Responsible ingredient sourcing
- Transparent, detailed product labels and marketing
- All or mostly whole, natural ingredients
- Easy to feed
This step narrowed down our options considerably. Then, we were ready to move on to the next phase of our review process: sampling.
We had our own dogs try the top contenders. This experiment told us a lot that product labels didn’t always reveal. It offered insight into the kibble size, taste and appeal of each food.
Before long, a few frontrunners emerged. We then dove deep into the world of online reviews, reading as many reviews about these top contenders as we could find. Other customers’ opinions made it easy to select our five final winners.
These best dog food brands are beloved by our pups and the furry friends of many other customers across the country.
What to Look for When Buying a Good Dog Food Brand
Dogs’ dietary needs vary based on size, weight, age, breed and overall health. However, there are a few qualities a dog food should have regardless of the dog you’re feeding it to.
AAFCO Standards and Certifications
First, you want to ensure the dog food brand meets AAFCO standards. AAFCO, or the Association of American Feed Control Officials, has set nutritional standards for dogs and other pets based on decades of research into animal health and nutrition.
If a dog food brand meets their standards, you can rest assured it will supply the core nutrients the average dog needs.
Any pet food you purchase for your pup should also have a clear, detailed label that lists ingredients. Be wary of pet food companies that do not share their ingredient openly. You also want to see a breakdown of the nutrients the food contains.
At a minimum, you want to see the calorie content, crude protein, crude fat, and dietary fiber. If the bag lists vitamin and mineral contents, that’s even better.
Money-Back Guarantee & Customer Service
If you’re shopping for new dog food, buy from a brand that offers a money-back guarantee. This way, if your dog does not like the food or has a negative reaction to it, you can get a refund and try something else.
How to Choose the Right Food for Your Dog’s Needs
In addition to checking for AAFCO approval, ingredient lists, nutritional profiles and a guarantee, you need to make sure the food you select meets your dog’s specific, individual needs. Here are some qualities to consider throughout that process.
Dog Food Type
Kibble has been a standard in the dog food world since the 1950s. While some owners are eschewing kibble in favor of fresh diets, most vets agree that kibble is entirely appropriate and safe for most dogs
Kibble, or dry dog food, is easy for companies to make with a consistent formula. It has a long shelf life, is nutritionally complete, can be stored at room temperature, and is easy to feed. However, if your dog has dental disease or is very picky, kibble may not be the best choice for them.
Canned or wet food is a good option for dogs who have trouble chewing. It also works well for dogs who have a limited sense of taste or smell. The stronger aroma of wet food helps encourage pickier dogs to eat.
“Fresh” or whole-ingredient dog foods consist of small pieces of several ingredients. For instance, fresh food might contain ground lamb, brown rice, fruits, and veggies. Some brands sell frozen “fresh” dog foods you thaw and serve.
These foods are highly appetizing to most dogs and easier to chew than kibble. Many customers like that they can see the whole ingredients. With this type of wet dog food, there’s no question as to what the food contains.
If you feed your dog dry dog food, make sure you choose a kibble appropriate for their size. A small dog, for example, may struggle to adequately chew large kibble intended for a Great Dane. The best dry dog food companies sell kibble in several sizes to suit different breeds. Some make all of their kibble quite small so dogs of any size can safely eat it.
Ingredients on a dog food bag are listed in order of weight. In general, you want to choose a good-quality protein source as the first ingredient. Examples would include beef, chicken, fish, or cricket protein.
It’s also good to see other whole and natural ingredients, especially in meat meals. Dogs are omnivores, and they need some plant foods in their diet to supply fiber, vitamins and minerals. Ingredients like carrots, apples and blueberries are great to see.
While it’s often reassuring to see an ingredient list with ingredients that you recognize, the inclusion of some “chemical” names should not turn you off. Dog foods are often fortified with various vitamins, minerals and nutrients to ensure they provide everything your dog needs. Many of those chemical names are just the proper scientific names for nutrients and ingredients you may know by other names.
For example, alpha-tocopherol is vitamin E. DHA is just a specific fatty acid — one that’s very good for dogs, at that! If you see ingredients you don’t recognize on a dog food bag, take the time to learn more about them before deciding whether or not they are ingredients you want to feed your dog.
If your dog has a known food allergy or shows symptoms consistent with those of food allergies, you will need to look for food free of common allergens. The most common food allergens for dogs are:
- Chicken and chicken eggs
- Wheat gluten
Talk to your vet if you do not see an improvement in allergy symptoms after changing to a limited-ingredient food that’s free from these common allergens. Your dog may be allergic to a different, less-common ingredient. A vet can help you figure out what that ingredient is via an elimination diet.
Different pet food formulas have different calorie densities. One food, for example, may contain 300 calories per cup. Another food may contain 400 calories per cup.
If your dog is very active or needs to gain some weight, you’ll want to look for food with a higher calorie density. High-calorie foods also work well for dogs who can’t or won’t eat a large volume of food.
On the other hand, if your dog needs to lose weight, the best dog food is often one that is lower in calories.
Take the time to learn a little about the company whose dog food you’re considering buying. Look for the answers to these questions:
- Does the company hire vets and animal nutritionists to formulate their foods?
- Where and how do they source their ingredients?
- Is the company involved in any pet rescue groups or other charities?
- How long has the company been in business?
- What tests do they perform to ensure the quality and safety of their dog food?
Transitioning Your Dog to a New Food
If you switch dog food brands, it’s important to do so slowly. You want to give your dog’s palate and digestive tract time to adjust to the new formula.
The American Kennel Club recommends slowly changing foods over the course of one week or more. On the first day, you can mix ¼ of the new food with ¾ portion of the old food. By day three, you can feed a 50/50 mix of the two foods. On day five, feed ¾ portion of the new food and ¼ of the old. On day seven, you can give your dog new food only.
Every dog responds to a change in diet differently. If your dog seems less interested in the new food or if you notice any signs of an upset stomach, it’s okay to slow things down. For example, you may want to give them a 50/50 mix of old and new food for an entire week before adding more of the new food to the mix.
What to Avoid in a Dog Food
While there are many excellent dog foods on the market, there are also some less-than-stellar options that contain ingredients that are not healthy or safe for dogs. Here are a few key ingredients to avoid when choosing the best dog food for your pup.
Coloring ingredients like FD&C Red No. 3 are FDA-approved for human consumption. However, there’s not a lot of research to establish whether or not they are safe for dogs. Therefore, it’s generally best to avoid pet food that contains artificial colors.
Artificial preservatives, including BHA and BHT, may contribute to poor health when pets consume them over an extended period. Err on the side of caution, and look for dog food made without them. Instead, look for dog foods made with natural preservatives, such as vitamin E and vitamin C.
Low-quality pet food is sometimes made with propylene glycol as a moisture stabilizer. However, it can cause seizures and even death and is therefore best avoided.
Is a raw diet healthy for dogs?
Raw diets have become more popular lately, with some dog owners believing that such a diet leads to cleaner teeth, healthier skin and higher energy levels. Some dogs can thrive on a raw diet, so long as the diet is carefully balanced to include all of the nutrients a dog needs for sustained health. However, most vets recommend against feeding your pup exclusively a raw diet because some risks are involved.
Many owners, although they may try, do not succeed in creating a perfectly balanced raw diet. Their dogs then develop nutritional deficiencies that lead to declining health. Foodborne illness is also a concern. Many raw meats are contaminated with E. coli, Salmonella, and other infectious bacteria that could cause illness not only for the dog, but also for humans in the household.
When should you start giving your dog adult dog food?
On average, dogs can transition from puppy food to adult dog food when they are about a year old. Toy breeds can transition a bit sooner — around 9 months of age. Large and giant breeds can wait a bit longer — until 18 to 24 months.
Should dogs eat a grain-free diet?
Dogs do need some carbohydrate-rich plant foods to thrive. Traditionally, dog food companies have used grains like wheat, corn, rice and oats to supply carbohydrates and fiber. These ingredients are perfectly safe for most dogs.
Some dogs, however, are allergic or sensitive to grains. They may experience itchy skin or an upset stomach when they eat dog food that contains grains. For these dogs, grain-free dog food is generally the best option.
Note that grain-free dog foods are not starch-free. They simply use other plant foods, such as sweet potatoes and lentils, in place of grains as carbohydrate sources.
Is wet food better than dry dog food?
Most dogs can meet their nutritional needs and thrive on a 100% dry food diet if that is what the owner prefers to feed. Neither wet food or dry food is inherently better for dogs. However, there are situations in which adding wet food to your dog’s diet can be helpful.
Wet food has a high water content and can help keep your dog hydrated, especially in hot weather. Wet food is also smellier and more palatable, which may encourage older and pickier dogs to eat. If your dog has dental disease or sore gums, they may do better on a diet of all or mostly wet food.
How much protein do dogs need?
Dog food is often marketed as “high protein.” However, dogs don’t always need as much protein as you might assume. AAFCO recommends that adult dogs consume a diet of 18% protein for maintenance. If dogs are growing, they need at least 22% protein. Dogs should not consume a diet containing more than 30% protein, which could be unhealthy for them.
When choosing the best dog food for your pup, it’s essential to do your research. Read product labels and descriptions thoroughly, and check out reviews — particularly from customers whose dogs resemble your own in breed, age and size.
Whether you prefer kibble, wet, or fresh food, there are plenty of nutrient-rich options. We recommend considering the five best dog food brands listed above. They are all made by reputable companies using quality ingredients, and we’re proud to recommend them here. “Bone” appetit!