In an age of grain-free, organic, protein-rich, and otherwise insanely expensive dog foods, it can be really tough to make an informed decision that doesn't break the bank. We've done the work for you. We did the research, tested over two dozen dog foods with 7 different breeds, and pulled together a list of the best dry dog foods for adult dogs (2+ years old) that won't make a huge dent in your wallet.
All of the dog foods we found are high quality while being reasonably priced. They all have a high protein and fat content, minimal fillers, performed well in our dog acceptance tests, and generally have very high praise in other reviews. We begin with the best overall dog foods, and then provide a list of best relatively inexpensive options (also see our list of the best cheap dog foods here). Here are our top 4 results. To learn about our full testing methodology, scroll down to the bottom of this article.
|Brand and Link to Amazon||Our Rating|
|#1. Horizon Legacy Dog Food|
|#2. Merrick Real Dog Food|
|#3. Nature's Variety Dog Food|
|#4. Wellness CORE Natural Dog Food|
Here are the Best Dog Foods of 2021!
1. Horizon Legacy All Life Stages with Salmon. The Horizon Legacy is one of the highest quality dog food brands on the market, using a philosophy of getting as close to a diet characteristic of wild dogs but in a kibble form: they call it "historical canine nutrition." They use locally sourced ingredients and manufacture all of their dog food in the Western Canadian agricultural region. They use a substantial amount of meat-based protein in their recipies, starting with a minimum of 80% inclusion rate of salmon and salmon meal. Of course, much of the salmon is water and that gets lost during manufacturing, but it is still a tremendous prioritization of protein. And that shows: this food has a 34% crude protein content (that's a lot!), and a 15% crude fat content. Carbohydrate content is around 35-40%, which is relatively low. If you look through the ingredient list you will see some great additions: salmon oil for maintaining a healthy and shiny coat, flaxseed for omegas, prebiotics and probiotics for digestive support, glucosamine for joint support, and several vitamins and minerals. This food really packs a strong nutritional punch! Of course, it also packs a high price tag, coming in at around $2.80 per pound, which is quite pricey. Might be worth the cost if you're looking for a very high quality, high protein, nutrition packed diet.
Ingredients: Salmon, Salmon Meal, Peas, Pea Starch, Menhadon Meal, Salmon Oil (Preserved With Mixed Tocopherols), Pea Fibre, Alfalfa, Flaxseed, Liquid Egg Product, Carrots, Apples, Broccoli, Bok Choy, Cabbage, Blueberries, Salt, Fructooligosaccharides, Yucca Schidigera Extract, Glucosamine Hydrochloride, Chondroitin Sulphate, Dried Saccharomyces Cerevisiae Fermentation Extract, Dried Aspergillus Niger Fermentation Extract, Dried Aspergillus Oryzae Fermentation Extract, Pineapple, Dried Trichoderma Longibrachiatum Fermentation Extract, Dried Rhizopus Oryzae Fermentation Extract, Dried Enterococcus Faecium Fermentation Product, Dried Lactobacillus Casei Fermentation Product, Dried Lactobacillus Acidophilus Fermentation Product, Dried Bifiobacterium Bifidum Fermentation Product, Dried Lactobacillus Plantarum Fermentation Product, Vitamin A Acetate, Vitamin D3 Supplement, Vitamin E Supplement, Vitamin 812 Supplement, Riboflavin, Niacin, Folic Acid, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Thiamine Mononitrate, D-Calcium Pantothenate, Biotin, L-Ascorbyl-2-Polyphosphate (Source Of Vitamin C), Ferrous Sulphate, Iron Proteinate, Zinc Sulphate, Zinc Proteinate, Manganous Oxide, Manganese Proteinate, Copper Sulphate, Copper Proteinate, Calcium Iodate, Sodium Selenite, Magnesium Oxide.
2. Merrick Grain Free Recipe Dry Dog Food. Coming in at just slightly over $2/pound, this is an excellent dog food option with some very high quality ingredients, high protein content, and reasonably low carbohydrates. The Merrick line includes several recipes, including Buffalo, Chicken & Sweet Potato, Duck, Lamb, Salmon, Texas Beef, Turkey, and Venison. It's one of the broadest set of high quality dog food options on the market. Our tests included the Chicken & Sweet Potato recipe, which has a 70% meat protein content (before dehydration) and 30% fruits and veggies content. Ingredients include chicken, protein-dense chicken, salmon, and turkey meal, and then sweet potatoes, peas, and some fruits. Add in some probiotics to aid digestion, flaxseed oil for omegas, and a ton of vitamins and minerals and you've got yourself a great ingredients list. Crude protein levels are very high at 38%, crude fats at 17%, and carbohydrates are estimated around 30%. This food has a great protein content due to some high density chicken meal, salmon meal, and turkey meal; using meat meal increases protein density by about 300% relative to using the raw meat. Note that this high protein content can cause stomach upset in some dogs. Though the prebiotic and probiotic contents should help, we strongly suggest a slow introduction of this food over the course of 5-7 days.
Ingredients: Deboned Chicken, Chicken Meal, Turkey Meal, Sweet Potatoes, Potatoes, Peas, Natural Flavor, Chicken Fat (preserved with mixed tocopherols), Salmon Meal (source of Omega 3 fatty acids), Flaxseed Oil, Apples, Blueberries, Organic Alfalfa, Salmon Oil, Salt, Minerals (Zinc Amino Acid Complex, Zinc Sulfate, Iron Amino Acid Complex, Manganese Amino Acid Complex, Copper Amino Acid Complex, Potassium Iodide, Cobalt Amino Acid Complex, Sodium Selenite), Vitamins (Vitamin E Supplement, Vitamin A Supplement, Vitamin B12 Supplement, d-Calcium Pantothenate, Vitamin D3 Supplement, Niacin, Riboflavin Supplement, Biotin, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Folic Acid, Thiamine Mononitrate), Choline Chloride, Yucca Schidigera Extract, Dried Lactobacillus plantarum Fermentation Product, Dried Lactobacillus casei Fermentation Product, Dried Enterococcus faecium Fermentation Product, Dried Lactobacillus acidophilus Fermentation Product, Rosemary Extract.
3. Nature's Variety Instinct Grain Free Dry Dog Food. Just like your dog's ancestral diet, Nature's Variety Instinct is high protein, grain-free, and gluten-free. Made in U.S. facilities in Lincoln, Nebraska, this is a highly varied ingredients list that has some interesting (and exotic!) additions, including tapioca, pumpkin seeds, alfalfa meal, clag, butternut squash, quail and pheasant eggs! This is one of the most interesting ingredients lists we've seen in a dry dog food, and we think it's an excellent option. Made with 74% pure animal ingredients, this food has a crude protein content of 38% and crude fat of 20%, with a very low carbohydrate estimate of around 30%, making it quite similar in composition to the Wellness CORE food, but with lower carb count. To be honest some of the ingredients in this are even making me hungry (cottage cheese, eggs, rosemary and sage - really!?). With probiotics, omegas, and antioxidants, this dog food can promote healthy skin, immune system, coat, and digestion. It also has a very unique freeze dried raw coating that makes it super appealing to dogs. In our tests, this was one of the most accepted dog foods of the bunch. So dogs love it and you can feel good about it. Just like most other options on this list, the food includes no corn, wheat, soy, grain, gluten, or fillers, and no artificial colors or preservatives. Overall, this is an excellent option that is basically tied for Each formula is thoughtfully balanced with the wholesome foods your dog would eat in nature, like real meat or poultry, healthy vegetables and fruits, and no grain or gluten. A pure, biologically appropriate diet like this provides nutrient-rich, highly digestible nutrition to help pets thrive. Feed ancestrally – give pets the nourishment and energy to achieve a healthy, happy life. Complete and balanced for all life stages (including puppy, adult and senior) and all breeds (perfect kibble size for small to large dogs). Made in USA facilities.
Ingredients: Chicken Meal, Tapioca, Chicken Fat, Pumpkinseeds, Menhaden Fish Meal, Sun-Cured Alfalfa Meal, Montmorillonite Clay, Natural Chicken Flavor, Vitamins (Choline Chloride, Vitamin E Supplement, Ascorbic Acid, Biotin, Niacin Supplement, Vitamin A Acetate, d-Calcium Pantothenate, Riboflavin Supplement, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Thiamine Mononitrate, Vitamin B12 Supplement, Carotene, Vitamin D3 Supplement, Folic Acid), Minerals (Zinc Proteinate, Iron Proteinate, Manganese Proteinate, Copper Proteinate, Sodium Selenite, Ethylenediamine Dihydriodide), Sea Salt, Dried Kelp, Direct-Fed Microorganisms (Saccharomyces Cerevisiae Yeast Culture, Dried Enterococcus Faecium Fermentation Product, Dried Lactobacillus Acidophilus Fermentation Product, Dried Aspergillus Niger Fermentation Extract, Dried Trichoderma Longibrachiatum Fermentation Extract, Dried Bacillus Subtilis Fermentation Extract), Inulin, Flaxseed Oil, Apples, Carrots, Peas, Cottage Cheese, Chicken Eggs, Mixed Tocopherols with Citric Acid (a natural preservative), Rosemary Extract, Freeze Dried Chicken, Freeze Dried Turkey, Freeze Dried Turkey Liver, Freeze Dried Turkey Heart, Ground Chicken Bone, Butternut Squash, Broccoli, Lettuce, Spinach, Salmon Oil, Apple Cider Vinegar, Parsley, Honey, Blueberries, Alfalfa Sprouts, Persimmons, Olive Oil, Duck Eggs, Pheasant Eggs, Quail Eggs, Rosemary, Sage, Clove.
4. Wellness CORE Natural Grain Free Dry Dog Food. Here is another excellent option, with some great recipes including Original Turkey & Chicken, an Ocean formula with Whitefish, Herring, and Salmon, and a Wild Game formula with Duck, Turkey, Boar, and Rabbit. No other dog food options on this list have the boar and rabbit options! Made in the U.S., they start with 70% raw protein ingredients (just like the Merrick option) such as deboned turkey, turkey meal, chicken liver, and chicken meal. They then add in some salmon oils for healthy skin and coat, flaxseed for omegas, and some great fruits and vegetables. A great nutrition source, there is a good mix of vitamins and minerals, and the crude protein content is at 31% and the crude fat is also quite high at 21% (carbs are estimated at around 40%). Not a great recipe for dogs who need to watch their weight, and we definitely suggest transitioning slowly into this diet to avoid stomach upset. They also throw in some taurine and glucosamine for joint support, and some prebiotic and probiotics to promote digestive function. No grain, soy, wheat, corn, or artificial preservatives, colors, or flavors. In fact, there are no funny shapes or colors at all, which is nice to see. Remember, your dog doesn't really care what color the food is (given their color blindness they probably can't see some of the distinctions in the first place), and those silly shapes are really just there to appeal to you. Overall, this is a great option, coming in at about $2.25 per pound. Knocked down a rung on our ratings due to a recall history.
Ingredients: Deboned Turkey, Turkey Meal, Chicken Meal, Peas, Potatoes, Dried Ground Potatoes, Chicken Fat (preserved with Mixed Tocopherols), Tomato Pomace, Chicken Liver, Natural Chicken Flavor, Flaxseed, Salmon Oil, Carrots, Sweet Potatoes, Kale, Broccoli, Spinach, Parsley, Apples, Blueberries, Vitamins [Vitamin E Supplement, Beta-Carotene, Niacin, d-Calcium Pantothenate, Vitamin A Supplement, Riboflavin, Vitamin D-3 Supplement, Vitamin B-12 Supplement, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Thiamine Mononitrate, Ascorbic Acid (Vitamin C), Biotin, Folic Acid], Minerals [Zinc Proteinate, Zinc Sulfate, Iron Proteinate, Ferrous Sulfate, Copper Sulfate, Copper Proteinate, Manganese Proteinate, Manganese Sulfate, Sodium Selenite, Calcium Iodate], Choline Chloride, Mixed Tocopherols added to preserve freshness, Glucosamine Hydrochloride, Chondroitin Sulfate, Taurine, Chicory Root Extract, Yucca Schidigera Extract, Dried Lactobacillus plantarum Fermentation Product, Dried Enterococcus faecium Fermentation Product, Dried Lactobacillus casei Fermentation Product, Dried Lactobacillus acidophilus Fermentation Product, Rosemary Extract.
Here are the Best Dog Foods under $2 per pound.
1. Fromm Family Gold Nutritionals Adult Dry Dog Food. This is a truly excellent dry dog food that conforms very nicely with all of our criteria. This food is prepared with duck, chicken, lamb, whole eggs, and Wisconsin cheese. It also includes probiotics to help digestion, glucosamine (in chicken cartilage) for joint strength, omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids for brain, coat, and skin health, vitamins and minerals, and salmon oil for a healthy coat. The food contains 24% crude protein and 16% crude fat, while keeping the carbohydrates around 48% without using corn or wheat. Natural ingredients abound, and the Fromm family takes great pride in quality and safety, producing all of the food in two facilities in Wisconsin, using stringent in-house testing and analysis for every ingredient. In our household, this is our preferred food for adult dogs, coming in at a very reasonable price given its high quality ingredients, great protein and fat content, and the company's great reputation for quality and safety. Small packages tend to be more than $2 per pound, but if you buy a 33-lb bag, it comes in at a much more reasonable price. Note that Fromm also makes the Gold Nutritionals series for puppies and seniors, both of which are excellent options at a fair price.
Ingredients: Duck, chicken meal, chicken, brown rice, pearled barley, oatmeal, menhaden fish meal, chicken fat, lamb, potatoes, dried tomato pomace, dried whole egg, salmon oil, cheese, flaxseed, brewers dry yeast, alfalfa meal, carrots, lettuce, celery, chicken cartilage, monocalcium phosphate, salt, potassium chloride, LD-methionine, L-tryptophan, taurine, chicory root extract, calcium sulfate, yucca schidigera extract, sodium selenite, sorbic acid, vitamins, minerals, probiotics. See all the ingredients and nutritional details here.
2. Victor Premium Hi-Pro Plus Dry Dog Food. Here is another excellent dry dog food that fits our criteria, and slips under the $2/pound budget if you buy a large bag. This food is prepared with several great protein sources including beef, chicken, pork, and fish. It also contains probiotics to aid in digestion, several amino acids and omega fatty acids to help with brain, coat, and skin health, grain sorghum which packs a great nutritional punch, and several vitamins and minerals. The food contains 30% crude protein and 20% crude fat, while maintaining reasonable carbohydrate levels. It has a rather complex ingredients list, primarily because it can be used not only as a daily food, but also for pregnancy and lactation. Thus the extensive vitamin and minerals, and good amino acid profile. The Victor company takes a lot of pride in their manufacturing processes. Based in Texas, the company takes pride in producing high quality dog foods without corn, wheat, soy or gluten, and does careful supplier vetting and product testing. Smaller packages of this food are over the $2/pound budget, but if you buy in larger quantities (like a 40-lb bag) you can get a pretty good deal on an excellent food.
Ingredients: Beef Meal, Grain Sorghum, Chicken Meal, Chicken Fat (preserved with mixed Tocopherols), Pork Meal, Menhaden Fish Meal (source of DHA-Docosahexaenoic Acid), Whole Grain Millet, Dehydrated Alfalfa Meal, Flax Seed (source of Omega 3 Fatty Acid), Feeding Oat Meal, Yeast Culture, Natural Chicken Flavor, Potassium Chloride, Dried Kelp, Salt, Montmorillonite, Tomato Pomace (source of Lycopene), Dried Carrot, Choline Chloride, Dried Chicory Root, Taurine, Zinc Amino Acid Complex, Hydrolyzed Yeast, Vitamin E Supplement, Iron Amino Acid Complex, Manganese Amino Acid Complex, Ferrous Sulfate, Zinc Sulfate, Selenium Yeast, L-Carnitine, Vitamin A Supplement, Vitamin D Supplement, Copper Sulfate, Vitamin B-12 Supplement, Niacin Supplement, D-Calcium Pantothenate, Thiamine Mononitrate, Biotin, Magnesium Amino Acid Chelate, Riboflavin Supplement, Calcium Iodate, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Lecithin, Fructooligosaccharide, Folic Acid, Dried Enterococcus Faecium Fermentation Product, Dried Lactobacillus Acidophilus Fermentation Product, Dried Aspergillus Niger Fermentation Product, Dried Bacillus Subtilis Fermentation Product, Yucca Schidigera Extract, Citric Acid, Rosemary Extract. See all the ingredients and nutritional details here.
3. Taste of the Wild Dry Dog Food. Taste of the Wild is what we fed several of our dogs until we ended up switching over to the Fromm Gold Nutritionals. We primarily made the switch for the glucosamine and omegas, which we think are helpful as adult dogs get older. The Taste of the Wild High Prarie Canine Formula is a truly excellent no-frills dog food, and their additional options (salmon, lamb, wildfowl) are also fantastic. Made with lean bison and venison, with additional lamb meal, chicken meal, and fish meal to increase high-density proteins. The food contains 32% crude protein, 17% crude fat, and a reasonable 43% carbohydrate content derived primarily from potatoes. An all natural and grain-free option, the Taste of the Wild is optimal in terms of its amino acid, fatty acid, antioxidant, and vitamin and mineral composition. The Taste of the Wild philosophy to dog food ingredient sourcing, testing, and manufacturing are all top-notch. Foods are made in three facilities across the U.S., including California, Missouri, and South Carolina. Ingredients are sourced primarily from the U.S., Germany (potato), Belgium (chicory root), and New Zealand (lamb). They have been in the dog food business for many years, and their ingredients go through 151 quality assurance steps to maintain safety and quality. The Taste of the Wild is around $1.60/pound if you purchase a larger (like 30-lb) bag.
Ingredients: Bison, venison, lamb meal, chicken meal, egg product, sweat potatoes, peas, potatoes, canola oil, roasted bison, roasted venison, natural flavor, tomato pomace, ocean fish meal, choline chloride, dried chicory root, tomatoes, blueberries, raspberries, yucca schidigera extract, Enterococcus faecium, Lactobacillus casei, Lactobacillus acidophilus, Saccharomyces cerevesiae fermentation solubles, dried Aspergillus oryzae fermentation extract, vitamin E supplement, iron proteinate, zinc proteinate, copper proteinate, ferrous sulfate, zinc sulfate, copper sulfate, potassium iodide, thiamine mononitrate (vitamin B1), manganese proteinate, manganous oxide, ascorbic acid, vitamin A supplement, biotin, calcium pantothenate, manganese sulfate, sodium selenite, pyridoxine hydrochloride (vitamin B6), vitamin B12 supplement, riboflavin (vitamin B2), vitamin D supplement, folic acid. got
4. Blue Buffalo Wilderness High Protein Grain-Free Dog Food. The Blue Buffalo series of dog foods has a great reputation for premium products at a fair price, though it has gone through some ups-and-downs over the years that have impacted quality assurance. This particular food, the Wilderness High Protein series, has one of the best reputations out there, and for good reason. It comes in several varieties including salmon, chicken, and duck, all of which make excellent choices. Here we review the salmon option, mostly because it's the one we used in our tests, but also because we generally prefer the inclusion of fish in dog foods given the great fatty acid and oil profiles. The salmon option includes salmon, fish meal, chicken meal, and chicken fat, along with a ton of great veggies, vitamins, and minerals. It has good levels of Omega 3 and 6 fatty acids, and rosemary oil to help with skin and coat. The food contains 34% crude protein, 15% crude fat, and a reasonable carbohydrate proportion primarily derived from potatoes. Note that such a high protein content can cause some stomach upset so we encourage you to slowly introduce this food into your dog's diet over the course of 5-7 days. The company prides itself on producing high quality dog foods without by-products, no corn, wheat, or soy, and no artificial preservatives, flavors, or colors. Smaller packages are over the $2/pound budget, but if you buy a larger 24-lb bag it slips in barely under the $2/pound mark.
Ingredients: Deboned Salmon, Menhaden Fish Meal (natural source of Omega 3 Fatty Acids), Chicken Meal, Potato Starch, Peas, Chicken Fat (preserved with Mixed Tocopherols and Citric Acid), Potatoes, Tomato Pomace (source of Lycopene), Natural Chicken Flavor, Flaxseed (source of Omega 3 and 6 Fatty Acids), Alfalfa Meal, Whole Carrots, Whole Sweet Potatoes, Blueberries, Cranberries, Barley Grass, Dried Parsley, Dried Kelp, Taurine, Yucca Shidigera Extract, L-Carnitine, L-Lysine, Turmeric, Oil of Rosemary, Beta Carotene, Vitamin A Supplement, Thiamine Mononitrate (Vitamin B1), Riboflavin (Vitamin B2), Niacin (Vitamin B3), d-Calcium Pantothenate (Vitamin B5), Pyridoxine Hydrochloride (Vitamin B6), Biotin (Vitamin B7), Folic Acid (Vitamin B9), Vitamin B12 Supplement, Calcium Ascorbate (source of Vitamin C), Vitamin D3 Supplement, Vitamin E Supplement, Iron Amino Acid Chelate, Zinc Amino Acid Chelate, Manganese Amino Acid Chelate, Copper Amino Acid Chelate, Choline Chloride, Sodium Selenite, Calcium Iodate, Salt, Caramel, Potassium Chloride, Saccharomyces cerevisiae, Lactobacillus acidophilus, Bacillus subtilis, Enterococcus faecium fermentation product.
5. Rachel Ray Nutrish Zero Grain Natural Dog Food. The Rachel Ray line of dog foods is relatively new to the consumer market, but has consistently proven itself a worthy contender, particularly with its grain-free lineup. This particular option, the Turkey and Potato recipe, is a very popular one with a great price point at about $1.50 per pound. This option contains some good meat-based protein sources including turkey, turkey meal, chicken meal, and poultry fat. It also includes good vegetable options, and a bunch of great vitamins and minerals. It is a relatively no-frills dog food, as it doesn't add tons of omega's, probiotics, or any other specialized ingredient like amino acids. It also is limited in terms of oils for helping maintain a healthy coat. You could always add in a little bit of oil if you'd like. However, it does have some good overall specs for the price: it has 26% crude protein and 14% crude fat, with a somewhat high carbohydrate count mostly due to the tapioca starch and potatoes. The Rachel Ray brand of dog foods is produced by Ainsworth Pet Nutrition, which prides itself in using high quality ingredients, no by-products, and donating a portion of income to dog rescue charitable organizations. It's also relatively easy to find, showing up in many major grocery stores and other retailers. Overall, a great choice at an even better price point that makes it the least expensive on our list of best dog foods under $2 per pound.
Ingredients: Turkey, Turkey Meal, Chicken Meal, Dried Peas, Tapioca Starch, Whole Dry Potatoes, Poultry Fat (Preserved with Mixed Tocopherols), Dried Plain Beet Pulp, Whole Flaxseed, Natural Chicken Flavor, Salt, Calcium Carbonate, Potassium Chloride, Zinc Sulfate, Choline Chloride, Zinc Proteinate, Vitamin E Supplement, Iron Proteinate, L-Ascorbyl-2-Polyphosphate (Source of Vitamin C), Manganese Proteinate, Copper Proteinate, Niacin Supplement, Calcium Pantothenate, Biotin, Sodium Selenite, Vitamin A Supplement, Riboflavin Supplement, Thiamine Mononitrate, Vitamin B12 Supplement, Calcium Iodate, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Vitamin D3 Supplement, Folic Acid.
How we test dog foods.
In our test, we found that prices for a pound of dog food varied widely from a low of about 50 cents/pound to a high of about $6/pound. What we learned, however, was that the more expensive options were not always the best, but the cheapest options were typically the worst. In other words, the more you spend the better the quality tends to be, but there were some exceptions to that rule, which you can learn about in our other article (best dog foods under $1/pound).
Why you should care.
We get tons of questions from new dog owners, wondering why choosing the right dog food is so important. Well, unlike humans who eat a variety of foods throughout their days and weeks and thus can achieve dietary balance over time, dogs eat the same exact thing for all meals, all days. So if it's not a balanced, nutritionally sound meal every time, dogs have no chance to make up for it at subsequent meals. The result is chronic nutritional deficiency that can lead to several negative effects on your dog's energy, well-being, immune function, and overall health and quality of life. Here are some of the most important impacts of a well-balanced diet:
- Energy and mood. A dog with a balanced diet will have moderate to high energy levels throughout the day, and be able to keep up with you on those longer walks, hikes, and runs, and have the stamina to play with younger pups. Higher energy can also lead to a happier, more tolerant, and less grumpy dog. That's better for the whole family! However, if your dog leads a very sedentary lifestyle, you will want to avoid feeding them super high calorie diets.
- Fur coat, skin, and nails. A dog with balanced nutrition will have shinier fur, less brittle nails, and less flaky and itchy skin. Some of the best dog foods on the market include some important oils, vitamins, and probiotics that help maintain healthy fur, skin, and nails.
- Weight and muscle tone. Many dogs on high corn/grain and low protein/fat diets gain unhealthy weight that impacts their energy, metabolism, health, and lifespan. You want a protein-rich, moderately fatty, low corn and grain option that will serve to keep weight down and increase energy and muscle tone.
- Digestion and regularity. A regular dog with well-formed stools will make a bowel movement on a daily basis without straining or making a fuss. A well-balanced dog food will help in this area, but of course you must be careful when switching dog foods not to switch too suddenly (steadily increase the proportion of the new food, mixed with the old food, for about 4-5 days) and cause digestive upset. This is particularly the case when the food contains a dramatically different protein or fat content relative to what you're already feeding.
For those primary reasons, finding the right dog food is exceedingly important for your dog and, by association, your family! Everyone wants a happy, energetic, good-looking and healthy dog. It all starts with their diet.
What we looked for.
Here at ScuttlePaws, we're pretty neurotic about what we feed our dogs. We check for not only the right ingredients list, but also the right manufacturing, storage, and shipping practices to make sure they're not just starting with the right stuff, but also doing the right thing. Dog foods have come a long way over the years, and it's important to keep on top of the changes and additions that have become commonplace in dog foods: some for the better, and some for the worse. Here are the primary things we looked for when finding the perfect dog foods:
- More protein & fat, less carbs. Just like humans, there is an ideal positive proportion of protein to carbohydrates that's important for a dog's diet. In general, you want the first ingredient on the dog food list to be a protein, like turkey, beef, salmon, bison, chicken, venison, or lamb. If you look at what your dog's ancestors ate, it's about 85% protein and fat, and only 15% carbs. Note that chicken meal actually packs a higher protein punch, pound-for-pound, versus chicken alone. In fact, chicken meal, if produced appropriately, has basically identical nutritional composition as chicken, but with denser protein levels. It's also cheaper. In terms of carbohydrates, you don't want to see a carbohydrate like corn or grain listed until at least the 3rd ingredient. Of course, being the first ingredient means that it is present in the highest quantity; but don't be confused, it doesn't mean that it constitutes the majority of the dog food. Only that more of it is in the food than any other ingredient.
- Real meat, not by-products. Some less expensive dog foods use the terms "meat by-products" or "meat meal" or "blood meal." If it uses any term other than a specific meat (like "chicken" or "lamb"), or uses the term "by-products" then you know you're getting an inferior quality product. What's disgusting is that many of this meat comes from sources that you would never dream of feeding your dog, like dead zoo animals, spoiled supermarket and restaurant meats, road kill (skunks, raccoons, etc), diseased cattle, or random slaughterhouse waste. Avoid it.
- No artificial preservatives. Just like human foods, many dog foods contain artificial preservatives designed to increase shelf life. This is primarily because animal fats quickly spoil without a preservative. But that doesn't mean the preservative needs to be artificial. There are some great natural preservatives for dog foods, such as Vitamin E (tocopherols) or Vitamin C (ascorbic acids). Avoid foods with BHA, BHT, and other artificial preservatives (same goes for artificial colors and flavors).
- Brand and recall history. Did you know that most recalls of dog foods are issued by small companies that are relatively new to the industry? That's because smaller companies can't afford all of the product development, testing, expertise, and safety and quality control that the larger companies can. Over 90% of all dog food is produced by just three companies: Mars, Purina, and Big Heart. They have generally great brand history, and great recall history. That's not to say there are no small companies making great dog food, there are, you just need to be careful about their history and current practices.
- Dog acceptance! We want your dogs to be happy, so we've put a lot of time into testing dozens of dog foods with our dogs, testing how well they accept it at both first bite and over the long haul. All of the foods on our list have passed the initial and long-term acceptance test, which for some dogs is not an issue, but for picky eaters it can be a big problem.