Puppy Eating from a Bowl

Do You Know How to Choose The Best Dog Food For Your Pet?

If you’re anything like other dog lovers, you’ve often wondered what is the best dog food on the market for your four-legged best friend—especially when all the packages claim that they are the best dog food brand.

We all just want what is best for our beloved pets, but with so many different products making the same claim, it’s hard to know which company truly has the best dog food on the market. That is where we come in!

Puppy Sitting on a Mountain Made of Dog Food

We are going to shed a little bit of light on the subject and talk about the things you will want to keep in mind when you’re trying to select the best dog food for your pet. Let’s get started, shall we?

What To Think About When Buying The Best Dog Food For Your Pet

In a perfect world, the food that you give your pet would have the same quality of ingredients and made the same across the board. Sadly, if that were the case, then there wouldn’t be the need for the seemingly endless row of pet food at the grocery store, right? You may have wondered at one point or another what is the best dog food out of this wide array of products claiming to be the best choice.

First, you have to understand that dogs aren’t just meat eaters, they can get some nutrition from eating grains, fruits, and vegetables. The AKC points out that a good dog food is going to contain a good blend of meat, vegetables, fruits, and grain—much like our diets.

Nutrition For Your Dog: Age

Much like trying to decide which food items are good for your diet, you need to make sure you purchase food that meets his nutritional needs as well. And, just like humans, dogs don’t always have the same nutritional needs as one another. Through the course of their lives, they are going to need different things.

Small Puppy Next to a Large Dog on a Grass Field

For example, a puppy is going to need a different formula than an elderly dog. The puppy is going to need food that is rich in calories, proteins, vitamins and minerals that are crucial for him to grow up healthy. An older dog who eats puppy food is probably going to gain weight because of all those extra calories.

Nutrition For Your Dog: Body Composition

When you’re trying to choose what food you should purchase for your pet, Louise Murray, DVM and the vice-president of the ASPCA’s Bergh Memorial Animal Hospital of New York says. "Diet should be based on a dog's condition, and it should be very tailored to the dog.”

This means if your pup is underweight, you’ll want to find food that is nutrient-rich so that they’ll gain weight in a healthy way. Of course, you will want to consult your veterinarian for their recommendations.

Nutrition For Your Dog: Health History

It’s important to remember what kind of health issues your pet may have when choosing a dog food. If your pet suffers from diabetes, allergies, digestive difficulties, or even a form of cancer, those conditions could be affected by the ingredients in their food.

Golden Retriever Carrying Carrots in Its Mouth

Chea Hall, DVM from San Luis Obispo, California also points out that not only can your vet recommend the best dog food for their dietary needs, but they can also recommend you foods that will protect your pup from diseases like arthritis.

Budget

Of course, once you figure out all of this, you also have to consider your budget. You don’t want to have a food recommended to you that is outside of what you can afford. Granted, many of us treat our pets like our children and are willing to spend whatever it will take to keep them happy and healthy, but some dog foods can get pretty expensive!

What Kind of Ingredients Are In The Best Dog Food?

Just like people food, you want to look at the label and ingredient list for choosing the best dog food for the money you’re going to spend. It’s important that you find a dog food with high-quality ingredients because some cheaper brands that have low-quality ingredients tend to be harder to digest and your pet won’t be able to get the proper nutrition.

Pet Education tells us that although these cheaper brands may meet the legal specifications that outlines how much protein, fats, fiber, and carbohydrates are in the food, the cheaper food may not have the same energy values and lower grade proteins. These low-quality ingredients will pass through your pet’s digestive system, and all those nutrients won’t be absorbed properly.

Dog Trying to Pull Meat off of a Plate on a Table

When you’re looking at the ingredient list, look for food that contains meat, fish, or eggs as the first or second ingredient, as these are going to be the primary ingredients and offer the most protein.

PetMD points out that you shouldn’t be thrown off when you see some of the best canned dog foods are labeled as a dinner, platter, or an entrée and assume that it is going to be primarily that product (for example, maybe it says beef dinner). By the AAFCO (Association of American Feed Control Officials) guidelines, these products could have as little as 25% of that ingredient in it.

If something says it is “with” something, the regulations state it must contain at least 3%. So a Beef Dinner with Cheese can of dog food may only contain 25% beef and 3% of cheese. It makes you wonder what those ingredients are.

Ingredients To Stay Away From

As you read through the ingredient list, you’ll want to make sure that your pet food’s first three or four ingredients do not include corn, soy, wheat, or by-products. Typically you’ll find these as primary ingredients in low-grade food, and they aren’t going to provide your pet with enough nutrients.

Avoid Sign

Also, Victoria Stilwell from Positively recommends that you avoid food that has a lot of cereal fillers. Additives, preservatives, and artificial colors. All of these ingredients are proof that the food is processed and isn’t going to give your pet the nutrition he really needs.

If we wanted to create a well-rounded diet for our dogs, Healthy Pets says it would look more like this:

  • High in high-quality protein (muscle meat, not pieces and parts)
  • Moderate levels of animal fat
  • ​High levels of EPA/DHA
  • ​High moisture content (prey is 70 percent water)
  • ​A few fresh cut veggies and a bit of fruit (to mimic stomach contents of prey)
  • ​No grains (carnivores don’t have a biologic requirement for grain)
  • No wads of potatoes or other starches to offset meat content

Types Of Dog Food

There are a lot of products on the market that tout to being the best dog food. But, it goes beyond just dry food, wet food, or canned. There are Dr. Foster Smith breaks up the varieties of dog foods into three major categories:

Grocery Store

These foods are the most common pet foods that you’ll find at the grocery store or big box retailers. They tend to be made with low-quality products and are more affordable. Unfortunately, these foods do not have the best nutritional value that your pet needs.

Dog Food on Shelves in a Grocery store

Premium Foods

You can find these foods at pet stores, veterinarian offices, as well as grocery stores. They will have similar ingredients to those that you’ll find in grocery store brand food (artificial colors and flavors, chemical preservatives and even filler ingredients), but they will be more expensive.

Why? Because these ingredients are of a higher quality and have more nutritional value and benefits than the cheaper option.

Healthy Foods

This is the newest category in which pet food is divided into. These foods provide your pet with the best quality ingredients that are full of nutrients that they need.

Meat in a Dog Food Bowl with Vegegetables and Apple next to it

These foods are formulated to provide your pet with the most nutritional value because they use whole, fresh fruits and veggies, real meat products as a main source of protein, and carbohydrate-rich whole grains like barley and brown rice.

Our Recommendations For The Best Dog Food

Now that you understand better the makings of a healthy and nutritious dog food, here are some recommendations that we like based on the information we found on Dog Food Advisor.

The Best Dry Dog Foods


Taste of the Wild Dry Dog Food

When looking at the ingredient list, you’ll see ingredients like beef, peas, and garbanzo beans. While the beef is the main ingredient, you have to take into consideration how much moisture and overall weight is taken away after the cooking process.

Taste of the Wild Dry Dog Food

Fortunately, the peas and beans add protein back into the recipe, thus making it a plant-based dry dog food, but also uses a moderate amount of named meat products. This brand is an above-average dog food because it has more protein and fewer carbohydrates than your typical dog food.

Diamond Naturals Dry Dog Food

When you look at the ingredient list, it is an above average dry food. Although it may list meat as the main ingredient, it is mostly a plant-based dry food with a moderate amount of meat.

The fat to protein ratio is about 59%, which about average when compared to other dry dog foods on the market. You should keep in mind that some recipes of the brand may vary, thus giving you different meat content and fat-to-protein ratio.

The Best Wet Dog Food


NUTRO ULTRA Wet Dog Food

When you look at the ingredient list, you’ll notice the first ingredient is a broth. Though they are devoid of nutritional value, they do add moisture to the dog food, which is a common ingredient. The second ingredient, Chicken, is rich in amino acids which are important for the health of your pup.

NUTRO ULTRA Wet Dog Food

This above-average wet food is made up of 40% protein, 25% fat, and a meager 25% carbohydrates. This is a meat-based canned food that uses a good amount of named meat products as it’s source of animal protein.

Purina Beyond Natural Grain Free Ground Wet Dog Food 

The first ingredient in this line after the broth is turkey, which, like chicken, is rich in amino acids necessary for a dog to be healthy. The third and fourth ingredients are chicken and liver respectively.

Purina Beyond Natural Grain Free Ground Wet Dog Food

With a relatively short ingredient list and no grains, this above-average wet food is made up of 44% meat product, 17% fat, and about 31% carbohydrates. This is a good meat-based dog food that is free of any plant-based protein supplements.

The Best Canned Dog Food


Unlike wet food, canned dog food usually has protein as the first ingredient and broth is listed as the second, thus making the product more like a thick and hearty stew.

Wellness CORE Natural Grain Free Wet Canned Dog Food 

By looking at the ingredient list of the Wellness CORE Natural Grain Free Canned Dog Food, you’ll very plainly see that it uses a lot of meat and meat products. In order of appearance, you’ll find chicken, turkey, chicken liver, chicken broth (though devoid of nutrition) and chicken meal (which contains 300% more protein than you would find in fresh chicken) and turkey liver.

Wellness CORE Natural Grain Free Wet Canned Dog Food

Yes, six ingredients in until you find the first non-meat ingredient—sweet potatoes. This above-average canned dog food contains 55% protein, 36% fat, and only 1% carbohydrates. Needless to say, if you want to give your pup the absolute highest quality of canned food, this is a very good option.

Whole Earth Farms Grain Free Hearty Stew

The first ingredient in this product is chicken, followed by chicken broth, turkey, and chicken liver. These are excellent sources of protein to ensure that your pet is healthy and receives all the nutrients it needs. This above-average canned dog food contains 43% protein, 27% fat, and about 22% carbohydrates.

Whole Earth Farms Grain Free Hearty Stew

This meat-based canned food is a great option if your pet has difficulty digesting plant-based foods and it comes in several meaty flavors: beef, chicken, duck, lamb, salmon, and turkey.

Precautions When Switching Foods

When you’ve done a bit of research, and you feel like you’ve chosen the best dog food for your pet, Pet Education recommended that you take your time transitioning your pet from their old food to their new. The sudden change in their food could lead to changes in the type of bacteria and how many kinds of bacteria your pet encounters, which could make it harder for the food to be digested, leading to an intestinal upset.

To avoid this, start off by mixing 25% new food with 75% old food for about three days. Then increase it to 50% of each for another three days. Then for the final three days, make it 75% new food and 25% old food. Then you can make the transition to all new food without a problem.

How To Decide Between Wet Food Or Dry?

Perhaps one of the biggest things we have to consider in choosing what kind of food to feed our pets is what form should be food be: wet or dry. While we can’t tell you which is best between the two, we can share with you the pros and cons that Dog Health described, and you can choose which is better for your pup.

Bowl of Dry Dog Food next to a Bowl of Wet Dog Food

Dry Food

Wet Food

Pros:

  • Affordable
  • Easy to store
  • Energy dense
  • Possible dental benefits
  • Flavor
  • More protein and fat
  • Easier to digest

Cons:

  • Not flavorful
  • More grains
  • Preservatives
  • Weight gain
  • Spoilage
  • Expensive

Convenience And Affordability

Dry food tends to be cheaper and easier to store than wet food. If you buy in bulk, you can store the excess food in a large Tupperware and it will stay good for a while. Canned food, though it will stay good for a while, you tend to go through your stock quickly, thus making you go out and buy more much quicker. This can be an inconvenience for people who lead busy lives. Plus, buying wet food can get pretty expensive, really quickly.

Flavor

Dry food tends to lack flavor, although manufacturers try to cover that up by coating the morsels of kibble in fats, gravies, and other flavors. But, you can’t deny that most wet food just looks and smells more appealing. Also, some animals have a texture preference, and that is another factor to consider. Be mindful that if you do choose wet food, your pet could pack on some weight if you overfeed them.

Labrador Retriever Dreaming of a Cooked Chicken

Grains Or No Grains?

Many people have wondered whether grains were something that dogs should be eating. Grains like corn, wheat, and rice and important ingredients because they hold the product together. Some grains can also replace some meat as a source of protein, thus cutting the cost of the product.

However, some natural food advocates insist that dogs are carnivores and shouldn’t eat food that has plants in them, as there is no metabolic need. Although, there are others that point out that wild dogs will also eat grass, berries, roots, and other plants.

Dental Benefits

We like to think that dry food is going to be better for your dog's teeth because it cleans the plaque from them while they chew the hard food. However, there have been a few scientific studies from the mid-90s that indicate that dogs who eat dry food don't have better teeth than those who eat only canned food.

The only real way to ensure your dog’s teeth stay healthy is to have a healthy diet, have a routine home care, and professional treatments that are provided by your vet.

Conclusion

Who knew that deciding which product on the market is the best dog food? There are so many things to consider, it can be completely mind-boggling. Not only do you need to consider how old your dog is, their previous medical history, body composition and how much you’re willing to spend, but you also need to think about the food itself.

You have to be mindful of the ingredients to make sure your pet is getting high-quality ingredients, but you also want to make sure they are getting the all the nutrition they need. Some products may state they use meat products, but after the cooking process, it isn’t nearly as much as you thought.

Cute Puppy with a Chefs Hat in Kitchen

Of course, you also have to think if you want your pet to have an all wet diet or an all dry diet, or a combination of the two (we recommend a blend of the two, so they get the best of both worlds, but remember that moderation is key!). So many decisions!

We hope that the information that you’ve gained from this article will help you the next time you are out of dog food and need to repurchase. Sometimes your dog’s activity level is affected by the food they eat. Sometimes a simple change in food can turn your dog into a whole new pet.

If you do decide to switch from one brand to another, you make the transition gradually. You may not think that there will be a big difference from one brand to the next, but it could be a shock to your pet, not just on a taste level, but health wise too. When it comes to our fur babies, we all want to keep them happy and healthy!

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