Choosing the best dog food brand for your pet sometimes requires putting your trust in the expertise of dog food manufacturers in coming up with breed-specific, life stage-focused formulations that provide the best possible nutrient profile for your pet. Unfortunately, like all things in life, not all dog food manufacturers have the same ethos when it comes to product reliability and safety and brand trustworthiness. That being said, we’ve come up with a list of the 15 best dog food brands currently available in the market. This should give you a general idea on what kind of dog food you’re giving to your hound whenever you pick any one of these brands.
Consistently ranked as one of dog world’s best pet food manufacturers, Blue Buffalo has made its mark in the hearts of many pet parents because of the way it looks at dogs and cats. As the brand says, pets are not ‘owned’; they are invaluable members of the family. As such, one can expect that each formulation of dog food that ever comes out from Blue Buffalo’s kitchens is like a meal that is intended for a highly-valued member of the family.
From the use of the choicest ingredients to the formulation of a special diet needed by sick dogs, Blue Buffalo manages to defy the odds of being a family-owned pet food company to one that is now going toe-to-toe with big commercial brands. Blue Buffalo always boasts of grain-, artificial ingredients-, and filler- free canine diet formulations. The company also has dental dog chews and treats to help complete the overall care of modern pets. Blue Buffalo is considered one of the best dog food brands primarily because of their emphasis on what is right for your pet.
Read our review of Blue Buffalo Dog Food.
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- Animal proteins as its main ingredient
- Finest-quality natural and wholesome ingredients
- Grain-free, gluten-free formula
- Limited ingredient diet formulation
Taste of the Wild
The name says it all. Taste of the Wild is by gar one of the best dog food brands in the market primarily because of its unique take on what modern dogs need to feed on. Both the brand’s wet and dry dog food variants come with highly unusual, novel animal proteins such as bison, buffalo, venison, lamb, salmon, and a whole lot more. What is more enticing is that the company uses geographic regions to create thematic variations in its dog food selection. It has the High Prairie version for those wanting to feast on buffalo, venison, and bison.
The Pacific Stream boasts of salmon, the Sierra Mountain comes with lamb, the Wetlands features turkey and duck, the Pine Forest comes with lamb and venison, and the Southwest Canyon gives your dog a taste of wild boar. The Canyon River gives your dog trout while the Appalachian is always a good choice for venison, duck, and lamb. This is the dog food brand that you’ll want to give to pets that may already be showing food allergies related to chicken and beef.
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Read our review of Taste of the Wild Dog Food.
- Geographic region-themed ancestral diets
- Unique, novel, hypoallergenic animal proteins
- Gluten- and grain- free formula
- Wholesome, healthy carbs as an energy source
Nutro brands its dog food products as naturally clean. They are best known for creating relatively simple dog food recipes that pet parents can trust to deliver the right amounts of nutrients. This dog food brand utilizes non-GMO ingredients sourced only from credible and reputable producers and suppliers. The Wholesome Essentials are perfect for all breeds and life stages while the Grain Free formulation, as can be expected, is ideal for dogs with gluten allergies.
Nutro also has limited ingredients, hearty stews, and wild frontier formulations that boast of novel animal proteins like venison. The Max version comes with organic, farm-raised chicken while the Ultra formulation features a unique blend of salmon, lamb, and chicken for optimum brain development in pups. Both the Max and Ultra are specific for puppies. Nutro has been in the market for almost a century, providing the dog world with simple and trustworthy diets that can bring out the best in their breed.
Read our review of Nutro Dog Food.
- High-quality animal protein as the first ingredient
- Non-GMO, gluten-free formulation
- Simple but purposeful dog diets
- All ingredients are easily recognizable
This dog food brand is perfect for pet parents who require a good balance of fats and proteins, using premium-quality ingredients but without the hefty price tag of some high-end dog food brands. It’s actually a product of Walmart, taking full advantage of the retail giant exceptional coverage for both marketing and distribution. This makes it readily accessible as one only needs to visit the nearest Walmart in their area. Its friendly price aside, Pure Balance comes off as a good alternative especially if you want variety in your pet’s diet.
While there really is nothing remarkable that can truly set Pure Balance apart from the rest of the competition, it does use real and natural animal ingredients as the principal source of its proteins. The selection of meat proteins may not be as extensive as in other brands, however. This has not dampened the desire of some pet parents in using the brand for their pet’s nutritional needs. In some formulations, novel carbs are included to go with its grain-free formula as well.
Read our review of Pure Balance Dog Food.
- Well-balanced formulation
- Real animal proteins as the first ingredient
- Wholesome and healthy carbs
- Accessibility and friendly pricing
Wellness Natural Pet Food
The philosophy of Wellness Natural Pet Food is grounded in the belief that nutrition is the foundation of healthier life for every living organism, man and pets included. This philosophy is very evident in the brand’s insistence on using only all-natural ingredients sans the fillers and fluff that many dog food manufacturers put into their respective formulations. Wellness Naturals is actually just a part of a long line of products from Wellness Pet Food which also includes CORE, Complete Health, TruFood, and Simple.
The latter formulation boasts of limited ingredients making it an ideal meal for dogs that are being subjected to an elimination diet. TruFood is Wellness’ take on deliciously-baked goodies and treats that are perfect for positive reinforcement purposes. Its Complete Health is the product line that has gained wide recognition among avid pet parents for ensuring optimum health to dogs because of its wide selection of natural grain-free formulations.
- Real meats and animal proteins as principal ingredients
- Wholesome recipes designed for optimum whole-body canine health
- Easily digestible and tissue-utilizable ingredients
- Grain-free formulations without unnecessary ingredients
Hill’s Science Diet
If there is one thing that pet parents and veterinarians love about Hill’s Science Diet, then that would be its penchant for creating highly specific diets that cater to specific breeds of dogs as well as for certain types of canine diseases like diabetes, hip dysplasia, and gastrointestinal conditions, just to name a few. This is also one of the very few dog food brands that do not necessarily believe in the existence of gluten allergies in dogs, with many of its formulations containing soy, wheat, and/or corn as well as other potentially-allergenic cereals and grains.
It is for this reason that Hill’s Science Diet dog food products also mainly appeal to pet parents who don’t have any issues about giving their pets these ingredients. While this fact about Hill’s Science Diet may upset some pet parents, its unique formulation of breed and canine disease-specific prescription diets is simply something that even veterinarians readily acknowledge as ingenious.
Read our review of Hill’s Science Diet dog food.
- Highly specific formulations for dog breeds, sizes, and conditions
- Veterinarian-formulated prescription diets for dogs
- Well-balanced preparations
- Animal protein may not always be the 1stingredient
Rachael Ray Nutrish
The Nutrish line of dog food is actually a collaboration between celebrity chef and TV personality Rachael Ray and leading pet food manufacturer Ainsworth Pet Nutrition. The recipes included in the formulation are inspired by the very same recipes that the celebrity has formulated. Despite its heftier price tag, pet parents love the Nutrish because of the wide assortment of dog food that only features premium-quality animal proteins as the main ingredient. The ingredients are all natural with an emphasis on using only real, not manmade, ingredients.
Rachael Ray’s Nutrish line comes with venison, turkey, salmon, and lamb in addition to the more usual chicken and beef. Wholesome grains and healthy fruits and vegetables are also added in lieu of allergenic cereals as well as other ingredients that may contain gluten. The Nutrish line also features specialty diets which can come in handy for pet parents who may have dogs with very specific nutritional requirements. This is one brand that you can also be proud of supporting as part of the proceeds of each product sold goes to the care of pets in shelters.
Read our review of Rachael Ray Dog Food.
- High-quality animal proteins as the first ingredient
- Wholesome and all-natural ingredients
- Specialty diet formulations available
- Renowned shelter pet philanthropy
Purina Pro Plan
One of the best things about Purina Pro Plan dog foods is that they come in 4 different variants that cater to specific requirements of dogs. The Savor is basically the brand’s go-to for optimum canine nutrition on a daily basis. The Focus is primarily geared for dogs with special or unique needs such as those that may have obesity, diabetes, or even arthritis or any other joint abnormalities. The Sport variant is basically Purina Pro Plan’s way of supporting the lifestyle of highly active working and sporting dog to provide them with the necessary nutrients for endurance and strength.
The Pro Plan Bright Mind is perfect for puppies as it is intended for the promotion of optimum brain development in dogs. The other good news about the Pro Plan line of Purina is that it always uses high-quality animal proteins to go with its array of wholesome carbs, antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables, and healthy fatty acids. As the brand believes in tailor-fitting a dog’s diet to meet its nutrient requirements, pet parents can always rely on Purina Pro Plan products to give their hounds the kind of nutrition they need.
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Read our review of Purina Pro Plan Dog Food.
- Premium-quality ingredients with animal meats as protein sources
- Easily digestible and antioxidant-rich carbs
- No fillers, soy, corn, wheat
- No artificial ingredients
Natural Balance prides itself of the ability to craft not only tasty food that dogs love, but also nutritionally-complete and well-balanced diets that can provide dogs with healthier digestion, better weight management, improved allergy symptoms, and a whole lot more. Natural Balance comes with specialty diets that feature high-protein content, strictly vegetarian formulation, and grain-free preparations.
Their choice of animal proteins includes chicken, venison, lamb, and salmon. It’s quite limited compared to other dog food brands that also provide novel proteins, but it should suffice considering they also add legumes, sweet potatoes, and brown rice into their formulations. Additionally each batch of dog food is carefully tested for safety before these are sent for distribution. Natural Balance offers pet parents a good alternative to other brands especially if one is looking for something friendlier on the pocket yet does an amazing job at meeting the nutritional needs of dogs.
Read our review of Natural Balance Dog Food.
- High-quality animal proteins as the first ingredient
- Specialty diets for specific canine needs
- Wholesome grains, legumes, lentils, vegetables, and fruits
- Safety-tested dog food products
CANIDAE is a relatively new dog food brand that only started out churning delicious and nutritious dog foods in 1996. It’s a family-owned business that has grown substantially through the years, formulating and manufacturing a variety of canine foods that utilize natural ingredients that have been proven to be well-loved by dogs themselves. The best thing about CANIDAE is that they don’t source out all of their ingredients.
They grow many of their ingredients so they can ensure the highest possible quality and nutrient value of every single ingredient they put into their formulations. Its PURE formulation uses fresh meat or fish as its principal ingredient while the PURE Petite only contains 8 ingredients, making it highly suitable for puppies that still have to develop digestive integrity. The PURE Ancestral formulation is ideal for dogs that require higher amounts of higher quality animal proteins, although the Under The Sun variant is what pet parents consider the best all-around diet for dogs of any breed and age.
Read our review of CANIDAE Dog Food.
- Premium animal proteins as the first ingredient
- All grain-free formulation
- Limited ingredient and specialty diets for various dogs
- Most ingredients are grown by the brand
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A subsidiary of Mars, Pedigree has been producing high-quality dog foods at very affordable prices since 1957, although historically, its roots can actually be traced to as early as 1932. The company is considered one of the market leaders in dog food formulations worldwide, although its supremacy is now being contested at large. Pedigree provides not only wet and dry dog food varieties, but also canine treats that can be used for a variety of purposes. It uses only high-quality ingredients in its formulation.
The only downside is that Pedigree is still strongly rooted in its past that it cannot move away from the traditional chicken, lamb, beef, and fish formulations, although the different recipes upon which these ingredients have been used have improved rather dramatically. It remains a good choice especially if you don’t mind giving your pet corn, wheat, or soy.
- High protein, moderate fat formulations
- Contains corn, wheat, and soy in many preparations
- Animal proteins as the first ingredient
- No artificial ingredients included
The company strongly believes that pets don’t just need food; they deserve only the best that man could possibly give to them. This has motivated the company to partner with reliable and trustworthy suppliers and local producers to provide them with the freshest and duly certified safe ingredients to put into every package that rolls out of the Merrick kitchen. At the heart of the Merrick dog food brand is its now-iconic use of deboned animal proteins, making sure that every bit of meat that can be placed into each pack is full of nutrients and bursting with flavors.
The company has more than 200 pet nutrition products, many of which come with healthy nutraceuticals such as glucosamine, chondroitin, prebiotics, and probiotics. Each ingredient is also carefully selected to reflect the changing nutrient needs of certain dogs. They have Backcountry recipes that provide exceptional ancestral diet-like recipes to dogs; something pet parents would love to give. Merrick is by far one of the best dog food brands that pet parents trust when it comes to high-quality canine nutrition at a friendlier price than exclusive brands.
Read our review of Merrick Dog Food.
- Deboned premium animal protein as the first ingredient
- Easily digestible proteins and wholesome carbs
- Nutraceuticals and botanicals included in many recipes
- No artificial ingredients and substances
The Fromm Family Pet Food offers a bevy of artisan dog food recipes that are quite unique in themselves while remaining true to the ideals of optimum canine nutrition. This dog food brand provides 4 different product lines that cater to the needs of various canines. Its Four-Star products are easily recognizable because of their gourmet style of preparation, giving dogs a taste of what a sumptuous yet equally nutritious meal should taste like.
The brand strives for variety and offers a perfect break from your dog’s daily routine of bland dog food. The Heartland Gold is what folks call the best for all life stages while still indulging canines with artisan gourmet meals. The Classic is best for dogs requiring a truly balanced formulation sans the fancy preparation. Pate is for lovers of the wet dog food variety.
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- Fresh meats, fish, vegetables, and fruits
- Well-balanced and complete canine nutrition
- Artisan gourmet meals for dogs
- Small controlled batches of food production
Pet parents who strongly believe in the value of biologically appropriate dog food can trust Orijen to give their pets one of the best dog foods in the world. Orijen strongly advocates for the use of locally-grown or – farmed ingredients to go in every packaging. This dog food brand boasts of WholePrey ratios allowing dogs to get the right amounts of proteins and other nutrients that they would otherwise get if they were hunting for their own food in the wild.
Orijen also includes fresh vegetables and fruits in every formulation, providing a more nutritionally-balanced and biologically appropriate food for any dog. Each pack contains 85% premium quality meats, two-thirds of which are fresh while the other third are dehydrated meats. Also included in the formulation are organ meats and cartilage, essentially the kind of parts that make up a whole prey. There are lentils, chickpeas, and a variety of low-glycemic index foods for better glucose control. To sum it up, giving Oijen to your dog is like giving it a whole prey to devour on. This is basically the principle of giving raw foods to dogs.
Read our review of Orijen Dog Food.
- Biologically appropriate formulation
- WholePrey ratios consisting of up to 10 meats
- 85% high-quality meats
- Free from plant-based proteins
The CORE line of dog food preparations from the same makers of Wellness Naturals is primarily geared for pets that require exceptionally larger proportions of easily digestible animal proteins, ensuring the completeness of amino acids in every formulation that comes out of Wellness kitchens.
Its high-protein content and insistence on using premium-quality, all-natural ingredients such as wholesome grains and starches to go with fruits and vegetables are what keeps the CORE in the hearts of many pet parents as well as first-timers in the field of pet parenting. When compared to other high-protein formulations, however, CORE’s selection of animal proteins remains substantially behind. Whereas other brands already include bison, buffalo, and wild boar in their formulations, Wellness CORE sticks with beef and chicken; although it does have turkey, salmon, whitefish, and boar.
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- High-protein dog food formulation
- Novel and easily digestible proteins and carbs
- Available in various specialty diets
- Grain-free formulation
Each dog food brand has its own unique take on what can be considered as the best for your pet. There are those that remain true to the principles of an ancestral diet while others would prefer to give dogs a homier take on their meals. Whatever brand you choose, you will ultimately have to pick the brand that provides the best nutrition for your pet and within your means.
What to Look for in Dog Food Brands
Picking a really great dog food brand can be exceptionally difficult since just about every other brand will almost have the same formulation. This is where you can put to good use your nosiness. You can dig a lot deeper into the inner workings of the different food brands so you can easily identify which ones you should consider as the best and which ones to stay away from. The following things are what we generally recommend to our friends whenever they have to choose a dog food brand.
- Soundness of Ingredients
Manufacturers of dog food products are expected to put their ingredients as well as guaranteed analysis of ingredients in their packaging. If the brand simply doesn’t have this information, then you can already strike it off of your list.
Make sure you understand how to read the ingredients. These are typically arranged according to their proportion in the formulation. So you can expect the very first ingredient on the list to have the most in terms of amount relative to the rest of the ingredients. As such, keep in mind that dogs need named animal proteins as the first ingredient in their dog food, unless your veterinarian specifically told you that your dog needs carbohydrates as its principal food.
Be on the lookout for fillers, usually in the form of corn, wheat, or soy or other ingredients that may have very little nutrient value. Also, keep an eye on artificial ingredients such as colorings, preservatives, and flavorings. Steer clear of these.
Learn to compute for the dry matter weight of the nutrient composition. The guaranteed analysis will usually come as minimum or maximum percentages. To compute for the dry matter weight, you need to remove the moisture content. For example, you have a dog food with a minimum protein content of 25% and a moisture content of 10%. Subtract 10% from 100% to get 90%. Now, divide 25% by 90% to get 27.78%. This means the dog food actually contains 27.78% proteins as dry matter, not 25%.
- Compliance With Standards
Dog food manufacturers are also expected to specify in their products whether the recipe is for All Life Stages, Growth, Supplemental, or Maintenance. Sadly, not all dog food brands will put the appropriate classification in their labels and you really cannot help but wonder why. We cannot say to avoid these brands, but if it’s any indication, a pet food manufacturer that doesn’t put an appropriate classification for its recipe is an indication of the manufacturer’s lack of understanding or utter disregard for standards.
- Company History
Some pet food companies are relatively new in the business so it will be quite difficult to gauge the trustworthiness of their brand. There are also those that have been in the business for many decades, yet are not really popular or are very difficult to source. There are dog food brands that are under giant multinational corporations. Overall you should always pay attention to the company’s history and be on the lookout for consumer product issues such as complaints and the like.
- History of Dog Food Recalls
It is very rare for a pet food manufacturer not to have any of its products to be recalled. That is why dog food brands that have no history of dog food recalls are in a much better position to command respect from the dog-loving world. A dog food brand that has been in the business for quite some time and has yet to experience a recall of its products can be considered as one of the best since they are truly taking care of the quality and safety of their dog food formulations.
3 Things to Know Before You Shop for the Best Dog Food
Now that we’ve shared with you the things to look for in a dog food brand, the next logical step is to identify the best dog food. Here are three things you need to know before you order your first bag of dog food.
- Age and life stage
It should be clear by now that choosing the best dog food is largely dependent on the age and life stage of your pet. This is because different dogs across the lifespan and in various stages of development will have different nutrient requirements.
For example, puppies require more protein and carbohydrates plus the correct proportion of calcium and phosphorus to ensure they will have the necessary nutrients to build muscles and organs, fuel their increased physical activities, and ensure stronger and well-developed bones, respectively. They also require special substances that will be crucial in the development of their brain, eyes, coat, and skin.
The same is true with senior dogs. Their physiologic functioning may no longer be as efficient as when they were younger. As such, they may require fewer calories while increasing their protein intake. They will also benefit more with dog foods that have substances to help improve mobility.
Pregnant dogs as well as nursing dogs will typically follow the diet of a puppy, although a special formulation for lactating and pregnant dogs is ideal.
- Breed and size
There’s this notion that dogs eat the same kind of food. After all, they’re just dogs. But the truth is that different breeds come with different needs when it comes to optimum nutrition. Some are more prone to allergies, so choosing a limited ingredient diet or a dog food with less allergenic ingredients is a must.
Large dogs have different requirements from smaller ones. Small and toy breeds have very fast metabolic rates and will, thus, benefit more from a high-calorie diet. You cannot give the same high-calorie diet to large and giant breeds since you would want them to grow at a more normal pace.
So keep in mind your dog’s breed and size whenever choosing the right dog food for your pet.
- Activity level and health
The third thing you have to know before buying a dog food is the activity level and health status of your pet. If it is very active, then you go for a dog food that contains just the right amounts of calories to serve as fuel for its activities. We have to emphasize “right amounts” because you also have to be very careful not to give more calories than what your dog can burn; lest you turn it into an obese dog.
If your pet comes with arthritis, skin allergies, gluten sensitivities, diabetes, or any other medical condition, it is best to talk with your veterinarian first so you’ll have a much better grasp as to the type of dog food that you have to buy. However, there are dog foods that are formulated specifically for certain scenarios such as weight management, diabetes, hip dysplasia and arthritis, and a whole lot more.
Are There Certain Dog Food Brands for Specific-Sized Dogs?
We mentioned in the preceding section that one of the things you have to know before buying a dog food is the breed and size of your pet. Here’s why.
Large dogs, especially puppies, are at-risk for developmental orthopedic disorders such as hip dysplasia. As such, their rate of growth should be allowed to proceed at a much slower rate than smaller dog breeds. This is to make sure that the bones and joints will have time to develop at a normal rate rather than supplying them with loads of nutrients leading to very rapid growth and development. They need food that is less energy-dense and slightly-lower levels of both calcium and phosphorus.
On the other hand, smaller dogs have very fast metabolism. As such, they can easily consume their energy stores within hours. If this is not replenished, it can lead to hypoglycemia. This can result in weakness, muscle tremors, lethargy, seizures, and even death. Smaller dog breeds require energy-dense dog food to be given 3 to 4 times a day. Besides, the stomachs of toy and small dog breeds are way smaller than large dogs. By making sure that a single serving of dog food packs more calories than a similar serving of large breed dog food, you don’t need to give more servings to your small dog.
Here’s a neat info to remember: Small dogs need about 40 calories for every pound of their body weight. Large dogs need only 22.5 calories per pound of body weight.
As for dog food brands that have formulations for specific-sized dogs, majority of the brands that we featured in this list have formulations for small and large breeds. These include Blue Buffalo, Wellness, Natural Balance, CANIDAE, Pedigree, Merrick, Fromm Family Pet Foods, and Wellness Core. Surprisingly, only one dog food brand provides size-specific formulas in all 5 size classifications of dogs (toy, small, medium, large, and giant) – Purina Pro Plan. Taste of the Wild, Rachael Ray Nutrish, and Pure Balance only provide for small breeds. Both Nutro and Hill’s Science Diet have formulations for toy, small, and large breeds while Orijen only has a single recipe designed especially for large breeds of dogs.