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best food for dogs

This article "Best Food For Dogs" is based on information supplied by the American Kennel Club and Merck Veterinary Manual.

What is the best food for dogs? This is a very important question, because your dog's health depends on it! But there is no single "best food for dogs". It depends on several factors. The main ones concern the age of your dog - is it a puppy, an adult dog, or a senior dog? And on top of that you have to consider whether you prefer to store and serve up a dry dog food or a wet dog food.

Let me explain why these things are very important, for both your dog's health and well-being, and you own convenience and wallet or purse. Read on to find out what's important, and then I will make 5 recommendations for the best food for dogs!

Best Food For Dogs

The dog food market is HUGE, and the pet food companies have significant financial muscle. As in the medical world where the major drugs companies basically offer incentives to doctors to prescribe certain drugs, the pet food industry provides "information" for vets to recommend certain dog foods. It's a competitive world!

This leads us to the situation where you might wonder if the claims of the pet food companies may be biased. The issue of pet nutrition can be complicated. But don't worry - we are here to help guide you through the best options!

best food for dogsDon't feed your dog human food!

Fortunately the pet food industry is well regulated by the FDA (Food and Drug Administration), and there are rules that must be followed. However, even where there are regulations in place, they can be difficult to interpret.

For example, pet food firms MUST provide labels on their products, which must contain certain information. The basic information to be provided is;

  • Product name
  • Net weight of the product
  • Name and address of the manufacturer
  • Guaranteed analysis
  • List of ingredients
  • Intended species (dog or cat)
  • Statement of nutritional adequacy
  • Feeding guidelines.

This looks like you can get all the information you need to make sure you are buying the best food for dogs. But it's not that simple. Let's take a closer look at what some of the wording on the label actually means;

Product name. This alone can tell you a lot about what is in the product. But pay attention to the precise wording; for example -

  • If it just says "Beef" then the product must contain at least 70% beef. 
  • BUT if it says "Beef platter" or "Beef entree" or "Beef dinner", then the beef content requirement falls to 10% minimum.
  • And if the product name simply says "With beef" then the minimum content falls to just 3%. That's very low. And the same rule applies for other ingredients such as "Chicken".

Ingredients. As you might expect, this tells you what is in the food, which is useful if your dog has allergies, for example. But the tricky bit is how the ingredients are described. They are listed according to weight, with the heaviest item first. But ingredients can be split up, to move them down the list.

For example, corn can be described as "flaked corn", "kibbled corn" or "ground corn". Many manufacturers will split up the corn content like this, so that there are 3 types of corn in the list. This will move the "corn" content down the list, so it looks like there is less corn than there really is.

The meat in the dog food can also be described in different ways; For example, whole meat contains quite a high level of water, which increases the weight of the meat component. On the other hand, meat meal contains less water, and so makes up more actual meat in total.

SO, the ingredient list can be useful in some respects, but does not tell you about the quality of the ingredients, nor where they came from.

Statement of Adequacy.  The most important thing to check on a pack of dog food is the statement that the product  "is formulated to meet the nutritional levels established by the AAFCO Dog Food Nutrient Profiles."

The Association of American Feed Control Officials has clear requirements to ensure that the product is a complete and balanced food for your animal. So if you see this statement on a pack of dog food, you can be reasonably sure that it is a balanced and complete food.

However, there is (again) room for manipulation, as the Guaranteed Analysis only lists the minimum amounts of protein and fat, and the maximum levels of water and fiber. It doesn't give the exact amounts of these components.

Best food for dogsCheck the label

Best Food For Dogs - Options


1. Dry dog food. (Kibble). This the most popular type of dog food in the USA. It generally contains about 90% dry matter and 10% water. They are made by combining and cooking the ingredients (grains, meat, meat by-products, fat, vitamins and minerals), and then forcing the mixture into molds, before being coated with fat and animal tissue to make it more attractive for the dog.

The main advantages of dry food (kibble) are lower costs and no need for refrigeration after opening. Some manufacturers claim that their product helps to remove dental plaque from dog's teeth, but the evidence for this is controversial.

BUT if you want to use a dry food kibble diet for your dog, (due to the convenience), there is evidence that choosing the biggest kibble size you can find will reduce the severity of any gum inflammation, and therefore general health issues. So look for the BIG kibble. This strategy works even better if you add a dog dental stick for your dog to chew on.

Unfortunately most dog dental chews are not that great, as they contain sugar and salt to make them attractive to your dog. The problem is that a dog's saliva does not contain much (or any) an important enzyme called amylase, which breaks down sugars. Without amylase, any sugar in that chew stick will stay on the dog's teeth, feeding the bacteria in the dental plaque that we are trying to remove!

So try to look for chew sticks or toys that do not contain sugar, such as rawhide strips. These will work much better at removing plaque, especially when combined with a big-size kibble.

Best food for dogsGive him the right food!

2. Canned (wet) dog food.  This contains around 65% water and 35% dry matter. This type of food contains roughly the same components as dry food, but a higher percentage of meat, chicken and fish. They also contain textured proteins made from grains such as wheat or soy. These provide high-quality protein in a cost-effective manner.

Canned dog food is very attractive to your dog, and has a long shelf life while unopened. However, any unused food must be refrigerated, and canned food is generally more expensive than dry food.

3. Soft - Moist dog food.  This falls somewhere between dry food and canned food, with a water content around 30% and dry food matter 70%.  They don't need refrigeration, and are convenient to use, but are more expensive than dry foods.

Best Food For Dogs

4. Home-cooked and Raw Meat dog food. There is a lot of controversy and argument about raw meat diets for dogs, with little hard scientific evidence. Proponents of raw meat diets say that this is what a dog would eat in nature when not domesticated and not cared for by humans.

There is a kernel of truth in this; wild dogs did indeed chase down and kill animals to eat. BUT there are 4 problems with this argument.

First, dogs are NOT entirely carnivorous (unlike cats). They will eat many other things, and NEED a balance of some vegetable matter to stay healthy. These non-meat foodstuffs are a valuable source of vitamins, minerals and fiber. (In the wild, dogs would eat the stomach contents of their herbivorous prey - getting the plant material they need in that way.)

Second, in the wild, dogs were eating meat from a freshly killed animal. If you buy raw meat for your dog from a modern butcher or retail outlet, it is likely to be infected to some degree with bacteria. That's why we have to cook it. For example, 20% to 40% of chicken bought from a retailer may be infected with Salmonella.

Also, 25% to 50% of raw beef and pork may be infected with Listeria.

Third, modern domestic dogs have been shown to have a different genetic make-up and digestive system to animals in the wild (eg. wolves), over hundreds of years ago. They have evolved to be domestic animals, and need a domestic diet.

Fourth, any enzymes (proteins) that may be destroyed during the cooking process would normally be destroyed anyway in the highly acidic stomach before ever making it to the small intestine, where most nutrients are absorbed.

Best Food For Dogs

There are some commercially available raw-meat based diets that are freeze-dried or use pasteurization to try to kill bacteria and viruses. Neither process can penetrate meat fibers sufficiently to kill all the pathogens, and there have been some recalls in recent years due to dog food being infected with Salmonella.

5. Home Cooked dog food. This has the advantage of fresh, quality ingredients chosen by the dog owner. The main disadvantages of home-cooked dog food include the preparation time involved, inconsistent food quality, inconsistent diet balance, and relatively high cost.

Many home-cooked dog foods end up being very high in protein and calories, but low in minerals, vitamins and fiber. The only way to do this safely and properly is to get a recipe from a qualified veterinary nutritionist, in person. Not a recipe off the internet!

Best Food For Dogs - puppies

Best food for dogsPuppies need a different diet

Puppies definitely need a different diet to adult dogs. Look for a "Puppy Formula" or a food that is "for all life stages".

To sum up, quality commercial dog foods are highly regulated and undergo quality testing by veterinary nutrition specialists. They offer a complete, balanced diet which is safe, convenient and cost effective. For the vast majority of dog owners, the best choice boils down to commercial dry dog food or commercial wet (canned) dog food.

Best Food For Dogs - Our Recommendations

Our recommendations?

The main choice is between dry dog food or canned (wet) dog food. Here are my main 5 recommendations for the year 2020, based on A LOT of research. All these products are available from Amazon at very competitive prices.


1. Best dry food for adult dogs. It's the Blue Buffalo Life Protection Formula Natural Adult dry dog food.

It contains high-quality chicken meat, wholegrains, garden vegetables, and fruit. It has a great balance of protein, fat and carbohydrates, and receives very good reviews from vets and owners alike. At Amazon, you can get a 30lb. bag for under $40, which is fantastic value for money for such a quality product.

Just click on the link above or on the image below to go to the correct Amazon page.



2. Best wet food for adult dogs. For a wet dog food, we recommend Pedigree Choice Cuts in Gravy adult dog food. It's made up of real meat chunks in gravy. It's available in several recipes, including chicken, beef and filet mignon. If you prefer to feed your dog a wet (canned) dog food, this is the best product at the best price. Just click on the link above or the image below to go to the correct Amazon page.



3. Best Senior dog food. Senior (ie. older) dogs need a slightly different diet compared to an active adult dog. Generally speaking, lower in carbohydrates, moderate fat content, and above-average protein. We recommend the Blue Buffalo Life Protection Formula for Senior dogs. It is a dry food, made up of turkey meat, chicken meal, potatoes, peas, and turkey meal. It also contains salmon oil for Omega nutrients, as well as chondroitin and glucosamine for joint health. To go to the best deal at Amazon, click on the link above or the image below.



4. Best dry food for puppies. When it comes to puppies, there is an important difference between large breed puppies (where the adult dog will weigh over 50lbs) and medium to smaller breeds (where the adult will weigh less than 50lbs).

For large breed puppies, we recommend Wellness Complete Health Large Breed puppy food. It has slightly less calcium than normal puppy food, which is important in large breeds to avoid permanent bone damage and hip disease problems later in life. Just click on the link above or the image below to go to the correct page at Amazon. This is the best puppy food for large breed puppies.



For medium-sized breed puppies, we recommend the standard Blue Buffalo Life Protection Formula puppy food. Most of the protein here comes from chicken and chicken meal, and the other nutrients are in the correct balance for small to medium dog breeds. To go to the correct Amazon page, just click on the link above or the image below.



For SMALL-sized dog breeds, the BEST dry puppy food is Blue Buffalo Life Protection Formula for Small Breeds. Dogs belonging to smaller breeds need a different diet to their larger cousins, and getting nutrient balance correct is very important. Click on the link above or the image below for the correct Amazon page for your small-breed puppy.

What about WET  (ie. canned) puppy foods? Different rules apply! Here are our recommendations for wet puppy food, independent of the adult size of your dog breed. Wet dog food is generally more complete than dry food, and it is not necessary to have a specific formulation for different sized breeds.



5. Best wet (canned) food for puppies. We recommend Pedigree Puppy ground dinner. This is a complete puppy feed that is suitable for all sizes of dog breeds. It is made with  chicken and beef, with additional DHA for brain development. It's a complete and balanced food, and ideal for your puppy's development. Click on the link above or on the image below to go to the correct page at Amazon.



We hope that this guide to the Best food for dogs has been helpful. Just make sure any dog food you choose has the AAFCO label and statement on it!



This article is based on information supplied by the American Kennel Club and Merck Veterinary Manual.


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