Best Dog Foods: How to Choose the Right Food For Your Dog

There are so many commercial dog foods on the market, each claiming to be the most nutritious food out there.  So how do you know what is really quality and what is hype?

As a dog owner, you likely think of your pet as a family member.  So you want to do whatever you can to ensure he has a long and healthy life.

You probably already know that one of the best things you can do for your dog’s health is to make sure you are feeding him a quality, nutritious diet.

With pet food aisles offering as varied a selection as any other aisle in most grocery stores, It makes sense that you would want to know what the best dog food is.

Consider this:  What is the “best” people food?  And if I told you what it was, would you feed it to your six-month-old child and your 98-year-old grandmother?  Probably not.

Ultimately, what is “best” depends on what you are looking for in a dog food.  This depends on your dog. Ideally, you are looking for the best food for your dog’s individual breed and size, age, and individual needs.

Unless your dog is a robot dog, choosing the right diet can be a bit overwhelming without some basic knowledge.

Things you need to know when shopping for dog food:

  1. Your vet can be a great resource.
    He or she can provide food recommendations based on your dog’s individual needs.
  2. Look for the words “complete and balanced.”
    This indicates that the food contains all the nutrients your dog needs in the proper amounts.
  3. Look for the “AAFCO Nutritional Adequacy Statement.”
    This statement, also known as a “nutritional claim,” indicates the food is complete and balanced for a particular life stage of your pet.

This is the AAFCO Nutritional Adequacy Statement found on a can of Merrick Grain Free wet dog food.  

A life stage refers to growth, reproduction, adult maintenance, or some combination of these.  For example, a puppy requires a higher caloric intake than a less active, senior dog does.  A pregnant or nursing dog also has different nutritional needs than a puppy. Therefore, you want to consider your dog’s life stage when choosing his food.

If a product is marked intermittent or supplemental, it will not meet your dog’s nutritional needs over the long term. In other words, it is not complete and balanced and should not be fed to your dog for a long period of time.

  1. Portion Control is as crucial for your Fido as for humans.
    Whatever food you decide to feed your dog, make sure you are feeding the correct portion size for your dog’s age, size, breed, and activity level.
  1. There is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to dog food.
    What is “best” depends on what you are looking for in a dog food, which depends on the dog you are feeding.

Who regulates dog food for quality and safety?

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates dog food under the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FFDCA).  The FDA requires that animal food, like human food, is free of dangerous substances, is produced under sanitary conditions, and is safe to eat.

Dr. Ashley Gallagher, a veterinarian at Washington, DC’s Friendship Hospital For Animals, believes dog foods that have undergone the ultimate test of quality are those that have been through an AAFCO feeding trial on actual pets.

Pet food brands that have conducted the AAFCO feeding trials will display a nutritional adequacy statement on their labels.  Here are examples of the AAFCO statements used to indicate the nutritional adequacy, as well as brief explanations of what each means:

Source: American Association of Feed Control Officials

What is the AAFCO?

The AAFCO stands for Association of American Feed Control Officials. The organization is comprised of animal control officials from each state, feed officials, and government representatives from countries such as Canada and Costa Rica.

The AAFCO is not a governmental agency and does not have the power to regulate.  However, its members meet to discuss and develop fair regulations and policies. The recommendations made by the AAFCO are the basis for most state laws and policies regarding animal feeds.

Understanding pet food labels

Dog food manufacturers use just as many buzzwords to sell their products as human food manufacturers do: Grain-Free. Healthy-Weight. Low Fat. Organic. All Natural. Pesticide Free.

This is why it is important that you familiarize yourself with the information on dog food labels.  We know they can be difficult to understand let alone read, given the small print and difficulty managing an unwieldy 35-pound bag of kibble.

But labels are only useful if you know what you should be looking for.

The eight items labels must contain

Pet food labels are required to provide the following eight pieces of information, according to the Merck Veterinary Manual.

  1. Product name

  2. Net weight of the product

  3. Name and address of the manufacturer

  4. Guaranteed analysis

  5. List of ingredients

  6. Intended animal species (i.e. dog or cat)

  7. Statement of nutritional adequacy

  8. Feeding guidelines

  1. Product Name – The product name actually tells you a lot of information about your dog’s food. This indicates the amount (or percentage) of protein contained in the food.  For example, a product named “chicken” means that chicken makes up at least 70 percent of the product with moisture included.

If a food is made up of two ingredients (example: lamb and beef), the first ingredient listed should be the ingredient of higher weight prior to cooking.

Products named “chicken entree,” “chicken platter,” or “chicken dinner” only require that the named protein (in this case, chicken) make up 10 percent of the product.  Products that state “with chicken” or “with beef” only require that three percent of the entire product be made up of that ingredient.

Products that state “chicken flavor” only have enough chicken to flavor the food.  This is less than three percent of the total product.

  1. Net Weight– This just tells you how much of the product is in the package, whether it is a bag of dry food or can of wet food.3. Name and address of the manufacturer – Dog food companies must list the name and address of the manufacturer and distributor.  If you have a problem with the food or there is a food recall, you can contact them directly.

    4. Guaranteed analysis – The guaranteed analysis states the minimum amount of crude protein and fat in the product.  It also states the maximum amounts of water and crude fiber. However, the manufacturer’s nutrient profile can frequently be a better barometer of the nutritional value of your dog’s food.

This can of dog food shows the guaranteed analysis just above the statement of nutritional adequacy.  

  1. List of ingredients – The ingredients list tells you what is in your dog’s food. This list is particularly useful if you have a dog with dietary allergies or specific dietary needs.

This is the ingredients list found on the side of a bag of dog food sold at a veterinarian’s office.  

However, what this list does not tell you is the quality or grade of any of the ingredients in the food.  Therefore it is not a useful way to determine the sources of the proteins and carbohydrates in your dog’s food.

6. Intended animal species – This specifies what type of animal the food is to be fed to (dog or cat).

7. Statement of nutritional adequacy – See chart above.

8. Feeding guidelines – This tells you the (recommended) amount of food per pound of body weight that you should feed your dog. This is based on the recommended amount of energy your dog would use if he/she remained at rest.

Weighting of ingredients

Since ingredients on dog food labels are listed in order of weight, the heaviest ingredient is at the top of the list.  Therefore, the first ingredient you want to see is a high-quality protein.

However, chicken meal, a dehydrated chicken protein source, actually contains more protein than fresh chicken.  This is because fresh chicken is 80 percent water.

Therefore, if you see chicken meal listed as one of the top three ingredients on your dog food label, the food actually contains more protein.  The same is true for other dehydrated animal proteins such as fish meal and beef meal.

Types of dog food available

The type of food you choose to feed your dog is largely a matter of personal preference.

The increasing number of pet supply shops and online pet supply delivery services makes it easier than ever to purchase whatever you need for the diet that most appeals to your needs (and your pooch’s taste buds) without doing a lot of running around and physical lifting.

No matter where you are located, you can buy good quality dog food.  Here is a brief overview of the different types of dog food that are available:

  • Kibble

  • Dehydrated dog food

  • Wet food

  • Canned Food

  • Frozen raw/Freeze-dried

  • Mixes and Pre-mixes

Kibble

Kibble is today’s basic “dry” dog food. Though each company has its own specific recipe, all kibble is made by mixing wet and dry ingredients together into a dough-like consistency and then putting the mixture into a type of machinery called an “expander.”

The mixture then undergoes a process during which it is cooked in a machine under high pressure and high temperatures. Once the pressure is released, the pieces puff up.  Following this, the kibble is dried in a drier and then sprayed with fats, vitamins, and minerals. It is then sealed into the bags of food that will make their way to store shelves and to dogs’ dishes everywhere.

Dehydrated dog food

Dehydrated dog food is also known as “raw dehydrated dog food.”  Although it is considered dry dog food, it is not made the same way as most kibble.  The moisture in the food is removed using a drying process.

As the food dries, it is cooked.  However, it is not cooked for a long period of time nor is it cooked at a high temperature.  This helps the food retain more of its nutritional value.

Since the moisture is removed from the food, it lasts longer and is a good way of preserving food without artificial preservatives.  Prior to feeding them to your dog, you usually need to add warm water to most dehydrated foods. This rehydrates the food and causes it to expand.

Wet food

Wet food usually refers to canned food.  However, it also includes moist and semi-moist pouches of food which, though less common, some dog owners find preferable because they are easy to serve and convenient to store.

Canned foods contain more moisture and dogs often prefer the taste.

Canned dog food

Canned foods are generally higher in fat and calories and lower in carbohydrates than dry food.

Since canned foods go through a different production and manufacturing process than kibble, they do not require the same high amounts of starch.  Canned foods are cooked and sterilized using steam, and do not require the preservatives that dry foods often need.

On the other hand, canned foods require thickening agents such as guar gum or cassia gum.  Both of these are considered natural and generally recognized as safe by the Food and Drug Administration.

If you choose to feed canned food as a main meal to your dog, always check to be sure it meets the AAFCO guidelines as a “complete and balanced” food source.

Is canned food right for your dog?

There are pros and cons to feeding a dog canned food.  It is a great option for some dogs and dog parents, while others do better with standard kibble.

Because canned food costs more per ounce than dry food, it tends to be a better option for owners of very small or toy breeds.  The amount of canned food required for large or very large breeds (if fed as the main meal source) could become cost prohibitive.

However, some large breed owners mix it in with dry food and/or offer it as an occasional topping or treat because dogs tend to like the taste.

Canned foods have a much higher water content than most other types of food.  This makes them a good option for dogs who do not drink enough water or otherwise do not get enough water due to health issues or other complications.

Another benefit of canned foods is the variety.  If you have trouble finding a food your dog likes, there is no shortage of options when it comes to canned food.  Many canned foods come as stews, loaves or pates. Since many dogs find the smell and taste of canned foods appealing, it can be a good choice if you have a pooch who tends toward picky eating.

Dogs that have difficulty chewing due to dental problems or jaw issues can also benefit from canned food. However, wet food can cause dental problems.

Canned foods can also be an easier way to hide vitamin pills or medication that you might need to slip to your pooch.

Pouches

The makeup of dog food in pouches is similar to that of canned dog foods. Some information indicates that pouches may have higher amounts of added sugar.  This is something to look out for particularly if you do not brush your dog’s teeth regularly, as this can lead to tooth decay and tooth loss.

The main advantage to pouches is their convenience. They are resealable and easy to store.

Owners can open a pouch, feed only what they need, and simply store the remaining food in the refrigerator.  Studies indicate that the convenience of this type of packaging will cause sales to rise.

Frozen raw/Freeze-dried

Many people opt for frozen raw or freeze-dried food because it does less to alter the nutrients in the food and it preserves the original quality of the animal protein, whereas cooking at high temperatures can cause food to lose nutrients.

Freeze-dried foods can also be stored for long periods of time, making them a convenient option.  Unlike dehydrated foods, they do not require rehydrating or other preparation prior to feeding.

Some proponents of raw and frozen raw diets believe it is beneficial because it more closely approximates the diet of our canines wild ancestors.

Mixes and pre-mixes

Mixes and pre-mixes are generally sold for people who choose to make their own dog food. The mix is essentially a base to which you can add fresh fruits, vegetables, meats, eggs and dairy (such as yogurt, kefir, or cottage cheese) that you purchase separately.

The separate ingredients are sometimes sold by the pet food company or can be purchased from a local farm stand or grocer of your choice.

Some mixes and pre-mixes state that they are complete diets regardless of whether or not you add ingredients to them.  Others do not list all the nutritional information though they are likely complete diets.

Some mixes and pre-mixes are only complete diets if they are fed as directed.  Still, others give limited or conflicting nutritional information and are likely incomplete diets.

To find out which mixes and pre-mixes are complete diets and which are best to avoid, read this before you commit to feeding one to your pup.

What to look for and what to look out for in dog food

To take some of the mystery out of dog food labels, here are some basics you should look for in Fido’s food:

Look for foods that contain:

  • A top quality animal protein as the first ingredient.
  • A named animal protein source.
    For example, the first ingredient should be listed as chicken, beef, duck, etc.  If it is simply listed as “meat,” it is not a top quality protein. Do not buy anonymous meats.
  • Whole fruits, vegetables, and grains.
  • A “best by” date that is ideally 10 to 11 months away.
    At the minimum, choose food with a “best by” date that is six months away.
  • A high amount of protein and a moderate amount of fat.
    Healthy dogs tend to do best on a diet that is high in protein, with a moderate amount of fat.  Proteins are formed by amino acids – which are the individual “building blocks” for tissues, organs, enzymes, hormones, antibodies, etc.
  • Statement of nutritional adequacy.

Always check the “best by” date on dog food.  Ideally, it should be 10 to 11 Months away.  This food has a best by date of August 2019.  

Avoid foods that contain:

  • Cancer-causing chemical preservatives.
  • Artificial coloring.
    The color of the food does not matter to your dog.
  • Artificial flavors.
    Quality dog food should contain enough healthy meats and fats to make it appealing without adding artificial flavors.
  • BHA, BHT or Ethoxyquin
    These are artificial preservatives added to some pet foods and treats to extend the shelf life.
  • Added sweeteners.
    These are often used to encourage dogs to eat foods that do not contain much nutritional animal protein. (such as corn syrup, sucrose, ammoniated glycyrrhizin)
  • Propylene glycol.
    This is an additive found in some chewy foods. It is colorless, odorless, and tasteless.  It is a liquid that is chemically related to alcohol.

Propylene glycol is used to keep foods moist.

It is toxic in large amounts.

It is also used in some medications, cosmetic products, antifreeze, and other industrial products.  It is “generally recognized as safe” (GRAS) by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

  • An unnamed fat source such as “animal fat.”
    This is often untraceable and can even come from used restaurant grease.  It is safer to stick with a source that is traceable such as “chicken fat.”
  • Corn gluten meal and wheat gluten meal.
    Both are waste products from the human food industry.  They are inexpensive sources of low-quality protein used in poor quality dog food.

Armed with a little knowledge, you will always know what’s in your pup’s bowl.  

A note about food allergies

Although grain-free food dog food has become the latest trend to hit the dog food industry, that does not mean that the majority of dogs have a grain or gluten allergy.

Many people confuse allergies with intolerance or digestive difficulties.

There is only one proven way to diagnose food allergies in dogs.  That should be undertaken with your veterinarian.

However, if your dog has food allergies or food intolerance, you will want to be even more selective in choosing a food that meets his needs.

How We Determined “Best” Dog Foods

What is “best” is ultimately a matter of personal preference and depends on you and your dog. What works best for your dog and your lifestyle may not be the best choice for another dog with different needs.

Hopefully, we have armed you with the information to help you make the best decision for your four-legged family member.  We recommend that you consult a veterinarian whenever you have questions about your dog’s diet.

We looked for dog foods that contained all of the nutrients and labeling we listed above and none [or few] of the ingredients we recommend you avoid.  We only searched foods that contain the statement of nutritional adequacy and have undergone testing to ensure they contain all the nutrients your dog needs in the proper amounts.

We also researched the very latest studies and ratings by Dogfoodadvisor.com and Business Insider.

Dog foods that met the criteria mentioned above and received high ratings from both dogfoodadvisor and Business Insider’s 2018 reviews were considered for mention among our “Best” Dog Foods.

We then broke dog foods down by category (kibble, canned food, grain free, freeze dried, etc.), since there is no one “best” dog food for all dogs.

Best dog food overall

Orijen

  • Offers the most biologically appropriate approach to pet nutrition.
  • Orijen is designed to mirror the natural diet a dog would eat in the wild.
  • Each product by this company is made of up to 90 percent meat.
  • Contains fewer than 20 percent carbohydrates.
  • The food contains a mix of low-glycemic, highly digestible carbs like lentils, pumpkin, leafy greens, and fresh fruits.
  • All Orijen foods are naturally grain free.

Best dry dog foods

Canidae

  • Canidae offers a wide selection of life stage, grain free, and limited ingredient recipes.
  • All selections are nutrient dense and offer top quality proteins.
  • All include digestible carbohydrates.
  • Canidae offers recipes for seniors, puppies, and large breeds.
  • The company offers a PURE line with nine grain-free options.
  • Each recipe in the PURE line contains limited ingredients.
  • Each recipe in the PURE line is made for dogs with food allergies and contains unique protein sources like lamb, duck, and wild boar.

Acana Heritage Dog Food (Dry)

  • The Acana Heritage line includes seven dry dog foods.
  • The first ingredient in the food is beef.
  • The second listed ingredient is pork.
  • The third ingredient is beef meal, which contains nearly 300% more protein than fresh beef.
  • This food includes a quality source of carbohydrates and dietary fiber.
  • It contains chicory root is rich in inulin, which is used to promote the growth of healthy bacteria in the dog’s digestive tract.

Blue Buffalo Life Protection (Dry)

  • This line includes 23 dry dog foods.
  • This product contains a fat-to-protein ratio of about 55 percent.
  • The first ingredient in this food is chicken.
  • The second listed ingredient is chicken meal, which contains nearly 300% more protein than fresh chicken.
  • The third ingredient is brown rice which is an easy to digest, complex carbohydrate.  Although it provides energy, rice is only of modest nutritional value to dogs.
  • Barley, a starchy carbohydrate, follows.  This supplies some healthy nutrients but again is of little nutritional value to dogs.
  • The next ingredient is oatmeal, which is rich in vitamin B and fiber.
  • It contains chicory root is rich in inulin, which is used to promote the growth of healthy bacteria in the dog’s digestive tract.

Canidae Grain Free Pure (Dry)

*Canidae Grain Free Pure Fields recipe was used for purposes of this analysis.

  • This product line offers 13 dry dog foods.
  • This product contains a fat-to-protein ratio of about 50 percent.
  • The first ingredient in this food is chicken.
  • The second listed ingredient is menhaden fish meal, which contains approximately 300% more protein than fresh fish.

What are Menhaden?
Menhaden are small, protein-rich, ocean fish.  They are a good source of omega-3 fatty acids. Additionally, because of the depth of their habitat, menhaden are not exposed to mercury contamination like several deepwater fish.

  • The third ingredient has peas, a quality source of carbohydrates that are high in fiber.
  • The next ingredient lists lentils, which like peas offer a high quality, high fiber carbohydrate source.
  • This food contains potato, which aside from being a gluten-free carbohydrate, are of little nutritional value to dogs.

Best wet dog food

Blue Buffalo cans

  • The Blue Buffalo Homestyle line includes 12 dog food recipes.
  • This product contains a fat-to-protein ratio of about 69 percent.
  • The first ingredient in this food is beef.
  • The second listed ingredient is beef broth.  While broths are only of modest nutritional value to dogs, they are frequently used in canned foods because they add flavor and moisture to the food.
  • The third ingredient is beef liver. This is a named animal protein.
  • Fourth on the list are carrots, which are high in both beta-carotene and fiber.
  • The next ingredient is peas, a legume also rich in carbohydrates and fiber.
  • This product does contain carrageenan. This is a thickening agent which has been used in foods for hundreds of years but has recently come under some controversy regarding long-term safety.

It is worth noting that Blue Buffalo has had several product recalls.  However, many of the recalls were voluntary and issued as a precaution.

Best grain-free dog food

Taste of the Wild (Dry Dog Food)

  • This line includes nine dry dog foods.
  • This product contains a fat-to-protein ratio of about 57 percent.
  • The first ingredient in this food is beef.
  • The second listed ingredient is peas, a good source of carbohydrates and fiber.
  • The third ingredient is garbanzo beans. These are better known as chickpeas.  Chickpeas are a legume rich in fiber.
  • The next listed ingredient is lamb meal, which contains nearly 300% more protein than fresh lamb.
  • The fifth ingredient is canola oil.  Canola oil has come under some controversy because it can (but is not always) made from genetically modified rapeseed.  However, it is an excellent source of necessary omega-3 fatty acids.
  • The sixth ingredient is “egg product.”Although eggs are a good protein source, this is something to look out for because the quality can vary greatly.  Often “egg product” refers to a lower quality form of egg received from commercial hatcheries. These may come from eggs that failed to hatch or that were unsuitable for sale to the public for other reasons.
  • The seventh ingredient is boar.  Raw boar, though a quality meat, is made up of a substantial amount of water.  Cooking would reduce the meat content to a much smaller amount of its original weight.
  • Overall, this is a highly rated dog food.

As of July 2018, the Food and Drug Administration was investigating a possible connection between a grain free diet and a type of heart disease in dogs known as dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM).  DCM is more common in certain large breeds and it has been thought to be largely influenced by genetic factors.

Grain free dog food is best fed to dogs who have been diagnosed with gluten allergies. Your vet can put your dog on a specific diet to test for gluten allergies.

Best freeze-dried dog food

Primal Pet Foods Freeze-Dried Formula

  • The Primal freeze-dried line includes seven raw dog foods.
  • This product contains a fat-to-protein ratio of about 70 percent.
  • The first ingredient in this food is beef heart. This is an all meat, quality protein that is rich in vitamins and minerals.  (Your dog won’t think it sounds as unappealing as you do!)
  • The second listed ingredient is beef liver. It is a named organ meat and so it is considered quality.
  • The third ingredient is ground beef bone.  Bones (as long as they are NOT cooked) are a great, natural source of calcium for dogs.
  • The next listed ingredient is kale, a dark green, leafy vegetable in the cabbage family.Kale is known for being a good source of beta-carotene, calcium, and vitamins C and K. Research indicates that kale and broccoli contain anti-cancer properties for both dogs and humans.
  • The fifth ingredient is carrots, which are high in beta-carotene and are a good source of fiber.
  • This food also contains squash, broccoli, and apples.
  • The food contains added vitamin E but does not indicate any other added vitamins and minerals.

It is worth mentioning that this food received the Dog Food Advisor’s highest rating of five stars.

Best affordable dog food

Whole Earth Farms (wet food)

  • The Whole Earth Farms line contains 12 grain-free, canned dog foods.
  • This product contains a fat-to-protein ratio of about 70 percent.
  • The first ingredient in this food is chicken.
  • The second listed ingredient is broth. While broths are only of modest nutritional value to dogs, they are frequently used in canned foods because they add flavor and moisture to the food.
  • The third ingredient is turkey.
  • The fourth ingredient is chicken liver. It is a named organ meat and so it is considered quality.
  • This food also contains peas, carrots, and sweet potatoes, all good sources of carbohydrates and naturally full of fiber.
  • The eighth listed ingredient is “dried egg product.”Despite eggs having a lot of protein, this is something to be cautious of (as mentioned earlier) because the quality of the egg product can vary greatly depending upon where it comes from.

This food also contains four healthy additions:

  1. Olive oil – a healthy monounsaturated fat. Certain oils, such as olive oil and coconut oil (used in a variety of forms), have long been known for their many health benefits.
  2. Alfalfa – this member of the hay family is high in protein and fiber.
  3. Flaxseed oil – a good non-fish source of omega-3 fatty acids which research indicates is essential to a dog’s health.
  4. Chelated minerals – minerals that have been chemically attached to protein in order to
    make them easier to absorb.

It is worth mentioning that this food received the Dog Food Advisor’s highest rating of five stars.

Best dog food for puppies

Taste of the Wild Grain-Free Puppy Food

  • There are only two puppy formulas in this product line.
  • Taste of the Wild Grain-Free Puppy Food supplies high quality, easily digestible proteins that puppies need in their early phases of growth.
  • This food contains quality fish proteins, a good source of omega-3 fatty acids needed for dogs healthy growth and development.
  • Other ingredients include fresh fruits and vegetables which supply natural vitamins and minerals in amounts required during this critical stage of a young dog’s development.
  • DHA supplements are included to assist with the growing puppy’s brain development.
  • This food is made with grain-free, easily digested carbohydrates to support the activity level of the younger dog.
  • Taste of the Wild Grain-Free Puppy Food also contains chelated minerals for easy digestion and absorption.

Best dog food for senior dogs

Wellness Complete Health Senior Dog Food

  • Wellness Complete Health contains fewer calories to meet the needs of the less active senior dog.
  • Wellness Complete Health Senior is offered in original formula and small-breed formula so it can be fed to seniors of all sizes.
  • This food is made with fresh, deboned chicken and chicken meal, both high-quality protein sources.
  • This food is high in both glucosamine and chondroitin, both supplements known for supporting healthy joints and relieving pain from joint damage and arthritis.
  • Wellness Complete Health Senior also contains chelated minerals for easy digestion and absorption.
  • This food contains probiotics which support digestion and immunity.
  • The whole grains are a plus for many, but a concern for pet-parents whose dogs may be sensitive to grains.
  • The chicken may also be a concern to people who have been feeding their dogs an exotic protein source such as venison or lamb.

Best dog food for small toy breeds

Small breed dogs grow faster than their larger counterparts and they reach maturity at a younger age.  They also have faster metabolisms and tend to need more calories, particularly in their younger years.

Merrick Lil’ Plates

  • The Merrick Lil’ Plates line includes six dry dog foods.
  • This product contains a fat-to-protein ratio of about 44 percent.
  • The first ingredient in this food is salmon, which is rich in omega-3 fatty acids.
  • The second listed ingredient is salmon meal, which contains approximately 300% more protein than fresh fish.
  • The next listed ingredients are sweet potato and peas, both good sources of carbohydrates and fiber.
  • This food contains potato which is a digestible carbohydrate, but of limited nutritional value to dogs.
  • This food does contain inulin, a prebiotic that promotes the growth of healthy bacteria, as well as alfalfa, salmon oil, and chelated minerals.

Best dog food for large breeds

Because large breeds are prone to orthopedic issues such as hip dysplasia and arthritis, as well as canine obesity and boat, they have different nutritional needs.

Blue Buffalo Wilderness dry food

*Blue Buffalo Wilderness Adult Large Breed Salmon was used for purposes of this analysis.

  • The Blue Buffalo Wilderness line includes 18 dry dog foods.
  • This product contains a fat-to-protein ratio of about 43 percent.
  • The first ingredient in this food is salmon, which is rich in omega-3 fatty acids.
  • The second listed ingredient is chicken meal, which contains approximately 300% more protein than fresh chicken.
  • The next listed ingredient is pea protein. This is defined as the portion that remains once the starchy portion of the vegetable has been removed.
  • The fourth ingredient includes peas, a quality carbohydrate which is naturally rich in fiber.
  • Also on the ingredient list are tapioca starch and pea starch.  Pea starch is a carbohydrate extract used to bind the food and is of limited nutritional value.
  • Further down on the list, this food contains chicory root which is rich in inulin. As mentioned, Inulin is used to promote the growth of healthy bacteria in the dog’s digestive tract.Studies (on both animals and humans) have also shown chicory root to have multiple health benefits including relief from age-related inflammation and other diseases.
  • It also contains a concentrated version of caramel coloring.  Although considered safe by the FDA, it has come under some recent controversy because some studies show it causes cancer in laboratory animals.  Additionally, dogs are not concerned about the color of their food.
  • On the positive side, this food does contain chelated minerals or minerals that have been chemically attached to protein in order to make them easier to absorb.

Take away information

Feeding your four-legged family member does not have to be a daunting task.  Make sure whatever food you decide to feed your dog states “complete and balanced” on the packaging.  Additionally, look for the AAFCO statement of nutritional adequacy. If it is not on the food, the food is not right for Fido.

Keep in mind that portion control applies for pets as well as humans, so follow the feeding guidelines.

Obesity is a serious issue for pets, so pair up with a fur-friend and exercise together.  If weather conditions make exercising your dog outdoors impossible, consider indoor games or a treadmill.

Always read the dog food labels and ingredient list.  If the ingredients at the top of the list are not quality protein sources, chances are you should start looking for a new dog food.

Most dog foods available on the market today are quality balanced diets.  If you have questions or concerns, your veterinarian can be your best resource.  He or she can help you choose a food that is scientifically proven to meet your dog’s individual needs.

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