Years ago, dog food used to be just that – dog food. There wasn’t much to it, and most of us didn’t think twice about it.
All of that has changed now. The more we learn about our four legged friends, the more we discover how important their diet is to their overall health. People are taking better care of their fur kids now more than ever before, and it shows.
The healthiest dog food has become a topic of discussion amongst canine behaviorists and veterinarians, and many experts agree that a healthy pup starts with a healthy diet.
These days, dog food isn’t just plain old dog food anymore. Say goodbye to processed kibble and hello to a variety of the healthiest dog food made with wholesome, organic ingredients and designed to suit different breeds, mixes, ages, and health issues.
So, what is the healthiest dog food for your dog? That’s what we’re here to find out.
Join us today as we learn about the nutritional needs of dogs, the pros and cons of wet dog food, dry food and raw food, and find out what the healthiest dog food would be four your four-legged friend.
What Are The Basic Nutritional Needs For Dogs?
All dogs have basic nutritional needs that must be met in order for them to thrive.
To understand what the healthiest dog food is for dogs, you must first understand what a dog’s basic nutritional needs are. Let’s take a look at what the healthiest dog foods should contain in their ingredients list and then go over what to stay away from.
The Healthiest Dog Foods
All dogs have basic nutritional needs that must be met in order for them to thrive. According to experts, the healthiest dog food for dogs should contain six key ingredients:
- Fatty Acids
- Digestible Carbohydrates
- And MInerals
Because dogs are carnivores, one of the most important ingredients in the healthiest dog food available is going to be a source of real meat protein like beef, chicken, salmon, lamb, and so on.
Protein is vital to a dog’s overall health and should always be in the top three listed ingredients on your dog’s food packaging. Proper protein helps dogs build strong, healthy muscles, boost the immune system, provide a good source of energy, and also contributes to a healthy skin and coat.
Keep in mind that some dogs have allergies or sensitivities to certain meats. The most common protein source to cause issues in dogs tends to be poultry, so if your dog has a poultry intolerance, steer clear of dog foods that contain chicken or turkey.
But what else should you stay away from? Let’s find out.
Ingredients To Stay Away From
Just because a dog food brand claims to contain the six basic ingredients dogs need doesn’t mean the purity standards of these ingredients are ideal. It’s always wise to carefully read the ingredients list of your dog’s dog food and know the ingredients to watch out for.
Stay away from ingredients like:
- Meat and Grain Meals
- Animal By Products
- Animal Digest
- Corn and Wheat Gluten
- BHT (Butylated Hydroxytoluene)
- BHA (Butylated Hydroxyanisole)
- PG (Propylene Glycol)
- Artificial Dyes (Including Blue 2, Yellow 5, Yellow 6, Red 40, etc)
- Rendered Fats
- Artificial Colors
- Artificial Flavors
- Corn Syrup
- Sodium Tripolyphosphate (STPP)
- Propylene Glycol
- And Cellulose
We understand the above list of unhealthy ingredients in dog food is long, but the good news is that most quality dog foods will generally avoid adding these ingredients anyway.
If you’re concerned about finding the healthiest dog food for your dog but aren’t sure you’ll be able to thoroughly read through this long list of ingredients, stick with organic dog foods or raw dog foods.
It’s also super important that, along with making sure you are picking the healthiest dog food for your dog, you’re also picking the healthiest dog food for his age, weight and activity level.
Why Choosing The Healthiest Dog Food Based On Your Dog’s Age, Weight, and Activity Level Is Important
Small and large breed dogs have different nutritional requirements and so do puppies and seniors.
Choosing the healthiest dog food for your dog can be challenging, especially when you consider the many options and brands now available. How do you know which food is the healthiest dog food?
It can be a tough and daunting decision, but the answer to your question lies in your dog himself. The healthiest dog food on the market, as labeled by experts, may not be the healthiest dog food for your dog.
Because every dog is different. Some dogs suffer from chronic allergies and food sensitivities and may require foods with or without certain ingredients. Others require more protein in their diets, while some breeds cannot tolerate certain proteins at all.
One of the most important parts of choosing the healthiest dog food for your dog is making sure you understand your dog and his needs.
A veterinarian who knows your dog and has a general understanding of his lifestyle can help you decide on what the healthiest dog food is, but you will likely be able to figure it out yourself with a bit of research and some basic understanding of your dog.
Along with considering any chronic health issues or food sensitivities your dog may have, it’s also important to consider his age, weight and activity level when picking out the healthiest dog food.
Small dog breeds have a higher metabolism than large dog breeds, so they need more calories in their dog food to help maintain their energy.
Large dog breeds do not require as many calories in their dog food but they require food that is higher in calcium and protein. This is because large dogs, while they have a slower metabolism than small dogs, grow much quicker and are more susceptible to suffering from bone and joint issues.
All puppies should be on a breed specific diet designed for puppies. This means small breed puppies should be on a small breed puppy food and large breed puppies should be on a large breed puppy food. Puppy food is the healthiest dog food for puppies because their growing and developing bodies and brains require foods that are rich in DHA, Omega 3 and Omega 6 fatty acids.
Protein is definitely an essential ingredient in the healthiest dog food, and for senior dogs a dog food that is designed for seniors and is higher in protein will be essential to help maintain bone, joint, and tissue health. Protein can also help maintain a healthy coat as your dog ages.
Wet Food, Dry Food, Or Raw Dog Food – Which Is Best?
The healthiest dog food for your dog is going to depend on his unique dietary needs and overall health.
Different people have different opinions about which is the healthiest dog food when it comes to picking between wet, dry and raw dog food. That said, most experts agree that in the end your choice should boil down to your individual dog and his needs.
The healthiest dog food, according to experts, is going to be a high quality dog food that meets all of your dog’s basic nutritional requirements and is specified not only for his age, weight and activity level, but for any of his unique health issues or sensitivities.
Many brands of dog foods, whether wet, dry or raw, can be purchased in varieties that suit your pup, but there are some varieties that do not specify whether they are made for a particular age range or breed type.
When you come across a dog food brand that doesn’t say, it’ll be up to you and your research and the knowledge you have of your dog’s needs to determine if that type of dog food is the healthiest dog food for him.
You should also know that some dog food varieties and brands are going to be more expensive than others. Most holistic or organic dog foods are going to certainly cost more, as will many wet dog foods and raw dog foods.
Still, there are some more affordable brands of dog food that are still high quality and healthy, which means you don’t need to break the bank in order to feed your dog well.
So, which dog food is right for your dog when it comes to wet dog food, dry dog food or raw dog food?
Let’s find out!
What You Should Know About Dry Dog Food
While quality dry dog food is healthy and maintains all the nutrients dogs need, some picky eaters may not find it very interesting.
Dry dog food is typically the least expensive dog food you can find for Fido. While lots of lower quality dry dog food is processed and could contain fillers and additives, you can find a number of varieties that are quite healthy. Is dry dog food the healthiest dog food for your dog?
Let’s take a look at the pros and cons.
Pros of Dry Dog Food
- Dry dog food is usually the cheapest dog food
- Dry dog food can aid in overall dental health
- Dry food is one of the most effective ways to ensure your dog is getting all the nutrients he needs in his diet
- Dry dog food has a long shelf life
- It is easy to travel with and simple to store
- Because it is generally an adequate source of all the nutrients your dog needs, your dog will generally feel full and satisfied for longer after eating.
Cons of Dry Dog Food
- Dry dog food has a higher chance of containing animal by-products and meat meal
- Lower quality dry food may contain artificial dyes and flavors
- Dry food can cause digestive problems for food-sensitive dogs
- Dry dog food is not the best food for dogs with food allergies and skin issues
- It is not as palatable as wet or raw dog food and may not be ideal for dogs with poor appetites
What To Look For In The Healthiest Dry Dog Food
When looking for dry dog food for your dog, make sure you are looking for a quality brand and product you trust. Do some research and speak with your veterinarian or trusted dog experts and ask what they recommend before making your choice.
Not all dry dog food is the healthiest dry dog food, and while it can be a very healthy option for some dogs, it is not right for every dog.
Dogs Who Will Thrive On Dry Dog Food
- Dogs who are generally healthy and active
- Dogs with a full set of healthy teeth
- Dogs who are not prone to skin or food allergies
- Dogs who are not picky about the food they eat
- Dogs who drink plenty of water throughout the day
If you’re looking for the healthiest dog food but aren’t sure where to start, we have listed some of our favorite dry dog food brands we know and trust below.
Freedom Grain Free Dog Food
Blue Buffalo is a trusted brand that is known for its high quality ingredients and commitment to excellence. We like their Freedom Grain Free dog food above because it is ideal for dogs with food sensitivities and allergies, which can be exasperated by some dry dog foods.
It is made with holistic ingredients and can come in different flavors like beef, chicken and lamb. It is also free of by-products, additives, wheat, corn, soy and other fillers.
Lotus Small Bite Dry Dog Food
We love Lotus dog food and think it’s one of the healthiest dog food brands for dogs because it is an oven baked kibble that contains all the balanced nutrients your dog needs. Baking dog food can also help maintain nutrients and is easier on your dog’s digestive system.
The above dog food is made from 100% natural ingredients and can be specified for your dog’s age, weight and activity level. It is also listed for small dogs but you can easily find it for large breed dogs, puppies and seniors. It is available in different flavors and the kibble is shaped, so it’s easier for dogs with flatter faces like Shih Tzus, Bulldogs, Pugs, etc to pick up and eat.
What You Should Know About Wet Dog Food
Wet dog food is great for picky eaters and dogs with kidney problems.
Wet dog food is a great option for senior dogs and young puppies, but it can be a healthy dog food option for dogs and breeds of all ages. Most wet dog food is high quality and is less likely to contain additives, fillers or by-products, and generally contains high amounts of proteins.
Of course, there are pros and cons to wet dog food. Is your dog a good candidate for wet dog food? Let’s see.
Pros of Wet Dog Food
- Wet dog food is great for picky eaters because it is highly palatable
- Wet dog food has a long shelf life and can often last for years when canned
- Wet dog food is generally rich in quality meat proteins and less likely to contain additives
- Wet dog food is high in water and is a great form of hydration
Cons of Wet Dog Food
- Wet dog food can be more expensive than dry dog food
- It contains less carbohydrates than dry dog food and may leave your dog feeling less full
- Wet dog food may mean owners will need to be more vigilant about dental health and teeth cleaning
- Wet dog food may cause digestive upset or loose stool in sensitive dogs
- Wet dog food makes it easier for a dog to miss out on balanced nutrients that he may need
What To Look For In The Best Wet Dog Food
Most wet dog foods are healthy and filled with quality ingredients that you can see and smell. This is one of the reasons wet dog foods are so popular with owners who have dogs with poor appetites. Still, some wet foods can be more expensive than dry dog foods while others may not contain all the vital nutrients your dog needs to stay happy and healthy.
It’s important to make sure you look at the ingredients to ensure the wet dog food is the healthiest dog food option for your pup.
Dogs Who Will Thrive On Wet Dog Food
- Dogs with kidney issues
- Senior dogs and puppies
- Dogs with a limited amount of teeth
- Dogs with oral pain
- Dogs who are picky eaters
- Sick dogs or dogs recovering from surgery
- Dogs who struggle with weight control and obesity
There are lots of wet dog food brands available, but we have listed some of our favorites to help you on your search for the healthiest dog food for your dog.
Organix Castor & Pullux Wet Dog Food
Organic dog food is always going to be some of the healthiest dog food because it is not going to contain artificial dyes, flavors, additives, etc. The above dog food by Organix is an organic wet dog food that is available for dogs in a number of flavors and recipes.
It can be specified for your dog’s age and weight and even includes superfoods like blueberries, coconut flour and flaxseed.
I and Love and You Naked Essentials Wet Dog Food
Another wet dog food on our list of healthiest dog food is by Naked Essentials. This dog food is made with all good ingredients and doesn’t contain additives or fillers. It also lists real meat protein as its first ingredient and comes in a number of flavor varieties for your dog to choose from.
This wet food is also grain free, so it’s great for dogs with skin issues, allergies and sensitivities. It is rich in Omega fatty acids as well, which help promote a healthy skin and coat.
What You Should Know About Raw Dog Food
Raw dog food can be good for dogs with sensitive digestive systems, but it can also contain dangerous bacteria if not properly handled.
There is a new wave of excitement over raw dog food lately, with many people insisting that raw dog food is the healthiest dog food available. However, most experts point out that, like wet dog food and dry dog food, there are pros and cons to feeding your dog a raw food diet.
Pros of Raw Dog Food
- Raw dog food can lead to a healthier coat and skin in dogs
- It can be a helpful food for dogs who suffer from food sensitivities and allergies
- Raw dog food is often more palatable to picky eaters
- Raw dog food may help improve digestion and alleviate stomach issues
- Raw dog food can promote healthier teeth
Cons of Raw Dog Food
- Raw dog food has a higher chance of containing bacteria that can cause illness in dogs like Salmonella and E.Coli.
- Raw dog food is often more expensive than dry or wet dog food
- Dogs have a higher chance of suffering from intestinal perforations or bowel obstructions from consuming raw dog food
- Raw dog food is often missing vital nutrients dogs need in a balanced diet
What To Look For In The Best Raw Dog Food
While we do love raw dog food, it’s important to keep in mind that dogs need a balanced diet of proteins, carbs, vitamins, minerals, water, and fatty acids. Raw dog food is often missing some of these vital nutrients and it can be hard to determine just what your dog is lacking when you feed him this type of diet.
That said, there are ways to supplement your dog to ensure he is getting the nutrients he needs when on a raw food diet. You can either choose to purchase vitamin supplements or you can even mix raw dog food in with other forms of dog food to ensure he is getting the balanced nutrition he needs.
Either way, make sure the raw dog food you get is of the highest quality, especially considering raw meats can contain illness-inducing bacteria. Even if you purchase freeze dried or dehydrated dog food at the store, it’s important to wash your hands after handling it and ensure you store it properly.
Dogs Who Will Thrive On Raw Dog Food
- Dogs who are picky eaters
- Dogs with food sensitivities
- Dogs with skin and coat issues
- Dogs with dental issues
- Dogs who do well on hypoallergenic dog food or limited ingredient dog food
- Senior dogs
While you can make your own raw dog food at home, order it online, or have it delivered fresh, you can also order different brands that supply it in freeze dried or mixed options. We have listed some of our favorite raw dog food that you can use as mixes, toppers, treats or even entire meals below.
ZIWI Peak Air-Dried Dog Food and Topper
While this raw dog food is more of a raw alternative, it still contains all the goodness of raw dog food you’ll love while also reducing the chances of the negative potential side effects.
The food is available in different flavors like lamb, beef, chicken and more. It is air dried and can be used as a full meal, a topper, or a mixer for picky eaters or dogs with a poor appetite. This food is ideal for dogs who suffer from allergies and skin issues, and can improve coat health, skin health, digestive health, and heart health.
Primal Freeze Dried Dog Food
Last on our list of healthiest dog foods for those of you looking for raw dog food is Primal Freeze Dried Nuggets. This dog food is an excellent alternative to literal raw meats because you simply add water to rehydrate it.
Dogs love this raw dog food and you can use it as a supplement, treat, mixer or full meal. It is formulated for all life stages and is free of additives as well as grains, corn, soy, wheat and gluten.
Other Tips On Helping Your Dog Live His Healthiest Life
You can help ensure your dog lives a happy and healthy life by providing him with a healthy diet, plenty of exercise and mental stimulation, and by giving him lots of love.
When looking for the healthiest dog food for your dog, try and remember that there really isn’t a black and white answer or particular brand or variety. What is healthiest for your dog is going to depend, and it may even change over time.
As an overview, remember that the healthiest dog food in general is going to be:
- Dog food that meets your dog’s basic nutritional requirements
- Dog food that is free of additives, fillers, by-products and artificial ingredients
- Dog food that is specified for your dog’s age, weight and activity level
- Dog food that is ideal for your dog’s unique health issues or sensitivities
Some dogs will thrive on more than one type of dog food at a time. If you think your dog falls somewhere in between being a good candidate for dry dog food and raw dog food, for example, you can always mix the two.
This will help ensure your dog gets the adequate amount of nutrition and benefits from each type of dog food. The same goes for mixing wet and dry dog food as well.
And while making sure your dog is eating the healthiest dog food possible is certainly one of the most important things you can do for your dog’s overall health and vitality, there are other ways you can ensure your dog lives his best life.
Anxiety and stress can result in dogs who are bored or underexercissed, which can lead to loss of appetite and health issues. Make sure your dog gets enough exercise each and every day and that he is kept mentally stimulated.
Keep up with routine veterinary visits as well, and see if you can get your dog health tested. This will help you to get a better idea of any potential genetic health issues your dog may be prone to facing in the future.
And of course, make sure to give your dog plenty of love and attention. You are your dog’s entire world, afterall, and there’s nothing he wants more than you and your love.
Jen Jones is a professional dog trainer and behavior specialist with more than 25 years of experience. As the founder of ‘Your Dog Advisor’ and the ‘Canine Connection’ rehabilitation center, she applies a holistic, empathetic approach, aiming to address root causes rather than merely treating symptoms.
Well known for her intuitive and compassionate approach, Jen adopts scientifically-proven, reward-based methods, encouraging positive reinforcement over punishment. Jen specializes in obedience training, behavior modification, and puppy socialization. Her innovative methods, particularly in addressing anxiety and aggression issues, have been widely recognized. Jen has worked with many of the world’s leading dog behaviorists and in her free time volunteers with local animal shelters and rescue groups.