What are the best dog foods ranked by vets? We consulted experts to help you make a choice from the many options out there, from raw and natural to organic, canned, and grain-free.
Aiming for the best food for dogs gives them distinct health advantages, too, says Jennifer Freeman, DVM, resident veterinarian, and pet care expert at PetSmart. “Premium dog food will include meat for protein, vitamin-packed vegetables and fruit, and omega fatty acids for a shiny coat,” Freeman told NBC News, adding “it’s also likely to have fewer fillers such as corn, wheat, and soy.” (source)
Types of dog foods
Although dog food doesn’t come in as many shapes, colors, sizes, and flavors as human food, there are still quite a few varieties to choose from. No matter which type you choose, the most important factor in your decision should be finding a food that meets all of your dog’s nutritional needs.
There are five main types of dog food:
Dry food is the most economical type of commercial dog food, and this is the reason that many owners choose it for their dog. It also lasts for a long time and does not need to be refrigerated.
Dry food can also help to keep your dog’s teeth healthy, since chewing crunchy dry food helps to reduce tartar buildup. When it comes to choosing a specific dry food, read the ingredients carefully, and choose a brand that uses wholesome food as its primary ingredient.
Related: Best Dry Dog Foods Ranked By Vets
Most dogs love canned, or wet, food; it has a long shelf life and is easy to find at any supermarket, but it can be expensive. For some owners, it’s definitely worth the expense, but not every brand of commercial canned food provides the protein that your pup needs. The real question is how much digestible protein it provides. Indigestible protein will pass through your dog’s system without being broken down into absorbable nutrients, so it’s pretty much useless to him.
Commercial dog foods shaped like pork chops, burgers, or other meaty foods are called semi-moist foods. These kinds of foods are the least nutritional of all dog foods and contain many artificial flavors and colorings. They can be given to your dog as an occasional treat, but they should not be considered a diet in themselves, as they do not provide the nutrition that your pup requires.
Some dog owners value the ability to be in complete control of their dog’s diet. A home-cooked diet allows the owner to know for certain exactly what is in everything her dog eats and to be absolutely sure that his nutritional needs are being met. Feeding your dog a home-cooked diet is time-consuming and expensive, but many owners think the extra effort is worth the peace of mind they gain. If you decide to feed your dog a home-cooked diet, get well acquainted with canine nutrition so you can be sure your dog is not missing out on any vital nutrients.
A raw diet consists of raw meat, preferably with some bones (never cooked bones, only raw) and organs mixed in, as bones are a natural source of phosphorus and calcium. This type of diet works well for many dogs since dogs have short intestinal tracts and strong stomach acids, both of which make it easy for them to consume and digest raw food. Before transitioning your dog to a raw diet, talk to your veterinarian about the benefits and risks. (source)
How to shop for the best food for dogs
One of the most important steps in figuring out the best dog food is through the ingredient list, noting the first three are the most critical. This will help you determine if the formula is vegetable-based with things like corn and rice or meat-based with chicken, fish, or lamb. While each dog is different, they generally do best on a protein-rich, meat-based diet.
Related: Top rated dog foods by veterinarians
Next, analyze what type of meat is within. Look for brands that specifically name the type of meat, like beef, chicken, or lamb. Meat, bone meal or meat byproducts could come from any animal. Similarly, “poultry meal” signals any bird.
The ingredients will also highlight some of what you want to avoid. vets recommend avoiding dog food that includes: dyes (dogs do not care what color their food is), sugar, and high salt (which could be used as preservatives), as well as other solvents and preservatives like propylene glycol, BHA, BHT, and ethoxyquin. (source)
Best Dog Foods Ranked By Vets (Updated For 2020)
Below we have a list of the best dog foods ranked by vets that you should consider for your dog.
All of the following dog food brands are recommended by veterinarians. Still, before you pick and feed your dog any of the following, always talk to your veterinarian first.
Best Overall: Hill's Science Diet Dry Dog Food
Hill’s Science Diet Dry Dog Food is one of the best dog foods ranked by vets that you should consider feeding your dog. Nothing beats Hill’s Science Diet Dog Food. The food meets the nutritional requirements set by AAFCO and it is made with carefully added ingredients. It helps your dog to manage his weight and sensitive skin and stomach.
Why Choose Hill’s Science Diet for your Dog?
- Made with all-natural and nutritionally dense ingredients
- Meets and exceeds the nutritional and quality standards of the food industry
- Clean from all kinds of additives, chemicals, preservatives, and unnatural colors and flavors
Science Diet Large Breed dry food for dogs contains vitamin E, omega-6 fatty acids and other key nutrients to help keep your dog’s skin in peak condition and make his coat noticeably more shiny in as little as 30 days (vs. previously fed grocery foods).
Rated #2: Royal Canin Dog Food
Royal Canin is a trusted name in the world of pet foods. The brand offers specifically designed and prepared dog food formulas for puppies and adult dogs. It offers some specific foods for particular breeds, which can be very helpful.
While certain breeds don’t require different nutrients from other breeds, some characteristics of the Royal Canin breed-specific foods are quite appropriate.
It incorporates a combination of dry and wet food that can benefit your dog
- Dry: Concentration of nutrients and texture provides a brushing effect.
- Wet: Moisture content can help support hydration.
Rated #3: Purina ProPlan
Purina Pro Plan Pet Food & Nutrition offers a full spectrum dog nutrition. Its unique blend of dry dog food, kibble, and shredded morsels of canned food. The combination adds a unique flavor to the food that offers a hearty meal to your dog.
Why Choose Purina Pro Plan Pet Food & Nutrition for your Dog?
- Real chicken is the primary ingredient that provides about 26% protein-to-fat ratio
- The food is rich and has a healthy blend of vitamin A, Omega 6 fatty acids and probiotics
- Helps in maintaining healthy digestion
With real beef, lamb, chicken, turkey, or salmon as the #1 ingredient, these formulas feature crunchy kibble and tender, meaty pieces for a taste and texture.
Each formula is highly digestible to promote optimal nutrient absorption. They’re rich in antioxidants to support his immune health and contain guaranteed live probiotics and natural prebiotic fiber to support his digestive health.
These flavorful dry dog foods deliver complete and balanced nutrition for adult dogs, so you can be sure your dog gets the nutrition he needs with a meal he’ll enjoy.
Wellness CORE’s grain-free dog food formulas are made with organic and high-quality protein options like chicken, fish, turkey, and duck.
It is 100% natural and grain-free made with turkey, chicken, salmon oil, and fruits and vegetables to help support your dog’s optimal health and fortified with antioxidants, probiotics, vitamins, and minerals, including fish and flax omega blend for healthy skin and coat.
It is based on the nutritional philosophy that dogs thrive on a diet mainly comprised of meat. Each grain-free, nutrient-rich formula provides high-quality protein for your dog with no meat by-products or fillers, grain, corn, soy, wheat-gluten or artificial preservatives, colors, or flavors.
Rated #5: Nutro Ultra
Nutro Ultra provides a natural blend of ingredients for optimal nutrition. Nutro Ultra believes that dogs deserve to enjoy their food as much as we enjoy ours.
And like us, they shouldn’t have to compromise on taste. Every Nutro Ultra recipe is crafted using quality ingredients that satisfy and nourish. These delicious recipes start with real chicken as the #1 ingredient and feature a trio of high-quality protein from chicken, lamb, and salmon and a blend of 15 vibrant superfoods like coconut, chia, kale, and blueberries.
The recipe provides a balanced diet for adult dogs that’s nutrient-rich and full of flavor that’ll help your dog thrive. These dry recipes are made with Non-GMO ingredients and have no chicken by-product meal, corn, wheat, or soy protein and no artificial flavors, colors, or preservatives. Plus, these nutrient-rich recipes are full of flavor and have high-quality protein as the foundation of every recipe.