Best Dog Food - Comprehensive Guide & Most Popular Foods in Each Category
Here are The Fuzzy Rescue’s best dog food for 2024 grouped by category followed by a comprehensive buying guide
- Best Puppy Food
- Best Wet Dog Food
- Best Senior Dog Food
- Best Grain Free Dog Food
- Best Dog Food for Weight Loss
- Best Large Breed Dog Food
- Best Small Breed Dog Food
- Best Dehydrated Dog Food
- How Is Dog Food Made?
Types of Commercial Dog Food Available in the Market
Dry Dog Food
Dry dog food is the type that most people prefer, as it is the most affordable and readily available. Additionally, high-quality dog food can provide your dog with optimal nutritional value and a balanced and complete diet. One of the most prominent advantages over other dog food types is that you don’t have to refrigerate it, which makes storage easier.
Another benefit of dry dog food is that it is formulated to remove tartar and plaque from your dog’s teeth, which prevents gum disease and promotes dental health.
This type of dog food usually takes the form of biscuits or kibbles and has a moisture content of up to 10%. The rest of the content is a dry matter that consists of grains and meat. Dry dog food typically has a higher carbohydrate content than wet dog food, usually in the form of wheat, corn, or barley.
Carbohydrates are not essential to a dog’s diet but are the primary ingredient in low-quality products. Carbs not only keep the kibble together but are also an economical ingredient and a source of energy.
Other macronutrients in dry dog food include protein and fat. Protein sources can be animal-based, for example, rendered chicken, lamb, or fish. Dry food can also contain plant-based proteins such as soybean, flaxseed, or peas.
The crude fat content of dry dog food ranges from 8% to 18%. Unlike carbs, fatty acids are essential to your dog’s diet. Consult with your vet before selecting dry food for your dog, especially if your dog is older or struggling with health problems.
If you have a healthy dog, stick to dry foods with a protein as a primary ingredient and a fat content between 10% and 15%.
Wet Dog Food
Wet dog food typically comes in cans and is a popular alternative to dry dog food. Many dog owners prefer this type of food because of its palatability. Wet dog food provides appealing textures and aromas for your pet. If you have a picky eater, canned food is worth considering.
Like dry food, you don’t have to refrigerate wet food unless the can is open, and it has a long shelf life at room temperature. The most prominent advantage that wet dog food has over dry dog food is that it typically has a lower carbohydrate content. Canned food also has a high moisture content that hydrates your dog.
The primary ingredient of wet dog food products is usually animal-based proteins such as beef, lamb, poultry, or fish. As a result, this food has a high essential amino acid profile, which plays several physiological roles, including:
- Immune system function
- The distribution of nutrients
- The development of muscle, nails, and hair
Wet dog food typically also contains textured plant-based proteins from ingredients like peas or grains. As a rule, wet dog food is less processed than dry dog food and closely resembles proteins in their natural state. However, this type of dog food doesn’t offer the same teeth cleaning benefits as dry food.
Another drawback of wet food is that it can be a rather messy business, and once you opened a can, it can go down quickly. Some dogs prefer dry food, so you may have to experiment with the different types. You can also consult with a veterinary nutritionist to find out if a wet food product is suitable for your dog.
Freeze-Dried Dog Food
Freeze-dried dog food is a light and dry product that comes in air-tight containers. This product consists of fresh food that the manufacturer cooks and dehydrates through a unique freeze-drying process. Freeze-dried food has a shelf life that can last for years, provided that you don’t open or damage the packaging.
Because the manufacturing process involves freeze-drying and not conventional dehydration, the nutrients of the food remain intact. To prepare this type of food, all you have to do is open the packaging and add water, which will reconstitute the authenticity and palatability of the ingredients.
When shopping for freeze-dried food for your dog, look for a high meat content as a source of protein. You should also make sure that the meat comes from a named and high-quality meat source. Fresh meat, bones, and organs are generally healthy and have high biological and nutritional values.
Stay away from low-quality products containing animal by-products, artificial coloring, preservatives, and flavors.
There is no prominent nutritional difference between freeze-dried food and kibbles or canned food. High-quality freeze-dried products will contain proteins, carbohydrates, and fat. Some products may have a higher calcium content than others, so if your dog suffers from an orthopedic health problem, your vet may recommend an appropriate product.
Dehydrated Dog Food
Dehydrated dog food is similar to freeze-dried dog food in that both processes involve the extraction of moisture as a method of preservation.
Freeze-drying extracts around 99% of moisture while dehydration processes only extract 90 to 95% of the food’s original moisture. The preparation of dehydrated food can also take as long as a few hours, depending on the size of the food pieces. To prepare dehydrated food, you have to add water and leave it soaking until it saturates and expands.
Dehydrated food has a long shelf life and is easy to store. High-quality dehydrated products are also nutritious, especially if they have an animal-based protein as the first ingredient. Because you don’t give it to your dog as dry food, it is a source of hydration, too. Like wet dog food, dehydrated dog food provides appealing tastes, aromas, and textures, and can be a solution to fussy eating.
When you prepare the dehydrated dog food, follow the instructions carefully. If you don’t use the correct measurements or if the water is not at the right temperature, it can affect the nutritional value of the food. The food should also be sufficiently hydrated before you give it to your dog.
Dehydrated dog food is relatively affordable and available from reputable dog food brands. Freeze-dried dog food is not necessarily a better option than high-quality dehydrated food, as it may provide in all your dog’s dietary needs.
Choosing the Best Food for Different Life Stages of Dog
As your dog progress through the different life stages, you want to consider age-related dietary requirements when selecting dog food.
Puppies have unique dietary needs. One reason why your puppy needs a specific nutritional intake is that they are at a stage of rapid development. A puppy requires more energy than an adult or senior dog, so its food should contain around 445 kcal per serving as well as a higher fat content.
In addition to a higher caloric density, puppies need more protein and essential amino acids to promote muscle and other body tissue development. Calcium and phosphorus are also crucial ingredients to accommodate bone growth.
Essential fatty acids like omega-3 and omega-6 promote the health of your puppy’s skin, coat, and eyes, and stimulate healthy brain development. Ingredients like chicken, flaxseed, and salmon oil contain these fatty acids.
Select a puppy food with ingredients that contain vitamins and minerals to ensure optimal nutrition. The ingredients include things like vegetables, whole grains, fruit, fish oil, egg yolks, and dairy.
Your puppy’s digestive system is accustomed to its mother’s milk, and the food should accommodate this transition. Small food that has a high moisture content is ideal for promoting easy digestion, and it is easy for them to chew.
From the age of seven weeks to six months, you should feed your puppy three times a day. From the age of six months, you can start feeding your puppy twice per day. When your puppy reaches the age of one year, you can switch to an adult dog food formula.
Puppy nutrition can start while they are still in their mother’s womb. Feed your pregnant dog puppy food for the duration of her pregnancy. After she gives birth, you can transition her back to an adult formula.
Senior Dog Food
As your dog ages, his nutritional needs change to accommodates slower metabolism and lower energy requirements. Aging dogs are also more susceptible to chronic illnesses, so one has to transition to a senior formula to maintain their health and quality of life.
It is critical to switch to senior dog food at the right time. Many people don’t realize that their dogs are aging, and they change their dogs’ diet too late. Generally speaking, small breeds become seniors between the ages of ten to twelve years. Medium breeds become seniors at the age of eight years, and a large breed can be a senior at the age of five.
Your vet is the best source of information on your dog’s dietary requirements. Take your dog for regular check-ups. When your veterinarian notices signs of aging or age-related health issues, they will typically recommend a suitable dog food.
Dog food for seniors should meet several requirements. High-quality senior dog food contains fewer calories to prevent obesity. An aging dog also doesn’t need a high-calorie intake than younger dogs do, as they are less energetic. The food you give your senior dog should contain around 215 kcal per serving.
Older dogs have a higher risk of digestive health issues. High fiber content will aid promote intestinal health.
Senior dogs also need food that is low in sodium to prevent cardiovascular problems such as a heart attack or stroke. Additionally, the food should be high in antioxidants and essential fatty acids, especially omega-3 fatty acids. If your dog suffers from joint health, select a food containing glucosamine and chondroitin.
To prevent dental health deterioration associated with aging, give your dog dry food instead of wet- or dehydrated food.
Adult Dog Food
Adult dogs don’t need a diet to accommodate rapid development or prevent age-related health problems. However, they need balanced and complete nutrition to keep them healthy and energized.
Your adult dog’s breed is one of the significant factors that determine its nutritional requirements. For example, a pug has lower energy requirements than a Jack Russel. If you have an active dog, select a food that has a protein content of 30% or more, and fat content of 10% or more. If your dog doesn’t want to do anything besides lie around all day, a high carb content is better.
Your dog’s specific health concerns are also a crucial buying consideration. Even young adult dogs may suffer from things like digestion problems, food allergies, or diabetes. With proper nutrition, you can manage these conditions effectively and affordably.
Regular trips to the vet are the best way to detect health problems at an early stage. Your vet will also recommend dog food with the right ingredients to promote your dog’s health and alleviate any pain or discomfort.
The quality of the food you select is significant in maintaining your adult dog’s health. High-quality dog food contains meat-based proteins and healthy sources of carbohydrates. Unlike cheap food, high-quality products contain no inexpensive and unhealthy fillers.
Choosing Best Food According to Dog Breed
Large Breed Dog Food
Large breed dogs have different nutritional needs than small breeds. Your large breed has unique dietary requirements from a young age. Puppies are prone to developmental orthopedic diseases or osteochondrosis, which can result in inflammatory joint disease and degenerative joint disease.
To prevent these detrimental conditions, you should manage your large breed puppy’s diet carefully. The food you give your puppy should have a relatively low energy density. According to recent studies, a carefully balanced ratio of calcium to phosphorus in a puppy’s diet can reduce the risk of developmental orthopedic diseases.
Large breed dogs have a lower metabolic rate than small breeds through all life stages. As a result, the need a lower caloric density than their small breed friends. Large dogs need more calories per serving, but they require fewer calories per pound of body weight.
As large breed dogs get older, they tend to suffer from some form of arthritis. When your dog reaches the age of around five or six years, you should select a food that contains glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate. These ingredients promote joint health and keep deterioration at bay.
Many large breed dog owners don’t know how much or how often they should feed their dogs. Ideally, your dog should eat 1 ½ cups of food per 22 pounds of body weight per day. For example, if your dog weighs 90 pounds, you should feed him a little more than six cups per day. You can split your dog’s meals if you find that he struggles to get through it all in one sitting.
High-quality dog food with a large breed formula will typically meet the requirements listed above. Ask your vet to recommend a suitable product to manage a specific health condition like obesity or osteochondrosis.
Small Breed Dog Food
Like large breeds, small breed dogs also have unique dietary requirements. The most significant concern you have to address with nutrition is your small dog’s high metabolic rate. A small breed puppy can metabolize a meal in a matter of hours and needs a high-calorie intake frequently.
If your puppy doesn’t take in enough calories, he can develop hypoglycemia, which can result in lethargy, weakness, inhibited growth, muscle tremors, and seizures. In severe cases, a lack of calories in a puppy’s diet can be fatal.
In addition to a high metabolic rate, a small breed dog also needs more calories per serving because of its small stomach. Puppies older than six weeks need calorie-dense food servings three or four times a day. Small breed dogs need a higher calorie intake than large breeds – like puppies, adults, and seniors. Energetic dogs may need as much as 40 calories per pound of body weight.
Generally, small breed dogs have longer life spans than large breeds. Your small dog needs high dietary levels of antioxidants to maintain his health as he gets older. Antioxidants strengthen the immune system and protect the body from cell damage.
Select a small breed dog food containing natural antioxidants like vitamin C, E, and citric acid. Synthetic antioxidants in small breed dog food include BHA, BHT, and ethoxyquin.
Kibble size is a crucial consideration when it comes to small breeds. Small breeds have small jaws, and they typically have difficulty chewing large kibbles. Over time, kibbles that are too large can cause teeth and gum problems, and it can affect your dog’s eating habits.
Small breeds also need small kibbles that they can easily digest. If kibbles are too large, your dog will not be able to chew it properly, and the food pieces that enter your dog’s digestive system are too large.
Reading Dog Food Labels and Different Food Features
The Best Dog Food has Meat as First and Primary Ingredient
According to the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO), the meat in dog food refers to body tissue from sheep, cows, pigs, or goats. If the food contains fat, skin, or body tissue from chicken, turkey, or fish, the dog food label will not classify the ingredients like meat, but poultry or fish.
Dog food labels list ingredients in descending order by weight. If meat, poultry, or fish is the first ingredient on the label, it means that it is the most abundant in terms of weight and a healthy option for your dog. Meat, poultry, or fish are animal-based sources of protein, which are an essential component of complete and balanced nutrition.
You will sometimes see dog food labels describing their meat, poultry, or fish as “real,” which means that the ingredient consists of body tissue and not meat meal. Both real meat and meals are excellent sources of protein and essential amino acids, but they differ in terms of moisture and fat content.
Real meat, poultry, or fish can have a moisture content as high as 75%, where meals have a moisture content of around 10%. The high moisture content of real ingredients adds a lot of weight, which is why meat, poultry, or fish is sometimes listed as the first and primary ingredients.
When a dog food label lists real meat, poultry, or fish as the first ingredient, remember that most of the ingredient is water. Look for additional sources of protein in the ingredients such as dried egg products or meat meal to ensure a high amino acid profile. Plant-based proteins are also beneficial and include ingredients like corn gluten meal and soybean meal.
Grain-Free Dog Food
When looking at dog food ingredients, you will typically see one or more grain items. Grains in dog food usually include:
Grains offer a wide range of nutritional benefits. For example, barley is widely considered to be a superfood, and corn provides dogs with digestible nutrients such as vitamin E, energy, and linoleic acid. Some grains are also sources of protein.
In recent years, grain-free dog food has grown in popularity. Many dog owners switched to grain-free dog food because they believe that these products have a low carbohydrate content. In reality, however, grain content does not determine carb content.
Grain-free dog food can have a higher carb content than a product that contains grain. This is because manufacturers add carbs like potatoes, quinoa, lentils, and sweet potatoes to the food to replace the grain.
Another reason why people prefer to feed their dogs grain-free food is that they believe that grain can cause food sensitivities and allergies. According to studies and veterinarian nutritionists, however, the grain is not a typical food allergen. Your dog is more likely to develop an allergy from dairy or beef.
If your dog is the exception to the rule and is allergic to grain, consult with your vet and ask them to recommend a grain-free dog food. Grain is a healthy ingredient for dogs. If you can, select a high-quality dog food with grains such as barley, oats, or sorghum.
Gluten-Free Dog Food
Gluten is a name for the proteins in grains like rye, barley, and wheat. Manufacturers use gluten in dog food because it acts like a glue that gives a kibble its shape and keeps it together. Because gluten isn’t a component of all grains, gluten-free doesn’t necessarily mean grain-free.
Given grain’s nutritional value, you should consider your decision to give your dog gluten-free food carefully, especially if your dog is not allergic to gluten. Gluten-sensitive enteropathy is an extremely rare inherited condition. There is a small number of Irish Setters in the UK that has this condition, but it’s far from widespread.
Some grains are also controversial. Many animal nutritionists believe that corn is difficult to digest and not suitable for dogs, despite its high nutritional profile. Vets and pet owners who are apprehensive about corn can switch to other grains that are easy to digest, such as barley or oats.
If your dog has a gluten sensitivity or gluten allergy, ask your vet to recommend a dog food with other ingredients to fill the nutritional void.
Limited Ingredient Dog Food
Typically, dog food contains several ingredients for proteins, carbohydrates, fat, and vitamins. If a dog food has limited ingredients, it means that there is only one source of protein, for example, only chicken and no beans, fish, or meal. It may also only have one fat source or one carbohydrate source.
A limited ingredient dog food also has limited general ingredients in comparison with conventional products. Pet food companies started producing limited ingredient dog foods in response to concerns about food sensitivities and allergies.
If your dog shows symptoms of food sensitivity or allergies, a limited ingredient pet food may be the ideal solution. There are many different limited ingredient products to choose from, so you have to check the label for the words “complete and balanced.” According to AAFCO requirements, food with this label has to provide all the nutrients to sustain a pet at its life stage.
In other words, a limited ingredient formula has to provide your dog with an appropriate mix of macronutrients, vitamins, and minerals to ensure optimal nutrition. As a result, you don’t have to worry that your dog has a nutritional shortage because of food sensitivity.
When it comes to selecting limited ingredient dog food, one of the challenges is choosing the right ingredients. It is not always clear which ingredient is causing adverse symptoms. Take your dog to the vet for an examination and consult with them to determine which ingredient is causing the problem.
Health Benefits in Dog Food
Some dogs are allergic to particular ingredients in food. In most cases, protein ingredients trigger food allergies, but a dog can also be allergic to carbohydrates.
If your dog is unfortunate enough to develop a food allergy, the most effective course of action is to change your dog’s diet. If your dog is allergic to gluten, you can switch to a gluten- or grain-free product. In the case of a protein-related food allergy, select food with another protein.
Less than 10% of dogs with allergies are allergic to food, and almost all the dogs that are allergic to food are allergic to a specific protein, such as chicken. If your dog suffers from skin problems or gastrointestinal tract issues, it is usually the result of inflammation and not an allergy.
Your dog’s diet is one of the primary factors that determine his weight. If your dog is overweight, it increases the risk of complications like heart disease, diabetes, or arthritis. Like humans, dogs can lose weight with the correct diet and sufficient exercise.
If you recently adopted an underweight dog, you can also increase its weight to the appropriate level with the correct dog food.
The first step in weight management is to take your dog to the vet for an examination. Your vet will then recommend a proper diet. A vet will typically prescribe a low-fat, low-carb, moderate-protein food for overweight dogs and high-fat, high-protein dog food for underweight dogs.
In addition to setting your dog up with a suitable diet, you should ensure it gets to exercise every day.
Dogs can suffer from a sensitive stomach for several reasons. In most cases, a sensitive stomach is the result of food intolerance or an underlying medical condition. One of the most effective ways to alleviate a sensitive stomach is to change your dog’s diet.
Symptoms of a sensitive stomach include:
- A decreased appetite
- Itchy bottom
- Loose stool
- Skin Rashes
If you notice any of these symptoms, take your dog to the vet for a thorough examination. After determining the cause of stomach sensitivity, your vet will recommend a treatment that usually includes a change in dog food.
Dog food with high fiber content will promote your dog’s digestive health and can also reduce stomach sensitivity.
Skin & Coat
Shampoo alone is not sufficient to care for your dog’s skin and coat. Proper nutrition is also crucial to promote skin and coat health and to prevent any health complications like rashes or hair loss.
There is a wide range of ingredients that you should include in your dog’s diet. Essential fatty acids like omega-3 and omega-6 are the most important, as they help with the production of oils in your dog’s body. These oils moisturize your dog’s skin and give its coat a healthy appearance.
Other essential ingredients that you should look out for include zinc, linoleic acid, and vitamins B, E, and A. Healthy oils like soybean, sunflower oil, and chicken fat also promote the health of your dog’s coat.