Note: Every dog is a unique individual—please consult with your vet before changing their diet!
Besides choosing the best dog suited to your family and lifestyle, picking the best dog food is one of the most important (and tricky) choices you’ll make as a pup parent. Your dog eats the same meal every day—he deserves to love it with reckless abandon.
My own dog was on four different foods until we found one that stuck. For us, that means ingredients are king. I’m always checking to see what’s going in my family member’s tummy, and I want to know that the price I’m paying is fair. Luckily, the choice certainly doesn’t have to be difficult, especially if you know where to look.
Lesser known, but a shining star above the rest in both quality and cost. Fromm is family-owned and operated out of Wisconsin, and includes three lines of dry foods to satisfy the pickiest eaters (you know, the ones that will eat dirty socks and toilet paper rolls, but not their food). The standout collection? Fromm’s Four-Star Nutritionals containing thirteen different recipes, each of which is made with fresh meats, veggies, and fruits.
Every ingredient list begins with the meat for which the recipe is named, plus a host of other familiar and pronounce-able delicacies. The absolute best part about the Four-Star line for my dog is that I can switch it up with different recipes without going through the tedious process of switching foods. Salmon Tunalini this week—Duck and Sweet Potato the next. My darling doge demands a rotating menu, and Fromm knows variety truly is the spice of life. Does your pup have food allergies? You’ll find less common main ingredients here, like lamb, pork, and whitefish (chicken is a common allergy-causing food for dogs) to ease those skin and tummy troubles too.
Let me preface this by saying any high quality, grain-free dog food will cost what it’s worth. Most brands have awesome whole grain recipes that still contain all the good stuff we love (along with some rice, barley, or oatmeal), but with a more digestible price tag. For the purposes of this post, I’m sticking to grain-free foods. Here’s what I get with the Earthborn Holistic Primitive Natural recipe: turkey meal and chicken meal as the first two ingredients (meat “meals” are essentially concentrated versions of whole meats with a higher percentage of protein), no grains, no glutens, and fruits & veggies baked right in.
Here’s what I don’t get: sticker shock. Depending on where you buy, many grain-free, protein-rich foods will run you easily into the $60–$100 range. I chose the recipe I’d feed my dog based on ingredients alone and faced a $51.99 price tag for a 28-pound bag from Amazon. That’s definitely something I can get excited about for a food my dog would no doubt do zoomies for. Oh, and for the environmental activist in you: collect the UPCs from these bags, mail them in, and Earthborn will plant a tree. Perhaps one day your dog can pee on it.
Just the idea of feeding raw is intimidating. I give major props to the humans who feed raw on a daily basis, and I’m sure their dogs do too! But there is a price associated with that, both in dollar signs, time, and effort. Instinct combines the best of both worlds—it’s a dry food with the raw mixed in, and requires no elbow grease to prepare.
These raw experts use what they call “Cold Pressure” technology to remove all the moisture from their frozen raw foods and then crumble it up and mix with dry kibble. There’s no heat used, no defrosting or refrigeration required, and all the nutritional benefits of good ol’ raw meat remain intact. Plus, in my experience the addition of dehydrated raw food ALWAYS bumps up tail wags to full-on butt wiggles.
You can serve this dog food to your human family. No, I’m totally serious. Everything about The Honest Kitchen (THK) is human grade, and that’s exactly what sets them apart. Among a plethora of grain-free and whole-grain recipes with proteins like turkey, fish, and duck, these guys provide a base mix food to which YOU can add the meat. Here’s how THK works: first, you purchase it in a box containing ~human grade~ dehydrated ingredients (think apples, spinach, pumpkin, and bananas—even coconut!). Follow the feeding guidelines based on your dog’s weight, mix with warm water and wait for the food to hydrate, add your own protein, and bon appétit. A 7-pound box re-hydrated produces 29-pounds of food.
This brand is big on whole, non-meal meats with lots of good proteins and a lot fewer carbohydrates. The great thing about high quality foods like Orijen is that you don’t need to feed as much to get the recommended amount of daily calories & nutrients, and that means a bag lasts longer compared to some of the super-sized bags you find in the supermarket pet aisle. To give you an idea of a typical ingredient list for any recipe of this food, the Original formula contains: deboned chicken, deboned turkey, yellowtail flounder, whole eggs, whole Atlantic mackerel, chicken liver, turkey liver, chicken heart, turkey heart, whole Atlantic herring, dehydrated chicken, dehyr—oh look I’m out of room, and the list still goes on. These dog-lovers feed your wolf-at-heart, and they don’t mess around.
It’s no surprise Wellness taps into your dog’s wild ancestral heritage with chiefly protein-rich recipes. Omega fatty acids keep your fuzzy kid nice and soft, fiber and probiotics keep their digestion in check (and their gas at bay), and glucosamine and chondroitin make sure their joints are always jump-on-the-bed ready.
This food gets our vote for a great line with options for sensitive stomachs and certain protein allergies. Each bag contains a single protein, including less common options like bison and venison, and makes it much easier for pup parents to provide a simple, easy-to-digest diet.
Nutro is a great choice for a no-fuss food with zero grains, chicken by-product meal, wheat, soy, or corn, and a higher protein content so your dog gets what he needs without all the filler.
This bag can claim what many dog foods cannot—in addition to containing no grains, corn, wheat, or soy, their formulas contain absolutely no chicken or chicken by-products in an effort to eliminate the most common protein-causing allergen.
This grain-free food is perfect if your dog’s got a job to do—the high protein content (and sweet potatoes and peas as a grain-substitute) provides the long-lasting energy needed for working canines.
One thing that sets Blue Buffalo apart from other dog foods is the addition of their “LifeSource Bits.” These small dark marble-shaped pieces are actually “cold-formed” rather than heat-formed, so the antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals retain their potency. They’re essentially a burst of nutrients in every bowl. The grain-free formula is free of any potential grain or gluten allergens, and does away with corn, wheat, soy, artificial preservatives, and poultry by-products.
Click here to see more of our favorite dog foods.