The best dry dog food
It is easy for dog owners to walk into the nearest grocery store and walk out with a bag of dry kibble with a well-known pet food company's name on the front. However, this entry-level dry dog food may not provide optimal nutrition for most dogs, because it is primarily made from grains such as wheat or corn, with meat-flavored seasonings and artificial vitamins added.
Dogs depend on their owners to provide dry kibble that will help them maintain a healthy, shiny coat, strong bones and a healthy digestive system. Better dry dog foods use real meat as their first ingredients, and also include a carefully balanced blend of dried fruits and vegetables, as well as vital ingredients such as fatty acids, natural vitamins and fiber.
We recommend a mixture of dry and wet foods for maximum benefit, but some dry kibble can be moistened with water, broth or even milk to soften it. Wellness CORE Grain-Free Original is one of our favorites.
Considerations when choosing dry dog foods
Some dry dog foods are considered complete meals, while others are marketed as mixers. A complete meal provides enough balanced nutrition to meet all of a dog's dietary needs, while a mixer kibble should be blended with a wet dog food to complete the requirements. There are also "open formula" and "fixed formula" blends to consider, but we recommend the fixed formula because the ingredients are more consistent.
Ingredients to look for or avoid
One very important consideration when comparing dry dog foods is the primary ingredient on the label. The better blends should mention meat or meat meal, not grains such as wheat or corn. Fresh meat products may be slightly lower on the list, but this is more about total proportions.
Fruit, vegetable, and grain content is also important. While dogs may appear to be strict carnivores (meat eaters), they actually respond better to a diet with vegetables and fruit for vitamins and natural grains for fiber. The best brands feature a blend of both meat and vegetable-based products.
Size of kibble
The size of the kibble is an important factor, because some dry dog food may be too large for smaller, younger, or older breeds to eat comfortably. While some dry dog food may be softened with liquid for easier chewing, others are not designed to become wet. If a dog refuses to eat a new brand of dry dog food, it may be due to the size of the kibble.
Taste and texture
Many dogs choose their favorite dry dog food based on factors outside the owner's control. Scent and appearance, for example, can spell the difference between success and failure. Many dry dog food manufacturers make an effort to produce a product that has strong visual and scent appeal for as many breeds as possible.
Breeds and total dogs in household
Owners of multiple dogs, especially larger breeds, typically seek out a larger bag of dry dog food than owners of smaller breeds, so most manufacturers offer different portion sizes to accommodate shoppers. Although dry dog food does have an extended shelf life, excess kibble can go bad eventually. It makes sense to shop for just enough kibble to meet your specific needs.
Dry dog food prices
The retail price points of dry dog foods vary widely according to overall quality, brand, and other factors, but owners can expect to pay at least $1 to $2 per pound for a healthy mid-range brand and up to $5 per pound for premium blends.
Q. How often should I feed my dog dry food per day?
A. Most adult dogs can be fed dry food twice a day, once in the morning and once in the evening. Younger or more active dogs can be fed as often as four times a day, but we recommend spacing these feedings evenly.
Q. Can my dog stay healthy eating only dry dog food?
A. Some dogs develop a strong preference for either dry or wet dog food, but they generally benefit from a mixture of both. Dry food helps maintain dental health and provides essential vitamins and minerals, but wet food will improve the dog's coat and improve digestion.
Dry dog foods we recommend
Best of the best: Wellness CORE Grain-Free Original
Our take: The Wellness CORE dry dog food is packed with nutrients and natural ingredients, which makes it ideal for owners who want to provide a holistic diet.
What we like: Exceptionally high natural protein content. Does not use grains or other fillers. Formula also includes fruits and vegetables. Easy to digest.
What we dislike: Some instances of acid reflux reported. Does not appeal to all breeds.
Best bang for your buck: DIAMOND NATURALS Adult Real Meat Recipe Premium Dry Dog Food
Our take: A great choice if you tend to go through dry food fast, so you need a lot on hand, but you don't want to pay top dollar for quality food.
What we like: Very affordable. Company is family owned. Formula helps promote a healthy skin and coat. Healthy, natural ingredients.
What we dislike: The formula is only recommended for healthy adult dogs with no known issues.
Our take: We recommend a slow transition to this dry kibble by Purina, but the ingredient list should be acceptable for larger breeds with sensitive digestive systems.
What we like: Kibble texture is both soft and hard. Uses a blend of chicken and rice, not corn or wheat fillers.
What we dislike: Transitioning from other dry food brands can be challenging. Larger kibble size may intimidate smaller breeds.
Michael Pollick is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money. BestReviews never accepts free products from manufacturers and purchases every product it reviews with its own funds.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. BestReviews and its newspaper partners may earn a commission if you purchase a product through one of our links.
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.