How to pick the right dog food
Which dog food should you get?
We all want the very best for our dogs. Feeding our dogs an adequate diet that satisfies their appetite and maintains their health ensures that we’re giving them the best quality of life, but with so many options to choose from, it’s hard to nail down exactly what our dogs need to thrive. Whether you’re planning for a new puppy or looking to move an older dog to a new food, here’s a breakdown of everything you should consider when selecting a dog food for your furry family member.
It’s important to keep your dog’s life stage in mind when selecting their food. The age of a dog impacts the recommended serving size, calorie density, protein concentration, and fat percentage of their meals.
Puppy Due to their active nature, puppies need to eat more calories than adult dogs. Puppy food contains higher protein, higher fat, and a higher percentage of calcium and phosphorus than adult dog food. Diamond Naturals Large Breed Puppy Formula and Diamond Naturals Small Breed Puppy Formula are both great filler-free options for a young dog.
AdultIt’s fair to assume most dog food that isn’t marked as “puppy” or “senior” is intended for adult dogs, but it’s always best to double check.
Senior The age at which a dog is considered to be a senior depends on the breed. Senior dog food is typically lower in calories, lower in protein, higher in fiber, and contains more immune-boosting Omega-3s and antioxidants than adult dog food. Purina ONE SmartBlend Vibrant Maturity 7+ Adult Formula Dry Dog Food is an affordable, nutritious option for seniors.
Breed size is an important factor in selecting the right dog food for you pup. Your dog’s breed will help determine the calories, fat, protein, and complex carbohydrates they need to eat each day. Always read the packaging on your dog’s food thoroughly to make sure you're feeding your dog the correct portion size recommended for their weight.
SmallDogs that weigh between two and 22 pounds, like Chihuahuas, Maltese, and Yorkies, are considered small breed dogs. While there are some distinctions between small dogs and extra-small, toy breeds, any dog under 22 pounds would do well on a calorie-dense formulation. Hill's Science Diet Adult Small Bites Chicken & Barley Recipe Dry Dog Food is a well-balanced option for adult, small breed dogs.
MediumMedium-sized dog breeds, like Corgis, Bulldogs, and Border Collies, weigh between 25 and 60 pounds. Like adult dog food, medium-sized dog food is the standard for this category, so it’s fair to assume that, if a dog food doesn’t directly indicate the breed size, it is intended for a medium-sized dog.
LargeIf a dog weighs 60 to 90 pounds, they are considered a large breed dog. German shepherds, greyhounds, and most retrievers typically fall into this category. Hill’s Science Diet Adult Healthy Mobility Large Breed Dry Dog Food helps to support joint and bone health for larger dogs.
GiantDogs over 90 pounds, like great danes, mastiffs, and rottweilers, are considered giant breed dogs. These dogs should eat food specifically formulated to help them avoid the joint and skeletal issues that are more common in their extra-large frames. A great option for giant dog breeds is the Eagle Pack Large Breed Dry Dog Food.
Dog food companies offer a number of diets designed to accommodate health concerns and lifestyles. Some of these diets require veterinary approval. It’s always best to discuss with your dog’s veterinarian before you put your dog on a special diet or make changes to an existing diet.
Organic or human gradeNon-organic dog food brands may contain artificial colors, flavors, or other ingredients that may cause your dog irritation or allergies. Feeding your best friend organic food, like Grandma Lucy’s Organic Pumpkin Oven Baked Dog Treats, can be a great way to ensure you’re providing them with healthy and delicious treats.
Human-grade dog food is exactly what it sounds like, food that is safe for human consumption. Still, being human grade doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s the healthiest option available. The Honest Kitchen Whole Grain Chicken Recipe Rehydrated Dog Food is an affordable, tasty option for finicky eaters, though it does require a bit more work to serve than some of its competitors.
Vegetarian and veganWhether it’s for health or ethical reasons, you may prefer to put your dog on a meat-free or animal-byproduct-free diet. Vegetarian dog food uses ingredients like green peas, chickpeas, and beans to source their proteins. A great option for this diet is the V-Dog Kind Kibble Vegan Adult Dry Dog Food, which also comes in mini vegan kibble bites for small dogs.
When dogs exceed a certain weight, they can be susceptible to a range of health issues. To help dogs manage their weights, it’s best to look for a low calorie, high fiber, probiotic-rich formula. Hill’s Science Diet Adult Perfect Weight Dry Dog Food does just this and comes at an affordable price.
Low-fat and low-proteinA low-fat diet can help with weight loss and weight management. This type of diet is often used to treat symptoms of pancreatitis.
A low-protein diet can be used to treat dogs with kidney or liver issues and large breed puppies prone to developing arthritis later in life. These types of dog foods often require veterinarian approval for purchase.
Grain-freeUnless a veterinarian explicitly recommends this, it’s best to avoid feeding your dog an entirely grain-free diet as the FDA warns this may lead to heart problems.
Type of food
The type of food you choose for your pup depends entirely on their needs and preferences. What works for one dog may not work for another. Your dog’s preference for certain food or flavors may change over time.
DryDry foods is the most common type of dog food and consist of a substantial protein source, whole vegetables, fruits, grains, and plenty of vitamins and minerals. It’s best to avoid dry dog foods that contain any unnatural preservatives, colorings, and flavorings, too many filler ingredients, and undefined meat.
WetWhile dry dog food is an excellent option, some dogs can be picky eaters, so you may need to add a bit more texture to their diets. In that case, opting for something like the Purina ONE SmartBlend Tender Cuts Canned Dog Food, which may be more appealing to your pup.
Fresh and homemade Homemade dog food is a great option for picky eaters. For this type of diet, it’s best to use a vet-approved recipe. You can also use meal delivery services like The Farmer’s Dog that are designed by vets and will save you from making extra trips to the grocery store.
To ensure your dog is getting the right amount of vitamins and minerals, consider putting your dog on some type of multivitamin supplement like the Zesty Paws 5-in-1 Multivitamin Bites.
Raw Long before dogs were domesticated animals, they ate raw, uncooked meals. Some owners prefer to feed their dogs with what their ancestors ate. Raw food is most often frozen or freeze-dried like Instinct’s Freeze-Dried Raw Meals.
A few things to keep in mind:
- Never completely swap your dog’s food at one time. Instead, gradually mix the new food in with the food your dog is already eating.
- Just like humans, dogs can develop food allergies. It’s important to take allergies into consideration when choosing a dog food.
- Keeping your dog on a feeding schedule is very important to their development, and it will help you gauge whether or not the portion size you’re feeding them is adequate.
- Dehydrated dog food, freeze-dried dog food, liquid dog food, and meal toppers can be used in addition to your dog’s regular food, but they should not be used as a complete meal.
- If you have concerns about your dog’s food or diet, it’s always best to consult your veterinarian.
Sydney Poe 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.
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