Three best dog foods
Your canine companion is a member of your family, so making sure she has a healthy diet should be as important as getting the humans in your household to eat their veggies. But what makes a good dog food, and how do you select the right one for your four-legged friend?
With hundreds of brands and formulas available, finding a suitable dog food can seem daunting, but it doesn't have to be! To make your purchasing decision simpler, we've compiled this short but sweet guide to dog food to aid you in finding the right formula for your furry friend.
Considerations when choosing dog food
Types of dog food
The two main choices are wet and dry, but you'll also find some less common options, such as frozen, freeze-dried, or air-dried food.
Wet food: Wet dog food tends to be highly palatable. It might have a higher meat content than some kibbles, but it's messy to feed and more costly than dry food.
Dry food: Dry dog food is convenient to store and feed and suitable for "free feeding," but it's not necessarily the most interesting meal for your pooch.
Frozen, free-dried, and air-dried foods: These are often raw or minimally cooked, giving you many of the benefits of raw food or wet food without the mess and/or hassle.
Your dog's specific needs
Think about your dog and any factors that might warrant a more specialized diet. Your four-legged friend might thrive on a food tailored to his needs if any of the following apply:
Very active or minimally active
Particularly small or large
Puppy or senior
Overweight or underweight
Allergic to or intolerant of any foods
Ingredient quality: Look for foods that contain high-quality ingredients, such as whole meats, fruits, and vegetables. Where possible, meat should be sourced from North America, New Zealand, the UK, or other countries with higher production standards. Not only are welfare standards higher but it's also less likely that the meat will be subpar or contain any unwanted chemicals. A good-quality dog food shouldn't contain unnamed meats or animal fats.
Kibble size: If you opt for dry food, consider the size of the pieces, or "kibbles." Some brands offer smaller pieces than others. Very small dogs might not be able to chew large kibble, and some large dogs turn up their noses at tiny kibble.
Protein content: The protein content is hard to compare between wet and dry food because the protein percentage listed on wet food doesn't take into account the moisture content. This isn't the time to get into the ins and outs of it, but know that a decent dry food should have a minimum protein content of 28%, and a decent wet food should have a minimum protein content of 8%.
Grains: Grain-free food is the latest trend in the dog food world. While no dog food should contain too large a percentage of grains and other carbohydrates, there's nothing inherently unhealthy about grains. In fact, whole grains contain plenty of important nutrients. Unless your dog has a grain allergy, there's no reason to seek out a grain-free food.
Dog food prices: The easiest way to compare dog food prices is by looking at the price per pound. You can find inexpensive dog food for between $0.50 and $1 per pound, mid-range options for $1 to $2 per pound, and high-end dog food for over $2 per pound.
Q. How will I know if I've chosen the best food for my dog?
A. There's no single best food for your dog. All dogs are different, and many will thrive on any high-quality food. If your dog has healthy bowel movements, a shiny coat, bright eyes, and a good energy level, this is a good sign that her food agrees with her.
Q. When should I switch my puppy to adult food?
A. Most puppies are fully mature at 12 months old and ready to move on to adult dog food. However, large dog breeds mature more slowly and should continue on puppy food until 18 to 24 months of age.
Dog foods we recommend
Best of the best: ZiwiPeak Air-Dried Dog Cuisine
Our take: This succulent air-dried dog food contains carefully sourced premium ingredients, but it has the price tag to match.
What we like: Made using high-quality, human-grade ingredients, and air-dried (rather than baked) to retain more nutrients.
What we dislike: Because it's more calorie dense, your dog needs to eat less of this than a regular food, but eating a smaller volume of food could leave him feeling hungry.
Best bang for your buck: Diamond Naturals ADULT Real Meat Recipe Natural Dry Dog Food
Our take: At less than $1 per pound, this food offers excellent value for the money and still contains quality ingredients.
What we like: Contains a range of fruits and veggies, plus added vitamins and minerals for optimum nutrition. Made in the U.S. by a family-run business.
What we dislike: Some large dogs don't like the small kibble size.
Our take: This quality grain-free food is ideal for dogs with grain allergies or extremely sensitive stomachs.
What we like: Highly digestible with "wild" meats and sweet potatoes as a nutritious source of carbohydrates. Most dogs seem to like the taste.
What we dislike: Some dogs suffer from digestive issues when transitioning to this kibble (though this is a possible side effect with all dog foods).
Lauren Corona 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.
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