- We compared dozens of products to find the best dog food brands and formulas for all life stages.
- These dog foods have nutritional profiles and ingredients that are appropriate for the unique needs of different dogs, including puppies, senior dogs, and dogs with food sensitivities.
- Orijen makes the best dog food you can buy with fresh locally sourced ingredients. Every recipe is packed with protein, limited in carbohydrates, and loaded with natural flavor.
Though it may seem like dog food is dog food, not all are created equal. The quality of pet food products varies greatly from one manufacturer to another, and it can be hard to determine what the best dog food is for your furry friend.
While there are many high-quality dog food brands on the market, there are also those that cut corners by bulking up their products with low-quality fillers and artificial additives. These foods are not regulated to the degree that human foods are, so if you want to find a quality product, you’ll have to do some digging.
The quality of your dog’s diet is directly related to their health, so don’t settle for mediocre food, treats, or supplements. All dogs have the same basic nutritional needs, so it’s possible to evaluate the quality of one product compared to another in terms of how well each one meets those nutritional needs. In order to make such a comparison, however, you need to have an understanding of your dog’s nutritional requirements and some knowledge of how to read a pet food label.
These things can take time and practice but, luckily for you, we’ve done the research. We have scoured the reviews on sites like Dog Food Advisor and Whole Dog Journal and compared dozens of products to find the top dog food brands in different categories.
Editor’s Note: The FDA has released a report naming 16 dog food brands that may be linked to heart disease in dogs. So far, there has not been a recall of dog food from these brands, and the FDA is continuing to investigate. You can read more details in this New York Times report. Several of the brands’ grain-free formulas are included in this guide; here’s the full list: Acana, Zignature, Taste of the Wild, 4Health, Earthborn Holistic, Blue Buffalo, Nature’s Domain, Fromm, Merrick, California Natural, Natural Balance, Orijen, Nature’s Variety, NutriSource, Nutro, and Rachael Ray Nutrish.
Here is the best dog food you can buy:
- Best dog food overall: Orijen
- Best dry dog food: Canidae
- Best wet dog food: Blue Buffalo
- Best fresh dog food delivery service: The Farmer’s Dog
- Best grain-free dog food: Taste of the Wild
- Best freeze-dried dog food: Primal Freeze-Dried Nuggets
- Best affordable dog food: Whole Earth Farms
- Best dog food for puppies: Taste of the Wild
- Best dog food for senior dogs: Wellness
- Best dog food for small toy breeds: Merrick Lil’ Plates
- Best dog food for large breeds: Blue Buffalo
Prices and links are current as of 9/08/2020.
Orijen’s dog food is naturally grain-free and designed to mimic the natural biological diet your dog is evolved to follow.
Though all dogs have the same basic nutritional requirements, what makes a certain product the best choice for your dog may vary according to their age, activity level, and specific dietary needs. For a brand that offers dog food designed to suit your dog’s natural biological needs, our top choice is Orijen. This brand creates pet foods that nourish your dog’s body just as nature intended, and it uses only locally sourced fresh and raw meats in an assortment of formulas catered to dogs in all life stages from puppy to senior.
Each of Orijen’s dog foods is designed to mirror the type of natural diet your dog should follow based on their wild ancestry. Orijen dog foods are rich in meat and proteins. Each product contains up to 90% meat, which is is more than three times the amount used in conventional dog food. Furthermore, each recipe contains a guaranteed minimum of 38% crude protein by volume.
While a dog’s diet should consist primarily of animal products, dogs do have a limited ability to digest plant materials, so digestible grain-free carbohydrates like fresh fruits and vegetables can be a valuable addition. Orijen dog foods contain no more than 20% carbohydrates and only low-glycemic, highly digestible carbs like lentils, pumpkin, leafy greens, and fresh fruits.
Dog Food Advisor notes that Orijen’s dog food is above-average and that none of its foods have been subject to recall.
Orijen only sells dry dog foods at this time, but it offers an assortment of kibbles and freeze-dried dog foods for puppies, adults, and senior dogs as well as a selection of treats made with 100% fresh meat ingredients.
Pros: Made in the United States and Canada, biologically appropriate diets, high-protein formulas, carbohydrate-limited and low-glycemic, formulated for different life stages, minimum 38% crude protein, traditional kibble and freeze-dried options, all grain-free recipes
Cons: No wet food products currently available, some recipes may contain plant proteins like peas and dried alfalfa, many recipes contain common proteins and other ingredients that may trigger allergies in some dogs (like chicken, beef, and fish)
The best dry dog food
Canidae uses premium proteins and digestible carbohydrates in each of its formulas to suit dogs in all life stages and those with unique dietary needs.
If you’re looking for a brand of dry dog food that offers a wide selection of high-quality recipes, our top choice is Canidae. An independent and family-owned company, Canidae sources its ingredients from other family-owned businesses throughout the US, and the company produces every one of its nutritionally dense formulas in company-owned-and-operated facilities. This brand offers traditional life stages formulas as well as grain-free and limited-ingredient recipes.
As a whole, the Canidae dog food brand receives excellent reviews from Top Dog Tips and Petsho as a US-based company that offers a variety of formulas for dogs with different nutritional needs. The Life Stages line of products features seven unique recipes made with premium proteins and digestible carbohydrates. In addition to three “all life stages” formulas, there are recipes for senior dogs, puppies, and large-breed dogs.
The Canidae Grain-Free PURE lineup includes nine grain-free formulas made with premium proteins such as duck, wild boar, and fresh lamb. Each of these recipes is made with a limited number of ingredients to reduce the risk for food allergies. There are also three recipes specially formulated for small breed dogs.
Another thing that makes Canidae our top choice for dry dog food is the fact that it has an entirely separate brand that is designed to be affordable. The Under the Sun brand is still made by Canidae with its farm-fresh ingredients, but it is available at a more affordable price point for dog owners on a budget. Under the Sun appears on Dog Food Advisor’s list of 4-star brands.
In the company’s 20-year history, Canidae has had only had one recall, in 2012, and it was a voluntary recall issued due to a concern for potential salmonella contamination.
Pros: US-based company, independent and family-owned, company-owned manufacturing facilities, fresh regional ingredients, wide variety of high-quality recipes, life stages formulas for puppies through senior dogs, grain-free and limited ingredient formulas for dogs with food allergies, separate brand for dog owners on a budget, recipes for small breed dogs
Cons: Company has had one recall affecting four products, many recipes contain common proteins and other ingredients that may trigger allergies in some dogs (like chicken, rice, and fish)
The best wet dog food
Blue Buffalo offers tons of great recipes for both wet and dry dog food, and its formulas are full of natural ingredients.
If you are looking for high-quality wet dog food, we highly recommend the Blue Buffalo dog food brand. Not only is Blue Buffalo one of the top manufacturers of natural dog food in general, but it offers four distinct product lines so you can choose the wet food formula that best suits your dog’s needs and preferences. According to Whole Dog Journal, wet dog food may be more expensive than dry food, but tends to contain more meat, is higher in moisture, and is more palatable for some dogs. They also note that it’s a great option for filling dog toys like the Kong.
The Blue Buffalo company believes that pets are members of the family and that they should be treated as such. This is why the company uses only the highest-quality natural ingredients in each of its recipes. Blue Buffalo follows a holistic approach to pet nutrition, choosing each of its ingredients carefully to ensure complete and balanced nutrition without the use of any by-products, fillers, or artificial additives. Every recipe goes above and beyond your dog’s minimum nutritional requirements.
In addition to being rated among Dog Food Advisor’s 5-star wet food brands, Blue Buffalo also landed on Whole Dog Journal’s 2019 approved wet dog foods list. In terms of variety, few brands offer as many choices as Blue Buffalo. The Freedom line of grain-free formulas contains ten recipes and the Basics line of limited ingredient formulas contains nine. There are more than thirty recipes in the Wilderness line of meat-rich formulas and forty-five in the Life Protection Formula lineup.
One thing you should be aware of with the Blue Buffalo brand is that it’s had several product recalls in its history. This isn’t terribly surprising, however, for a brand that was founded more than two decades ago and that manufactures hundreds of products. It is worth noting that, according to Petful, many of the brand’s recalls were issued voluntarily as a precautionary measure.
Pros: US-based company, wide variety of product choices, every recipe starts with high-quality animal protein, all-natural ingredients with no artificial additives, recipes designed with a holistic approach to nutrition, every formula contains LifeSource Bits for a boost of nutrition and flavor
Cons: Numerous recalls in brand history, many recipes contain common proteins and other ingredients that may trigger allergies in some dogs (like chicken, rice, and fish), recent changes in recipe may cause digestive upset in some dogs
The best grain-free dog food
Taste of the Wild brand makes great grain-free dog food with nutritionally-dense formulas that reduce the risk for food allergies and sensitivities.
Though many dogs can digest whole-grain carbohydrates, grains have the potential to trigger food allergies or sensitivities in some dogs. A grain-free dog food should be made with digestible carbohydrates like legumes, fruits, and vegetables, though the focus should always be on high-quality sources of protein. Taste of the Wild offers nine dry food and five wet food formulas, all of which are protein-rich and grain-free.
Taste of the Wild understands that dogs crave natural flavor, which is why each of its recipes is formulated around real roasted meats like venison, bison, and lamb. Real meat is the first ingredient in every recipe, though most recipes contain multiple sources of animal protein. All of this brand’s products are also supplemented with highly digestible carbohydrates for energy and fiber, dried fermentation products for probiotic support, and chelated minerals for maximum nutrient absorption.
Not only does Whole Food Journal name Taste of the Wild on its 2019 list of approved dry dog foods, this brand also receives 4.5 stars from Dog Food Advisor. What really sets this brand apart is its use of novel proteins like bison and venison, which are less likely to trigger food allergies in dogs and are a leaner source of protein than commercially raised meats.
Pros: Each recipe features real roasted meat, highly digestible grain-free carbohydrates, multiple proteins in every formula, supplemented with antioxidants for strong immunity, probiotic supplements for healthy digestion, chelated minerals for maximum absorption
Cons: More limited selection of products than some brands, no formulas for large-breed dogs, recipes may be higher in calories than the typical dog food
The best fresh dog food delivery
The Farmer’s Dog is a fresh dog food delivery service that provides unprocessed meals customized to your dog’s nutritional needs.
The Farmer’s Dog has led the pack in fresh dog food delivery for more than five years. Their custom recipes are developed by board-certified veterinary nutritionists and comply with AAFCO standards, meaning they are complete and balanced.
What we love most about The Farmer’s Dog is that the fresh food plans are customized to your dog’s sex, age, breed, and unique health concerns and preportioned by day according to their caloric needs. There are three protein options (turkey, beef, and pork), which could pose an issue for dogs with food allergies or sensitivities, however.
The food is unprocessed, prepared in USDA-certified kitchens, and cooked within days of shipping. It’s delivered frozen every two weeks, but the flat packs fit neatly in most freezers. While it’s pricey, with plans starting at $3 per day for smaller dogs and as high as $11 per day for large dogs, the quality of the food is worth it if your budget allows.
Pros: High-quality unprocessed food, customized, prepared in USDA-certified kitchens, recipes developed by board-certified veterinary nutritionists, complies with AAFCO standards, 50% off first two weeks
Cons: Limited protein options, may not be appropriate for dogs with food allergies, must be thawed, food may go bad if not eaten immediately upon serving, expensive
The best raw dog food
Primal Freeze-Dried Nuggets dog food tops the charts for quality with the freshest, 100% human-grade ingredients.
Traditional dog foods are cooked at high temperatures in a process that may destroy a significant portion of the original nutritional content of the raw ingredients. Raw dog food is uncooked, which means that your dog gets all of the nutrients he requires without the need for a long list of supplements. Though raw foods need to be kept refrigerated or frozen, no other type of dog food can compare to their quality or nutritional integrity and Primal is our top choice for raw dog food.
Primal offers nine different recipes for raw frozen dog food, each featuring a premium animal protein that is free from antibiotics, steroids, and hormones. Each recipe is made with 100% human-grade ingredients, including certified organic produce. Because the recipes are frozen fresh to retain their nutritional integrity, you won’t find a long list of synthetic supplements. This brand also offers freeze-dried formulas using many of the same high-quality ingredients which can be rehydrated to create a nutritious, moisture-rich meal for your dog.
Though Primal’s raw food is significantly more expensive than most dog foods on the market, it offers a significantly higher degree of quality as well. You can choose from a selection of raw frozen formulas or freeze-dried recipes or use one of the brand’s raw frozen mixes to create your own homemade dog food.
Pros: Made with 100% human-grade ingredients, antibiotic- and steroid-free proteins, certified organic produce and supplements, products retain more of their natural nutritional integrity, assortment of raw frozen and freeze-dried products as well as mixes and supplements
Cons: Raw food must be kept frozen or refrigerated, risk for food-borne illness will improper handling, some dogs don’t like the texture of raw food, very expensive compared to traditional kibble, calculations required to determine proper feeding amount
The best affordable dog food
Whole Earth Farms pet foods are naturally nutritious and cooked in the US, but they’re surprisingly affordable.
When shopping for dog food it is important not to shop by price alone because low-priced dog foods are also typically low in quality. This doesn’t mean, however, that affordable brands of high-quality dog food aren’t out there. Whole Earth Farms, for example, offers quality nutrition at a more affordable price point than most comparable pet food brands. Even so, this brand appears on Dog Food Advisor’s list of 4-star dog foods, so you know it must be good.
The Whole Earth Farms brand is manufactured by the Merrick Pet Care Company, a company that receives Dog Food Advisor’s 4-star rating. Whole Earth Farms pet foods are made in the US with fresh, natural ingredients to support your dog’s digestion while also boosting their energy levels and improving the health of their skin and coat. Each recipe starts with a quality animal protein and is supplemented with digestible carbohydrates, probiotics, and chelated minerals for maximum nutrient absorption.
Not only is this brand affordable, but it doesn’t use any corn, wheat, or soy in its products, and all recipes are free from by-products and artificial additives.
In terms of their product offerings, this brand sells eleven dry food recipes and fifteen canned foods. Whole Earth Farms offers an assortment of original and grain-free products, including formulas developed for specific life stages and breed sizes so you can choose the product that best suits your dog.
Pros: Ideal combination of quality and affordability, no low-quality fillers or by-products, no artificial additives, made in the USA, designed to support healthy digestion, made with high-quality animal proteins, formulas for different life stages and breed sizes, wide variety of dry foods and wet foods
Cons: Some recipes could be higher in animal protein, many recipes contain common proteins and other ingredients that may trigger allergies in some dogs (like chicken, rice, and fish)
The best dog food for puppies
Taste of the Wild Puppy Food is loaded with animal proteins and free from gluten, grains, and artificial additives, making it ideal for puppies.
Choosing the right dog food for your puppy is extremely important because it will impact their growth and development during the first year of his life. Puppies require a higher concentration of protein than adult dogs with healthy fats for energy as well as essential vitamins and minerals. In addition to meeting your puppy’s nutritional needs, a high-quality puppy food should be easily digestible, and it should come in small, bite-size kibbles.
Our top pick for the best dog food for puppies is Taste of the Wild High Prairie Puppy Food. Made with a variety of novel animal proteins like buffalo and roasted venison, this puppy food comes with a low risk for triggering food allergies.
It features grain-free, digestible carbohydrates like sweet potato with plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables to provide sources for essential vitamins and minerals. With several fish ingredients, this recipe has an irresistible flavor and provides plenty of healthy fats to support your puppy’s skin and coat health.
Taste of the Wild Grain-Free Puppy Food gets a 4-star rating from Dog Food Advisor and receives approval from Whole Dog Journal. Not only does fish provide puppies with healthy protein and an irresistible flavor, but the healthy fats keep their coat shiny as well.
Pros: Made with novel protein sources, includes fresh meat and meat meals, grain-free carbohydrates, fresh fruits and vegetables for nutrients, dried fermentation products for probiotic support, supplemented with DHA for brain development, chelated minerals for maximum absorption
Cons: Somewhat pricey compared to other brands, only two puppy formulas to choose from, includes some plant-based protein
The best dog food for senior dogs
Loaded with high-quality animal proteins, digestible whole grains, and joint-supporting nutrients, Wellness Complete Health Senior Dog Food is just what your old pup needs.
As your dog gets older, he’ll start to slow down. Because senior dogs are less active, they require fewer calories than younger dogs, but they still need a blend of protein and healthy fats in their diet. Joint-supporting nutrients like glucosamine and chondroitin become particularly important for dogs in their old age and increased fiber levels will help support gastrointestinal health. Our top pick for the best dog food for senior dogs is Wellness Complete Health Senior Dog Food.
Available in original and small-breed formulas, Wellness Complete Health Senior Dog Food features high-quality proteins, whole grains, and fresh fruits and vegetables to deliver complete and balanced nutrition optimized for senior dogs.
This formula contains fresh deboned chicken as well as concentrated chicken meal, both of which are natural sources of the joint-supporting nutrients glucosamine and chondroitin. The recipe is also supplemented with chelated minerals for optimal nutrient absorption and probiotics for healthy digestion.
Wellness Complete Health formulas landed on Whole Dog Journal’s 2019 approved dry dog foods list. Labrador Training HQ likes that the recipe is free from corn, wheat, soy, meat by-products, and artificial additives to ensure healthy nutrition and easy digestion.
Pros: Made with fresh chicken and chicken meal, includes whole grains for digestibility, fresh fruits and veggies for natural sources of vitamins and minerals, supplemented with chelated minerals and probiotics, free from meat by-products and artificial additives, added sources of glucosamine and chondroitin for joint support, supports healthy skin and coat
Cons: May trigger allergies in dogs sensitive to grains, some dogs are allergic to chicken, some dogs developed gas or upset stomach
The best dog food for small toy breeds
Merrick Lil’ Plates Grain-Free Dog Food is great for toy and small breeds because it comes in seven grain-free formulas that are made with high-quality proteins, digestible carbohydrates, and healthy supplements.
Many dog owners make the mistake of thinking that small-breed dogs need fewer calories than large breeds when, in fact, the opposite is true. Small-breed dogs have very fast metabolisms so, while they may need a lower number of total calories, they actually require a higher concentration of calories per pound of bodyweight.
Small-breed dog food formulas are rich in protein with higher levels of fat to meet a smaller dog’s high-energy needs. Our top pick for the best small/toy breed dog food is Merrick Lil’ Plates Grain-Free Dog Food.
While you might think that wet food is easier for a small dog to eat, most veterinarians agree that dry food is better. Eating kibble helps prevent plaque buildup, reducing the risk for dental disease, which is a common problem in small and toy breeds. Not only is Merrick Lil’ Plates Grain-Free Dog Food ideally sized for smaller dogs and designed to promote dental health, but it comes in seven different recipes.
This Merrick dog food uses high-quality, animal-based proteins like chicken, salmon, lamb, and beef with grain-free carbohydrates like sweet potato for fiber. Fresh fruits and vegetables provide natural sources for key nutrients while supplements like probiotics support healthy and regular digestion. Kibbles are properly sized for small mouths, and they have a satisfying crunch that helps keep your dog’s teeth clean.
Top Dog Tips approves of the high protein content as well as the quality of the ingredients. The writer also notes that Merrick dog food is produced in organically-certified kitchens located in the USA.
Pros: Available in seven flavors (two with raw bites), high-quality animal proteins as the first ingredient, gluten-free and grain-free carbohydrates, fresh fruits and vegetables for natural sources of vitamins and minerals, supplemented with chelated minerals and probiotics, small kibble size, made in the USA with USA-sourced ingredients, no artificial additives or fillers, crunchy to clean teeth
Cons: Some dogs developed digestive upset, high protein content not recommended for dogs with liver or kidney issues, somewhat pricey compared to other brands
The best dog food for large breeds
Blue Buffalo Life Protection Large Breed Dog Food comes in three flavors, all of which contain high concentrations of protein to keep big dogs happy.
Large-breed dogs need an average of 20 to 30 calories per pound of body weight to meet their energy requirements without gaining weight. When choosing a large-breed dog food formula, it is important to make sure you meet your dog’s need for protein without going overboard on fat — too much fat typically means too many calories.
Large-breed dogs also require a careful blend of calcium and phosphorus to prevent orthopedic disease and glucosamine and chondroitin for joint support. Our top pick for the best dog food for large and giant breeds is Blue Buffalo Life Protection Large Breed Dog Food.
Available in three meat-rich flavors, Blue Buffalo Life Protection Large Breed Dog Food is designed specifically to meet the nutritional needs of larger dogs. Each recipe is made with high-quality animal protein as the first ingredient with whole grains, fresh fruits, and veggies for nutritional support.
There are no meat by-products or artificial additives, plus each formula is supplemented with Blue Buffalo’s exclusive LifeSource Bits. LifeSource Bits contain a proprietary blend of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants to ensure complete and balanced nutrition.
Pros: Fresh meat is the first ingredient, three meat-rich flavors to choose from, whole grains for digestibility and nutrition, fresh fruits and vegetables for natural sources of key nutrients, LifeSource Bits supplement for nutritional balance, chelated minerals and probiotics, no artificial additives
Cons: Some dogs are sensitive to grain ingredients, somewhat pricey compared to other brands, kibbles may be too small for some dogs
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