“What is the best food to feed my dog?” It’s one of the most common questions asked by dog owners as they are increasingly concerned that their dogs are getting the best nutrition they can afford.

Dog foodAs public interest in pet health and well-being increases, more dog food manufacturers are investing in research into optimum nutrition so that their products are as healthy and complete as possible. This has resulted not only holistically balanced diets for ‘normal’ dogs but also dog food that meets specific needs, such as kidney and gastro-intestinal problems, joint and mobility issues, food allergies and, of course, weight loss, such as Hills Prescription Dog Foods and Royal Canin Hydrolyzed Protein.

The problem is that so many dog food manufacturers advertise their food as ‘complete’ or ‘balanced’ or ‘scientific’ or ‘holistic’ that it’s not easy to decide which brand is in fact best for your dog. According to veterinarian T.J. Dunn, not all ‘complete and balanced’ dog food brands are equal, with some being more ‘complete and balanced’ than others.

The key to finding really top quality dog food is in the ingredients. Many of the so-called premium dog foods have a high corn or grain content, which doesn’t provide the nutrition that most dogs need and which can cause dogs to be, as Dunn calls it, over-caloried and undernourished. Corn- or grain-based diets can also cause skin problems, dry coats, obesity and in some cases, food allergies or intolerances. You’ll know if the food is corn- or grain-based if it is the first ingredient listed.

Instead, you want to look for meat-based diets – meat (chicken, lamb, beef, etc.) is the first ingredient on the list. In fact, if you look at the Guaranteed Analysis, protein should make up 30% of the content, fat should make up 18% and the only preservatives used should be vitamin E and C. Ideally, there should also be Omega Fatty Acids (salmon oil, cod liver oil or even flaxseed oil).

How to find top-rated dog food

Dog Food Advisor

Dry dog food

Dog Food Advisor is a great website that has very strict ratings criteria to determine the best quality dog food brands available on the market. Food has to earn either 4 or 5 stars to be considered the best and a variety of foods are rated, including dry and wet dog food, raw dog food, grain-free dog food, puppy food (wet and dry), low fat food and hypoallergenic dog food.

Some of the best dry dog foods include:

  • 4Health Dog Food
  • Acana Regionals Grain-Free Dog Food
  • Addiction Dog Food
  • AvoDerm Natural Dog Food
  • Black Gold Grain-Free Dog Food
  • Canidae Grain-Free Dog Food
  • Castor and Pollux Natural Ultramix Dog Food
  • Chicken Soup for the Dog Lover’s Soul Dog Food
  • Diamond Naturals Dog Food
  • Earthborn Holistic Dog Food
  • EVO Dog Food
  • Fromm Four Star Nutritionals Dog Food
  • Fromm Gold Coast Dog Food
  • Halo Dog Food
  • Happy Paws Dog Food
  • Holistic Select Dog Food
  • Kirkland Dog Food
  • Life’s Abundance Dog Food
  • Mulligan Stew Dog Food
  • Natural Balance Synergy Dog Food
  • NutriSource Dog Food
  • Orijen Freeze Dried Dog Food
  • Pet Chef Express
  • Rachel Ray Nutrish Zero Grain Dog Food
  • Sojos Complete Dog Food
  • Taste of the Wild Dog Food
  • TimberWolf Platinum Dog Food
  • Tuscan Natural Carne Dog Food
  • Wellness Core Air Dried Dog Food
  • Wellness Simple Dog Food
  • Whole Earth Farms Dog Food
  • Wild Calling! Rocky Mountain Medley Dog Food

Some of the best wet dog foods include:Puppy food

  • Addiction canned dog food
  • Artemis Fresh Mix canned dog food
  • Back to Basics dog food tubs
  • By Nature Organics canned dog food
  • Canidae Grain-Free canned dog food
  • Chicken Soup for the Dog Lover’s Soul canned dog food
  • Earthborn Holistic Moist Dog Food tubs
  • EVO canned dog food
  • Fromm Cold Nutritionals canned dog food
  • Halo canned dog food
  • Holistic Select Grain-Free canned dog food
  • Kirkland Signature Nature’s Domain canned dog food
  • Natural Balance Ultra canned dog food
  • Newman’s Own Organics Grain-Free canned dog food
  • Pure Balance dog food tubs
  • Taste of the Wild canned dog food
  • Wellness Stews canned dog food
  • Whole Earth Farms canned dog food

Some of the best wet puppy foods (which meet AAFCO nutritional profiles) include):

  • Abound Moist dog food tubs
  • By Nature 95% Varieties canned dog food
  • Castor and Pollux Natural Ultramix canned dog food
  • EVO canned dog food
  • Freshpet Nature’s Fresh dog food pouches
  • Great Life Essentials canned dog food
  • Holistic Select Grain-Free canned dog food
  • Kirkland Signature Nature’s Domain canned dog food
  • Life’s Abundance canned dog food
  • Merrick Classic canned dog food
  • Nature’s Recipe dog food tubs
  • Wellness Core canned dog food
  • Whole Earth Farms canned dog food

Some of the best (5-star) dry puppy foods include:

  • Acana Dog Food
  • Acana Regionals Grain-Free Dog Food
  • Blue Buffalo Wilderness Dry Dog Food
  • Canidae Grain-Free Dog Food
  • DNA Ancestral Dehydrated Dog Food
  • Earthborn Holistic Primitive Natural Dog Food
  • Evanger’s Grain-Free Dog Food
  • Horizon Legacy Dog Food
  • Innova Nature’s Table Dog Food
  • Nature’s Logic Dog Food
  • Northwest Naturals Freeze Dried Raw Dog Food
  • Orijen Dog Food
  • Real Meat Air-Dried Dehydrated Dog Food
  • TimberWolf Platinum Dog Food
  • Tuscan Natural Carne Dog Food
  • Wellness Core Air Dried Dehydrated Dog Food

Some of the best dog foods for weight loss include:

Hungry dog wants food


  • Acana Light and Trim Dry Dog Food
  • Avoderm Natural Large Breed Adult Dry Dog Food
  • Castor and Pollux Natural Ultramix Adult Chicken Canned Dog Food
  • Life’s Abundance Weight Loss Forumla Canned Dog Food
  • Merrick Senior Medley Canned Dog Food
  • Premium Edge Healthy Weight Reduction Dry Dog Food
  • Wellness Core Reduced Fat Formula Dry Dog Food

Some suggested (3-star) hypoallergenic dog foods include:

  • Acana Dry Dog Food
  • Brothers Complete Advanced Allergey Care Dry Dog Food
  • Natural Balance Limited Ingredient Diets Canned Dog Food

Dog Food Advisor is not the only resource for finding top quality dog food.

What does complete mean?

Dunn says that the most important thing to remember about a truly complete dog food is that it is complete. That means you shouldn’t have to add any supplements, like salmon oil, to meet your dog’s needs. The danger of adding supplements or even table scraps is that you could upset the balance and suddenly your dog’s diet is not quite as good as it should be.

Nutritional needs by breed size

Your dog’s nutritional needs also depend on how big it is. According to the Kennel Club, small and toy breeds have a higher energy requirement than large and giant breed dogs, so their food should be more nutrient-dense and have a higher energy content. The size of the kibble should also be small and manageable.

Medium-sized breeds, like spaniels and herding dogs, also have higher energy requirements than large or giant breeds, so their food should reflect this.

Large and giant breeds need more calories and calcium during critical growth stages than small and medium breeds, which is why it’s important to get the right puppy food for your dogs. Feeding a large breed puppy food for medium-sized breeds can cause developmental skeletal problems.

Food allergies and intolerancesHungry dog and food bowl

Some dogs are allergic to certain foods or develop food intolerances, which can cause itchy skin, hot spots, vomiting, diarrhea, ear problems and breathing problems. They best way to determine which food is causing the problem is by trial and error – eliminating certain foods to see if the problem clears up. Only eliminate one food at a time, otherwise you can’t tell which one actually caused the problem.

Some of the leading triggers for food allergy or intolerance in dogs include wheat, beef and dairy. Some of the best proteins for dogs with food allergies include white fish, salmon, venison, duck and lamb. Supplements, such as Essential Fatty Acids and Antioxidants, can help alleviate the symptoms and provide additional supplements that may be lacking. Note: Always consult your vet before making changes to your dog’s diet, especially if you suspect food allergies.

What about raw and homemade dog food?

There are studies that support raw food diets for dogs, as there are no preservatives, you can control exactly what your dog is eating and the proteins, vitamins and minerals are all whole. A raw or homemade dog food diet should consist of 75% raw protein (chicken, turkey or lamb) and 25% raw or steamed diet (green beans, carrots, pumpkin).

Raw food diets for dogs are not controversy, however, so it’s always best to consult a vet, holistic vet or even a veterinary nutritionist before changing your dog’s diet.