It used to be that dogs were fed whatever scraps from the table their owners had which eventually morphed into simple kibble and canned commercially available diets. Today dog owners have a wealth of options for feeding their dogs and improving their health through better nutrition and you can tailor your food choices based on your individual dog's needs.
Dog Food by Age Range
Dog food is no longer created with a one-size and one-age-fits-all philosophy. The nutritional needs of a puppy, adult dog and senior are all different, just as they are with humans as they age.
Dog Food for Puppies
Because puppies grow rapidly within their first few months they need a diet that is higher in protein, vitamins and minerals. Dog Food Advisor picks Wellness Core Grain Free Large Breed Puppy food with a five-star rating for its level of protein, fat and carbs and quality ingredients. Although it's marketed for large breed puppies, it's suitable for all breed size groups. If you have a small breed puppy and prefer something made specifically for them, Instinct Raw Boost Grain Free Puppy gets five stars and is "enthusiastically recommended" for its high quality protein content.
Dog Food for Seniors
Business Insider's review of the top dog foods found that Wellness Complete Health Senior Dog food is an excellent choice for your older dog. It also has over 200 reviews on Chewy.com with a over a 4.5 out of 5 star rating. Senior dog food differs from food for other life stages because it's lower in calories to adjust for the fact your dog won't be moving around as much as they used to. A good senior dog food, like the Wellness formula, also contains healthy supplements like glucosamine and chondroitin designed to help an older dog's aching joints.
Dog Food by Size Group
Another consideration when picking a diet for your dog is a recipe that's best suited to your dog's breed size.
Small and Toy Breeds
One of the best choices for your small and toy breed dog is Merrick Lil' Plates Grain-Free Dog food which is formulated to provide a higher amount of calories per pound to accommodate the fast metabolism of smaller dogs. It also comes in smaller size bites that make it easier for dogs that may struggle to eat kibble designed for big dogs. It also comes in seven different flavors including Real Texas Beef and Sweet Potato, which gets a 4+ out of 5 rating from over 500 Amazon users.
Large and Giant Breeds
Large breed dogs need kibble that provides more ingredients to support their bigger frame while needing less calories per pound than food for small dogs. Merrick Backcountry Raw Infused Large Breed Adult food gets a 5 star rating from Dog Food Advisor for its ingredient list including high quality protein, glucosamine, chondroitin, omega fatty acids and antioxidants. The food has an average rating on Amazon of 4 out of 5 stars with over 500 reviews.
Dog Food By Manufacturing Process
As a dog owner you have many options for your dog's food. This includes formulas as diverse as dry kibble to fresh, refrigerated meals.
Dry Dog Food
Canidae dry dog food is an all-around excellent choice for the average dog. Over 100 reviewers on Amazon give it an average rating of over 4 out of 5 starts and it's also an Amazon's Choice product. It also gets a "highly recommended" designation on Dog Food Advisor. Unlike some other formulas with high ratings, Canidae All Life Stages food is not grain-free which may be an important factor in your choice. While grain-free foods are popular, recent information from the FDA has cast a negative light on these foods and a grain-inclusive food like Canidae may be a good, safe choice for your pup while more research is conducted.
Canned Dog Food
Consumer information site Reviews.com chooses Chicken Soup for the Soul brand as the best canned food for dogs based on high quality ingredients and a moisture content under 78%. Users on Chewy.com agree with over 100 reviews giving the Adult Pate Chicken, Turkey & Duck Recipe an average rating of more than 4.5 out of 5 stars. It's also available in senior, puppy and weight management recipes.
Freeze-Dried (Raw) Food
Freeze-dried formulations are a relatively new type of food that combines high quality, "human-grade" ingredients based on a raw diet without all the work of preparing it at home. Primal Freeze Dried Foods gets high marks from many consumer review sites and Amazon users give the Beef Formula an average rating of over 4 out of 5 stars. Dog Food Advisor also gives it five stars and calls it an "above average raw product."
Dehydrated Dog Food
Dehydrated dog food is a way of preserving the meal without using artificial preservatives which creates a healthier diet for your dog. All you need to do is add water to the mix and serve to your dog. The Honest Kitchen uses 100% human grade ingredients for their formulas. Their Whole Grain Chicken Dog Food Recipe is the top pick from consumer site My Pet Needs That with a five-star rating. With over 1,300 reviews on Amazon, it's also an Amazon's Choice pick and gets over 4 out of 5 stars.
Fresh Dog Food
Another relatively recent innovation in commercially prepared dog food is "fresh" food that is available in a refrigerated section at your pet food store or are available through a delivery subscription service. These are not raw diets but cooked recipes that are packed and refrigerated. Consumer Affairs website has over 200 reviews with a five-star rating overall from users who give NomNomNow top grades for their fresh, delivered food. Users report fewer veterinary visits, less allergy-related symptoms and more energy overall with their dogs on this diet.
Some dogs require a more specialized diet for health-related reasons. Often these are diets requiring a veterinary prescription although some are also available over the counter and your veterinary will recommend them.
Feeding your dogs a grain-free diet has become quite popular based on a belief that dogs do not naturally eat carbohydrates and grain may be a source of allergies. However grains are rarely an allergen in dog food and a grain-free diet may not be the best choice. There has been concern about a possible link between grain-free diets and canine dilated cardiomyopathy and the FDA has issued a warning to dog owners. If you have a concern about a grain free diet, discuss this with your veterinarian. For the best grain-free option, Taste of the Wild Grain Free High Protein Real Meat Recipe has an average rating of 4.2 out of 5 stars with over 5,000 happy customer reviews. It also gets a 4.5 out of 5 star rating from Dog Food Advisor.
Food Allergy Diets
If your dog has a diagnosed food allergy, there are prescription hydrolyzed protein diets that your veterinarian can prescribe for your dog. There are some commercially available brands as well that may work for your dog with your veterinarian's input. Dog Food Advisor gives their highest rating of five stars to Canidae Grain-Free Pure Limited Ingredient Diet. The recipe uses salmon, salmon meal and menhaden fish meal as its primary proteins. Over 200 reviewers on Chewy.com give the food a close to a 5 star rating. The diet is also available in several other flavors.
Weight Loss Diets
Obesity is a serious problem with an estimated 56% of U.S. dogs overweight. There are prescription weight loss diets available through your veterinarian. You can also buy an off-the-shelf recipe if you realize your dog is starting to pack on the pounds. Consumer Affairs recommends Blue Buffalo Wilderness Healthy Weight Chicken Grain-Free Recipe as a quality low-calorie formula that's economical and can be bought at most pet food stores. Over 200 Chewy.com reviewers agree, giving this recipe over 4.5 out of 5 stars.
Sensitive Stomach Diets
Just like some people, some dogs have a sensitive belly. Feeding them a diet that's gentle on their intestines can help with this health issue. Always consult with your veterinarian first as there are prescription diets they may suggest instead. A top choice for a non-prescription sensitive stomach diet is the Purina Pro Plan Focus Sensitive Skin and Stomach diet which is recommended by Chewy.com. The diet has over 1,100 positive reviews with an average rating above 4.5 out of 5 stars.
What's the Best Dog Food Overall?
The best dog food available is entirely subjective as every individual dog will be different. A diet that one dog does wonderfully on may upset the stomach of another dog. With that in mind, when looking at reviews overall, it's clear Orijen dry dog food stands out above the crowd. The food gets rave reviews from many consumer websites such as Reviews.com and Business Insider. Over 300 reviewers on Amazon give the Original formula an average rating over 4 out of 5 stars. It also gets Dog Food Advisor's top rating of 5 stars with their "enthusiastically recommended" rating.
Finding the Best Food for Your Dog
Feeding your pet a high-quality food based on his individual needs can vastly improve his quality of life. It's important to review the ingredient list and discuss with your veterinarian any possible issues your dog might have with a specific food. No matter which brand you choose, remember to monitor your dog carefully for health changes, especially after introducing a new diet, and always change them over gradually to a new recipe to avoid stomach upset.