The Best Dog Food Brands for Strong and Healthy Pets, According to Veterinarians
Veterinarians want the best for their dogs, of course, and so do you. Here are the best dog food brands vets feed their fur babies.
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Every dog has its own needs, and the best diet for dogs will vary depending on size, breed and age. If you just got a new pup or you’re in the market for a new brand, check out the best dog food brands below. Always make sure you take a good look at the label, too—these are the ingredients you never want in your pet’s food. If you need to replace other items for your dog as well, like toys, treats or accessories, make sure to check out the the rest of these brands’ pet lines.
The best dog food brands
- Best overall: Wellness Natural Dog Food
- Best budget: Purina Beneful
- Best wet: Royal Canin
- Best dehydrated: The Honest Kitchen
- Best for large breeds: Hill’s Science Diet Large Breed
- Best for dietary needs: Nutro Natural Choice
- Best vegan recipe: Gather Endless Valley
- Best for joint care: Hills J/D Mobility
Best overall dog food
Wellness Natural Pet Food
Danielle Bernal, DVM, is an on-staff veterinarian for Wellness Natural Pet Food, but even if she wasn’t, she would be feeding it to her 16-year-old Border Collie, Megs. Dr. Bernal credits Wellness CORE with significantly improving Megs’ canine atopic dermatitis, a dog illness that made her skin so red and itchy that she needed daily meds to control it. “The Wellness CORE Ocean formula helps her avoid key allergens like grains and allergenic proteins. But most importantly—because it provides rich sources of natural omega fatty acids from increased amounts of salmon—it helps her skin inflammation,” says Dr. Bernal.
In just three months, Megs regained her soft coat and color and now only needs meds once a month for the occasional flare-up. Grain-free dog food has become a trend in recent years, and there are various opinions on whether or not it’s better for your pooch. Ask your vet if they recommend it for your pup.
- High protein, nutrient-dense dog food without grains
- Contains prebiotics and probiotics to support healthy digestion
- Contains omega fatty acids to promote healthy skin and coat
- Good for all sizes and breeds
- Promotes whole body health
- Available at Chewy, Amazon and Petsmart
- Hard food can be difficult for older dogs to chew
- Some dogs may be advised to not omit grains from diet (always consult with your veterinarian)
Best budget dog food
Michael J. Anacker, DVM, a veterinarian at the Hodes Veterinary Group in Mine Hill, New Jersey, currently feeds Beneful to his two labs, Munch and Chewi. But he’s not loyal to just one brand. If there’s a good deal on a brand or a patient returns food to the clinic because the pet didn’t like it, then he’ll use that, too—as long as the food is from a trusted dog food company. Purina Beneful is a well-known dog food brand with dozens of different recipes for different needs.
“My philosophy is that all of the major pet foods are good quality foods with only subtle differences,” Dr. Anacker says. “The larger companies are forever improving their foods and trying to beat their competitors. Therefore, if there is something wrong with a competitors’ food, they would call them out on it ASAP.”
- Well-known brand at an affordable price point
- Found at most big box stores
- #1 ingredient is farm-raised beef
- Antioxidant-rich, high protein formula without without fillers or artificial ingredients
- Multiple recipes for different breeds and diets
- Available at Walmart, Chewy, Amazon and Petsmart
- Some ingredients may cause sensitivity to some dogs
Best wet dog food
Whether your pup is on an all-wet diet or you mix dry with wet, Royal Canin canned dog food is a solid brand trusted by vets. The wet mixture keeps dogs hydrated and boosts their meals’ flavor. Wet food could also help a dog that’s constipated or an older dog that can’t chew hard kibble as well as they used to. Even if you don’t have one of the healthiest dog breeds, wet food is a good way to boost its nutrition, and can also be used to entice a finicky eater.
Royal Canin even has specialty dog foods for a wide variety of gastrointestinal issues (that require authorization from a vet to place an order online). Some dogs are sensitive to diet changes or face food sensitivity, so fruits and vegetables may not cut it. It’s best to consult with your vet on transitioning any animal from dry to wet food. Your dog will thank you for the extra care!
- Adds hydration to a dog’s diet
- Easily digestible recipe
- The brand closely collaborates with real veterinarians for top-notch pet care
- Best for dogs with short- and long-term digestive sensitivity
- Available on Chewy, Walmart, Petsmart and Amazon
- Cans are usually a single serving, so stocking up can get expensive
Best dehydrated dog food
The Honest Kitchen
Sarah Wallace, DVM, a veterinarian and nutrition expert for Fuzzy Pet Health, adopted Birdie, a rat terrier mix, from a shelter. She was found half-starved, but luckily Birdie eats a high quality diet now. Dr. Wallace feeds her The Honest Kitchen because it is lightly cooked food. “I would never feed a raw food because I know how bad it feels to have food poisoning from bacterial contamination in my food; I want to minimize my dog’s chance of getting food poisoning by feeding her cooked food.”
According to Dr. Wallace, The Honest Kitchen is more digestible than kibble, meaning your pup absorbs more vitamins, minerals, essential fats, proteins and carbohydrates. A 10-pound box from this brand makes 40 pounds of dog food when it’s rehydrated! Just mix with warm water, stir and serve.
- Gently dehydrated dog food that maximizes flavor and nutrients
- Makes four times the volume in rehydrated dog food (easy to store and travel with!)
- Finely diced recipe is easy to digest
- No rendered meat meals, GMO ingredients, by-products, fillers, corn, wheat or soy
- Available on Chewy, The Honest Kitchen and Amazon
- Takes more time to prepare
- Can take time to perfect the food-to-water ratio
Best for larger breeds
Hill’s Science Diet Large Breed
Katharine Kancer, DVM, has a big mouth to feed. Her Bernese mountain dog, Ella, chows down on Hill’s Science Diet Large Breed. “This specific food is complete and balanced with the nutrients she needs at this point in her life stage and is formulated for large breed dogs, which have slightly different nutrient requirements,” she says.
Dr. Kancer adds that adult, large and giant breed dogs benefit from having more glucosamine, chondroitin and omega-3 fatty acids in their diets to help their joints.
- Recipe formulated for large breeds
- Promotes hip and joint health
- Large kibble size
- Available on Chewy, Amazon and Petsmart
- May be difficult for older dogs to chew
Best for dogs with dietary needs
Nutro Natural Choice
Los Angeles-based veterinarian Jeff Werber, DVM, has a pack of four dogs with varying dietary needs, so he feeds them Nutro Natural Choice. “I like the brand because its varieties contain quality, real, recognizable ingredients that serve a purpose and meet my dogs’ nutritional needs,” says Dr. Werber. You might also consider these probiotic dog foods.
More importantly, Nutro satisfies all his dogs’ taste buds—not an easy feat when you have four pups to please. He uses the senior variety formula for Herbie and Pierce, Tommy eats the adult formula and Denzel dines on the limited ingredient variety because he has a chicken sensitivity.
- Easily digestible recipe for sensitive stomachs
- #1 ingredient is real chicken
- No GMO ingredients, chicken by-product meal, corn, wheat or soy
- Natural antioxidants and fiber support digestion
- Good for all size breeds
- Available on Chewy and Walmart
- Reviewers say the price has increased in the past few years
Best vegan dog food
Gather Endless Valley
Jennifer Adolphe, who has a doctorate in companion animal nutrition from the Western College of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Saskatchewan, helped create Gather Endless Valley with premium, certified ingredients designed for vegan consumers. “People are not only interested in what they can personally do to promote more sustainable practices, but are actively seeking ways to can get their dog involved, too,” Dr. Adolphe says. It could also help an overweight pup lose a few pounds.
Her 8-year-old Australian shepherd, Chip, eats up the protein-rich blend of peas, organic barley, organic oats and lentils. “Additionally, Endless Valley provides another dietary option for people who have dogs that experience adverse food reactions and may benefit from a diet without meat,” she notes. Even if you’re feeding your dog the best dog food brands, you still want to avoid these foods that could give your dog heart disease.
- Plant-based recipe
- No GMOs or artificial flavors, colors or preservatives
- Good for all size breeds
- Packaging uses 20% plant-based material
- Available on Chewy, Amazon, Walmart and PetCareRx
- Pricier per pound than other dog food brands
Best for joint problems
Hills J/D Mobility
If your dog has joint problems, Hills J/D Mobility is one of the best dog food brands for them. With a master’s degree in animal science with emphasis on animal nutrition, Andrea Antonelli—another veterinarian at Hodes Veterinary Group—has specific criteria when it comes to feeding her dogs. Some breeds are prone to joint problems, and this formula fits the bill for her three German shepherds, Thor, Blitz and Boris, along with her pit bull, Sylvia.
“I will only feed my dogs food from companies that will give me a fed and dry matter percentage,” she says (with ‘fed’ referring to the the moisture content and ‘dry’ referring to the the amount of nutrients minus moisture). “I want to know exactly what is going in my dog’s mouth.” We can all agree with the importance of that!
- Aids in joint health and mobility
- Helps improve running, walking and jumping ability within 21 days
- Excellent source of omega fatty acids and EPAs
- Good for all size breeds
- Available on Chewy, Amazon and Petsmart
- Requires authorization from a veterinarian
What to look for in the best dog food brands
The best dog food will meet your dog’s dietary needs. Whether they have a sensitive stomach, joint problems or can’t quite chew hard kibble anymore, the most important factor to keep an eye on is the ingredients. Not all dogs need the same diet, but even the best natural dog food will include high-quality meats, vegetables and other nutritional ingredients in their recipes. Some brands will even trace their ingredients so that you have a better idea of their sourcing practices.
As always, rely on the advice of your veterinarian. They could even give insight on the pet products they’d never buy. Additionally, the best dog food brands will also create healthy pet treats for snacking and training between meals.
How we chose the best dog food brands
As shopping experts, our only job is to help you find a winning product. We start with the research and reporting basics—what products are made of, what they look like and how much they cost—to ensure that we’re only recommending the buys that are worth your time and money. Then, we research the features that speak to the product’s quality, taking advice from industry insiders and subject matter experts on what makes a product a smart value (or worthy of a splurge). Finally, we do the work of combing through user reviews to see how real people interact with the product, and if it stands up to the test.
What dog foods do vets not recommend?
Your dog’s diet should depend on their health, age and breed, but there are still foods they shouldn’t eat. Some brands, including Acana, Zignature, Taste of the Wild, 4Health and Earthborn Holistic, were investigated by the FDA for being linked to canine heart disease. While there weren’t any hard claims, the FDA suggests closely consulting with a vet on which foods not to eat.
What is the safest thing to feed your dog?
The safest dog food to feed your pup will depend on a vet’s recommendations. As for the safest human-foods to feed your dog, peanut butter (just make sure that it is not sweetened with Xylitol), vegetables, apples and boneless meat top the list.
What foods make dogs feel better?
Shredded chicken and rice, bone broth, baby food, pumpkin and sweet potato are superfoods for dogs, giving them relief from an upset stomach. Some dogs will need to relieve their ache by vomiting, but providing a comfortable resting area and plenty of water should help them feel better. Keep an eye out for these backyard dangers!
- Danielle Bernal, DVM, on-staff veterinarian for Wellness Natural
- Michael J. Anacker, DVM, veterinarian at Hodes Veterinary Group
- Sarah Wallace, DVM, veterinarian and nutrition expert for Fuzzy Pet Health
- Katharine Kancer, DVM
- Jeff Werber, DVM
- Jennifer Adolphe, PhD in companion animal nutrition
- Andrea Antonelli, DVM, veterinarian at Hodes Veterinary Group
- NBC News: “FDA names 16 brands of dog food linked to canine heart disease”
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