Which is the best dog food for your dog? As with people, dogs need a high quality, well balanced diet in order to live a healthy and long life. In reviewing dog foods, you should not just focus on what a dog needs to survive - as they say, 'dogs evolved to be survivors' - but look for what food a dog thrives on. And what a dog thrives on are the ingredients optimized to 'mimic his ancestral diet.' (Revised July, 2017)
Our domesticated dogs evolved from wolves. And in the many thousands of years since Man has owned Dog, there have been no significant changes in the digestive systems or dental patterns of wolves or dogs. Although some animal scientists classify wolves as carnivores (meat eaters), wolves may be considered by others as omnivores because, even though they prefer to hunt and eat other animals, wolves are opportunists and will eat whatever they happen to find in the wild (e.g, berries, mushrooms, nuts, certain grasses, etc.)
Sounds like what your dog seems to prefer? Well, my dogs have rarely ever turned their nose up to any food, but I can safely say that given the choice, they'd go for MEAT!
Dogs are direct descendants of Grey Wolves. (photo source)
By and large, though, real meat, or chicken, or fish has no presence in typical dog food. I have nothing personal against the pet food industry, but I unashamedly admit that I don't see why my dog's food should contain ferrous sulfate (a possibly toxic iron supplement) or a dozen or other chemicals, when he should be getting iron and other minerals from real food sources in the food. In fact, most of the supplements in the most popular brands of dog foods are in there because those vitamins and trace minerals are not contained in the food itself. That good stuff has been processed out.
There are many reasons for this, but the big one is that most packaged or canned dog foods (and cat foods) contain waste products from meat, poultry, seafood, and grain processing plants. Waste products include every part of the whole animal that's not fit for and not allowed in human foods. These parts would have to be thrown out by the processors, but not for pet food manufacturers who will pay a little money for it so that they can re-process it and sell it to humans for their pets. And then many of them are processed with such great heat that kills any nutrition that might be in the waste products.
Puppy loves steak! image from YouTube video
So what am I recommending we pet owners do? It depends how much time and money you have. If you have the time and money to make and pay for an expensive diet for your dog, you should definitely FEED ALL RAW with grass-fed meats, organically-fed poultry, and occasional cooked fresh-caught fish. These should include finely ground bone. Add a bunch of organically grown vegetables chopped up, but not too much - max 30 percent. And supplement your pup with whatever vitamins and minerals your vet says she's not getting from her food.
I know that few of us have the money or the time to do that - not that we don't absolutely adore our pets! But the next best thing is to find A TOP COMMERCIAL DOG FOOD that comes as close to being homemade raw - the best dog food you can afford.
So here, let me give you some reasonable consumer alternatives to creating your dog's meals from scratch. These 5+ recommended dog foods will certainly improve your dog's chances of staying healthy, having more energy, and looking forward to his meals. And they will save you time and money compared to making her meals from scratch.
How We Picked Our Top 5 Recommended Dog Foods
We were able to identify the most nutritious widely available popular dog foods, checked out the ingredients and how they were processed, as well as the balance of protein to carbs, and added vitamins and minerals specific to a dogs needs at all stages of his life. Then, to make sure your pet will like it, we checked out the consumer comments and ratings.
So here are our 5 top Dog Foods for 2017 based on how well they meet your dog's dietary and health needs, their digestibility, and their yumminess. To try to satisfy the range of affordability among dog owners, the choices are in order of High Range to Low Range budgets. Please note that the higher priced items are the closest to the totally raw diet you might prepare yourself.
For those of us who disdain the view that dogs are opportunistic omnivores, but are truely carnivores, there is a packaged food for your dogs that not only contains 99 percent of either beef or turkey proteins and ground bones, but includes a few natural and necessary vitamins as well. True Dog foods are freeze dried and they are sourced from range free grass fed animals. The food can be served with or without water, as food as well as treats, depending on your dog's desire... but make sure she gets plenty of fresh water elsewhere if you don't add water. True Dog is an excellent pure meat diet.
Among the top 5 dog foods, Stella & Chewy's comes quite close to a dog's natural food because its foods are prepared raw and either frozen or freeze dried, so no nutrients are lost in a cooking process. Though you can purchase Stella & Chewy's frozen dog foods in many local pet stores (call first), the easiest way to purchase and serve these foods is freeze dried. The main difference between frozen and freeze dried dog food is that freeze drying removes the liquid content in the food, so water will need to be added to the freeze dried food before serving. Freeze dried food can be kept on the shelf until use, another factor that adds to its convenience.
Stella & Chewy's high-protein canine dinners can be chosen from many protein sources - beef, duck, chicken, venison, pheasant, rabbit, or surf and turf. And the dinners are made with pure grass-fed meats (not meat meals) and fresh organically grown fruits and vegetables (no grains), with the addition of vitamins and minerals to support the health of your dog's vital organs and a healthy coat. Though they have more choices, you may want to start out with this Stella & Chewy's sampler that offers 5 different protein based patties.
Adding water or, better yet, organic chicken broth to these freeze-dried dinners make them deliciously edible for your dog. These dinners consistently get 5 star reviews from dog parents.
Stella and Chewy's is pricey, but for those who can afford these dinners, they are both a healthy and convenient choice for your dog's diet.
Though Orijen does make kibble and canned food for dogs, it has a line of freeze dried food that is 'biologically appropriate;' that is, the percentages of meat/fish are relatively high, somewhat in proportion to what wild dogs might eat. You'll find ranch-raised red meats, nest-laid eggs, cage-free poultry, and wild-caught fish among the ingredients in addition to fresh veggies and fruits, all freeze-dried fresh along with essential supplements like omega 3 and 6, glucosamine and chondroitin.
Though The Honest Kitchen makes a variety of dehydrated meat, fruit, and vegetable options, I like the Grain Free Base Mix (vegetarian) because it lets you add the protein you want, and as much as you want, to your dog's food. So you start with a grain free dehydrated base of veggies, fruits, and nuts which are human grade, and you just add warm water to create the base. Then you can add either raw beef, chicken, turkey or cooked fish at 50, 60, 70 percent or more. Or... you can add a cooked protein if you prefer. I like this option as I feed my dog organic raw meats, which many prepared foods don't contain. Also, by varying the meat from day to day, it makes it more interesting for your dog.
Dehydration does tend to remove a bit of the vitamins and minerals from fresh foods than does freeze-drying, but not at all as much as thoroughly cooking food, so there will still be plenty of nutrients left in dehydrated foods. The trade-off will be the price, as dehydrated foods will be less expensive than freeze dried food.
Tylee's is a nutritious alternative to home-made raw diets and it does remind you, when thawed, of a homemade cooked meal - just like the picture on the package! The meats and veggies are all human grade and it's grain and starch free.
This meal is cooked before freezing and cooking does extract nutrients. But the ingredients are safe for human consumption - they are 'human grade' like those you find in supermarkets - the protein sources are not grass-fed, nor are the vegetables organic. But the food is grain-free, proportionally very high in protein, and it contains very few un-pronouncable ingredients.
Tylee's is available exclusively through Chewy's and it is shipped frozen in a well-packaged box, so when it arrives at your home, it will still be frozen. Just make sure you're not going out of town when Tylee's is due to arrive.
If your budget and/or time constraints don't support feeding your dog with raw, freeze-dried, dehydrated or cooked fresh food, you may want to look into the kibble or canned food made by the manufacturers listed below. These are primarily grain-free foods and they have a higher protein to vegetable/fruit and filler content than many grocery store pet foods. As for kibble versus wet food, though many insist kibble is worse for your dog than wet food, the fact is that both use very high heat in their processing. I would give your dog both versions; kibble is better for keeping a dog's teeth clean and canned food does provide more moisture.
Wellness Core (available at Amazon here)
Taste of the Wild (available at Amazon here)
Natural Balance (available at Amazon here)
FirstMate Dog Food (available at Amazon here)
Instinct Dog Food (available at Amazon here)
Evo Dog Food (available at Amazon here)
Fromm Dog Food (available at Amazon here)
Honest Kitchen Dog Food (available at Amazon here)
Dr. Tims Dog Food (available at Amazon here)
Nature's Logic Dog Food (available at Amazon here)
Halo Dog Food (available at Amazon here)
As with people, dogs need a high quality well-balanced diet in order to live a healthy and long life. The above dog foods are some of the best available and the ones we recommend for your dog.
That's the buzz for today!
(Originally published in 2012 and revised annually. Most recent update in July, 2017)