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Our pups can't get enough of these top-rated brands
Dogs bring so much joy into our lives — they’re our best friends, closest confidants, and an endless source of entertainment. Considering all that our four-legged friends do for us, it’s only fair that we pamper them with the best dog food.
However, there are so many options that it can seem impossible to pick just one. “There are so many food options for dogs that it is normal to feel overwhelmed,” says Dr. Nell Ostermeier, DVM, CVA, FAAVA, an integrative veterinarian. “Working with a veterinarian to choose the right diet for your dog can be really helpful.” They’ll help you figure out your dog’s unique nutritional needs so you can select an option that’s right for your pup, considering factors like their life stage, breed, and any medical conditions. Plus, veterinarians can recommend trusted brands that meet the Association of American Feed Control Officials’s standards for dog food.
To help narrow down your options, we conducted a survey of more than 400 dog owners just like you, asking them for insights about today’s best dog foods. They talked about their own experiences using a variety of popular food options, scoring brands on factors like ease of use, engagement, ingredient quality, and value. Using these scores, we were able to select 11 of the top-rated dog foods that you may want to consider for your own pet.
Whether you're a first-time pet owner bulk-purchasing essential dog supplies or are just curious about what other owners are feeding their pets, read on for the best dog food brands, according to PEOPLE Tested.
Purina Pro Plan
The brand uses high-quality ingredients and has formulas for specific health needs.
Dog owners say their pets love the taste of this food.
The kibble size is generally smaller, making it suitable to use as a training treat.
There isn’t a lot of variety — most formulas just come in one or two flavors.
Purina Pro Plan was the most popular dog food brand in our survey, with 14 percent of all respondents feeding it to their pups. It’s generally considered Purina’s premium brand, and it’s made using high-quality ingredients — a top priority for many of the dog owners we spoke to. Based on our survey results, most dogs love the taste of this food, and surveyed pet parents who regularly use it said their dogs live to older ages.
There are a wide range of Pro Plan formulas available, including wet and dry foods for different breed sizes, weight management, sensitive stomachs, and more. Many people like that the kibble size is smaller, making the food well-suited for training, but there isn’t a huge variety in terms of flavor. Most Purina Pro Plan foods come in just one or two protein options, and additionally, some owners find the packaging hard to open, as it’s generally not resealable.
Hill's Science Diet
Dog owners are extremely pleased with the quality of the ingredients.
The brand offers specific formulas to help treat health conditions, such as weight, stomach problems, and allergies.
The food is available in different kibble sizes that are suitable for puppies, small breeds, and large dogs.
The price has increased in recent years and is notably higher than many other brands.
A can opener is needed to open the brand’s wet food containers.
Hill’s Science Diet received the highest overall score of all the dog food brands in our survey, and it got particularly high marks in terms of ingredient quality. Many respondents said this brand was recommended to them by their dog’s veterinarian, and it’s a particularly good choice for dogs with health problems. Hill’s Science Diet has formulas to help with conditions like weight management, digestive issues, and allergies, and the brand also has a line of prescription dog foods for medical conditions like urinary and kidney problems.
Among its over-the-counter food options, Hill’s Science Diet has options for dogs of different sizes — for instance, the Small Bite formulas have a smaller kibble size that’s easy for small breeds to chew. There are also options for puppies and senior dogs that come in both wet and dry forms. However, the major downside to this brand is that it’s quite expensive, and survey respondents said the price has only gone up in recent years.
This brand is a more affordable option from Purina, and many owners think it’s a good value.
Many of the formulas help dogs maintain a healthy weight.
Owners say that food from this brand works well for dogs with sensitive stomachs.
There are limited flavors available — generally just chicken or lamb.
Among the 400+ dog owners we surveyed, 11 percent feed their pets Purina One, and in particular, this brand was a top choice for pups with stomach issues. Several people mentioned that the food suits their dogs' sensitive stomachs, even after prolonged usage, and while it’s still made with high-quality ingredients, it’s a more affordable choice than Purina Pro Plan.
Purina One offers both wet and dry dog food, and if you have a small dog, there are special small breed formulas that will be easy for them to eat. Survey respondents say that this food helps their dogs maintain a healthy weight, and there are also specific formulas for health issues like weight management, joint health, and skin and coat health. However, Purina One is often only available in chicken or lamb flavors, which may be limiting for picky eaters or dogs with food sensitivities.
The fresh food is made with human-grade ingredients, earning it top scores for ingredient quality.
According to owners, dogs love the taste of this food, as it has real chunks of meat in it.
This brand isn’t widely available and can be hard to find in stores.
Fresh dog food is an increasingly popular category, and several of the dog owners in our survey feed Freshpet. This brand sells fresh dog food made with human-grade ingredients, including both meat and vegetables, and the food comes in small tubes (like this) that must be refrigerated until serving. Among our survey respondents, Freshpet received top scores for both ingredient quality and engagement, with owners saying their pups love the taste. Plus, many feel good knowing their pet is getting healthy, nutritious food without any unhealthy ingredients.
Freshpet currently offers several different food options, including multiple flavors and grain-free options, as well. The downside of Freshpet is that it isn’t as widely available as many other brands, and of course, it’s more challenging to store, as it has a shorter shelf life and must be kept cold.
The brand uses high-quality ingredients that help keep dogs healthy.
Dog owners note that this food is good for sensitive stomachs and promotes coat health.
Formulas for small breed dogs have a more manageable kibble size.
Dog owners would like to see more formulas for specific health concerns.
Blue Buffalo is another brand that uses high-quality ingredients — a top consideration for pet owners — and our survey respondents said the food helps keep their pups healthy and happy. Several people said that this dog food helped them manage digestive problems, and it also keeps their pet’s fur shiny and soft. Plus, Blue Buffalo is widely available and often a bit more affordable than other high-quality food brands.
If you decide to go with this brand, you’ll have your choice between wet and dry food varieties, and many are available in several protein options, which can be useful if your dog has allergies or flavor preferences. In our survey, dog owners also noted that the brand offers dry food for smaller dogs, and the smaller kibble size is easy for their pets to chew. However, Blue Buffalo doesn’t have the largest variety when it comes to formulas for specific health conditions.
Dog owners say the quality of Iams food has been consistent over the years.
This food helps promote skin and coat health, making hair soft and shiny.
Some formulas do have more filler content than owners would like.
It’s always frustrating when the quality of dog food is inconsistent, but our surveyed dog owners say that isn’t a problem with Iams food. People who have used this food for years say the quality is reliably high, and many also note that the brand uses good ingredients in its formulas. Other comments we frequently heard about Iams is that it helps with coat health and that the price is reasonable for the quality of food.
Iams offers a moderate selection of dry dog food, but its wet food options are fairly limited. There are formulas for different life stages and breed sizes, but you won’t find many options for health problems. The Iams Proactive Health Healthy Weight dog food can help manage weight problems, but the brand doesn’t have formulas for other conditions.
Breed-specific formulas can help to address potential health concerns.
The food is made from high-quality ingredients that owners say keep their dogs healthy.
The consistency of kibble size can vary between bags.
This brand is often more expensive than other options.
If you have a dog breed that’s prone to certain health problems, Royal Canin is one of the only food brands that offers breed-specific formulas. For instance, the Royal Canin Breed Health Nutrition French Bulldog Dry Dog Food has a unique kibble shape that’s easier for short snouts to chew, and it also helps reduce gas and stool odor with highly digestible proteins. There are also options to address specific health concerns, whether it’s allergies or digestive woes, and the brand has kibble tailored to different dog sizes, as well.
Overall, the dog owners in our survey give Royal Canin top marks when it comes to ingredient quality, noting that the food has helped to keep their dogs healthy. However, one common complaint is that the kibble size sometimes varies between bags, and the food is notably more expensive than other brands.
This brand rated the highest in terms of value satisfaction in our survey.
The food comes in big bags, making it easy to buy large quantities.
Dog owners are happy with the ingredient quality, especially for the price.
Because it’s mostly sold at Costco, this brand isn’t the most accessible.
The brand doesn’t sell many wet food varieties.
If you regularly shop at Costco, Kirkland dog food is the wholesale club’s in-house brand, and it’s known for being both high-quality and easy on your wallet. This dog food comes in large 40-pound bags (perfect if you have a big dog or multiple pets), and dog owners love that it uses healthy ingredients like sweet potato, lentils, and salmon. Among our survey respondents, the consensus is that dogs like the taste of this food and the price is great for the quality — in fact, it was the highest rated brand in terms of value satisfaction.
There isn't a huge amount of variety of food options available from this brand, but you will find formulas for different life stages, including puppies, small breeds, and older dogs. However, keep in mind that Kirkland mostly makes dry kibble and only offers two basic wet food options.
Dry food contains a mix of kibble shapes and textures to keep dogs interested.
This brand is reasonably priced and easy to find in stores.
Owners wish the food contained more meaty pieces.
Does your dog get bored with their dry food easily? Then you may want to try a brand like Beneful, which is made by Purina. The brand’s dry foods contain a mixture of kibble shapes and textures, and survey respondents say this helps to keep their dogs interested and slow down the pace of eating. Plus, the brand is quite affordable and easy to find at retailers like Target and Walmart.
Whether your pup prefers wet or dry food, Beneful has plenty of options for you to choose from, including several flavors that may help entice picky eaters. There are small-breed specific products, such as the Beneful Incredibites Small Dog, as well as a multiple wet food flavors and consistencies.
This dog food has clean, high-quality ingredients without fillers.
The brand is family-run, and its products are made in the USA.
This brand can be hard to find, and it’s generally quite expensive.
While somewhat of a specialty brand, Fromm is worth considering if you want a convenient dry food that offers only the best quality ingredients. This brand is known for its clean, high-quality formulas, which contain minimal fillers. According to our survey, people also love that Fromm is family-owned for five generations and manufactures all its dog food domestically. The main drawbacks, however, are that the brand isn’t carried by many retailers and is pricey, but that’s often the case with high-quality foods.
The brand’s dry food is inexpensive, earning it a top score in terms of value.
Dog owners say their pets like the taste of this food and don’t waste any of it.
This brand doesn’t use the highest quality ingredients.
Pedigree offers budget-friendly food that’s a hit with dogs, according to our survey. It was a top-scoring brand in terms of value, as you can buy bigger quantities (like this 30-pound bag)for half the price of many other brands. People also like that this brand is widely available and can often be found in retail stores.
This brand sells both wet and dry food, with formulas for different breed sizes and common issues like weight management, and it also offers a variety of dog treats. However, Pedigree isn’t the best in terms of ingredient quality, in part due to its lower price point — many of its foods have corn as the first ingredient, followed by unnamed protein sources.
Things to Consider Before Buying Dog Food
The first thing you’ll want to consider when selecting a dog food is whether it’s a complete source of nutrition for your pet. “It’s important to ensure that you are feeding a complete and balanced diet — this information should be readily available on the label,” says Dr. Ostermeier.
You’ll want to look for the product’s Nutritional Adequacy Statement, which indicates that the food meets the standards set by the AAFCO. This statement should say it’s a “complete and balanced” source of nutrition, which means it contains all the appropriate nutrients for your pet in the right ratios. It will also indicate what life stage the food is intended for, as puppies and older dogs have different needs than adult animals.
There are several types of dog food available today, including dry food (kibble), wet food, and even some fresh food options. There are benefits to each type, so you’ll need to decide what will work best for you and your pet.
Dry food: This is often the most affordable and easiest to store, but it’s highly processed and may contain a lot of fillers, depending on the brand you choose.
Wet food: Cans of wet food can be more appetizing to picky eaters, as it’s more flavorful. “The benefit of wet foods is that they are high in moisture and in general, less processed than dry foods,” explains Dr. Ostermeier. “The increased moisture is hydrating and helps to keep their kidneys happy.”
Fresh foods: Fresh foods often have similar benefits, as the ingredients are just lightly cooked, but these foods are harder to store, as they must be kept refrigerated.
Raw and homemade diets: These are also rising in popularity, but it’s important to work with your veterinarian to ensure these types of food are nutritionally adequate for your pet. “If you are interested in feeding alternative diets such as raw, gently cooked or home-prepared, I recommend consulting with an integrative veterinarian or veterinary nutritionist,” says Dr. Ostermeier.
Dog food can vary substantially in price, so it’s important to find a dog food that fits into your budget. Consider how much food you’ll need to feed your dog each day, as this will determine how long each container of food will last — in general, larger dogs will go through food faster than smaller pups.
You may also want to look at whether the food comes in different package sizes, as it’s often more budget-friendly to buy larger bags (assuming you have space to store them).
How We Tested
To find the best dog foods available today, we surveyed a total of 407 dog owners about the diets they feed their furry friends. Each respondent noted what they like and don’t like about their dog’s food, and we asked them to score the product on its ease of use, engagement (aka, whether their dog likes it), quality of ingredients, and overall value. We compiled all the scores and selected the top 11 brands based on their input.
Based on the survey, the top-scoring brands were Hill’s Science Diet and Freshpet, both of which earned an average score of 4.3 out of 5. The next highest scoring brands were Fromm and Blue Buffalo, both with a score of 4.2.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the healthiest dog food?
Dog food is very subjective — what works well for one pup may not be the best option for another. As a result, it’s hard to pinpoint one dog food as the “healthiest” option, as it will vary depending on factors like your dog’s age, size, breed, lifestyle, health conditions, and even personal tastes. For a specific food recommendation, your best option is to consult with your pet’s veterinarian, who will be able to take all these factors into account and provide options that may work well for your furry friend.
What dog food do vets recommend?
There are four major dog brands that are frequently recommended by veterinarians, and they include Purina, Hill’s Science Diet, Royal Canin, and Iams. These large brands are known for doing in-depth research to substantiate any health claims about their pet foods, and they also employ veterinary nutritionists that help formulate their products. As such, these brands are a good place to start when searching for dog food.
Can I switch my dog's food to another brand without making them sick?
If you’ve decided to switch your dog to a new food, you don’t want to rush the process. If you do, your pup may experience digestive upset. “The best way to switch dog foods is to introduce the new food gradually,” says Dr. Ostermeier. “I recommend adding a small amount — for example, 1 to 2 tablespoons — as a ‘side dish’ to your dog's current food and then building from there. If all goes well, as you increase the new food, decrease the amount of the old food until you are feeding 100 percent the new diet.”
Why Trust PEOPLE?
Camryn Rabideau is a freelance writer and product tester who specializes in home and pet products, and she’s written extensively about pet food throughout her career, interviewing close to a dozen different veterinarians and veterinary nutritionists. She also currently owns two dogs and has experience with numerous brands included on this list.
She combed through hundreds of survey responses from pet owners while compiling this list, and for expert insights on dog food, she interviewed veterinarian Dr. Nell Ostermeier, DVM, who provided tips on selecting the right food based on your pet’s needs.
Meet Our Expert
What Is People Tested?
We created the PEOPLE Tested seal of approval to help you find the very best products for your life. We use our unique methodology to test products in three labs across the country and with our network of home testers to determine their effectiveness, durability, ease of use, and so much more. Based on the results, we rate and recommend products so you can find the right one for your needs.
But we don’t stop there: We also regularly re-review the categories in which we’ve awarded the PEOPLE Tested seal of approval — because the best product of today might not be the best of tomorrow. And by the way, companies can never buy our recommendation: Their products must earn it, fair and square.
In short, PEOPLE Tested provides recommendations you can trust — every day, every purchase.
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Read the original article on People.