Best dog food

Food & Food Storage

A dog eats dry dog food as part of a nutritious diet.

BestReviews is reader-supported and may earn an affiliate commission. Details.

Which dog food is best?

Walking through aisles of dog food at your local pet store can be an overwhelming experience. It can seem like an endless selection of brands and ingredients from which to pick.

However, all dog food is not created equal, and it is important you know what to look for when shopping. In addition to quality and digestible, healthy ingredients, your dog’s age, size and activity level can play roles in which food suits them best. ZIWI Peak Air-Dried Dog Cuisine is a top pick because it contains pure protein that is an excellent part of your dog’s nutrition.

What to know before you buy dog food

Best dog food contents

When selecting a food for your dog, check the nutrition label. The food should contain adequate protein without exceeding a 75% fat-to-protein ratio. There should be carbohydrates but not an excessive amount. If you see generic animal fat, harmful chemical preservatives, anonymous meat or artificial coloring, skip that bag.

Age

Dog food is formulated to meet the needs of dogs at each stage of life. These stages are puppy, adult, senior and geriatric. According to PetMD, the age at which your dog reaches each of these categories depends on its weight. You can view a detailed chart to determine your pet’s stage of life here.

Size

Certain dog foods have formulations specifically for bigger or smaller breeds. If you have a 5-pound dog, it might have trouble chewing regular kibble. Small-breed dog food has appropriately sized bites and a recipe to meet the higher caloric needs smaller breeds often require. Larger breeds, especially in their rapid first year of growth, are at higher risk of deficiencies in their diets. Food made specifically for big breeds can help address this.

Activity level

If you own a working or competing canine, they have different dietary needs than their non-working counterparts. Dogs with high activity levels need slightly more protein and calories. The BestReviews dog food buying guide recommends that active dogs get dry food with higher than 28% protein and higher than 20% fat content or wet food with higher than 7% protein and higher than 5% fat content.

What to look for in a quality dog food

Ingredients

After you’ve determined the content ratio appropriate for your dog, check that the ingredients making up those ratios are high quality. Look for things such as fresh vegetables, whole meats and carbohydrates from food such as quality grains or sweet potatoes. Avoid any food that uses fillers such as corn starch.

Nutrition

When the only nutrition your dog receives is from its bowl of food, it is important the food meets all your pet’s nutritional requirements. Look for a statement on the bag of dog food that says the contents are complete and balanced. This indicates the food has all the nutrition your pet needs.

How much you can expect to spend on dog food

On the lower end, dog food made with fillers and meal meat can cost less than $1 per pound. A good, mid-range dog food with high-quality ingredients costs $1-$2 per pound. On the high end, you can find quality wet and dry food that is ethically sourced and made with no filler for $2-$5 per pound.

Dog food FAQ

How do you switch your dog to a new food?

A. The American Kennel Club recommends gradually changing your dog’s food over five to seven days. Start with 25% new food and 75% old food, then slowly increase the percentage of new dog food over the seven-day period. If at any point your dog shows signs of gastrointestinal stress, you might need to take it even slower.

How do you know if it is time to switch your dog’s food?

A. Pet MD says to watch out for signs such as lethargy, a dull coat, itching, gastrointestinal disturbances or weight gain. These can be signs your dog is not getting its nutritional needs met.

What’s the best dog food to buy?

Top dog food

ZIWI Peak Air-Dried Dog Cuisine

ZIWI Peak Air-Dried Dog Cuisine

What you need to know: This dog food contains superior ingredients that ensures your dog gets the best nutrition available.

What you’ll love: Your dog will absorb more from less volume with this nutrient-dense food. It contains zero cheap fillers. The air-drying process maintains all original nutrients.

What you should consider: This food is expensive and doesn’t last as long as baked dry food.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon and Chewy

Top dog food for the money

IAMS Minichunks Adult Dry Dog Food

IAMS Minichunks Adult Dry Dog Food

What you need to know: This food is tasty to most dogs and suitable for many sizes and ages.

What you’ll love: This food is high in protein with farm-raised chicken as the first ingredient and has no artificial flavors or fillers. The kibble is small and easy for dogs of all sizes to chew.

What you should consider: There have been some reports of itching and gastrointestinal issues after eating.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon, Chewy and Petsmart.

Worth checking out

Cesar Simply Crafted Wet Dog Food

Cesar Simply Crafted Wet Dog Food

What you need to know: This food is especially good for small dogs or as a topper over dry food.

What you’ll love: This food comes in a variety of flavors your pup will go crazy for, including beef, chicken and duck. The food is filled with nutrients and protein that are great for little dogs.

What you should consider: The servings are only adequate for small dogs.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon, Chewy and Petsmart

Sign up here to receive the BestReviews weekly newsletter for useful advice on new products and noteworthy deals.

Morgan Freeman writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

Copyright 2021 BestReviews, a Nexstar company. All rights reserved.