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The Best Dry Dog Foods, According to Veterinarians

best Dry Dog Food
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Updated October 31, 2023

When shopping for the best dry dog food for your pet, you need to consider your animal’s size, breed, age, potential allergies, food quality, and the temperament of the dog who eats it. The days of a simple kibble in a bowl and forgetting about it are gone—and the market is flush with different types of dry dog food. Here are our top choices for the best dry dog food and why it’s always a good idea to check in with your dog’s veterinarian and ask for advice on what to feed your fur baby.

How to choose the best dry dog food

Choosing your dog’s dry food isn’t as simple as choosing the best dog bed (and even that can be a complicated mission). Choosing the right ingredients—plant protein, beef, pork, chicken, salmon, and organic or non-organic—may leave you feeling overwhelmed.

Taylor recommends owners evaluate their dog food labels to ensure any health claims made by the brand are true and that the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) have deemed them appropriate. AAFCO is an independent organization that has developed ingredient definitions and label standards for over 100 years.

“A good general rule is to choose a brand that has both the Association of American Food Controls Officials (AAFCO) certification on the side of the bag (this proves that it is nutritionally appropriate) and has contact information on how to reach out to the company if there are any concerns about the food with your pet,” recommends Dr. Jessica Taylor, vice president of veterinary medicine at Petfolk.

Consider the age of your dog when choosing the right food, because what was good for your dog as a puppy may not be right for them as they age. “It is important that you choose a food that can support your pet’s needs during their specific life stage,” says Taylor. “For example, puppies have a higher requirement for certain nutrients like calcium, phosphorus, and calories, and senior dogs may need a lower calorie count to prevent weight gain.”

Another valuable resource for pet owners is the World Small Animal Veterinary Association (WSAVA), a global nonprofit of over 200,000 veterinarians. The association provides guidelines to help you choose the best food for your dog. WSAVA recommends checking to see if the dog food company that makes the brand employs a staff nutritionist or uses consultants, and checking that protein is listed in the first five ingredients.

Don’t assume because a brand calls itself organic that it’s necessarily better for your pet. “Interestingly, the terms such as ‘organic,’ ‘holistic,’ and ‘natural’” are not regulated in the [pet] food industry, and do not indicate the quality or source of the ingredients. These are used primarily for marketing purposes only,” says Taylor.

Before buying your dog dry food, find out the following:

What is your dog’s stage of life and development?

The type of food you should feed your dog correlates with its stage of life and development. For example, puppies, adults, seniors, and pregnant and lactating dogs have varying nutritional and caloric needs. A dry food designed for a senior dog will likely differ greatly from what you would feed your new puppy. Ask your vet’s opinion on the kind of food to feed your dog—and the amount and how many times a day.

What are the main ingredients in your dog’s dry food?

A form of protein should be the first ingredient listed on a dog food label, even in dry dog food. Dogs eat all forms of protein, both plant-based and meat, and they need protein for various health markers, such as their immune systems, healthy skin and nails, and muscle and tissue development, to give them energy.

Does your pet have allergies or food sensitivities?

Your vet can guide you to the best food sources if your pet has specific allergies or food sensitivities—don’t risk not checking in with them regarding feeding practices if your dog has special food needs, like digestion trouble or skin issues.

?Our top picks for best dry dog food

We searched the marketplace to find the best dry dog food based on recommendations from pet owners and veterinarians to help you make an educated decision about what to feed your pup.

Best dry dog food for large dogs: Purina Pro Plan Large Breed Adult Food

Purina Pro Plan for large-breed adult dogs is a good choice because of its varieties in flavors (chicken, beef, or salmon) and because it contains omega-3 fatty acid that helps support joint health, which is important for large breeds. Taylor counts Purina among the companies that invest significantly in research and development and conduct strict quality control testing. Purina is easy to find in grocery stores, and you can purchase it online.

What to know:

  • Flavors: Chicken, salmon, and beef
  • Life stage: Adult large breeds
  • Meets AAFCO nutritional standards: Yes
  • Price: $54.48 for an 18 pound bag, $69.98 for a 34 pound bag, $91.58 for a 47 pound bag
  • Main ingredients (in chicken flavor): Chicken, rice, corn gluten meal, whole grain corn
  • Shipping: Yes; delivery speed varies based on retailers and stock, if purchased from Chewy, there is free 1-3 day delivery for orders over $49

Pros:

  • Protein is first ingredient
  • Contains omega-3 and vitamin A
  • Under $100 for a 47 lb bag (online)

Cons:

  • Made for dogs 50 pounds or over
  • Pricier than other mass market dog foods
Best for Large Breeds
Purina Pro Plan Large Breed Adult Food

Purina Pro Plan Large Breed Adult Food

Best dry dog food for small dogs: Castor Pollux ORGANIX Grain-Free

Small breed dogs need easy-to-chew and swallow dry food, plus pro- and prebiotic fiber to help their small stomachs digest food easily. Castor & Pollux ORGANIX has only 10 ingredients, including free-range chicken. If you are hunting for food with a simple ingredient list and your dog doesn’t mind returning to the same recipe day after day, this grain-free pet food may do the trick.

What to know:

  • Flavors: Grain-Free Organic Free-Range Chicken
  • Life stage: Adult
  • Price: $89.39 for a 10-pound bag (depending on where you shop)
  • Meets AAFCO nutritional standards: Yes
  • Ingredients: Organic chicken, organic chicken meal, and organic oatmeal
  • Shipping: Yes; delivery speed varies based on retailers and stock; if purchased from PetSmart, you’ll get free shipping for orders over $49 if you’re a PetSmart Treats member (expect delivery within 2-3 business days)

Pros:

  • USDA-certified organic ingredients
  • Grain-free
  • Includes pro- and prebiotic fiber to help your dog’s digestive system

Cons:

  • Only comes in one flavor
Best for Small Breed
Castor Pollux ORGANIX Grain-Free

Castor Pollux ORGANIX Grain-Free

Best dry dog food for skin and other allergies: Merrick Grain-Free Dry Dog Food

If you’re searching for food without fillers like corn, gluten, and corn, you may want to try Merrick brands. High-protein ingredients (turkey, lamb, duck, and beef) and full of fiber and vitamins to support your dog’s health, Merrick Grain-Free is a great option for your pet with allergies.

What to know:

  • Flavors: Real Lamb & Sweet Potato, Real Bison, Beef & Sweet Potato, Real Chicken & Sweet Potato, Real Duck & Sweet Potato, Real Salmon & Sweet Potato, Real Texas Beef & Sweet Potato
  • Life stage: Adult
  • Meets AAFCO nutritional standards: Yes
  • Price: starting from $29 for 4-pound package
  • Main ingredients: Deboned beef, lamb meal, salmon meal, sweet potatoes and potatoes (in the Texas Beef & Sweet Potato flavor)
  • Shipping: Yes; delivery speed varies based on retailers and stock, if purchased from Chewy, there is free 1-3 day delivery for orders over $49

Pros:

  • Protein dominates the first five ingredients
  • High in fiber and vitamins

Cons:

  • More expensive than some other grain-free options on the market
Best for Skin and Other Allergies
Merrick Grain-Free Dry Dog Food

Merrick Grain-Free Dry Dog Food

Best dry dog food for sensitive stomach: Royal Canin Veterinary Diet Adult Gastrointestinal Low Fat Dry Dog Food

One of the dog food companies recommended by vets like Taylor, Royal Canin dry food is a smart choice for dogs with sensitive stomachs. The recipe contains a low-fat content, omega-3 fatty acids, and prebiotics. High in protein, Royal Canin dry food can help fulfill caloric needs without overburdening your pup’s gut.

What to know:

  • Flavors: Chicken and rice
  • Life stage: Adult
  • Meets AAFCO nutritional standards: Yes
  • Price: Starting from $43.99 for a 6.6-pound bag
  • Main ingredients: Brewers rice, chicken by product meal, wheat and barley,
  • Shipping: Yes; delivery speed varies based on retailers and stock, if purchased from Chewy, there is free 1-3 day delivery for orders over $49

Pros:

  • Great for dogs with sensitive stomachs or long- or short-term digestive issues
  • Low-fat ingredients

Cons:

  • Expensive
  • Contains barley (a no-go if your dog is grain-free)
Best for Sensitive Stomach
Royal Canin Veterinary Diet Adult Gastrointestinal Low Fat Dry Dog Food

Royal Canin Veterinary Diet Adult Gastrointestinal Low Fat Dry Dog Food

Best dry dog food for senior dogs: Blue Buffalo Life Protection Formula Senior

Senior dogs often need a special diet to ensure they are getting all the nutrition they need to thrive, both physically and mentally. While some shelf-stable dry food may not contain enough nutrients for your senior fur friend, Blue Buffalo’s food does. Its ingredients are packed with vitamins, minerals, and additional antioxidants sourced from fruits and vegetables, blueberries and cranberries and spinach and pumpkin. Blue Buffalo doesn’t contain any chicken-by products, which are common in dog food and contains glucosamine to promote mobility in dogs that are slowing down.

What to know:

  • Flavors: Chicken and Brown Rice
  • Life stage: Senior
  • Meets AAFCO nutritional standards: Yes
  • Price: $65
  • Main ingredients: Deboned chicken, brown rice, barley, oatmeal, chicken meal, pea fiber and pea starch
  • Shipping: Yes; delivery speed varies based on retailers and stock; if purchased from PetSmart, you’ll get free shipping for orders over $49 if you’re a PetSmart Treats member (expect delivery within 2-3 business days)

Pros:

  • Specifically formulated with nutrients beneficial for senior dogs, like glucosamine
  • Contains meat, vegetables, and fruit
  • Positive reviews overall on taste
  • No corn or whey fillers

Cons:

  • One flavor
Best for Senior Dogs
Blue Buffalo Life Protection Formula Senior

Blue Buffalo Life Protection Formula Senior

Best dry dog food for picky eaters: Merrick Backcountry Freeze Dried Raw Infused Grain Free, Great Plains Red Recipe Dry Dog Food

It’s hard to pick the best dry dog food for picky eaters because, well, picky eaters have extremely personal tastes. However, if you’re searching for a brand to win over your picky pooch, Merrick’s may entice them to finish their dinner. Made with real freeze-dried raw and high protein ingredients, this is not the cheapest brand on the market, but some dogs may agree it’s one of the tastiest.

What to know:

  • Flavors: Great Plains Red’s first ingredient is beef
  • Life stage: Adult
  • Meets AAFCO nutritional standards: Yes
  • Price: $79.98 for a 12-pound bag
  • Main ingredients: Deboned beef, lamb meal, salmon meal, sweet potatoes, potatoes, peas, and pork fat
  • Shipping: Yes; delivery speed varies based on retailers and stock; if purchased from Petco, you’ll get free shipping for orders over $35 (expect delivery within 3-5 business days)

Pros:

  • Made with raw ingredients, like beef, lamb, and rabbit
  • Made in the USA
  • Poultry-free dog food

Cons:

  • Expensive compared to other brands
Best for Picky Eaters
Backcountry Raw Infused Grain Free Great Plains Red Recipe Freeze Dried Dog Food, 20 lbs.

Backcountry Raw Infused Grain Free Great Plains Red Recipe Freeze Dried Dog Food, 20 lbs.

Best fresh dry dog food: Instinct Raw Boost

Also a pick for our round-up on the best dog food brands, Instinct Raw Boost is a shelf-stable dry food that allows you to feed your dog a fresh or raw diet from the convenience of a dry-food package. Made from freeze-dried proteins like raw beef and chicken or salmon, you can choose from a variety of options depending on your dog’s taste preference.

What to know:

  • Flavors: Chicken, salmon, and beef
  • Life stage: Puppy and adult formulas
  • Meets AAFCO nutritional standards: Yes
  • Price: $28 for a 4-pound bag, $48 for a 10-pound bag, $80 for a 21-pound bag
  • Main ingredients: Chicken, chicken meal, peas, chicken fat (preserved with mixed tocopherols and citric acid), tapioca, herring meal, freeze dried chicken, and menhaden fish meal
  • Shipping: Yes; delivery speed varies based on retailers and stock; if purchased from Petco, you’ll get free shipping for orders over $35 (expect delivery within 3-5 business days)

Pros:

  • Has probiotics
  • High protein
  • Good for dogs on a raw and fresh food diet

Cons:

  • Expensive
Best for Raw Diet
Nulo Freestyle Puppy Grain-Free Puppy

Nulo Freestyle Puppy Grain-Free Puppy

Best grain-free dry dog food for puppies: Nulo Freestyle Puppy Grain-Free Puppy

Taylor recommends talking to your vet about the best puppy food, and you should pay attention to the labels on dry dog food before you make a choice. Nulo Freestyle Puppy is sourced from high-quality protein, like deboned salmon, and nutritious fruits and vegetables, like apples, blueberries and carrots. It doesn’t contain corn or wheat gluten, which can trigger allergies, or chicken and egg proteins, which can be hard for small stomachs to digest.

What to know:

  • Flavors: Salmon and Peas, Turkey and Sweet Potato
  • Life stage: Puppy
  • Meets AAFCO nutritional standards: Yes
  • Price: $56.65 for a 4.5-pound bag
  • Main ingredients: Deboned turkey, turkey neal, salmon meal, chickpeas, chicken fat (preserved with mixed tocopherols and citric acid) and sweet potato
  • Shipping: Yes; delivery speed varies based on retailers and stock, if purchased from Walmart expect it to arrive within 5 business days

Pros:

  • Contains deboned salmon (rich in EPA and DHA)
  • Contains carrots and apples (rich in fiber)
  • No allergy-triggering grains or poultry products

Cons:

  • Expensive
Best for Puppy
Nulo Freestyle Puppy Grain-Free Puppy

Nulo Freestyle Puppy Grain-Free Puppy

Best dry dog food for weight concerns: ACANA Light & Fit Recipe Grain-Free Adult Dry Dog Food

A heavy dog may lead to an unhealthy dog and finding the right diet to keep your fur baby at a healthy weight can get challenging with so many brands on the market. ACANA’s Light & Fit recipes are designed to support the health of overweight dogs while contributing to weight loss with leaner cuts of sustainable and ranch-raised protein and loads of natural fiber from ingredients like whole pumpkin, collard greens, apples, and pears, all of which are nutritious and high in fiber.

What to know:

  • Flavors: Chicken, turkey, and flounder combo
  • Life stage: Adult
  • Meets AAFCO nutritional standards: Yes
  • Price: $20 for a 4.5-pound bag; $72.99 for a 20-pound bag
  • Main ingredients: Deboned chicken, deboned turkey, chicken meal, turkey meal, whole red lentils, and whole green peas
  • Shipping: Yes; delivery speed varies based on retailers and stock, if purchased from Chewy, there is free 1-3 day delivery for orders over $49

Pros:

  • Contains high-fiber fruits and vegetables
  • Any dog can enjoy this food

Cons:

  • Limited flavor combinations
  • Only for adult dogs
Best for Overweight Dogs
ACANA Light & Fit Recipe Grain-Free Adult Dry Dog Food, 13-lb bag

ACANA Light & Fit Recipe Grain-Free Adult Dry Dog Food, 13-lb bag

Best subscription dry dog food: Spot & Tango

This subscription dog food service offers a three-minute quiz based on breed, size, weight, health conditions, and other factors to let you build a personalized meal plan for your pup. The meals include ingredients like beef, salmon, sweet potatoes, sunflower seeds, spinach, and beets, depending on what the best match is for your dog’s needs. Spot & Tango offers wet and dry food branded “UnKibble” in three varieties. Suitable for small, medium, and large breed dogs, Spot & Tango starts at $1.06 per meal and goes up based on your dog’s profile.

What to know:

  • Flavors: Chicken & Brown Rice; Beef & Barley; Cod & Salmon
  • Life Stage: Varies
  • Meets AAFCO nutritional standards: Yes
  • Price: Varies, depends on dog’s profile
  • Ingredients: Varies; depending on the flavors
  • Shipping: Yes; subscription-based and delivery frequency varies by choice but most orders arrive within 3-5 business days

Pros:

  • Contains high-fiber fruits and vegetables
  • Delivered to your door
  • Based on your individual dog’s profile and needs

Cons:

  • Cannot be purchased in stores

How we selected the best dry dog food

The best dry dog food contains real food, fruits, and vegetables and is free from filler ingredients like artificial colorings and soy. We value dry dog foods that offer freeze-dried raw food that can increase the enjoyment and taste of regular kibble. We spoke to vets and dog owners and carefully read reviews of dry and wet food to create a list of the best dry dog food for your puppy, adult, or senior dog. Price didn’t play a role in our reviews because of quality and the importance of nutrition in your dog’s life. We also paid attention to brands made in the U.S. and specialized ingredients designed for specific ages and stages.

Frequently asked questions (FAQs)

Is Royal Canin really that good?

The phrase “good” is subjective—but if you’re looking for a vet-recommended brand that takes pet nutrition seriously, Royal Canin is just that. “There are several companies that have invested significantly in research and development to ensure that they are providing high-quality food for pets, these include Royal Canin, Purina, and Hill’s Science Diet,” says Taylor.

Should dogs eat dry food everyday?

Wet and dry food can both be appropriate if fed correctly, says Taylor. “Wet foods often have higher fat and calorie counts and are higher water content, which means that you have to feed more to get the same amount of nutrition compared to dry,” she adds. Dry foods may also help keep your pet’s teeth cleaner by encouraging them to chew.

What should you avoid when buying dry dog food?

Some ingredients to avoid when buying dry dog food include chemicals and preservatives like Butylated Hydroxyanisole (BHA), Butylated Hydroxytoluene (BHT) and Ethoxyquin, corn syrup, and artificial colorings.

Can I feed my dog grain-free food?

“Recently, grain-free formulas have been in the news, and there is still a lot of information to be found on why these foods may or may not cause heart or health problems,” says Taylor. Research is still inclusive and grain-free foods still remain a popular choice for pet parents.

Is dry dog food healthier than wet?

Not necessarily. Like any food, it depends on the type of food and its ingredients. Dog food should contain protein, nutrients, and pre-and-or-probiotics, as well.

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