A great dog food should use real meat, or at least a named meat meal, as its main protein source. It should also use natural methods to preserve the food rather than harmful chemicals, and it shouldn't contain any by-products. Take a look at nine brands that meet these criteria.
List of Healthiest Dog Food Brands
The following brands are in no particular order. However, they all have real meat or meat meal, use natural methods for preserving the food, and contain no by-products.
Orijen is produced on a small scale in Canada and sources its protein locally. The first five ingredients in their adult dog formula are fresh boneless chicken, chicken meal, fresh boneless salmon, turkey meal, and herring meal. By "fresh" Orijen means the meat is delivered fresh and is never frozen. The company also uses a combination of vitamin E and airtight packaging to preserve freshness in the finished product. Orijen was chosen as the best dog food overall by Business Insider.
ACANA Wild Prairie formula is protein-rich and free of by-products, fillers and chemical preservatives. The first five ingredients are deboned chicken, chicken meal, green peas, turkey meal, and chicken liver oil, and the company claims to use locally sourced, fresh foods which are delivered daily and passed as fit for human consumption. ACANA is a pioneer in the dog food market with their BAFRINO Research and Innovation Centre in Canada which focuses on developing advances in producing biologically appropriate, high quality food for pets.
3. Fromm Adult Gold
Duck, chicken meal, chicken, and brown rice are the first four ingredients and protein sources in Fromm Adult Gold. Whole egg is also included. This brand preserves their product with mixed tocopherals and citric acid. Fromm receives very good reviews on DogFoodAdvisor.com.
The Wellness CORE line of foods is cited as one of the heathiest dog foods. The ingredient list includes high quality proteins that are cage and range free as well as sustainably sourced. The food is grain free, and there are several recipes to choose from including options for puppies, seniors, small-breed, and large-breed dogs and dogs that need a reduced fat diet. It also includes shreds, mixers, and toppers to give your dog's dry food an extra special boost.
Timberwolf's Southwest Chicken & Herbs formula lists chicken meal, chicken, and turkey meal as the first three ingredients and protein sources. The ingredient list notes that there are 10 pounds of chicken and fish meal for every 20 pounds of dog food. The formula also contains brown rice, whitefish meal, and dried chicken liver. Mixed tocopherols, a source of vitamin E, are used as preservatives. The Timberwolf website also states that they do not use vitamin K3 in their foods because of possible health risks and the recipe includes vitamin K1 instead through including chicken liver, kelp, and alfalfa.
6. Taste of the Wild
Taste of the Wild dry dog food is a top pick for its focus on high quality proteins from a variety of sources including bison, wild fowl, salmon, venison, boar, lamb, chicken, and turkey. The food is an excellent choice for dogs with allergies to the more common types of proteins found in dog food, and it's also grain free. Taste of the Wild has several formulas for dogs including options for puppies, small breeds, and limited ingredients for dogs with sensitive stomachs and allergies.
Primal's Freeze-Dried Canine Lamb Formula is made from human-grade ingredients. The company states all the meat used is free of antibiotics, steroids, and added hormones. The first five ingredients are lamb hearts, lamb livers, ground lamb bones, organic kale, and organic carrots. Freeze-drying is a chemical-free method for preserving the food, but the company also uses other natural preservatives. Dog Food Advisor gives Primal five stars and says its "enthusiastically recommended" for its high quality ingredients and healthy recipes.
8. Nature's Variety Instinct Original
Dog Food Advisor gives Instinct Original with Real Chicken Dry Dog Food five stars for its high quality ingredients and "above average" percentages for protein and fat. It's one of their Editor's Choice winners as well. The food is grain free and made with cage-free chicken and no artificial colors or preservatives. Reviewers on Petco.com give this food 4.8 out of 5 stars for its exceptional quality and nutrition.
Merrick's line of dry dog food is one of the top organic dog foods. The recipes are grain free and have deboned proteins including rabbit, venison, duck, and more. Merrick uses no fillers, additives, sweeteners, colors or preservatives in their food, and Merrick cites their close relationship with farmers and ranchers. By buying food direct they can minimize the amount of stops "between farm and bowl" to create the healthiest possible manufacturing process.
Make Your Dog's Food
If you're leery of trusting commercial dog food producers, you can try making your dog's food at home. This way, you can ensure the quality of the foods that are going into your dog.
A Raw Food Recipe
According to Pat McKay at Animal Homeopathy, the basic raw food recipe should contain 75 percent raw protein, and 25 percent raw or steamed vegetables. This basic recipe is based on that ratio, and it yields one cup of food.
3/4 cup small chunks of raw chicken, turkey or lamb
1/8 cup diced raw or steamed fresh carrots
1/8 cup chopped or steamed fresh green beans
You can multiply this recipe to the right amount for your pet's size. Aim for the equivalent amount of kibble you feed now and gradually reduce the amount of raw food if your pet begins to gain too much weight. You'll eventually find the exact amount to feed your dog that ensures he maintains a healthy weight. You should also add a multivitamin to your dog's diet to make sure he receives complete nutrition.
You Decide Which Food Is Best
In the end, only you can decide if a particular dog food formula is beneficial for your pet, and you may find other brands that are just as worthy as those mentioned on this list. Always check the label of each bag of food you buy because ingredients can and do change without notice.