best Dog Foods*
Food Allergies & Sensitivities
Large Pet Food Companies Brand Calculations
People often ask what I feed my own dogs and I explain I currently feed a home prepared diet due to food intolerance’s/sensitivities. While I do believe properly balanced fresh food is best I understand the vast majority of people feed a commercial dog food so I went on a search for what I consider the best dog food choices based on the quality of ingredients**, grams of protein per serving, and the calorie breakdown by protein, fat, and carbs. (See FAQ below) We can choose by convenience, price, or quality. Choose two because you cannot have all three. Kibble is convenient and is the lowest price to feed, but many do not consider it optimal nutrition. For each of the foods I used either the guaranteed analysis numbers found on the food package or the typical or nutritional analysis numbers if they were available. Using these numbers and the price I entered these on the Pet Food Math Cheat Sheet to determine cost to feed, grams of protein per serving, and the calorie breakdown by protein, fat, and carbs. (See FAQ below)
For purposes of comparison I used the Canine Daily Calorie Estimator (free download) to estimate the calories needed by a 50lb minimally active pet dog (most dogs) to calculate the daily cost to feed, and grams of protein received each day. (Prices were obtained from a local independent retailer or online.) Using the daily calorie total we can determine the number of days the package of food will last. (If feeding dry food its best if used within 14-days) For dogs that need a restricted calorie diet for weight-loss (most pet dogs) the calculations provide the number of grams of food to feed to reach the daily calories needed. Simply use a kitchen scale and measure out the food before feeding.
Some of the foods below contain quality (human grade) ingredients but they are low in protein as noted on the Pet Food Math Cheat Sheet for a healthy dog in my opinion. If I were to feed them I would consider feeding between 20-25% less and adding fresh protein, omega 3’s, and fresh vegetables to create a better balance after consulting with a nutritionist. How To Make The Food You Feed Better
Ideally we want to select several quality foods with a with a similar protein, fat, and calorie content with the goal to rotate and feed a variety of differing proteins and brands of food over time to help correct for any excesses, insufficiencies, or imbalances. With the Pet Food Math Cheat Sheet you can run the calculations to analyze and compare any type of pet food. How does what you’re feeding your dog compare?
“Although it is not the chief consideration for some pet owners, for others the cost of the food is very important. There are a number of commercial foods available today that are advertised as being more economical to feed while still providing superior nutrition. However, it is important for pet owners to know that to produce a low-cost product, ingredients that are of lower quality, and thus lower cost, must be used. Therefore a cheaper product is probably going to be a lower-quality food, even though the guaranteed analysis panel may not reflect this. In addition, when considering the price of a pet food, the actual cost of feeding the animal must be calculated, not just the cost per unit weight of the food. Most low-quality, cheap ingredients have significantly lower digestibilities than the ingredients used in premium foods. A greater quantity of a food with low digestibility must be fed to an animal to provide the same amount of nutrition as found in a food with higher digestibility and nutrient availability. As a result, owners may find that they have to feed significantly larger portions of the cheaper food to their pet (see Chapter 18, pp. 177-180 ).” Canine and Feline Nutrition: by Linda Case 
None of the foods or products listed are sponsored nor are paid advertisements. Product links are provided below (amazon & Cherry Brook) for your convenience but I encourage you to support your local independent pet store whenever possible. With 2 clicks you can add the “honey” internet browser extension which will automatically look for discount/coupon codes while you shop online. It costs nothing but can save you money on all types of products online. This page contains affiliate links, meaning I receive a small commission if you use them to make a purchase at no cost to you. This helps support my work in making this website a resource for dog owners. Find information on any topic (almost) or for specific products related to dogs by using the search box here.
Dry Dog Food
The four dry foods in this category (convenience) I consider to be exceedingly better quality than other kibble type foods.
For dry food these two RAWZ foods are my top choice based on quality of ingredients (human grade meats***), grams of protein, calorie breakdown, and price. Both are “formulated to meet the nutritional levels established by the AAFCO Dog Food Nutrient Profiles for All Life Stages including the growth of large size dogs (70 lbs. or more as an adult)” http://rawznaturalpetfood.com/
High protein, moderate fat, low to moderate carbs for a kibble
Cost starting at $2.41 @ day for 50lb minimally active pet dog 925 calories a day
Quality at an affordable price. No rendered meals or rendered fats.
“CARNA4 is made entirely from real food ingredients (that means no meat meal, rendered fats, preservatives or other synthetics)” “food contains: no synthetic vitamins, minerals or amino acids; no vegetable or meat protein concentrates; no preservatives; no digest/flavors; no meat, poultry or other meal; and no other manmade additives of any kind.” “Baked dry pet food retains significantly more nutrients, probiotics, enzymes and flavor than extruded pet food” (extruded = typical dry kibble) Each batch of CARNA4 is tested to sure it contains at least 64 different nutrients in the guaranteed levels and that it doesn’t contain pathogens (salmonella, E. coli, coliforms, and listeria monocytogenes), mycotoxins (aflatoxins, vomitoxins and others), yeast, mold or heavy metals (including mercury and arsenic). The entire batch is held in quarantine until these nutritional and safety tests have been completed. http://carna4.com/
Low/Moderate protein (lower then I prefer), moderate fat, with moderate carbs for a kibble
The guaranteed minimums on protein run in the range from 62-67 grams per 1000 calories, but its likely the actual grams run closer to 70 grams which is the lowest I like to see. After adjusting the % to account for the total calories per kg the calorie breakdown should be about: Protein 28%, Fat 41%, and Carbs 31%.
Cost starting at $3.55 @ day for 50lb minimally active pet dog 925 calories a day
Like CARNA4 the vitamin and minerals in Nature’s Logic foods are obtained from whole food sources and not a synthetic premix. “We never use man-made, chemically-synthesized vitamins, minerals, or amino acids.” “We also require that our vendors can guarantee that the ingredients do not come from China, and that they contain no chemical preservatives, herbicides, or insecticides.” “our ingredients and finished foods are tested to ensure there are no harmful bacteria, like Salmonella or E. coli, which have been the reason for most pet food recalls that have occurred over the past ten years. We also test for potential rancidity, aflatoxins, and vomitoxins. The company has also done random testing for fluoride.” https://www.natureslogic.com/
Nature’s Logic is the only dry food on this list using “meal” e.g. chicken meal, which I consider a lessor quality protein then the three foods above. Not all “meals” are the same since they range in quality. (As consumers we have no way of knowing the actual quality of proteins used in food unless its human-grade) Using a “meal” does keep the price low and competitive to what I consider lower quality mass market brands. Nature’s Logic is well priced for the perceived quality. In my search I found Nature’s Logic dry foods to contain a much higher calcium and “ash” content. For that reason I have only chosen these two lower ash recipes out of their nine dry foods. I personally would feed the Turkey, Sardine, and Rabbit variety’s but I would only rotate a bag in about 25% of time. A food with a high ash content is likely made with a large amount of bone e.g. “chicken frames,” “the part of the chicken that is left over after the chicken meat for human consumption has been removed or from chickens that have been removed from the human food supply for other reasons.” Although this food has a higher than average protein content we don’t know the protein quality since frames would also contain a lot of connective tissue which lowers the protein quality. Overall these two recipes still appear to be substantially higher quality then the more popular less expensive mass market brands.
Ziwi is not a dry kibble, but rather an air-dried (dehydrated) high meat content food that is convenient and served like kibble. This is an excellent quality food but the cost to feed as the primary diet for most dogs would be cost prohibited. I use Ziwi as a training treat and a food topper. “no rendered meats or meals in any of our products. There's no grains, corn, soy, wheat or rice. No GMOs, antibiotics or growth promotants.” Recipes have 96% fresh meat, organs, seafood and bone to mirror the whole-prey, meat rich diet. The remaining 4% of our recipe consists of essential vitamins and minerals, natural kelp, parsley, chicory inulin & lecithin for a complete & balanced diet. Slow, gentle air-drying process crafts a food that is as nutrient dense and digestible as a completely raw diet. https://www.ziwipets.com/
Protein runs from moderate to high, high fat, with exceptional low carbs
Cost starting at $5.72 @ day for 50lb minimally active pet dog 925 calories a day
canned dog food
RAWZ and Ziwi state BPA free cans and “All Life Stages” including the growth of large size dogs (70 lbs. or more as an adult). Generally speaking canned food is considered higher quality then kibble especially when BPA free.
Lotus - Made with USDA inspected and passed for human consumption meats https://www.lotuspetfoods.com/
more coming soon
Dehydrated DOG FOOD
more coming soon
100% grass-fed beef, pasture-raised meats and organic fruits and veggies. Raw Bistro foods are exceptional quality with moderate to high protein, moderate to moderate/high fat and very low carbs. But exceptional quality does come with a price to match. All life stages including growth of large-size dogs (70 lbs. or more as an adult). https://rawbistro.com/
100% human grade. “We test all aspects of our dehydrated dog and cat foods” for; Bacteria, such as salmonella, E-coli and listeria. Yeast and mold. Contaminants, such as heavy metals and melamine. Verify pH and proximates (protein, fat, fiber and moisture). Random regular tests of nutrient values for vitamins and minerals.” https://www.thehonestkitchen.com/the-honest-differences
Honest Kitchen is a high quality food that is human grade but the foods that made the list are low protein and have high carbs. The actual calories from carbs look to total approximately 40%.
Low protein (lower then I prefer), moderate fat, with moderate carbs (too many carbs overall)
Moderately priced but considering the low protein and higher carbs there are better options.
more coming soon
“high quality, human grade ingredients and absolutely no chemical additives. Made in the USA.” https://www.drharveys.com/products/dogs
Dr. Harvey’s “guaranteed analysis” (minimums & maximums) numbers reflect moderate protein and fat, and high carbs for a quality freeze-dried food. Based solely on the minimums & maximum numbers the foods would not have made this list. But the company provided a “Nutrient Profile” and the numbers as noted below are substantially better. High protein, moderate fat, and a low/moderate carbs. At 24% carbs (calorie breakdown) it is higher then i would like but considering this is a human grade food with high protein it is an excellent price and choice.
more coming soon
DETAILED™ FORMULA A balanced diet that provides dense nutrients in whole-food form. (Complete Diet for Dogs & Cats)
Answers Detailed formula provides a superior, wholesome, balanced diet of only the highest-quality sourced and fermented ingredients, suitable for all life stages. Our high-protein, fat-balanced, high-vitamin formulations ensure your pet receives all the necessary nutrients and maximum nutritional benefits required for a healthy immune system, digestive tract, and better overall health. https://www.answerspetfood.com/
Organically-raised raw meat, 100% grain free, Fermented organic vegetables
Food allergy & intolerance
Feeding the best food and ingredients is great unless your dog or cat has an adverse reaction to the food. An Adverse Food Reaction (AFR) “is an abnormal response to an ingrested food or food additive.”  Adverse food reactions can be caused by a food allergy or food intolerance/sensitivity. Food intolerance or sensitivity is more common than a food allergy.
The processing of food or the lack thereof can have an effect on foods since the effect of heat may disrupt some antigens, uncover others, or create new ones. 
Since food intolerance or sensitivity is more common than a food allergy I start with a NutriScan Food Intolerance/Sensitivity test to eliminate the guesswork and putting dogs through weeks/months of food trails and continually going to the vet to manage symptoms. NutriScan tests a dog’s saliva for antibodies IgA and IgM. With the NutriScan kit you collect saliva with a small cotton dental rope. You can do this at home or at the vet’s office. Then ship the kit back to Hemopet for testing. “Nutriscan is the only clinically predictable diagnostic test for dogs, cats and horses to identify the commonly seen food intolerances and sensitivities in saliva.
I have seen two other less expensive food intolerance “tests” on the market. One of the “tests” reports to use “bio resonance technology” and the other reports to use a “biofeedback technician” in their biofeedback “test”, “which has the ability to read the energetic resonance that emanates from the hair and saliva samples”. Neither of these “tests” reports any actual science to back up their claims from what I can determine. I personally would not consider either of these “tests” accurate or reliable for determining true food intolerance. I have a strong bias in support of the NutriScan test created by Dr. W. Jean Dodds. Dr. Dodds is a veterinarian who has spent more than five decades as a clinical research veterinarian.
Why these foods?
Foods were chosen based on quality of ingredients overall, protein content, and nutritional analysis. They also appeared to have none or a lower inclusion of any legumes or potatoes. These foods do not appear to rely heavily on peas, lentils, chickpeas, garbanzo beans, and other legumes or potatoes to make up a substantial amount of the protein content of the food. (See below)
Dog and cat foods in the USA are required to list a “Guaranteed Analysis” of the nutrient content of the food. The guaranteed analysis lists protein, fat, fiber, and moisture percentages as minimums or maximums and is not meant to provide exact percentages. The actual amounts can vary a little or a lot from the guaranteed analysis so the amount of kcal (calories) per gram will be less then reported for kcal/kg (calories / 2.2 lbs). Pet food manufactures are not required to list “ash” or “carbohydrates” in the food but some will provide this information if asked or have it listed on their website. To determine the minimums and maximum percentages of nutrients in the food manufacturers will run a proximate analysis of the food to get the batch average of a food.
Nutrient / Typical Analysis
Some manufactures lists this information on their website, and others will provide it if requested. In Europe rather than use the “guaranteed analysis” which only provides minimums and maximums, they list a “Typical Analyses” which reports the “typical” averages for the food. Typical analysis percentages are generally much closer to the actual food composition than what is reported with the guaranteed analysis. A typical analyses following European guidelines includes protein, fat, fiber, ash, and moisture if more than 14%.
Why fresh foods instead of kibble?
You did not include (Acana, Zignature, Fromm, Taste of the Wild, etc.) _____ fill in the blank______ dog food. Why?
“given what we do know, we recommend feeding a diet that contains sufficient levels of high-quality, animal-source protein, does not include plant-source proteins as primary protein sources, and does not contain high levels of dietary fiber.” Linda Case, Whole Dog Journal
Rosemary: I’ve heard rosemary was bad for dogs.
Protein quality can vary greatly and it is affected by the source, type of ingredients, heat, processing, fiber, and ash content. Ingredients can look the same as listed but protein can be poor, moderate, or high quality. For a food to be high quality it needs to be both highly digestible and contain usable essential amino acids that have actual nutritive value once digested.  Since AAFCO does not require a true quality score for pet foods we are left with evaluating the ingredients, calories, nutrient analysis, and running our own calculations to gain insight on each food. To do this we need to know the guaranteed analysis and the calories content.
“Protein from animals, unlike protein from most plants, contains balanced amino acids and a complete range of protein-type nutrients, including taurine and carnitine."  "Proteins that provide optimal proportions of all essential amino acids are referred to as high quality proteins." 
“Most plant proteins do not contain taurine, an essential amino acid for cats, and under some circumstances possibly a conditionally essential amino acid in dogs. Animal-based protein sources are recommended for both dogs and cats due to their pattern of essential amino acids.”  Foods formulated to derive protein from plants often add synthetic amino acids to make up for deficiencies. "Synthetic amino acids currently added to some pet foods include L-methionine or D, L-methionine, L-lysine, L-arginine and taurine."  Protein excess (toxicity) is not a practical problem unless fed at a very high level; "synthetic amino acids mistakenly added to foods at very high levels can cause toxicity."  “The most commonly used concentrated plant-sources of protein are corn gluten meal, soybean meal and most recently, pea protein and potato protein.” 
Why high protein?
The goal is a high quality and high protein food. Min of 32% “Guaranteed Analysis” (If high quality animal based protein)
Homeskooling target: Protein 100+ g per 1000 calories - At a minimum 75 g per 1000 calories if high quality food animal based protein
Higher protein is recommended for weight loss and senior dogs. The lower the protein the higher the fat and or carbs will be and that is not recommended. Dogs have no requirement for carbs, but they do need protein and fat.
Dogs fed animal based higher protein diets vs animal and plant based protein diets “had better body composition and a muscle-specific protein pattern identical to that in healthy young-adult dogs.” 
Isn’t high protein bad for senior dogs?
"There is a lot of misinformation floating around regarding optimum protein intake for senior dogs (Case et al., 2011; Wannemacher & McCoy, 1966). Many people believe that protein overworks older kidneys and that protein should automatically be decreased in an older dog’s diet. This is false. Dietary protein does not stress or harm the kidneys of otherwise healthy senior dogs. On the contrary, healthy older dogs require slightly more protein. Protein minimizes loss of lean body mass that accompanies the aging process. 
Carbs: My dog is active in sports don’t they need carbs?
“Dogs have no nutritional requirement for carbohydrates (Association of American Feed Control Officials, 2016) and have evolved to thrive on a diet high in animal protein and fat (Buffington, 2008; Verbrugghe et al., 2012). However, dogs can tolerate low levels of carbohydrates and are therefore classed as omnivorous carnivores (Swanson et al., 2011).” 
“Carbo-loading is not an effective nutritional strategy with canine athletes because metabolically dogs are naturally more efficient at using fat as a fuel for exercising muscles than carbohydrate (glycogen), even when exercising at relatively high intensities.” 
Ideal goal of carbs less than 10% of the calorie total with a max of 20% of calories
My ideal food would be the following percentages.
45-50% of calories from quality protein (animal based)
35-44% of calories from fat
6-20% of calories from carbohydrates
What if the carbs are high?
If it is a high quality food I personally would consider feeding between 20-25% less and adding additional protein, omega 3’s, and fresh vegetables to create a better balance. If the food started with 25% carbs and I feed about 20% less and add in 20% of calories from protein and maybe fat, I would have reduced the carb calories to about 20%. How To Make The Food You Feed Better
What kind of protein can I add?
Fresh protein foods contain a high amount of water so you need to check to see the total amount of protein that is provided. You can use the USDA Food Composition Databases and look up any food.
Using the RAWZ Meal Free Chicken & Turkey as an example. Feeding 20% less and adding in either 90/10 ground beef or egg will lower the total carb content of the food to the target range while still providing a high protein diet. (100+ grams of protein per 1,000 calories)
Boneless, skinless chicken thighs: 4oz / 112g
Provides 140 calories, 22 g protein, and 4.5 g fat
Boneless, skinless chicken breast: 4oz / 112g
Provides 110 calories, 23 g protein, and 1.5 g fat
Ground chicken: 3.5oz / 100 g
Provides 143 calories, 17.44 g protein, and 8.1 g fat
Ground turkey: 4oz / 113 g
Provides 167 calories, 22.22 g protein, and 8.6 g fat
Ground beef: 90/10 4oz / 113 g
Provides 199 calories, 22.6 g protein, and 11.3 g fat
Egg - Large 50g
Provides 72 calories, 6.28 g protein, and 4.75 g fat, 0.36 carbs
What if none of these foods fit my budget?
Dog Food 101 - How To Choose (Detailed guidance)
We have two primary options with regards to what we feed our pets. We can feed a home prepared food or purchase a commercially prepared food. The question is do we wish to feed an adequate food, or choose optimal nutrition. There is no shortage of choices, nor opinions on the food we should be feeding.
No matter what food is selected I believe it is best to rotate brands of foods and proteins often for several reasons. (At least every 2 to 3 months)
Dogs fed the same food over time are more likely to develop particular food sensitivity.
Your dog will likely appreciate and enjoy variety.
“Most modern dog foods come up short in comparison to the canine ancestral diet in three major ways:” 
Not enough protein.
Unbalanced and incomplete fats.
Can’t be completely nutritionally balanced without some fresh foods.
Two Primary Considerations:
Human-grade; lightly cooked (higher digestibility) or balanced raw diet especially if a dog is battling cancer.
Low Carbohydrates (Ideally less than 20%)
With this in mind the goal is to select foods with a quality high protein, add omega 3’s to balance fats, and add fresh vegetables.
How much protein do dogs need?
"animals do not have a requirement for protein per se but have an amino acid requirement."  Proteins are made up of amino acids and dogs have a requirement for 22 amino acids like other animals. 12 are considered non-essential since their body can make these, and 10 are essential and must be provided in their diet. "Proteins that provide optimal proportions of all essential amino acids are referred to as high quality proteins."  "In commercial pet foods, the protein quality of ingredients varies tremendously."  Quality proteins are highly digestible and provide usable essential amino acids. Protein quality and digestibility can be affected by ash content, cooking time, temperature, and fiber content.  “Proteins of plant origin generally have lower digestibility than animal proteins because plant fiber and carbohydrates lower digestion, due to a reduced degradation rate of nutrients in the gut and increase bacterial activity”  “a large portion of protein in cereal-based dry pet foods typically comes from grains, including rice, corn, wheat and barley.
“Adult and senior dogs were fed diets with varying amounts of protein from chicken and corn-gluten meal, and their body composition (muscle versus fat tissue) was analyzed. In addition, levels of key blood and muscle proteins were measured.
Compared with dogs fed a diet with 100% chicken protein, dogs fed diets with decreasing levels of chicken and increasing levels of corn-gluten meal had the following:
Decreased lean tissue
Increased body fat
Decreased levels of blood proteins routinely used as markers of superior nutritional status
This was independent of the overall dietary protein level (12% or 28%), which was also examined in each of the four test groups.
As dogs age, body composition and muscle-specific proteins decline. Therefore, another study looked at the differences between feeding senior dogs a 32%-protein chicken-based diet, a 32%-protein chicken and corn-gluten meal diet, or a 16%-protein chicken-based diet. Senior dogs fed the 32%-chicken protein, chicken-based diet had better body composition and a muscle-specific protein pattern identical to that in healthy young-adult dogs. However, those results were not seen in either of the other two diets.” 
If you are interested in learning more about food selection you can read more here on how to choice a dog food. Each dog is an individual and the information here is not meant to be complete or appropriate for all dogs. The information contained on this website is provided for general reference and informational purposes only. Any information provided should not be construed to be formal professional advice or professional veterinary advice. We encourage you to do your own research before making a decision on what to feed.
Quality can vary greatly and it is affected by the source, type of ingredients, formula, heat, processing, fiber, and ash content. Ingredients can look the same as listed but protein can be poor, moderate, or high quality. For a food to be high quality it needs to be both highly digestible and contain the proper amino acids available to have actual nutritive value once digested. Since pet food companies are not require to provide a true quality score (digestibility & nutrients) we are left with evaluating the ingredients, calories, nutrient analysis, and running our own calculations to gain insight on each food. To do this we start with the listed guaranteed analysis and the calories content.
Amount of protein, fat, carbs & calorie breakdown
Essential nutrients – balanced or over/under
o Source (farm to table, trusted or foreign)
o Quality (food or feed, organic, human grade)
o Quantity (ingredient splitting, fairy dust, etc)
Essential Nutrients - is anything lacking? To much calcium?
Added Supplements (potential source of problems – over or under)
Find information on any (almost) topic or for specific products.
start your search here: “Search”
e.g. ants, behavior problems, collars, dog food, fleas, harnesses, health, housetraining, marking, medical, separation anxiety, socialization, toys, vaccinations, whistles, yellow spots on lawn, etc.. (You get the idea)
“In My Sometimes Humble Opinion”
- Keep in mind pet food changes and so do opinions! formulas change and so does ownership of the brands.
** "In commercial pet foods, the protein quality of ingredients varies tremendously."  Quality proteins are highly digestible and provide usable essential amino acids. Protein quality and digestibility can be affected by ash content, cooking time, temperature, and fiber content.  “Proteins of plant origin generally have lower digestibility than animal proteins because plant fiber and carbohydrates lower digestion, due to a reduced degradation rate of nutrients in the gut and increase bacterial activity”  “a large portion of protein in cereal-based dry pet foods typically comes from grains, including rice, corn, wheat and barley. Some plant products (e.g. soybean meal and corn gluten meal) are concentrated sources of plant protein.” 
My preference are foods that include vitamins, minerals, and amino acids that are obtained from whole food sources and not a synthetic premix.
Natural Pet Food & Supplies 39252 Winchester Road Ste. 135 Murrieta, California (Independent Pet Food Store)
 In order to not induce nutritional deficiencies consult with a professional nutritionist