Very interesting read
Best Dog FoodIt's All About Quality Ingredients: Best Food for a Safe and Healthy DogLatest Update June 1, 2016
In early 2015, the law firm of Morgan and Morgan filed a class action lawsuit against Purina over ingredients found in its line of Beneful dog food. Despite this lawsuit — and the thousands of complaints of kidney failure that led to it — the products remain available to purchase at a store near you.
Of the pet owners we surveyed, 70 percent admitted that they didn’t know all of the ingredients in their dog’s food — including the very ingredients at the heart of the Purina lawsuit. All dog foods claim to be “premium” and “all natural,” but with very few regulations on what it takes to meet these qualifications, many of these claims are little more than flashy marketing gimmicks and false advertising. So, we dug behind the label to sort out which ingredients make an excellent dog food and which ones should be avoided.
At the end of the work, we settled on 134 formulas across 29 approved brands.
10 of Our Favorite Dog Food Brands
The Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) sets and maintains standards for the proper levels of ingredients in pet food, but it’s the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) that determines the quality. FDA regulations, however, don’t guarantee that all ingredients will be safe.
Ingredients from rendering facilities, for instance, should be avoided. You’ll recognize these ingredients on the label under generic terms like “meat” and “meat meal.” In California, manufacturers have given them the appetizing name of “dry rendered tankage.” So why avoid them? It’s almost impossible to tell what’s being rendered: It can be roadkill, zoo animals, and sometimes even spoiled meat from the grocery store that’s still wrapped in plastic.
Experts on Health and SafetyBad Ingredients, Poor HealthJust verifying all the ingredients in your food are “safe” doesn’t mean they are optimal or even healthy for your best friend. Dogs need the right combination of protein, fat, moisture, fiber, and nutrients to live healthy, happy lives. The wrong ingredients in the wrong combinations can lead to a host of health problems, both physical and mental.
Digestive problems, including bloat and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), are symptomatic of poor ingredients that don’t contain enough whole, unprocessed foods. Food allergies can also lead to digestive issues — many of the experts we reached out to have seen evidence that dogs are sensitive to wheat and corn, both popular fillers.
Obesity is on the rise in dogs. One main reason for this is overfeeding, but many of the experts we talked to were quick to point out that poor grain-based ingredients are also to blame.
Physical problems are only half of it. There was a unanimous consensus among trainers and behaviorists we talked to that poor diet causes mental health issues in dogs, including poor temperament and lack of focus. Marc Abraham elaborates: “Certain popular pet food brands on the market contain extra colorings, additives, and E numbers that, in my opinion, can affect behavior, leading to hyperactivity and difficulty with training.”
Experts on IngredientsGood Ingredients and How They Relate to Your DogHowever, many ingredients can’t simply be divided into “good” or “bad.” Some are downright controversial. Beet pulp, for instance, is a common binding agent found in many dog foods, but many conscientious consumers avoid it over concerns of digestive health issues. There is no scientific research as of yet to back this up, but the experts we talked to unanimously agreed: It’s best to avoid it.
Not only do ingredients matter, but also having the right combinations and ratios of ingredients matters. There’s an oft-quoted statistic that claims good dog foods contain 30 percent protein and 18 percent fat, with enough side nutritional content — omega-3s, vitamins, and fiber — to round out your dog’s diet. The experts we talked to disagree. To them, it’s really what’s best for your individual dog. “Protein is very important for your dog, but there are instances, such as old age or liver issues, where your dog should be on a lower-protein diet,” says Dog Files creator Kenn Bell. “Make sure you have a conversation with your veterinarian.”
Experts on Raw FoodDog Food TypesWhen we made our picks for the best dog foods, we looked at all varieties: dry, wet, homemade, dehydrated, and frozen raw varieties. No matter the type of food, the most important determining factor is still the ingredients. After that, what matters is what’s best for you and your dog.
Life StagesYour dog’s life stage should factor into his or her diet. Puppies and seniors both have specific dietary needs. Large-breed puppies can develop developmental orthopedic disease (DOD) if they eat too much calcium — the maximum amount of calcium listed in their food should be no more than 1.5 percent. Senior dogs often require less protein because they are less active. And if they suffer from arthritis, many formulas contain glucosamine and chondroitin, both of which alleviate joint pain.
Experts on Life StagesBreed-Specific DietsAccording to the experts we interviewed, there’s no indication that specific breeds need specific diets. What you feed your dog is dependent on his or her size and activity level. Foods formulated specially for small dogs, for example, are beneficial because the smaller pieces of kibble are easier for them to eat and digest.
Dog owners need to be as careful as ever.After putting in 1,400 hours of research and analyzing over 2,223 formulas, we discovered even some of the most popular brands still make food with unhealthy or unsafe ingredients. Of the 2,223 formulas we looked at, only 134 met our standard of approval — about 6 percent overall. With so many choices on the market, it’s as important as ever to read labels and make informed decisions.
The good news? There are 134 great formulas to choose from, and they represent the best of what the industry has to offer.
A Note on PriceBecause we did, in fact, want to offer the best in the industry, we made these considerations with a distinct focus on quality — and without an emphasis on cost to the consumer.
We understand that the price points of our top-rated choices may be higher than the average unit price in the industry, and might be simply too costly for many consumers. Still, our goal was to surface other key considerations — like ingredients and history of handling recalls — when deciding which formula is best for your dog. Moving forward, we also hope to provide more clarity around affordability, as well.
Why 2,089 Dog Food Formulas Didn't Make the CutOur Decision Funnel
We removed products where the first ingredient is not a meat of any kind.
We removed products containing corn, soy, wheat, grain, or flour.
We removed products containing beet pulp or sugar.
We removed products that contained by-products or sauces.
We reviewed brands for recalls, ingredient sources, history, and customer satisfaction.
We reviewed the remaining formulas based on the best ratio of protein, fat, and carbs, as well as the source of protein.
The exclusive list for dog loversTop picks and deals for your dog, approved by our research team, delivered weekly.
Formulas and IngredientsIngredients matter most, so we started by eliminating formulas with ingredients we determined to be unhealthy, unsafe, or unfavorable. It was important that each formula have a meat protein listed first — we removed 194 dog food formulas based on this criteria. We next removed 578 additional formulas that had corn, soy, wheat, grain, or flour in any part of the ingredient list. Overall, this eliminated 772 formulas, taking us from 2,223 to 1,447.
Next, we took out all formulas containing beet pulp or sugar, eliminating 146 more and further reducing the number from 1,447 to 1,301. Formulas that contained by-products and sauces led to 44 additional cuts, narrowing our choices from 1,301 to 1,257.
The 1,257 dog food formulas left did not have any ingredients we wouldn’t feed our own dogs. This was too large a number, however, so our next step was to review the brands themselves and return to formulas later.
13 Great Formulas From Some of Our Favorite BrandsDog Foods
Orijen Adult Grain-Free Dry Dog FoodDry Dog Food
ACANA Wild Prairie Regional Formula Grain-Free Dry Dog FoodDry Dog Food
Earthborn Holistic Primitive Natural Grain-Free Natural Dry Dog FoodDry Dog Food
ZiwiPeak Daily-Dog Lamb Cuisine Air-Dried Dog FoodDry Dog Food
Earthborn Holistic Chip’s Chicken Casserole Grain-Free Natural Moist Dog FoodCanned Dog Food
Eagle Pack Lamb Formula Canned Dog FoodCanned Dog Food
Fromm Four-Star Nutritionals Shredded Chicken Entree Canned Dog FoodCanned Dog Food
Addiction New Zealand Brushtail & Vegetables Entree Canned Dog FoodCanned Dog Food
Orijen Puppy Grain-Free Dry Dog FoodPuppy Food
The Honest Kitchen Embark Dehydrated Dog FoodPuppy Food
AvoDerm Natural Chicken Meal & Brown Rice Formula Puppy Dry Dog FoodPuppy Food
Horizon Legacy Puppy Grain-Free Dry Dog FoodPuppy Food
Pinnacle Grain-Free Salmon & Potato Recipe Dry Dog FoodGrain-Free Dog Food
Brands and RecallsThe original 2,223 dog food formulas we analyzed comprised 115 brands. But after reducing the number of formulas to 1,257, the number of brands dropped to 93.
Brands That Were Cut Because of Their Ingredients:
Next, we took out brands that had been sold to large companies and, as a result, may be changing or have changed their formulas in a manner that compromises integrity. Just as in human food, often, acquisitions and changes in ownership can lead to changes in formulas and manufacturing processes. In dog food, that can mean dramatically different ingredients that pet owners may not even notice.
For this reason, we eliminated dog food brands that had recently been acquired by large companies like Procter & Gamble (P&G), because we couldn’t guarantee that the data we had on them, or the ingredients listed, were up-to-date and reliable.
We also removed anything that is manufactured in countries that don’t have strong food-quality regulations, that were known to include lesser-quality ingredients, or do not have enough available information:
Our Stance On RecallsWe understand our methodology isn’t perfect, and we continue to evaluate it each day, especially when it comes to recalls. We took a hard stance on not including brands that had a history of multiple recalls.
Though recalls happen, not all companies respond as swiftly, carefully, and transparently as we’d like. Which means that even after a problem is corrected, they may continue to cut corners, which could lead to future safety concerns.
So while a recall in and of itself isn’t necessarily the last straw for a dog food company, a slow or sloppy response is. In our research, we didn’t initially look at recall response, but we’re adjusting our judgments on a case-by-case basis.
That doesn’t mean the products from these brands are worse than the products from brands on our recommended list. Many of these products pass all of our tests when it comes to assessing quality ingredients. Some of the recalls were created proactively by the brands themselves, meaning there were no incidents reported. Still, we had to draw the line somewhere, but we plan to continue to modify and improve our methodology over time.
On that note, we also removed any and all products that had previously been associated with Diamond brand dog foods. Diamond pet foods have a history of recalls, including one extremely large and dangerous incident in 2012, which impacted many of its smaller labels. Dog foods that appear to be of higher quality, like Taste of the Wild, Canidae, and Solid Gold, were all involved at the time, though many consumers were unaware that these particular labels were associated, and several brands have since separated from Diamond and its manufacturers. We did not feel that Diamond was transparent or diligent enough in its response to meet our criteria.
For this reason, we initially excluded dog foods that were owned or manufactured in Diamond’s factories, because we just could not assure their ongoing safety. However, we are reconsidering those brands that have severed ties and found new manufacturing locations on a case-by-case basis, based on the visible work the brand has demonstrated. We’ll continue to consider these brands moving forward, but maintain our hard stance on recalls.
Our Final ChoicesThis left us with roughly 300 remaining formulas. The final step was to determine if they had the proper ratio of protein, fat, and carbs based on our research. And we made sure the largest source of protein came from an animal.
After reviewing all 2,223 formulas, we ended up with 134 dog food formulas — manufactured by 29 brands — that we confidently recommend.
Viewing 12 of 134
BrandFormulaPrice Per PoundBuy NowACANAACANA Chicken & Burbank Potato Formula Dry Dog Food$1.99/lbSee Prices
ACANAACANA Duck & Bartlett Pear Singles Formula Dry Dog Food$2.88/lbSee Prices
ACANAACANA Grasslands Regional Formula Grain-Free Dry Dog Food$2.87/lbSee Prices
ACANAACANA Lamb & Okanagan Apple Singles Formula Dry Dog Food$2.76/lbSee Prices
ACANAACANA Pacifica Regional Formula Grain-Free Dry Dog Food$2.76/lbSee Prices
ACANAACANA Pork & Butternut Squash Singles Formula Dry Dog Food$2.68/lbSee Prices
ACANAACANA Ranchlands Regional Formula Grain-Free Dry Dog Food$3.04/lbSee Prices
ACANAACANA Wild Prairie Regional Formula Grain-Free Dry Dog Food$2.38/lbSee Prices
AddictionAddiction Grain-Free Salmon Bleu Dry Dog Food$2.91/lbSee Prices
AddictionAddiction Grain-Free Viva La Venison Dry Dog Food$3.00/lbSee Prices
AddictionAddiction New Zealand Brushtail & Vegetables Entree Canned Dog Food$5.22/lbSee Prices
AddictionAddiction New Zealand Venison & Apples Entree Canned Dog Food$5.12/lbSee Prices
Load MoreWondering why your dog food didn’t make the list?We went by a very rigid and specific review methodology that brought our list from 2,200-plus dog food formulas down to 134. If your dog food is missing from our list of 134, it is most likely because it didn’t meet the requirements set forth within our review methodology.
If you think that there has been a mistake, please let us know by tweeting @reviewsand we will fix the mistake and update our review!
Our Other Dog Food ReviewsWe also looked at the best dog food based on specific types. If you’re interested in seeing our top picks for each type, check out the articles below: