Ultimate Guide: The Best Brands of Dry, Wet, and Grain Free Dog Food Reviewed

Top 10 Dog Foods: The Pampered Pup’s Short List

Choosing The Best Dog Food For Your Pup

Our ultimate dog food buying guide is designed to help you navigate the highly competitive dog food market. Walk into a pet store or conduct a cursory online search for dog chow and you’re greeted with hundreds of different choices. Nowadays, you’ll see organic and grain-free dog food, dry dog chow, wet food, high-protein puppy food, freeze-dried dog chow, frozen canine grub, and dog food that has been specifically designed to help dogs manage their weight lining the shelves of your local big box pet shop. All of these options probably leave you wondering to yourself, “Which food type is the best for my dog? Is one dog food brand better than another?”

This guide will help you identify which food is ideally suited for your pet. Our goal is to help you find dog food that not only maximizes your dog’s nutritional health, but also stays within your budget. Along the way, we’ll teach you about the different types of dog cuisine that are currently on the market, and also how you can avoid buying low-quality food for your best friend.

Dog Food Brands

In recent years, the dog food market has become extremely competitive. The reason for this is that tons of smaller, local companies are now producing specialized dog food recipes. These smaller companies often specialize in grain-free or organic dog food, giving pet owners who are seeking natural dog food more options to choose from.

Similarly, dog breeders are often formulating their own dog food recipes these days, too. One reason these breeder-owned dog food brands are becoming popular among dog enthusiasts is that dog breeders have an intimate and in-depth knowledge of a particular dog’s nutritional needs. For example, buying a Labrador-specific dog food formula from a Labrador breeder is a great way to ensure you’re getting a healthy, high-quality food for your Labrador Retriever.

At the same time, there are a number of nationally-recognized brands that are also creating high-quality dog food formulas. Some of the best dog food brands to look for include Purina, Iams, Milkbone, Merrick, Hill’s, Pedigree, and Blue Buffalo. What makes these companies superior to some of the less established brands on the market is that they all place equal amounts of importance on maintaining the quality, safety, and nutrition of their products.

Dry Dog Food

When you think about dog food, what immediately comes to mind? If you’re like us, you’ll probably picture hard, crunchy pellet-shaped bits that are usually brown in color. This type of dog food is called dry dog food. Sometimes referred to as kibble, the reason dry dog food has been popular for so long is that it’s easy to store, it’s cheaper than more gourmet alternatives, it can be purchased in bulk, and it does not spoil easily.

From a storage standpoint, kibble can be stored in large plastic bins in a room temperature environment. You don’t have to worry about dry dog food spoiling if you leave it for too long. You also don’t have to worry about clearing out fridge or freezer space for dry dog food — just find a room-temperature, moisture-free area in your home’s entryway or garage and you’ve got all you need to keep kibble fresh for your pup.

In terms of ingredients, the wide range of vegetables, grains, and meats included in different types of kibble is truly eye-opening. The most common meats found in dry dog food include chicken, various types of fish, beef, and lamb. Some dry dog food formulas also include meat and bone meal for added protein.

High-end dry dog kibble also includes vegetables like beet pulp, ground whole corn, and potato, while those same formulas contain healthy grains like brown rice and ground whole wheat. This commitment to utilizing only the best-quality ingredients has revolutionized the dry dog food industry in the last few years.

Wet Dog Food

Although wet dog food is less popular than its dry food counterpart, wet food offers a range of benefits to your dog. Veterinarians indicate that wet dog food formulas are a good choice if you are concerned about your pet’s hydration. The reason for this is that wet dog foods are an excellent way to covertly add more water to your dog’s diet.

Adequate hydration is extremely important during the summer months (or for those who live in year-round warm climates), where the heat of the sun can quickly sap your dog of energy. Switching your pet to a wet food-based diet is a great way to effectively combat this and help give your dog energy when it needs it most.

Wet food is also an excellent option if you’ve got an older dog that suffers from sensory perception issues. Wet dog food formulas tends to have a richer scent and more substantial flavor than kibble, which means they’ll work well for canines that have a weakened sense of smell due to age.

If you have a dog with jaw, mouth, or dental problems, wet food is also softer and easier to chew and swallow than harder dry food.

Some popular wet food recipes include things like beef stew, filet mignon, and chicken with brown rice and garden vegetables.

Grain-Free Dog Food

One of the most intriguing recent developments in the dog food world is the availability of grain-free dog kibble. Although grain-free dog food is more expensive than an industrial-sized bag of dry dog kibble, a grain-free dog formula touts a range of health benefits not offered by other types of dog food.

According to veterinarians, grain-free dog formulas are ideal for pups suffering from various food allergies. While there has been a big push to recognize gluten intolerance in humans over the past few years, it’s interesting to consider that canines are also afflicted with gluten sensitivity.

Grain-free dog food will also improve the external appearance of your pup. More specifically, grain-free dog food will give your pup healthier skin, a shinier coat, and reduce hair shedding. Grain-free food will also regulate your dog’s stools, limit flatulence, and boost your pet’s energy.

If you do decide to switch to gluten-free kibble, you’ll find that the established dog food companies — like Pedigree, Purina, and Merrick — utilize the same great ingredients in their grain-free formulas as they do in their more conventional dry food offerings. Instead of adding grain to their grainless recipes, though, companies are adding sweet potato as a delicious and nutritious substitute that your pup is sure to enjoy.

Vet-Recommended Dog Food and Food for Dogs With Allergies

Because your veterinarian has such an intimate knowledge of your dog’s nutritional needs and medical history, it’s important to consult with your vet before switching your pet’s dog food.

If you switch your pup from conventional dry kibble to a grain-free option, for example, your veterinarian will recommend that you gradually introduce the grain-less food into your pet’s diet so that your pet’s digestive system can get used to the new ingredients. When making this dietary transition, it’s important to monitor your pet’s stools to ensure that they remain regular.

Unfortunately, these days, other food allergies are becoming more common in American dogs. Some common food allergies in canines include pork, beef, fish, chicken, egg, corn, and dairy.

If your pet has a sensitivity towards one of the aforementioned foods, your vet will recommend that you feed your pup hypoallergenic dog food.

Hypoallergenic dog food, which is sometimes referred to as limited-ingredient dog food, eliminates all of the extra, unnecessary filler ingredients that exist in some dog food formulas.

Companies that are producing hypoallergenic dog food formulate their recipes so that their food offers the highest amount of nutrition with the fewest amount of ingredients. For instance, one of the most popular hypoallergenic dog foods currently available, Wellness Simple’s Natural Dry Limited Ingredient Dog Food, brings together high-quality lamb meat and easy-to-digest gluten-free oatmeal to give your dog something that is delicious and healthy.

Food for Puppies

If you’ve had a dog before, you know how important those first weeks and months in a dog’s life are to your pet’s future development. Think about it — those first few weeks and months are when you begin potty training your dog, teaching them tricks, and getting them into an exercise routine. Just as importantly, feeding your pup high-quality, nutrient-dense kibble during those first couple of weeks will ensure that your puppy will grow into a healthy and happy dog.

If you want to maximize your puppy’s health, seek out kibble that is specifically designed to nourish your young dog. Dog food companies like Purina and Pedigree are creating puppy-oriented chow for smaller dog breeds these days, while puppy-specific dog formula for larger puppies is also available in pet stores and online.

Whether you’ve got a pint-sized pup or a larger dog, look for a puppy dog food that is rich in minerals, nutrients, protein, antioxidants, and amino acids. Feeding your young pet a formula that has an ideal balance of these things will help give your furry friend the nutrition they’ll need as they’re growing up.

For Small Dogs Like Chihuahuas, Yorkies, and Dachshunds

Although they are smaller in size than Labs, German Shepherds, and Great Danes, dog breeds like Chihuahuas, Dachshunds, and Yorkies actually require more calories to reach optimum health than their larger canine counterparts.

Veterinarians tell us that lap dogs sometimes need a much higher calorie-per-pound intake than bigger dogs. One example of this is that a 100-pound German Shepherd needs approximately 22.5 calories-per-pound to maintain optimum health, while a 10-pound Bichon Frise needs approximately 40 calories-per-pound to meet their daily caloric requirements.

Small breed dog chow is created to address the caloric needs of your pint-sized pet. Put simply, one highlight of small breed dog food is that these formulas are more calorie and nutrient-rich than other varieties of dog chow.

Another obvious difference found in lap dog-oriented dog food compared to more conventional varieties of dog food is that dog food made for small dogs is made of much smaller bits of kibble than regular canine chow. Smaller dogs will struggle to chew larger food pellets, which is why finding smaller, bite-sized kibble is necessary if you own a small dog.

If you have a small dog at home, feeding your pup small breed-specific dog chow is a great way to help your dog remain strong and safe.

For Medium-Sized Dogs Like Huskies, Boxers, and Border Collies

If you own a medium-sized dog — probably the most popular dog size for pet owners in Canada and the United States — you might not think much about your dog’s food, especially if you’re on a budget. Whether you’re shopping for dog food online or in store, if you own a medium-sized dog, you might just buy a bulk-sized bag of cheaply-made kibble and not think twice about the matter.

Here at The Pampered Pup, we have thought twice about the matter, and suggest you avoid buying those monster bags of low-quality chow for your medium-sized pet. Why? Protein and calorie-rich fats are very important for medium-sized dog breeds, and low-quality dog chow is often lacking in these departments.

Ideally, owners with medium-sized pups should look for dog food that has two or three high-protein meat ingredients. This is because meats like beef, chicken, lamb, and fish are high in protein and can also be rich in healthy fats. In fact, some of the best kibble formulas around today often include chicken fat as an ingredient!

Medium-sized dogs also need carbohydrates for energy. Top-shelf dog formulas for pups in the medium-sized category contain healthy carbohydrates like rice, oats, barley, and sweet potato.

For Large Dogs Like Pitbulls, Labs, German Sherpherds, Great Danes, and Golden Retrievers

If you’ve got a dog that weighs over 50 pounds, you’ll want to feed your pup food that was made for large dogs. Because large dogs can be so hefty, it’s important to purchase a formula that contains supplements like chondroitin and glucosamine. These supplements are added to some large breed-oriented dog kibble because they have been medically shown to improve joint health in big dogs. Big dogs are particularly prone to suffering from joint-related issues like hip dysplasia, and supplements like glucosamine can help combat these medical maladies.

Whereas smaller kibble pellets are preferable for lap dogs, larger kibble pellets are ideal for bigger dog breeds. Larger kibble will encourage your pet to chew more slowly, helping aid in better digestion and limiting the possibility of bloat. Giving smaller kibble bits to your dog runs the risk of your pup eating too quickly. Eating too rapidly could cause stomach issues or bathroom-related mishaps for your Great Dane or German Shepherd.

Because big dogs are so brawny and muscular, most folks believe that they need to eat extremely calorie-rich food. But as we touched on before, lap dogs actually need more calories-per-pound than big canines. So if you’re trying to feed your big pup, avoid the high-calorie dog food formulas. Instead, find kibble that has a more moderate amount of calories. Giving your large pet a more modest caloric load will ensure that your animal does not become obese.

For Senior Dogs

If your beloved pet is getting up there in years, it’s important to feed your long-time companion food that will nourish him as he grows older. The most important aspect of the senior dog-specific dog food formulas is that these formulas have fewer calories than the dog food that is made for younger pups.

The reason for the lower calorie composition of dog kibble for geriatric dogs is that older pups require less energy than younger, more vigorous canines. Older dogs also have a decreased metabolic rate, which means it takes them longer to digest food than it used to.

Low-calorie formulas also help combat an issue that is becoming increasingly common in geriatric dogs — obesity. Senior dogs also require higher amounts of fiber to keep their gastrointestinal system chugging along. The best senior dog food formulas include lots of fiber to help address this concern.

Although there are plenty of dry dog foods available for older dogs, some pet owners give their geriatric pets wet dog food. Wet dog food is softer and easier to digest for elderly animals that have difficulty chewing food because of mouth or jaw issues. These wet foods will also keep your old pet properly hydrated. If your dog is suffering from health issues, staying hydrated can be tricky, which is another benefit of feeding your animal senior dog food.

These days, there are also grain-free wet dog foods available that are great if you decide to put your geriatric pet on a gluten-free diet.

Dog Food Reviews

Now that you’ve got a good grasp of the different types of dog chow that are available to you and your pup we can jump into reviewing specific dog food formulas.

Product reviews — especially dog food reviews — are one of our favorite parts of running The Pampered Pup. Our pups love to eat, which makes it really fun to have them help us taste test different types of dog food.

At the same time, we take testing dog food very seriously — the health and nutritional well-being of both our dogs and your animals is on the line. For this reason, all of our dog chow reviews closely analyze a particular dog food formula on several different fronts in an attempt to help you find food that will maximize your dog’s health.

Because the dog food world is so dynamic and ever-changing, we’re constantly reviewing the newest dog food formulas with our pets. If you’re intrigued by a specific dog food or brand and don’t see it reviewed, contact us and we’ll do our best to grab some and have our dogs try it!