November 29, 2021

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Veterinarian and expert tips: Dry dog food

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Finding the best dog food for your furry friend takes effort, of course, but the convenience, price and assortment of dry dog food may make it a good option to consider for your pup. In commercials, the dry dog food kibbles hit the bowl and a good pup comes running — every pet owner might want that kind of love story for their dog, and dry dog food also sports some unique benefits for dogs (and their owners). “There are many benefits of dry food,” says Shelly Farris, DVM, and the regional director of Petco Veterinary Services. “It comes in several varieties. It doesn’t spoil easily. It keeps dogs’ teeth clean in between vet visits and you can easily transition your pet to new foods if needed.”

IN THIS ARTICLE Dry dog food shopping tips | Best dry dog food

“For humans, it’s much easier to clean out a bowl and dry food can be left out for a longer time,” says Kristin Neuhauser, DVM, of Noah’s Ark Animal Clinic. “For dogs, the main benefit to being on a commercially-prepared dry dog food is that they are eating a complete and balanced diet.” Dry dog food, in essence, marries convenience and nutrition as much as possible. But which dry dog food should you get? We consulted experts about the differences between the leading dry dog foods and how to pick the best dry dog food for your canine companion.

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How to shop for dry dog food

As with anything else regarding your pet, a good place to start is talking to your veterinarian — in this instance, about your dog’s dietary requirements. Then look at the ingredient list on a bag of dry dog food. “You can easily tailor a dry food diet to your pup’s unique needs because it is convenient and available in a variety of flavors, formulas — from life-stage and breed-specific to weight management,” says Farris.

While your dog can’t speak, their body can tell you a lot about whether or not you’ve picked the right brand of dry food, too. “Dogs should have stools that are of normal consistency, formed and relatively easy to pick up,” says Neuhauser, who also points out that a healthy coat and skin, and maintaining weight — not gaining or losing too much — are signs of good health.

When shopping for dog food, the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO), a nonprofit that helps set standards for animal feed and pet foods, recommends that you read the label, select a food based on your pet’s breed, age and health, and follow the manufacturer’s feeding guidelines. When it comes to ingredients like preservatives, Farris suggests dog owners look for natural options over synthetic ones. “Natural preservatives such as vitamin C, vitamin E and oils of rosemary, clove or other spices are better alternatives to chemical preservatives such as BHA, BHT and ethoxyquin, which are often added in dog foods,” says Farris.

Related: Shopping for a new dog bed? Find the best option for your dog — size, age, needs and more — with tips from experts and veterinarians.

Best dry dog food to shop

To help give you a glance at some of the leading dog foods that are widely available and highly-rated, we compiled them below.

1. Blue Buffalo Life Protection Formula Adult Chicken & Brown Rice Recipe Dry Dog Food

This dry food from Blue Buffalo is a little bit of the farmers’ market with peas, sweet potatoes, blueberries and cranberries mixed in with the first three ingredients: deboned chicken, chicken meal and brown rice.

Blue Buffalo Life Protection Formula Adult Chicken & Brown Rice

Blue Buffalo Life Protection Formula Adult Chicken & Brown Rice ('Multiple' Murder Victims Found in Calif. Home / 'Multiple' Murder Victims Found in Calif. Home)
Blue Buffalo Life Protection Formula Adult Chicken & Brown Rice (‘Multiple’ Murder Victims Found in Calif. Home / ‘Multiple’ Murder Victims Found in Calif. Home)
  • Blue Buffalo Life Protection Formula Adult Chicken & Brown Rice $44.99 at Chewy

  • Blue Buffalo Life Protection Formula Adult Chicken & Brown Rice $49.99 at PetSmart

  • Blue Buffalo Life Protection Formula Adult Chicken & Brown Rice $34.26 at Petco

2. Castor & Pollux Organix Organic Chicken & Oatmeal Recipe

Organic free-range chicken, the first ingredient, is blended in this dog food with a mix of organic superfoods: flaxseeds, blueberries and coconut oil.

Castor & Pollux Organix Organic Chicken & Oatmeal

Castor & Pollux Organix Organic Chicken & Oatmeal ('Multiple' Murder Victims Found in Calif. Home / 'Multiple' Murder Victims Found in Calif. Home)
Castor & Pollux Organix Organic Chicken & Oatmeal (‘Multiple’ Murder Victims Found in Calif. Home / ‘Multiple’ Murder Victims Found in Calif. Home)
  • Castor & Pollux Organix Organic Chicken & Oatmeal $73.69 at PetSmart

  • Castor & Pollux Organix Organic Chicken & Oatmeal $73.67 at Petco

  • Castor & Pollux Organix Organic Chicken & Oatmeal $73.67 at Amazon

3. Eukanuba Small Breed Senior Dry Dog Food

The small kibbles in this dry food from Eukanuba help prevent tartar build-up on your dog’s teeth. Chicken by-product meal is the first ingredient in the food designed for senior (over 7 years old), small breed dogs.

Eukanuba Small Breed Senior Recipe

Eukanuba Small Breed Senior Dry Dog Food ('Multiple' Murder Victims Found in Calif. Home / 'Multiple' Murder Victims Found in Calif. Home)
Eukanuba Small Breed Senior Dry Dog Food (‘Multiple’ Murder Victims Found in Calif. Home / ‘Multiple’ Murder Victims Found in Calif. Home)
  • Eukanuba Small Breed Senior Recipe $33.29 at PetSmart

  • Eukanuba Small Breed Senior Recipe $33.29 at Petco

  • Eukanuba Small Breed Senior Recipe $33.29 at Amazon

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4. Hill’s Bioactive Recipe Fit + Radiant

Designed for large and giant breed adult dogs (we’re talking over 110 pounds), the first ingredient in Hill’s Bioactive Recipe Fit + Radiant is a lean protein: chicken. This dry food also has carrots to help promote a healthy digestive system and coconut oil for a more glossy coat.

Hill’s Bioactive Recipe Fit + Radiant

Hill's Bioactive Recipe Fit + Radiant ('Multiple' Murder Victims Found in Calif. Home / 'Multiple' Murder Victims Found in Calif. Home)
Hill’s Bioactive Recipe Fit + Radiant (‘Multiple’ Murder Victims Found in Calif. Home / ‘Multiple’ Murder Victims Found in Calif. Home)

5. Instinct Be Natural Real Beef & Barley Recipe

Beef is the first ingredient for the Instinct Be Natural Real Beef & Barley Recipe that is free of corn grain (it’s not grain-free, Barley being its third ingredient), soy and wheat. The pieces are also lightly coated in freeze-dried raw beef.

Instinct Be Natural Real Beef & Barley Recipe

Instinct Be Natural Real Beef & Barley Recipe ('Multiple' Murder Victims Found in Calif. Home / 'Multiple' Murder Victims Found in Calif. Home)
Instinct Be Natural Real Beef & Barley Recipe (‘Multiple’ Murder Victims Found in Calif. Home / ‘Multiple’ Murder Victims Found in Calif. Home)
  • Instinct Be Natural Real Beef & Barley Recipe $49.99 at Petco

  • Instinct Be Natural Real Beef & Barley Recipe $42.49 at Walmart

  • Instinct Be Natural Real Beef & Barley Recipe $49.99 at Amazon

6. Nutro Ultra Large Breed Chicken Dry Dog Food

With a little bit of surf (salmon meal) and turf (chicken, chicken meal, lamb meal), this dry food also has a new blend of superfoods that includes coconut, chia and kale.

Nutro Ultra Large Breed Adult Chicken

Nutro Ultra Large Breed Adult Chicken ('Multiple' Murder Victims Found in Calif. Home / 'Multiple' Murder Victims Found in Calif. Home)
Nutro Ultra Large Breed Adult Chicken (‘Multiple’ Murder Victims Found in Calif. Home / ‘Multiple’ Murder Victims Found in Calif. Home)
  • Nutro Ultra Large Breed Adult Chicken $40.55 at Chewy

  • Nutro Ultra Large Breed Adult Chicken $59.99 at PetSmart

  • Nutro Ultra Large Breed Adult Chicken $59.49 at Petco

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7. Nutro Wholesome Essentials Healthy Weight Lamb & Rice Recipe

In this option from Nutro, lamb is the first ingredient, a lean protein meant to help your pup lose or maintain weight. It’s also free of corn, wheat, soy protein and artificial colors and preservatives.

Nutro Wholesome Essentials Healthy Weight Lamb & Rice Recipe

Nutro Wholesome Essentials Healthy Weight Lamb & Rice Recipe ('Multiple' Murder Victims Found in Calif. Home / 'Multiple' Murder Victims Found in Calif. Home)
Nutro Wholesome Essentials Healthy Weight Lamb & Rice Recipe (‘Multiple’ Murder Victims Found in Calif. Home / ‘Multiple’ Murder Victims Found in Calif. Home)
  • Nutro Wholesome Essentials Healthy Weight Lamb & Rice Recipe $54.99 at Pet Supermarket

  • Nutro Wholesome Essentials Healthy Weight Lamb & Rice Recipe $52.99 at PetSmart

  • Nutro Wholesome Essentials Healthy Weight Lamb & Rice Recipe $52.95 at PetCareRx

8. Purina Pro Plan Focus Adult Sensitive Skin & Stomach Salmon & Rice Formula Dry Dog Food

Dogs can have sensitive stomachs, too, and this option from Purina is meant to aid pups with tummy troubles. Salmon, barley and ground rice are the first three ingredients in the dry dog food that is free of artificial colors and flavors.

Purina Pro Plan Focus Adult Sensitive Skin & Stomach Salmon & Rice Formula

  • Purina Pro Plan Focus Adult Sensitive Skin & Stomach Salmon & Rice Formula $47.98 at Chewy

  • Purina Pro Plan Focus Adult Sensitive Skin & Stomach Salmon & Rice Formula $49.99 at Pet Supermarket

  • Purina Pro Plan Focus Adult Sensitive Skin & Stomach Salmon & Rice Formula $47.99 at PetSmart

9. Royal Canin Veterinary Diet Gastrointestinal Moderate Calorie

Even dogs can struggle with being regular — and this dry dog food from Royal Canin aims to help. A blend of rice, chicken fat and beet pulp make this a lower-calorie option. Chicken by-product meal provides fiber and fish oil helps with indigestion and keeping everything moving.

Royal Canin Veterinary Diet Gastrointestinal Moderate Calorie

Royal Canin Veterinary Diet Gastrointestinal Moderate Calorie (Amazon / Amazon)
Royal Canin Veterinary Diet Gastrointestinal Moderate Calorie (Amazon / Amazon)
  • Royal Canin Veterinary Diet Gastrointestinal Moderate Calorie $152.40 at Amazon

  • Royal Canin Veterinary Diet Gastrointestinal Moderate Calorie $86.99 at Petco

  • Royal Canin Veterinary Diet Gastrointestinal Moderate Calorie $86.99 at PetCareRx

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10. WholeHearted Lamb & Brown Rice Recipe with Whole Grains Dry Dog Food

Lamb, lamb meal and whole grain brown rice are the top ingredients in WholeHearted’s dry food. It’s also got salmon oil to help keep your dog’s coat healthy.

WholeHearted Lamb & Brown Rice Recipe with Whole Grains

WholeHearted Lamb & Brown Rice Recipe with Whole Grains ('Multiple' Murder Victims Found in Calif. Home / 'Multiple' Murder Victims Found in Calif. Home)
WholeHearted Lamb & Brown Rice Recipe with Whole Grains (‘Multiple’ Murder Victims Found in Calif. Home / ‘Multiple’ Murder Victims Found in Calif. Home)
  • WholeHearted Lamb & Brown Rice Recipe with Whole Grains $34.99 at Petco

  • WholeHearted Lamb & Brown Rice Recipe with Whole Grains $34.99 at Amazon

11. VICTOR Hi-Pro Plus Formula Dry Dog Food

This protein-packed dry food from VICTOR is made for carnivores with beef meal, chicken fat, pork meal, chicken meal and menhaden fish meal, alongside grain sorghum — those making up the first six ingredients.

VICTOR Hi-Pro Plus Formula

VICTOR Hi-Pro Plus Formula ('Multiple' Murder Victims Found in Calif. Home / 'Multiple' Murder Victims Found in Calif. Home)
VICTOR Hi-Pro Plus Formula (‘Multiple’ Murder Victims Found in Calif. Home / ‘Multiple’ Murder Victims Found in Calif. Home)
  • VICTOR Hi-Pro Plus Formula $49.99 at Chewy

  • VICTOR Hi-Pro Plus Formula $49.99 at Amazon

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