Written By
Published Jun. 11, 2021

For many people, dogs are more than a pet—they’re a part of the family. As beloved family members, they deserve the best nutrition available. The best dry dog foods contain all the nutrients a dog needs for his age, size, and health conditions. Dogs are carnivores, so the number one ingredient in any dry dog food should be a natural protein source. They also need a mix of fats and fiber to keep their coat, eyes, and joints healthy and happy. Dry dog foods are often the most economical choice. Plus, they store well and are easy to transport. We’ve created a list of some of the best dog food on the market, including formulas balanced for optimum nutrition, from puppy to senior recipes.

What to consider when shopping for the best dry dog food

Dog foods aren’t created with equal nutritive value. The ingredients’ quality, nutrient content, and kibble size all play a role in which one is right for your dog. Breeds of different sizes also have different nutritional needs. A food that’s tailored to your dog’s individual traits and circumstances will ensure he has the energy for all of your adventures together.

Dog age and food requirements

Like humans, a dog’s nutritional needs change throughout his life. Dogs need calorie-dense food with omega fatty acids and DHA for brain and vision development during the puppy years. They also need foods with a balanced calcium to phosphorus ratio for adequate bone development. Additionally, puppy foods often have smaller or softer kibble for little jaws that don’t function at full strength. 

Depending on the breed, dogs l mature from puppyhood between one and two years old. In their adult years, they don’t need the extra calories found in puppy chow. Adult dogs who eat puppy food may gain too much weight. A high-quality dry dog food designed for adult dogs works well during this stage of life. 

Dogs enter their senior years around age seven, but that can vary by breed. For example, small breeds tend to live longer than large breeds, while a large breed may begin showing signs of aging around five years old. 

Senior dogs need the same nutrients as younger adult dogs. However, they tend to slow down and live a more sedentary lifestyle. Consequently, many senior dog foods have fewer calories or may be labeled as diet food. Some senior foods include extra vitamin E, beta-carotene, glucosamine, or other nutrients that support the immune system or joint health. 

Dog size and type of kibble

Size matters. Large dog breeds have slower metabolisms, burning only about 20 calories per pound. Small breeds burn around 40 calories per pound. The best dry dog food for small dogs usually has a higher caloric density than a recipe designed for larger dogs. Additionally, small dogs, especially toy breeds, may not have the jaw strength to eat the large kibble found in regular dry dog food.

Dog medical history and diet

Dogs can suffer from many of the same medical conditions found among humans, like food allergies, diabetes, and obesity. And as with people, a dog’s diet can help control some common health issues. For example, LID foods are usually made with a single (possibly two) protein source and a limited list of ingredients. They’re also made of less common protein sources like venison or buffalo instead of chicken or beef, to which more dogs are allergic. If your dog has stomach or digestive problems, the veterinarian may recommend an LID (Limited Ingredient Diet) food to help identify the specific allergy. Many manufacturers also make a grain-free version of their adult dog foods to accommodate canines with sensitive stomachs or allergies. 

Find high-quality sources of protein, healthy fats, and digestible carbohydrates in dog food

As carnivores, dogs have different nutritional needs than humans. They require a dry dog food made of at least 18-percent protein, no less than 5-percent fat, and around 5-percent fiber. Many dry dog foods have a label with a breakdown of the protein, fiber, fat, and carbohydrate percentages and content. 

Check for high-quality ingredients like natural sources of protein and whole vegetables and fruits. Ingredients are listed with the most abundant ingredient first. The first ingredient on the list should be an animal protein source like fish, chicken, or beef because they naturally contain the right balance of essential amino acids that dogs need. Some of the less expensive dog foods will contain meat by-products, which aren’t as high quality, nor do they contain everything your dog needs. They shouldn’t be the only protein source in the food. 

Related: Who’s a good boy? Reinforce your pup’s positive behaviors with these top dog treats.

The best dry dog foods

It’s a crowded market in the dry dog food section. New recipes and companies spring up seemingly overnight. Keep your dog’s age, size, and medical history in mind as you narrow down the options. The dry dog foods on our list contain high-quality ingredients and offer healthy nutrition for a wide range of dogs. 

Best dog food for small dogs: Hill’s Science Diet Adult Small Paws

Hill’s Science Diet Adult Small Paws

This small dog food recipe balances the needs of a high metabolism with the nutrients required for a healthy immune system and coat.
Hill’s Science Diet

Check Price

Hill’s Science Diet Adult Small Paws starts with high-quality chicken as the main protein source. With 24.9-percent crude protein, it’s heavy on the nutrients small dogs need. Kibble size and calorie density target the higher metabolism of small breeds. Hill’s Science Diet includes a special antioxidant blend designed specifically for the challenges of being a petite pup. This best dry dog food for small dogs is also rich in omega-6 fatty acids and vitamin E to support skin and coat health. 

Best senior dog food: Blue Buffalo Life Protection Formula Natural Senior Dry Dog Food 

Blue Buffalo Life Protection Formula Natural Senior Dry Dog Food

This Blue Buffalo recipe includes extra ingredients to support joint health and mobility.
Blue Buffalo

Check Price

Blue Buffalo’s Life Protection Formula Natural Senior Dry Dog Food contains the 18-percent protein senior dogs need, along with a whole lot more. The recipe includes extra glucosamine, a compound found in the body’s connective tissues, and chondroitin sulfate, which maintains and rebuilds joint cartilage. Add to that natural sources of omega fatty acids and DHA to support the brain and eyes. The extra nutrients address areas that begin to decline in a dog’s later years. 

Best dog food for sensitive stomach: Canidae PURE Grain Free

Canidae PURE Grain Free

An eight-ingredient recipe that’s free of common allergens can help soothe sensitive stomachs and allergies.
CANIDAE

Check Price

Canidae PURE Grain Free comes in many flavors, each with a single protein source, including familiar options like chicken or duck and the less common wild boar or salmon. A greater variety of options helps those trying to narrow down a dog’s source of allergies or the reason for an upset stomach. Canidae also lists the very short ingredient list, eight in total, on the front of the package. It’s simple yet contains essential nutrients, such as the omega fatty acids needed for optimum skin and coat health. 

Best puppy food: Taste of the Wild High Prairie Puppy Recipe 

Taste of the Wild High Prairie Puppy Recipe

A recipe that includes a boost of DHA for brain development leaves out the grains that commonly trigger allergies.
Taste of the Wild

Check Price

Taste of the Wild High Prairie Puppy Recipe gives puppies nutrients they need like DHA for their developing brain and eyes. Small kibble is easier for pint-sized mouths to chew, yet it’s crunchy to keep puppy teeth clean. The addition of probiotics in the best puppy food promotes digestive health by balancing the gut biome. The top two ingredients—water buffalo and lamb—are protein sources rich in essential amino acids for healthy growth and development. This recipe leaves out grains because they are a common source of allergies, but always check with a veterinarian to be sure grain-free is right for your junior dog.

Best budget dry dog food: Wag Dry Dog/Puppy Food

Wag Dry Dog/Puppy Food

This nutrient-dense recipe includes 35-percent protein and a balance of omega fatty acids and DHA for eye and brain health.
WAG

Check Price

Wag Dry Dog/Puppy Food contains nutrients for adults and puppies in a single recipe. A high 35-percent protein content brings high levels of omega fatty acids and essential amino acids. Because it’s designed for puppies, it also contains DHA to feed brain and eye development and health. Wag comes in five flavors, each with a protein as the first and most plentiful ingredient on the list. Medium-sized kibble works for adults and isn’t too big for puppies.

FAQs

Q: Which dry dog food brand is the best?

There are several fantastic dry dog food brands worth considering. Blue Buffalo, Canidae, Hill’s Science Diet, and Taste of the Wild, all of which made our list, are some of the best brands on the market. They source high-quality ingredients and create recipes designed to meet the different stages of a dog’s life.

Q: What is the highest quality dog food?

The highest quality dog food has whole ingredients sourced from reputable farms and providers. As far as dry dog food goes, Taste of the Wild stands out for its focus on ingredients native to a wild dog’s diet, such as sorghum, millet, and water buffalo. These sources still meet the nutritional needs of the modern dog but are less likely to trigger allergies compared to some contemporary canine food sources. 

Q: Should dogs eat grain-free?

Dogs don’t have to eat grain-free. Some dogs have gluten or other food allergies that stem from grains. In that case, a grain-free diet makes sense. However, for dogs without allergies or other health conditions which grain could affect, grains provide vital nutrients for a balanced diet. 

Related: Keep your pup’s coat healthy and shiny with the best dog grooming kit.

The final word on shopping for the best dry dog food

Your dog deserves the best dry dog food for his age, size, and medical needs. Many dry dog foods are budget-friendly and nutritionally sound. Whether your dog’s in need of the best puppy food, the best senior dog food, or somewhere in between, dry dog food can keep him fueled, healthy, and ready to live life with his favorite person (you). 

MORE TO READ