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Pet parents always ask me, "What's the best dog food for my dog?' And, "Are there are any good kibbles or commercial dry dog foods a nutritionist would recommend?
Yes. And here are my personal recommendations, as a certified canine nutritionist, for the best dry dog food brands - and why.
One of the topics we discussed in my recent Dogly Support Group for dog owners was "kibble"/dry dog foods - if there are any good dry dog food brands, if it's harmful to feed your dog kibble/dry dog food, if there's a "best food" for your dog's food, what to watch for in pet food companies and commercial pet foods, etc.
For starters, you are not a bad dog parent for feeding kibble or dry dog food - repeat that!
As I said in our live Q&A Support Group, I feed kibble at times. I am feeding it for a few weeks to two of my dogs right now! There should be no shaming for what you feed your dog, end of story.
What complete and balanced nutrition means by AAFCO standards
If your kibble/dry dog food notes that it meets AAFCO standards for nutrition requirements on the dog food label, at least you know it includes ingredients that meet the minimal requirements for complete and balanced diet by scientific standards and by scientists and nutritionists.
That's a baseline of nutrition confidence for dog owners to start. What it doesn't tell you is what degree of nutrition might be lost in high heat processing, in type of sourcing and form, etc. Those are all factors I keep in mind in choosing which dry dog food brands I feel good about recommending.
So, what are some really good kibble/dry dog food brands?
I've listed my top picks for the best dry dog foods below and why. Some of them are freeze dried raw food, so they are packaged dry but once you add water to rehydrate them, they bring the moisture of a raw, wet food. If you have any specific questions about these brands or any other brands, you can always ask in the Community discussion in the Improving Kibble Channel here on Dogly or I'm happy to work 1-1 with you to help.
7 kibble/dry dog food brand options I recommend
A note for adult dogs & older dogs/seniors - Most of these brands have adult or senior dog food specific formulations that will be the right dog food for your dog's life stage and healthy weight, otherwise look for an "all life stages" formulation.
Dry Food Recommendation 1: Ziwi
I don't know that I would even consider Ziwi a "kibble" because it is not hard round pellets of food. Ziwi is air-dried so its consistency is more like a piece of jerky but softer. Ziwi sources its ingredients from New Zealand so the ingredients are top quality, sustainable, and ethically sourced.
Ingredients I look for in the best dog food
Ziwi also includes ingredients like tripe in most of their recipes which is not used a lot in commercial dog foods but it's an awesome ingredient for a dog's diet. Tripe is a high quality protein that also includes a nice balance of the omega fatty acids Omega 3 & 6 and is helpful for digestive health since it contains natural probiotics.
Ziwi is one of the closet to a raw-style dog food you will get without it being actually raw. They do not use carbohydrates which includes veggies, so it's good food to combine with adding carbohydrate toppers like veggies, fruit, oatmeal, etc.
Dry Food Recommendation 2: Side by Side
Side by Side is another "dry" dog food I wouldn't consider a kibble but is in dry form as patties of freeze-dried raw food to be convenient for dog parents who want to feed clean, human grade dog food, and made in the USA.
Like Ziwi, Side by Side is the closest you'll get to fresh food/raw food diets without preparing all the elements of the complete and balanced meal for your dog yourself. As you add water, the patties rehydrate to have all the moisture benefits of wet dog food (which fresh/raw food is naturally) for health overall and digestion.
Ingredients I look for in the best dog food
What I love about Side by Side is the high quality, human grade ingredients of fresh foods and nutrients we all recognize or as they say, "just made from stuff you know." You won't find anything you can't pronounce (like preservatives or chemicals).
What I look for on a dog food label
The first two ingredients (aka the highest volume) in Side by Side's Beef & Salmon food recipe are 1. Beef hearts, and 2. Salmon... not "meat meals," "salmon meal, or "chicken meal/chicken byproduct meal" or other more mysterious ingredients you often find in other dog foods and no corn, wheat, or soy. (These are the kinds of things to look for as you read labels.)
In this Side by Side food, you'll also find sweet potatoes, kale, spinach, shiitake mushroom, blueberries, and more good things - delivering nutrients like salmon oil that balance important fatty acids and support healthy skin, vitamins, high value proteins, and amino acids. You'll also find smart grains like oats and quinoa, recognizing the value of good whole grains while being aware of grain free dog food issues.
What I love about Side by Side that sets it apart
Side by Side was created by a canine nutritionist with an understanding of Traditional Chinese Medicine that helps you determine if your dog thrives on cooling foods, warming foods, or neutral foods. You can assess your dog with their framework to know if your pup's digestion, allergic reactions/food allergies & sensitivities, and general best health is most benefited by which of their foods. Ask me if you need help with this in the Community discussion!
Dry Food Recommendation 3: Farmina
Farmina is a pet food company out of Italy that is also big into sourcing their ingredients from sustainable and ethically conscious places. They source from Italy, New Zealand, and the North Sea. They meet nutrient standards of FEDIAF as well as AAFCO. FEDIAF is the European Federation for Pet Food and has very very high standards when it comes to pet food formulations.
Ingredients I look for in the best dog food
Farmina has formulations for puppy food, adults, senior dogs, and whatever your dog's breed or mix - you'll find a formulation for small breed dogs to large breeds.
Farmina uses carbohydrates as they understand the importance of proper macronutrient ratios and the fact that carbs used properly can spare protein and contribute to healthy fiber intake. They also have grain free dog food choices.
Dry Food Recommendation 4: Victor
Victor has its own facility in Texas and sources the majority of ingredients from Texas. Victor is also backed by science with a commitment to sourcing their ingredients in the USA and manufacturing in their own facility in Texas. They have a wide variety of formulations for puppy, adults, senior dogs, and all life stages. They also have large breed, small breed, and grain free options for all the different stages of your dog's life.
Dry Food Recommendation 5: Honest Kitchen
I have always loved Honest Kitchen and here's why. When the whole grain-free food craze was happening, Honest Kitchen did not waver in its whole grain formulations. They made some grain-free food formulations but they have always kept their whole grains in formulations because they understand that grains are important for dog nutrition.
I have tried Honest Kitchen kibble (clusters) with my dogs and they seemed to like it! It is different than typical kibble because it is dried in a certain way. I appreciate that Honest Kitchen is always on top of nutritional science as it evolves but that they also recognize the foundation for nutrition science and continue to provide great quality formulations as a result.
Dry Food Recommendation 6: Canine Caviar (for severe allergy dogs)
Canine Caviar is what I recommend for dogs with severe allergies. This is based on using alkaline foods to help stop itching and inflammation from an immune-response food triggered allergy.
Ingredients I look for in the best dog foods for "allergic" dogs
A lot of people say their dog has a food allergy but it could actually just be an intolerance. I don't use the word 'allergy' lightly. If your dog has a legit allergic reaction such as welts, hives, redness, and extreme itching then you should consider a food like this. Canine Caviar is a hypoallergenic, single source protein dog food designed to help reduce the risk of allergies and food intolerances.
Dry Food Recommendation 7: Canidae
Canidae also has its own facility in Texas and is very into sourcing and sustainability. Canidae is a decent brand that has been around for a long time. They probably would be my last choice on this list but only because I like the other pet food formulations better. I do like that Canidae is also really into reducing their carbon footprint through manufacturing and their pet food bags.
A Note About Puppies
Puppies need a complete and balanced diet every meal, every day. Most of the brands above have puppy food formulations that are specifically for the puppy life stage and that is what I would use first. If you cannot find a puppy-specific formulated food then you must feed a food that is formulated for "all life stages" and refer to the feeding directions for puppies.
Puppy food nutrition is very important - puppies should not be fed food that is formulated for adults or seniors.
Next up in the Improving Kibble Channel on Dogly
Now that we've talked dry dog food options, continue expanding your nutritional knowledge for your dog in learning which nutrients your dog could be missing in his/her diet or what it means to feed your dog for a certain life stage.
Hop over to the Improving Kibble Channel if you'd like to ask a question in the Community discussion or start any of the step-by-step guides in Food Enhancers or Food Guidance.
And if you ever need more personalized nutrition guidance, please reach out!