What is the best dry dog food?
July 24, 2019 12:37 PM   Subscribe

What is the healthiest dry dog food to buy in the US for an adult small dog without any allergies or other issues? It is difficult to figure out what food is genuinely healthiest, versus just hype or personal opinion. Is there evidence-based research on this? Also, I am hearing warnings about some of the premium brands not being as healthy as one might assume. Is that correct? Any tips would be most appreciated.
posted by mortaddams to Pets & Animals (13 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
I found this website helpful in picking food for my dog. So many people have differing views about what they consider healthy where dog food is concerned, this one seemed to be unaffiliated with any particular brand & clearly explains what they are looking for in dog food & why so you can make your own choices.
posted by wwax at 12:51 PM on July 24, 2019 [3 favorites]

The FDA just issued a report warning that many of the well regarded grain free dog foods may have a link to heart disease (Dilated cardiomyopathy) in dogs not genetically pre-disposed to DCM. Take what you may from this.

Anecdotally, my parents just switched to Royal Canin for their small dogs and have been happy with it so far.
posted by rdnnyc at 1:02 PM on July 24, 2019 [3 favorites]

The recent issue about dog food is specific to grain-free formulations that contain grain alternatives like peas, lentils, potatoes, and sweet potatoes, and/or that might have exotic protein sources. Specifically, there seems to be a correlation between these diets and a heart disease. Here is an article about it. Unfortunately, there is still much research to be done so there isn't any clear direction about whether you should or should not feed a grain-free diet to your dog. Many of the premium brands are grain free and/or have exotic protein sources (I assume this means things like bison, duck, etc.), so pet owners are left in a bit of a lurch as to what to do.

You may have to try a few different foods and see how your dog reacts. For example, I tried feeding my greyhound one of the "best" foods as listed on the website linked by wwax, and it runs RIGHT through her.
posted by misskaz at 1:03 PM on July 24, 2019

I asked this question a couple of months ago. It helped a lot. FWIW, I went with Hill’s Science Diet.
posted by Weeping_angel at 1:04 PM on July 24, 2019 [3 favorites]

Particularly this great answer from biscotti that deserves special attention because it was so helpful.
posted by Weeping_angel at 1:11 PM on July 24, 2019 [8 favorites]

We have somebody on Ask who runs a dogfood review site with ratings; the site also explains the basis of the criteria. Anyone remember who to page?
posted by DarlingBri at 1:38 PM on July 24, 2019

Not sure about other companies, but Hill's also makes food for zoo animals. Lion kibbles, bear chow, marsupial munchies, etc. I always figured that implied a good deal of testing and formulation with animals under pretty close supervision. I'd give it a try if had another pet and they liked it.

Disclaimer: I put together a bunch of their Standard Operating Procedure documentation some 20 years ago so it more like I know how it's made machine/process wise, but not the recipes or goodness (not a vet).
posted by zengargoyle at 2:15 PM on July 24, 2019

Pet foods are historically designed for convenience, lengthy shelf time, and relative low cost.

If by chance money is not a limiting factor, and you want your pup to have the very best, then take a look at NomNomNow.com. It's veterinarian formulated, individually portioned, minimally processed, made from whole foods, and shipped straight to you.

One very welcome side effect is that your pup's poops will be small, compact, and very easy to pick up!
posted by dum spiro spero at 3:05 PM on July 24, 2019

I don’t have pets, but I’m a vet and if I did own dogs I would feed Hills. There is a an incredibly large amount of research/science/veterinary input into Hills (also Royal Canin and Purina). Like a ridiculous amount - every time I call the vets line with a question they seem to be able to quote their in-house research.

I know this is just anecdotal but I have noticed over the years that pets on Hills often are in good health, have shiny coats, and good teeth. I like Hills Vet Essentials (I think it’s called something else in the USA - it’s basically a premium version of their Science Plan). It has elements of t/d (Hills dental diet) in it - basically fibre which cleans the teeth as they chew. Small dogs are very prone to dental issues so prioritising a food that contains elements for dental health is really really important (as is brushing!).
posted by peanut butter milkshake at 3:13 PM on July 24, 2019 [1 favorite]

This site used to be more comprehensive and I'm suspicious it's an ad now, but I still use their criteria under "The Search" to guide what I buy and do the best I can.
posted by gaybobbie at 4:26 PM on July 24, 2019

My vet always prescribes Hill’s, so that’s a good sign. After switching between lots of the fancy brands, my dog has been happy with Purina Focus Sensitive Skin & Stomach for years now.
posted by sallybrown at 4:39 PM on July 24, 2019

I want to add a second recommendation for the comment by biscotti in that recent thread, particularly the part about why you shouldn't trust Dog Food Advisor (which I previously used as a resource). It was pretty eye-opening for me, and I have since changed to Royal Canin (I tried Pro Plan but my picky eater didn't like it).

As a follow-up to reading that, I also found this report by the Pet Nutrition Alliance very informative about which companies are actually using qualified nutritionists to help design their foods.
posted by thejanna at 7:26 AM on July 25, 2019 [3 favorites]

All the breeders I know (many) feed Pro Plan. Their dogs are healthy and live normal life spans. Purina has never had a recall and conducts a ton of research. I used to have a lot of anxiety over dog food and have tried all kinds of expensive and labor-intensive diets but for the last few years have been feeding Pro Plan and I’m happy with the results.
posted by HotToddy at 10:30 AM on July 26, 2019

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