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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 Ferris, DVM, 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.”
“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.
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 Ferris.
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, Ferris 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 Ferris.
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.
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.
Organic free-range chicken, the first ingredient, is blended in this dog food with a mix of organic superfoods: flaxseeds, blueberries and coconut oil.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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CORRECTION (July 20, 2020, 11:55 a.m.): An earlier version of this article misspelled the last name of the regional director of Petco Veterinary Services. She is Shelly Ferris, not Farris.