Answer: Well, I don’t recommend commercial dog food at all, frankly, but I’m a realist. Most people feed their dogs manufactured dog food. I also keep some kibble around the house in case there is an emergency that prevents me from preparing the dogs’ food. I also wean my puppies onto puppy food because I have found that when I weaned puppies onto real food they wanted nothing to do with the kibble their new owners were offering them. It made transitioning to their new homes more difficult. I do add real meat into their puppy food for palatability and nutrition, however.
Ok, so, what dog food is “good” dog food? That is tricky because there honestly aren’t any “good” commercial dog foods available. The best of this less than ideal option can be found, though, from the myriad of products available. There are literally hundreds of dog foods out there, all promising different things and priced at different levels. I’m (again) a realist and I’m not going to expect the majority of families to spend ludicrous amounts of money on premium dog foods… and to be honest most of the “organic” or “grain free” trendy and/or highly marketed foods aren’t that much better than their store-brand counterparts. Like all manufactured products we humans consume, dog food is subject to a lot of hype, marketing, and bull *polite cough*.
Of course “cheap” dog food is really not good for your dog. And by “not good” I mean terrible. It has all kinds of nasty side effects, to include regular diarrhea, vomiting, mushy stools (more clean up in the back yard, and a lot less pleasant), obesity, diabetes, pancreatitis and death; just to name a few. Too many carbohydrates cause bad breath as well as that gross tartar build up dogs get which leads to gingival inflammation and eventually disease and rot. This becomes a lifelong battle and no amount of dental care can really prevent or “cure” the problem. Surgical dental cleanings will become necessary, which require general anesthesia, which are risky, at best. The bacteria from gum disease and tooth decay have a direct route into the blood stream. This can lead to or complicate heart conditions as well as the possibility for causing other infections in the body. Feeding your dog the cheapest dog food brand you can find (think Ol’ Roy… the WalMart brand… *shudder*) will likely cost you money in the long run. Your dog will not be healthy, could develop serious allergy problems (which you will then be directed to spend enormous amounts of money on “prescription” foods which are all a bunch of garbage, also) and your pet could develop cancer, etc. And let’s not forget about all the numerous pet food recalls that involved the DEATH of many, many healthy pets because they consumed food that was intentionally poisoned.
My intention isn’t to frighten people or to come across as an extreme person with super skewed views. I am completely realistic about dog food and I am only presenting you the honest facts as I have nothing to gain. Actually I have a lot to lose by putting my beliefs out there and practicing what I preach. As a breeder I can very easily both feed my dogs kibble and give away kibble to new families for free. But I will not use most brands of dog food and so cannot take advantage of that very real benefit of being a dog breeder. I do use some foods but the foods I use are carefully researched and are only used because I genuinely approve of the foods. Most top-notch foods have discounts for breeders, but do not give their food away as their production costs are high and they are smaller businesses. The big giants out there can give away food by the caseload and as a result are able to gain new customers by the score through breeders.
Anyway, frightened or not I hope the facts I give you here will be enough that you will avoid the super horrid dog foods out there that skimp on ingredients and ship in ingredients from third-world countries and basically don’t care that they will kill your dog (either slowly or quickly).
There are some quality manufactured foods out there that won’t break the bank, but generally speaking the cheaper the food the worse the ingredient line-up will be. That doesn’t mean to say that expensive foods are all the best, however. Many foods are more hype than quality or value.
It is also important to know that the list of ingredients are often very deceiving. In order to keep this post a reasonable length I have put the deceptive marketing tricks in another post, which will be linked HERE as soon as it is available.
These are just a handful of the best premium dog food brands (dry food). Listing these foods here is in no way my endoresement of these foods. These are selected at random from a list of 5-star dry foods on the webpage of Dog Food Advisor. I will give recommendations below and I will be posting more in-depth reviews on foods and products (just as soon as I figure out how to write instead of sleep).
All flavors of these brands and varieties of brands are sound, quality food, for what dog food is in general anyway. Dog food, even top foods like these are still made up of refuse and sweep-up from human food production. Another reason I can’t stand paying so much for it!! In reality, making dog food fresh (and/or freezing portions) at home with human-grade quality meat & ingredients is healthier, cheaper, and way tastier! (And did I mention cheaper?)
These are rated as 5-stars, best available dry puppy food in alphabetical order:
- Before Grain (1)
- Blue Buffalo Wilderness (2)
- By Nature Organics (3)
- EVO dog food (4)
- Fromm Four Star Nutritionals Grain-Free (5)
- Great Life Grain-Free (6)
- Orijen (7)
- Taste of the Wild Wetlands and Prairie non-puppy formulations only (8)
- TimberWolf Wild and Natural (9)
- Before Grain dry food manufactured by Merrick, cans are actually manufactured by Merrick. This does make Merrick foods a real keeper and this brand is one I personally recommend.
- Blue Buffalo dry food is manufactured by contract manufacturers; Ohio Pet Foods, cans are contract manufactured by Simmons, formerly Menu Foods & by CJ Foods
- By Nature is a subsidiary of Kent Corporation, which is primarily a wet miller of grains. Big surprise? Not really. Their dry food is manufactured by Kent plants and their cans are contract manufactured by a mystery company, and NOT by “By Nature”(Kent Corp)
- EVO dry foods are manufactured by the Natura plants (Evo and Natura is owned by Proctor & Gamble), canned foods are contract manufactured by a mystery company, and NOT by “EVO” (P&G)
- Fromm manufactures its own dry foods (yay), but not the canned foods. Who does? They work hard to keep that a secret, like all the other brands. What a shame. So much for open honesty, eh? They do state it is a plant in South Dakota. The two plants there that I can find are American Foods and a plant sold by P&G to Simmons.
- Orijen is manufactured by Champion Petfoods, which owns the Orijen and Acana brands, so Orijen manufactures its own dry foods (yay) and does not make canned food specifically because they are unable to manufacture their own cans and refuse to use contract manufacturers. Good for them. They have freeze-dried food but it isn’t that great (in my opinion) This does make Champion Petfoods’ Orijen a real keeper and Orijen is a brand I personally recommend.
- Taste of the Wild is owned by Diamond Pet Food and is manufactured at their plants along with several other brands of food, including store-brand foods. Canned foods are contract manufactured by a mystery company. Diamond has had many recalls but TOTW is relatively inexpensive, so realistically they are a good option if you cannot afford the better foods and have no desire to make your dog-food at home. This brand is one I recommend for budget-minded dog owners (in the varieties listed above only).
- TimberWolf’s foods are all contract manufactured. They formerly were manufactured by Diamond Foods, but since the massive recalls they took their business elsewhere. The information is not readily available, however. Another mystery manufacturer.
- Great Life Grain-Free is manufactured from a contract manufacturer owned by Pied Piper Mills Inc. Canned foods are contract manufactured by a mystery company.
These are rated as 4-stars, next-best available dry puppy food:
Born Free Dog Food
From Four Star Nutritionals (not Grain-Free)
Fromm Gold Nutritionals
Kirkland Dog Food “puppy food” variety (Costco Brand-extremely well priced)
Vet’s Choice Dogfood
Now Grain Free
Any other variety of the “Blue Buffalo” variety (such as
“grain-free”, “basics” & “life-protection”)
I haven’t listed all the manufacturers for these foods, but I will note that I recommend the Kirkland puppy food for those that absolutely cannot afford a more expensive food. This is a brand I have personally used (while we were struggling through school) and when my dogs go on a food strike I will use this brand and formulation along with fresh food mix-ins or occasionally premium canned food mix-ins. Please know that the Kirkland brand puppy food is manufactured by Diamond Pet Foods in the same plants as their other foods. Diamond has been associated with many serious recalls, most of which were involved in the deaths of hundreds of pets several of which were due to ingredients sourced from China.
There are tons of reviews and rating systems out there, but often based on bad science and skewed results because of who is actually funding the reviews/studies/etc. So pay close attention to whatever review you happen to read on any particular food.
Remember that the pet food industry is a billions-of-dollars-a-year industry. Don’t assume that “private” reviews on blogs and so forth are all really from unbiased and honest pet-lovers and experts. Many of them are paid reviews and therefore not to be trusted. Many people also have no idea what they are talking about, or do very little research and base their information on rumors perpetuated by other people that have no idea what they are talking about.
A lot of the most common dog foods out there don’t even make it to 2 stars in my opinion and that opinion is shared with many educated breeders and veterinarians (who aren’t trying to sell something). Brands such as Beneful, Purina, Pedigree, Eukanuba, Iams, Hills/Science Diet …. these are HORRIBLE brands and you should not feed them to your dog literally ever!!
If price is an issue you can use the Kirkland brand (Costco brand) produced by Diamond, it is inexpensive and while it isn’t fantastic, it is a whole lot better than these highly marketed but truly awful dog food.
Well, there’s my two cents. I hope it helps you decide on a food that will make a difference in the life and quality of your pet. When looking for food remember that there is a big difference between surviving and thriving!