An overwhelming aisle of tins, packets, and pouches can make it tricky to pick the best food for your dog. And that’s before we even get into ingredients promising endless health benefits. To help you navigate the options, we spoke to experts including vets and pet nutritionists, scoured ingredient lists, and priced up how much you’ll actually be spending per day. We also researched flavours and taste to ensure they suit your dog’s diet.
Before we get into it, a quick note on the different types of dog food. Your dog will likely have a preference between dry, wet, and raw foods; if you’re having trouble getting your dog to eat enough, try introducing different types of food (or even a mixture) to its diet to suss out what it prefers and what works for your schedule too. If your dog isn’t drinking enough water, wet food can be a sneaky way to address the issue. And if you’re someone who commutes to work each day, dry food is ideal for auto-feeders, keeping your dog in good nick while you’re out.
What we’re looking for:
Meets FEDIAF nutritional standards: The European Pet Food Industry Federation (FEDIAF) sets requirements that food has to meet to gain its approval. Be sure to look out for an FEDIAF approval statement on your dog’s food packaging to ensure it’s up to scratch. All the dog food we’re recommending meets FEDIAF standards.
High-quality ingredients: According to vet Cat Henstridge, an adult dog should have a minimum level of 18 percent protein in its food. So the first ingredient you’ll want to look out for is a protein source such as meat. As with all food, taste matters — so make sure to keep track of which meats and flavour combinations your dog seems to respond to.
Beyond this, it’s advisable to “avoid foods where the bulk of ingredients seem to come from grains, like wheat,” says Michael Lazaris, veterinarian and co-director of Vets on the Common. “Then look for those extra ingredients the brand has chosen to add that can enrich the food like fish oil, joint supplements, and pre/probiotics. This will often show you the company is going the extra mile to make sure your dog is getting the best out of their meals.” Chloé Nerina Fuller, a companion animal nutritionist and performer at DogFest, also emphasises the importance of detail. “An ingredient list that reads: ‘meat meal, rice, maize, oil, minerals’ is not helping us make informed decisions as a caregiver. It isn’t clear what we’re feeding our pet,” she says. Manufacturers leave you in the dark when they don’t specify ingredients, which could put your pet’s health at risk. “Instead, we want to see named protein sources, healthy carbohydrate sources, and percentages of each,” adds Fuller.
Breed size and age: Smaller and toy dogs (like pugs, Chihuahuas, and dachshunds) have smaller mouths and teeth, so it makes sense that the chunks in their food should be smaller and easier to swallow. Veterinarian Jamie Richardson told our sister site that that’s the main difference between food made for smaller and larger breeds. Many of the foods we’ve written about either come from a subscription service, tailored to breed size, or come in various options for different breeds of dogs. We’ve clearly labelled if a food is only suitable for certain breeds or not suitable for puppies (of any size).
Cost per day: The cost-of-living crisis might have you rethinking your current dog-food brand. And it’s not always true that a higher price point indicates higher quality, Henstridge says. But Fuller reminds us that cheaper food is never truly as cheap as it seems: “The costs just crop up elsewhere, months to years down the line in vet bills.”
As each different type of food is prepared and consumed in different quantities, instead of simply listing the raw price to buy, we’ve calculated the rough cost per day to feed your dog (assuming it’s a medium, healthy adult).
Best wet dog food
Meat, fish, vegetables, and seeds | Toy to large breeds, all ages | From £1.60 per day
“Marleybones is one of the best wet foods on the market, with a lower cost compared to equivalent-quality wet foods out there,” says Fuller. Marleybones, a subscription-based service, will design a tailor-made food plan for your dog by asking some basic questions about its physique, activity level, and age. Then you can choose from the suggested suitable foods and flavours, including containing lamb, Scottish salmon, and chicken, each comprising 60 percent of the overall meal.
Beyond their main protein source, they also contain plenty of other encouraging ingredients, such as chia, linseed, and hemp seeds, which are “designed to boost your dog’s essential fatty acids, promoting better coat quality,” says Fuller, who is also fond of the brand’s recyclable packaging and insistence on maintaining a low carbon footprint — “or as they put it, pawprint.”
Best wet dog food for seniors
Lean meat, fish, vegetables, added prebiotics | Toy to large breeds, ages 8 years + | £3.76 per day
This is Lazaris’s go-to dog food for senior dogs. “It contains lean meat to combat weight gain due to slowing metabolisms and is rich in omega-3s, which is good for aging brains,” he tells us. “They’ve also added prebiotics for digestive health and joint supplements for those creaky knees.”
Best dry dog food
Four meats and coconut oil | Medium breeds, 14 weeks + | £3.30 per day
You can leave dry kibble in your dog’s bowl for longer than wet food, making it more convenient and “perfect for automatic feeders,” says Lazaris. For a discerning dog, this dry kibble from Eden contains Suffolk duck, rabbit, lamb, and venison. Combined, they make up a meat content of 80 percent, with a protein digestibility of 88.7 percent — pretty high. As for the sorts of meats themselves, they’re “less likely to be allergenic compared to chicken and beef, making this food a great choice for pets with non-specific food intolerances,” says Fuller. Eden’s ethos, she says, “is to emulate a diet closer to how a wolf would have eaten” but adapted for a healthy, domesticated dog.
In addition to meat, Eden’s kibble contains coconut oil for a glossy coat and healthy skin. Beyond this medium kibble, Eden also offers smaller kibble, suited to small and toy breeds.
Best (less expensive) dry dog food
Pork and chicken, fish oil | Medium breeds, ages 12 months + | £1.04 per day
“HPM stands out amongst many other dry kibble food as being low carbohydrate–high protein, designed to be closer to the nutritional needs of carnivores,” says Lazaris. “The resulting tasty formula helps maintain lean muscle mass” and supports your pet’s joints and gastrointestinal health as well as the quality of its skin and coat.
The brand stocks a range of more than nine kibbles beyond this medium adult dog food, each designed for dogs of different sizes and ages. Virbac advise picking a food for your dog’s age and breed to prevent it from eating too much. The company also recommends introducing its kibble into your dog’s diet gradually, over a period of five to seven days, to allow your pet’s digestive system to comfortably adapt to the change.
Best raw dog food
Assorted British meats and superfood seeds | Toy to large breeds, all ages | £2.95 per day
Strategist contributor Abby Driver’s dog only likes raw food. As well as having a taste that some dogs simply prefer, raw diets can promote better dental hygiene, fresher breath, and better digestion (in certain dogs). Again, it’s all about discovering what works for your dog’s health and preferences. “Just be aware that raw feeding does carry the risk of food poisoning (as with handling any raw meat), so strict hygiene is a must,” Lazaris emphasises.
If you are going to go for a raw diet, Fuller recommends the range by Hug Cookable Raw, “with an ingredient list containing purely meat, vegetables, herbs, and seeds,” she says. You can cook the nutritionally complete food at home. “This is different from other raw foods on the market, which may become nutritionally unbalanced once cooked. It takes a special formulation to be complete both raw and cooked,” adds Lazaris. As another brand offering tailor-made feeding plans, Hug’s range is suited to all ages and sizes. This taster pack works for medium, adult dogs (ages 12 months and over), featuring a few different flavours so you can find out which your dog likes best.
Best freeze-dried raw dog food
Chicken or beef, flaxseed and fish oil | All breed sizes, ages 10 months + | £3.67 per day
If you want to feed your dog a raw diet but lack freezer space, Lazaris recommends Ella & Co.’s freeze-dried raw food. “This food can be stored in your cupboard and you simply add water at dinnertime,” he says. “Freeze-dried is also safer to handle, as the freezing process can kill off dangerous bacteria like salmonella.” In its chicken recipe, Ella & Co. uses the whole carcass, as the chondroitin and glucosamine found in bones and cartilage have been proven to lead to healthier joints in dogs. The chunks measure 10mm x 15mm, usually most suited to medium to large breeds. But this mix is soft enough for you to break it up by hand, feeding it to smaller and toy breeds.
[Editor’s note: This product is currently on preorder.]
Some other dog foods we’ve written about:
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