OpenCart Templates

The Best Dry Dog Food…

How We Found the Best Dry Dog Food

We began with 1,610 formulas.

This isn’t our first time ‘round the (dog) rodeo. Check out our review of the Best Dog Food for more in-depth tips and a how to choose the right dog food for your pup.

Our goal was to examine every dry dog food formula available in the US. To make it onto the list, each product needed to have an ingredient list (why feed your pup mystery gunk?) and a working website. This left us with 1,610 dry dog food formulas to comb through.

We cut toxic ingredients, like grapes and garlic.

Some human-friendly foods are toxic to dogs. Among the most notorious are chocolate, avocados, grapes, garlic, and onion. It seemed absurd that any known toxic ingredients would in dog food, but 5 formulas contained grape products, and nearly 100 contained garlic.

And what’s so bad about grapes and garlic? Grapes (and raisins) have been shown to cause acute kidney failure in dogs. Because they can be toxic in any form, we cut the 5 formulas with grape products. Along with leeks, scallions, chives, and shallots, garlic and onion are members of the Allium plant genus, which is toxic to both cats and dogs. They can all make dogs super sick if eaten in large quantities, but can also cause serious issues, such as anemia, if eaten in small amounts over time. The only possible plus to garlic and onion is their extra punch of flavor to a bland-tasting formula — but we don’t see the sense in risking your dog’s health for a bit of extra flavor, so we cut the offending formulas.

We also found 20 formulas that contained avocado flesh or oil. But since it’s avocado pit that’s toxic, not the avocado flesh or oil, we didn’t cut them. The AvoDerm formulas in our top picks have avocado oil, but this will not harm your dog.

We screened out iffy “meats” and “meals.”

With a limitless budget, we’d no doubt let our dogs eat fresh turkey, halibut, and bison to their heart’s content for the rest of their lives. But the fact is, whole meats are pricey. Many manufacturers use meat meal as a supplement to produce their formulas at a lower cost while still being nutritionally complete.

Though it might sound unappetizing, meal isn’t inherently bad. It’s basically “concentrated” meat, created in a process called rendering — extremely high temperature and pressure separate fat from dried protein, leaving behind the high-protein meal. As a result of this process, the FDA notes that meal can contain higher concentrations of protein, nutrients, and minerals than whole meats.

But we have some issues with meal. Manufacturers aren’t legally required to be transparent about their rendering process. Since processing at high temperature and pressure can also destroy natural enzymes and proteins, this means the nutritional quality of meat meal may be inconsistent between manufacturers, or even batches.

When it appears on a label, meat meal is basically a mystery. According to AAFCO guidelines, “meat meal” is sourced “from mammals other than cattle, pigs, sheep or goats without further description,” which means you can’t be sure exactly what’s in it. In fact, this can include some pretty gross stuff like restaurant grease, diseased livestock, and expired supermarket meat. So we made some cuts.

First, we cut formulas that included any kind of unnamed meats.

These show up on ingredient lists as “meat meal,” “meat and bone meal,” “byproduct meal,” or sometimes even just “meat.” But we passed brands that used named meat meal, like “venison meal” or “salmon meal.” This ensures you know what you’re feeding your dog — and keeps leftover restaurant grease and roadkill out of their stomach.

Second, we cut anything without a named whole protein (think “Chicken”, “Venison”, or “Salmon”) as the first ingredient.

According to the FDA, ingredients are listed in order of weight, with the heaviest ingredients listed first. We didn’t want to cut everything with meal listed anywhere in the ingredient list (which would’ve only left a handful of extremely pricey options), but we did feel that a truly high-quality dog food shouldn’t take shortcuts on its main, starring ingredient.

We rejected formulas with too many fillers.

Ingredients like corn, grain, and rice, while frequently found in dog food formulas, are controversial among pet parents. But plant-based ingredients aren’t inherently bad: “Dogs are somewhat omnivorous so their food does not need to be 100% meat-based,” Dr. Gary Richter of Montclair Veterinary Hospital told us. “That said, the protein source in the food should be 100% meat-based. While dogs are equipped to handle a certain amount of carbohydrates in their diet, they should not be a majority ingredient.”

If the majority of a formula is plant-based, it’s likely a sign of a lower-quality formula. Since we’d already required our top picks to have a whole protein like chicken or salmon at the top of the list, we followed by cutting any formulas with non-meat fillers, like corn starch and potatoes, as the second ingredient. The best dog food should be front-loaded with named, meat-based proteins, not carbs.

We cut questionable artificial additives.

Artificial additives, such as preservatives, colors, and flavors, are very common in dog food formulas, and healthy dogs won’t get sick from occasionally eating them. But eating those additives every day for years can take a toll on their health. “It’s like pointing a ship — if you’re a few degrees off you’ll end up miles away from your destination,” explains Steve Pelletier, Vice President of Food at PetNet. “Not a big deal for one or two feedings, but it’d be bad over the course of three or four years.”

Given that there are plenty of better options out there, we figure it’s best not to risk it. Instead of artificial preservatives, our top picks used natural preservatives such as rosemary, vitamin C, and mixed tocopherols.

We also took a closer look at “natural flavor”, which we expected to be just that — flavor naturally resulting from meat being cooked. But that’s not necessarily the case: the FDA explains that natural flavors, when listed as an ingredient, are actually processed “digests” — mystery materials treated with heat, enzymes, and acids to form concentrated natural flavors.

Pelletier noted that while concentrated flavor itself isn’t always a bad thing, the lack of transparency is concerning: “According to current labeling rules, dog food companies are allowed to consider these natural flavors proprietary, and are not required to disclose exactly what is used to make the flavoring nor what chemical processes are involved.”

Again, this ingredient is unlikely to kill your dog, but if you’re going to be feeding your canine pal the same few brands his whole life, we think it’s best that he’s not continually ingesting any ingredients shrouded in mystery. Packed with high-quality protein, these foods should be enticing all on their own, without the need for any artificial flavors or colors.

Guide to the best dog food ingredients

We looked at how consistent quality was within each line.

At this point we had over 100 safe, high-quality formulas, but we wanted to go a few steps further and make sure that our top picks also excelled from a purchasing perspective. We wanted our top picks to offer multiple options that passed our criteria: The best brands would offer product lines (whether “Grain-Free”, “Organics”, or “Limited Ingredient”) that contained safe, high-quality formulas. Given that formulas within a line tend to be packaged similarly, it’s easy to confuse a so-so formula for an excellent one. We wanted to be sure that the lines we were buying from would be reliably high-quality all the way through, so you don’t need to scrutinize ingredient lists every time you pick up your regular case of dog chow.

We checked out how easy (or not) it was to buy the food.

Finally, we made sure that all of our remaining picks were easy to find and purchase. Some, like TimberWolf, are only sold in specialty pet shops in the Pacific Northwest. Others, like Dynamite, could only be purchased directly from the manufacturer’s site. We’ve included these harder-to-find brands below, but our favorites were all-around winners not only for their top-notch formulas, but also because they’re available at accessible retailers like Chewy, PetCo, and Amazon.

Source link

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *