The Best Dog Foods of 2024, According to Animal Nutrition Experts

What to Look for in Dog Food

Our experts recommend using the following criteria as a guide. Your veterinarian can also help you determine the most appropriate food for your dog.

AAFCO Nutritional Adequacy Statement: This is the most crucial factor in determining whether a dog food is healthy. Any food you feed your dog must state on the label that it meets the nutritional standards established by the AAFCO. This means the food is “complete and balanced” for the dog’s life stage. You can learn more about these standards and definitions at the end of this article.

Guaranteed analysis: This is where you will find the percentages of the most important nutrients contained in the food: protein, fat, fiber and moisture. You may find other nutrients like glucosamine, chondroitin, and omega fatty acids listed in the guaranteed analysis. It’s worth checking whether the brand regularly tests its finished product to ensure it meets standards, says Shepherd. You can usually find this information on a brand’s website. Foods in this guide contain moderate to high protein (AAFCO minimums are 22.5% for puppies and 18% for adults) and low to moderate fat (AAFCO minimums are 8.5% for puppies and 5.5% for adults).

List of ingredients : The first thing to look for at the top is animal protein sources. You’ll find them in the top slot of all foods featured in this guide. Whole meat is ideal but tends to be quite heavy due to its water content. With dry foods, this water is removed, so the meat content may not be as high as it seems. There is no need to deduct meat meals, which are generally made from animal parts that humans don’t eat. These can be excellent sources of protein if they are high quality and may even contain more protein than whole meat. Meat by-products shouldn’t be a deal breaker either. They are treated to eliminate harmful pathogens and, according to the AAFCOare safe and nutritious.

The healthiest: Some foods contain additional ingredients intended to promote healthy skin, coat and joints, Swanson says. Examples include long-chain omega-3 fatty acids (EPA and DHA, usually from oils or flours of marine origin), glucosamine, chondroitin, green mussels and other vitamins (vitamin A, biotin ) and minerals (zinc, copper). . Probiotics, prebiotics and yeast can also benefit a puppy’s immature gastrointestinal tract, and probiotics can help boost overall immunity in older dogs.

Calorie content: Dogs can begin to gain weight if they consume excess calories. This can cause health problems, so look for the calorie content listed in kilocalories (kcal) on the nutrition label. If your dog is not very active, he will need fewer calories, and if your dog is very active, he will need higher calorie meals. Helping your dog feel satisfied with his food is very important, and volume can help. Ideally, you want your dog to eat the largest volume of food possible while staying within their ideal daily calorie range. Look at this calorie calculator from the Pet Nutrition Alliance to determine how many calories your dog needs. Foods that achieved this balance were rated higher in our selection process. As always, your veterinarian can help you determine if you are feeding your dog the right amount of calories.

Feeding tests: If a food has undergone feeding testing in addition to laboratory analysis of the food’s ingredients, this is a major advantage. “It is expensive to conduct food testing, and the foods validated by these tests are made by companies that devote a lot of resources to quality control,” Shepherd says. If the nutritional adequacy statement on the label says something like: “Animal feeding tests using AAFCO procedures prove that (the product) provides complete and balanced nutrition for (the stage of life)”, this means that the food has been proven by feeding trials to be effective. be tasty, digestible and able to nourish pets over time.

Expert formulations: It is important to ask who decides what goes into the food. Shepherd says you want to look for companies that have a doctoral-level nutritionist on staff with experience in canine nutrition. The brand is also expected to employ food scientists who collaborate with nutrition experts. For this guide, we prioritized brands that have a dedicated nutrition expert on staff to align with WSAVA recommendations.

Next Level Ingredients: Despite marketing messages, human-grade, organic, wild-caught, or cage-free products are not necessarily healthier for your pet. But if you care about the welfare of the animals you and your pets eat, these ingredients are a plus. Unlike farmed fish, wild-caught fish are not treated with antibiotics or medications, so they may also be better for your dog. You’ll also find foods containing meat and eggs from free-range chickens and turkeys.


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