The 8 Best Dog Food Brands, According to Veterinarians

Our favorite dog food brand is Purina Pro Plan

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Best Dog Food Brands

The Spruce / Chloe Jeong

Reviewed & Approved

Our favorite dog food brand recommended by veterinarians is Purina Pro Plan, which provides validated and comprehensive nutrition in a variety of formulas that can be tailored to your dog. Dog owners on a budget should check out Pedigree, which offers a wide variety of nutritionally-verified formulas for different dog sizes and ages.

The right dog food provides complete nutrition and dietary support, sure, but it also has to be a food your dog will love.

“There are numerous aspects to consider when evaluating dog foods,” explains Dr. Jennifer Frione, DVM, owner of Lakeside Animal Hospital. “Factors to look at include the pet food label, ingredients and guaranteed analysis, the pet's age and the pet's medical state or conditions.”

We evaluated a wide range of dog food brands, seeking advice from veterinarians and researching nutritional certifications to collect the most trustworthy dog food brands available. You can learn more about how to evaluate dog food brands in the What To Look For section (below) or in The Spruce Pets guide to choosing a dog food.

Here are the best dog food brands, according to veterinarians.

Our Top Picks

Best Overall: Purina Pro Plan

4.8
Purina Pro Plan
Courtesy of Amaozn.
What We Like
  • Wide range of formulas for all life stages

  • Brand employs team of nutritionists and vets

  • Products made in USA

What We Don't Like
  • Can be pricey

Purina Pro Plan offers more than 80 dog food varieties and Dr. Frione often recommends them for her patients. In addition to wet and dry options, Purina Pro Plan formulas include food nutritionally designed for adult dogs, puppies of various sizes, senior dogs, and specialized diet support for overweight dogs, sensitive stomachs, and more.

Various formulas also include up-to-the-minute nutritional research, incorporating ingredients such as gut-health promoting probiotics, vitamin A and omega-6 fatty acids that can help promote a healthy coat. Purina Pro Plan's puppy formula incorporate extra calcium for bone health, while its "Performance" formula for active dogs incorporates a 30% / 20% blend of protein and fat, designed to maintain lean muscle mass.

In addition to well-researched and certified formulations, Purina Pro Plan also incorporates high quality ingredients, with real meat often appearing as the top ingredient.

Purina Pro Plan dog food meets FDA regulatory standards, and also adheres to nutritional guidelines laid out by the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO). The brand also uses responsibly sourced ingredients and makes 99% of its pet products in Purina-owned facilities in the United States.

Best Budget: Pedigree

Pedigree
Courtesy of Amazon.
What We Like
  • Affordably priced

  • Options for many types of dogs

  • Formulated by scientists and nutritionists

What We Don't Like
  • Ingredients aren’t the most high quality

There’s a common misconception about dog food that more expensive products are automatically better, but there are plenty of affordable dog food brands that offer healthy and nutritionally complete options for your pet—including Pedigree. This brand is owned by Mars Pet, and it includes more than 60 types of wet and dry dog food. Pedigree has products specifically designed for both puppies and adult dogs, and there are a few formulas for dogs with specific needs, such as high protein and weight loss. 

Mars owns The Waltham Petcare Science Institute, a pet research center that employs scientists and pet nutritionists who develop pet food formulas for all its brands. While the ingredients in Pedigree dog foods may not always be the most high-quality, the products are still nutritionally sound and easy to digest.

Expert Buying Tips

"The label should include the phrase 'complete and balanced.' Usually, this is in reference to a particular life stage of the pet. Complete and balanced pet foods have either met nutrient profiles established by the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) or passed a feeding trial using AAFCO procedures."–Dr. Joanne Intile DVM, MS, DACVIM, Assistant Clinical Professor of Medical Oncology, North Carolina State University College of Veterinary Medicine

Best Dry: Royal Canin

Royal Canin

Courtesy of Petco

What We Like
  • Offers breed-specific choices

  • Formulated by scientists and nutritionists

  • Highly palatable to most dogs

What We Don't Like
  • Some formulas can be expensive

Dry dog food is a popular choice for many pet owners thanks to its convenience and shelf stability, and one of the best dry dog food brands is Royal Canin, which offers more than 80 dry formulas. In addition to dry food for adults, puppies, and senior dogs, Royal Canin has a unique line of breed-specific foods, each of which is tailored to that dog breed’s traits and common problems. Even the kibble shape is selected based on the breed’s jaw structure and biting pattern.

Royal Canin is another brand that Dr. Frione personally recommends, and the company employs nutritional and research teams that help create its products. The brand takes a nutrient-focused approach to pet food, evaluating the specific nutritional needs of dogs and creating optimal diet profiles based on scientific findings.

Best Wet: Hill's Science Diet

Hill's Science Diet Adult Sensitive Stomach & Skin Canned Food

Courtesy of Amazon

What We Like
  • Offers both regular and prescription wet foods

  • Multiple can sizes available

  • Brand focus on quality and safety

  • Formulated by team of nutritionists and vets

What We Don't Like
  • Expensive

Hill’s Science Diet is another brand that gets the seal of approval from Dr. Frione, and it’s especially popular for those who prefer to feed their dog wet food. This brand offers an impressive selection of wet dog foods, including formulas for puppies, adults, and seniors, and it also has a highly regarded line of prescription foods for dogs with specific medical problems. (Hill’s Prescription Diet products require vet authorization to purchase.)

This brand is committed to creating high-quality dog foods, and its products all meet or exceed the nutrient profiles and manufacturing guidelines of the AAFCO and the World Small Animal Veterinary Association (WSAVA). The company employs over 220 Ph.D. nutritionists, veterinarians, and scientists, and its safety standards are modeled after those of human food manufacturers.

Best for Puppies: Purina One

Purina One

Courtesy of Amazon

What We Like
  • Widely available

  • More affordable than Purina Pro Plan

  • Brand employs team of nutritionists and vets

  • Products made in USA

What We Don't Like
  • Limited number of products

The brands above all offer high-quality puppy food, but another top choice for puppies is Purina One. Similar to Purina Pro Plan, Purina One is a science-based food that offers premium nutrition for growing dogs. This brand offers three puppy-specific foods, including a regular dry food, large breed puppy dry food, and wet food option, and you can typically find these products at big name retail and grocery stores—not just specialty pet stores.

Like other Purina brands, Purina One formulas are created by the company’s team of nutritionists, veterinarians, and scientists, and they provide balanced and complete nutrition for growing puppies. The food follows AAFCO guidelines, and it’s made without any unnecessary filler ingredients.

Best Human-Grade Ingredients: The Honest Kitchen Dog Food

The Honest Kitchen Whole Grain Turkey Recipe

Courtesy of Amazon

What We Like
  • Made with human-grade ingredients

  • Good selection of products

What We Don't Like
  • Expensive

  • Unclear whether brand employs veterinary nutritionist

While there are no official regulations that dictate what “human-grade” dog food entails, the term is most often used to mean that the food is stored, handled, processed, and transported in the same way as human edible foods. (However, “human-grade” does not automatically mean the food has appropriate levels of nutrients, so it’s important that it also meets AAFCO guidelines.) The Honest Kitchen is one of the top brands that offers human-grade dog food, and its products are made without any "feed grade" ingredients or meat meals, fillers, feed grade by-products, corn, wheat, or soy. 

The Honest Kitchen sells several types of dog food, including dehydrated, wet, and “whole food clusters,” which is the equivalent of dry food. It has formulas for adults, puppies, and seniors, as well as a variety of protein flavors. The recipes meet the nutritional guidelines established by AAFCO, but it’s unclear whether they were formulated by a veterinary nutritionist.

Best for Picky Eaters: Bil-Jac

Bil-Jac

Courtesy of Petco

What We Like
  • Soft texture and taste

  • Formulas for small, medium, and large dogs

  • Fresh chicken is the main ingredient

  • Made in USA

What We Don't Like
  • Unclear whether brand employs veterinary nutritionist

If your pooch tends to turn its nose up at regular kibble, you may want to try feeding them Bil-Jac, which has a unique soft formula that many dogs enjoy. The brand makes dry, wet, and even frozen food, and it even has a special line of products for dogs with discerning tastes, called Picky No More. Bil-Jac offers different dog food formulas for small, medium, and large breeds, and it also has puppy and senior foods. 

The unique texture of Bil-Jac food is created by its slow-cooking process, which the brand claims makes the food taste better. Many pet owners like that fresh chicken is the first ingredient in many Bil-Jac dog foods, and the food is formulated to meet AAFCO guidelines. 

Best for Dogs with Food Sensitivities: Merrick Limited Ingredient Diet

Merrick Limited Ingredient Diet with Healthy Grains Real Salmon & Brown Rice Recipe Dry Dog Food

Courtesy of Amazon

What We Like
  • Made with 10 ingredients or less

  • Available in several flavors

  • Formulated by veterinary nutritionists

What We Don't Like
  • Expensive

For dogs with specific food sensitivities, Merrick Limited Ingredient dog foods are made with 10 ingredients or less, yet they still deliver complete, balanced nutrition to your pet. This line of food is available in both wet and dry formulas, and it comes in a variety of flavors, all of which have deboned meat, fish, or poultry as the first ingredient. 

Merrick is part of Nestlé Purina, meaning they use the same team of nutritionists, veterinarians, and behaviorists when creating their dog food formulas. The brand also has its own Ph.D. nutritionists on staff. Merrick dog foods don’t contain any fillers, additives, sweeteners, colors, or preservatives, and they’re made in the company’s Texas-based kitchen.

Final Verdict

No matter what type of dog you own, Purina Pro Plan is a top choice for its dog food. This highly trusted brand is extremely transparent about its processes, and it offers a wide range of formulas for dogs of all sizes, ages, and lifestyles. If you’re looking for a less-expensive dog food, Pedigree (view at Chewy) offers complete and balanced formulas for dogs of all ages. 

What to Look for in a Dog Food Brand

Intended Life Stage

Your dog’s age, size, lifestyle, and medical conditions should all factor into your choice of a dog food brand. A growing puppy has different nutritional needs than an adult dog, and a dog who is overweight shouldn’t be given the same food as a highly active sporting dog. If you’re uncertain about your dog’s life stage and particular food needs, talk to your vet to figure out what type of food will work best. 

Nutritional Adequacy Statement

“The Association of American Feed Control Officers (AAFCO) has developed specific guidelines for defining ingredients, testing, feeding trial protocols, and official terminology for dog foods,” explains Dr. Frione. “When choosing dog food, make sure it meets the standards outlined by AAFCO, which should be noted on the packaging.” 

This nutritional adequacy statement is typically found on the back of the bag underneath the guaranteed analysis, and it usually reads something like, “[Brand] is formulated to meet the nutritional levels established by the AAFCO Dog Food Nutrient Profiles for maintenance/adult dogs.” If you notice the food is labeled as “short-term," "intermittent," or "complementary,” it is not a complete source of nutrition for your dog. The AAFCO also has comprehensive guidance on reading dog food labels.

Veterinary Nutritionist Formulated

Another way to assess the quality of a dog food brand is by determining how its products are formulated. Dr. Frione and the World Small Animal Veterinary Association (WSAVA) both recommend looking for a brand that employs a veterinary nutritionist, ideally with a Ph.D. in animal nutrition, as recipe development is a complex process that’s not taught in most veterinary school programs. 

FAQ
  • What is the best way to find out if a dog food brand is recalled?

    “Talk to your veterinarian if you hear a dog food may have been recalled,” says Dr. Frione. “The FDA website will also report recent recalls.” You can find a current list of FDA recalls and withdrawals, as well as the reason for the recall, on the agency’s website.

  • Is it bad to mix dog food brands?

    “At Lakeside Animal Hospital, we recommend staying with one type of food, as switching food regularly has often led to gastrointestinal upset,” says Dr. Frione. If the dog food you’re feeding your pet is not a complete source of nutrition, you may want to talk to your vet about switching to a different food or supplementing your dog’s diet. 

Why Trust The Spruce Pets?

This article was written by Camryn Rabideau, a freelance writer and lifelong animal lover who currently owns two dogs, both of whom she feeds Purina Pro Plan dog food at the recommendation of her vet. 

Pet nutrition is a complicated topic, so she reached out to Dr. Jennifer Frione, DVM, owner of Lakeside Animal Hospital, for guidance on what to look for in a dog food. She also did ample research through trusted sources, including the AAFCO, WSAVA, Tufts University, and Pet Nutrition Alliance. To evaluate various dog food brands for quality, she considered their range of products, nutritional content, ingredients, recalls, and development team, prioritizing brands with comprehensive teams including vet nutritionists, veterinarians, and scientists.