Dog lovers often worry about providing their best friends with the best dog food possible. There are so many food choices today that it can be a major headache trying to figure out what to feed your dog. Every company seems to make extravagant marketing claims. Dog foods are “new and improved,” “natural,” “holistic,” “ancestral,” and the list goes on. How do you know which one is the best dry dog food? Or the best wet dog food, if you prefer to feed a canned food?
We can help you choose the best dry dog food for your dog based on his nutritional needs. There are just a few things to explain first and then we’ll give you our list of the best dry dog foods.
Grain free or grain-inclusive?
In the last 10-15 years grain free diets have become extremely popular. These foods were originally created for dogs with allergies that were not able to eat ordinary dog foods. Over time, many people began feeding grain free dog foods to their dogs even if they weren’t necessary. Unfortunately, pet food companies realized that adding ingredients such as lentils, peas, and other legumes to dog foods could boost the protein percentage. Many dog foods began having less meat content and more peas. The protein percentage for these foods still looked very high on the label but dogs do not digest plant protein as well as meat protein.
Additionally, veterinary cardiologists began reporting that they were seeing more dogs with a condition called dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) http://vetnutrition.tufts.edu/2018/11/dcm-update/. DCM is hereditary in a few breeds but it was now being reported in breeds where it had never been seen before. The thing the dogs had in common was that they had been fed grain free dog foods or foods with exotic ingredients. In July 2018 the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) put out a warning https://www.fda.gov/animalveterinary/newsevents/cvmupdates/ucm613305.htm about dog foods that contained peas, lentils, legumes, other pulses, and potatoes (including sweet potatoes) as main ingredients. In a recent update https://www.fda.gov/animalveterinary/newsevents/ucm630993.htm, more than 300 dogs have been confirmed to have cases of dilated cardiomyopathy; nearly 200 of those dogs ate only grain free dog food.
What does this mean for dog owners? Veterinary cardiologists involved with this research suggest that you avoid feeding dog foods that contain peas, lentils, and other legumes, or potatoes/sweet potatoes as main ingredients. They recommend feeding your dog a grain-inclusive dog food. Companies that have veterinary nutritionists on staff to formulate recipes are recommended, as are companies that do feeding trials.
Some dog owners probably won’t like this change in emphasis in dog foods, especially if it means feeding grain-inclusive dog foods. Many of the foods now recommended come from companies such as Purina, Eukanuba, Hill’s, and Royal Canin. These large companies have veterinary nutritionists on staff and can afford to do feeding trials (which are expensive). Many of their foods contain corn which has been condemned by dog food bloggers for years. Yet corn contains amino acids which are the precursors to taurine. Low levels of taurine have been found in some of the dogs that have been eating foods with lentils, peas, and other legumes. Many of these dogs have developed DCM while dogs fed grain-inclusive diets have not.
This is a very complex subject and the FDA is still investigating grain free dog foods and their link to DCM. There are some good groups https://www.facebook.com/groups/TaurineDCM/ on Facebook about this subject, moderated by veterinarians.
When recommending the best dry dog foods, we have to take this issue into account.
The 5 best dry dog foods
The foods chosen here are for adult dogs without any specific health problems. If your dog has a health issue, talk to your veterinarian to help choose the best dog food. Most pet food companies have other formulas that are suitable for puppies, along with other recipes and flavors. These brands have not been involved in reports of dogs with DCM at this point.
1Eukanuba Performance Dog Food: Active Dog Food
Eukanuba Performance Dog Food: Active Dog Food is a favorite food for active dogs. It has 28 percent crude protein and 18 percent crude fat so it supplies dogs with a lot of energy. Chicken is the first ingredient. This is a top choice for active sporting dogs and other dogs that spend a lot of time outside. For hunting dogs and other dogs that use even more energy, they also have a 30/20 performance formula. Eukanuba also has lifestage formulas and breed specific formulas that are very popular.
2Royal Canin Cavalier King Charles Spaniel Adult Dry Dog Food
Royal Canin has both retail and prescription diets. Their retail formulas include foods based on size and on breed. One of the things we like about Royal Canin is the fact that they have entire lines devoted to some dogs with special requirements such as giant breed dogs. For example, they offer puppy food for giant breeds up to 8 months of age; a junior puppy food from 8 months to 18-24 months; and an adult food for giant breed dogs. If you have a small breed such as the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, we like their breed specific food for adult dogs 10 months and older. This food has taurine for your dog’s heart health, along with EPA and DHA from fish oil. It also has L-carnitine for healthy cardiac function. The exclusive kibble shape helps your Cavalier easily pick up and chew the food. The balanced formula keeps your dog at a healthy weight.
3Purina Pro Plan Bright Mind Adult Chicken & Rice Formula
Purina Pro Plan has a wide selection of dog foods in different formulas such as Sport, Bright Mind, Focus, and Savor. Sport is a great choice for active dogs. It comes in different recipes with various protein and fat formulations and it’s popular with both hunters and people that show dogs. We also like Bright Mind which has been formulated for cognitive health and mental sharpness. It contains medium chain triglycerides which are being used in the treatment of Alzheimer’s patients. Dogs that are experiencing a slow down in mental functions associated with aging can often benefit from Bright Mind. Chicken is the first ingredient and the food contains DHA, EPA, antioxidants, B Vitamins, and Arginine to support cognitive health. Vitamin A and Linoleic Acid, an omega-6 fatty acid, help your dog’s skin and coat.
4Sport Dog Food Working Dog Grain & Peas Free Turkey Formula
Sport Dog Food has been quietly shunning less desirable ingredients for years. Their formulas are free of peas and white potatoes; and flax free. Many of the ingredients they avoid are problematic for a dog’s system. Their Working Dog formula has 29 percent crude protein and 17 percent crude fat. This food is ideal for very active working and sporting dogs. This food does contain sweet potatoes but they are a relatively low percentage. Sport Dog Food has been doing very well among dogs tested for DCM.
5Nature’s Logic Canine Duck & Salmon Meal Feast
Nature’s Logic has been popular with some dog lovers for a long time because of its ingredients. They offer a 100 percent whole food diet that provides complete nutrition for your dog regardless of breed, size, or age. Over 60 percent of the ingredients in the Canine Duck & Salmon Meal Feast are from animals. The food contains no synthetic vitamins or minerals. Duck meal is the first ingredient in this food. This formula has 38 percent crude protein and 15 percent crude fat. Nature’s Logic has been performing well among dogs tested for DCM. The company offers many other dry food recipes.
These are the dog food companies that we can recommend to you at this time as having the best dog foods. Hill’s and Farmina also have some good foods. In the case of Farmina, we would only recommend their low grain/ancestral dog foods.
This is a time of change with dog foods in light of the FDA investigation. At this time no one knows exactly why some of these foods – grain free and foods with exotic ingredients – seem to be producing dilated cardiomyopathy in dogs. We hope that researchers can find an answer soon. In the meantime, choosing a food that is grain inclusive seems safest.