How to Choose Dog Food

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The following items represent some of The Dog Food Advisor’s most frequently asked questions about how to choose a dog food.

Choosing dog food seems so confusing. How can I learn the basics?

Watch Dr. Karen Becker’s short video and go shopping with her as she presents the basics on how to choose a dog food.

There are so many dog foods to pick from, can you help me find the best one for my pet?

We truly wish we could take the time to search the many dog foods on our website to help you find one that meets your pet’s special needs. However, the Dog Food Advisor was never designed to provide custom services of this nature.

What’s the best way to pick one myself?

Why not limit your search to the 3, 4 and 5-star products we’ve already screened from the thousands of recipes currently available.

Or for help finding a special type, see our Best Dog Foods page for links to some of our suggested products.

And be sure to also check the comments at the end of each review to see what our readers (the real experts) have to say, too.

Can you compare two different dog foods for me?

Unfortunately, time does not permit us to provide personalized product comparisons.

Besides, since each dog responds to a particular food in its own way, it would be impossible for us to compare two or more recipes and predict which one would be the right choice for your pet.

What does the Dog Food Advisor feed his own dog?

I’d love to be able to share with you my favorite dog food. But I really don’t have one.

Besides, it would be unfair to publicly endorse a specific brand while there are so many other good ones to pick from.

My dog has a specific health problem. Can you recommend a food that could help his condition?

Unfortunately, since I’m not a veterinarian, you’ve asked a question I don’t feel qualified to answer. Although I’m sure there are specific dog foods that could help, we try to limit our services to reading and interpreting pet food labels only.

We never attempt to judge the ability of any dog food to address certain problems or deliver specific health benefits.

What’s better… canned or dry dog food?

Because of their low cost and unbeatable convenience, dry kibbles are the most popular dog foods in use.

But they’re not always the best. Canned foods can be some of the best (and most overlooked) choices available.

Although there are situations when feeding either one might be the better choice, there are also times when mixing the two together (a process known as topping) makes an especially tasty meal.

To learn more, see our article, “What’s Better… Canned or Dry Dog Food?

  • Lara Fiumano-MacGowan

    I have a German shepherd puppy who is 8 months old. I currently have him on taste of wild. He is a picky eater. U however he is high energy regards Less how many walks we go on and his huge fence in yard.
    I feel it’s just not his puppy state. I recently have been adding rice to his diet and it seems tohelp with his energy. Any suggestions on what to feed him? Some have recommended royal canin german shepard line? Than is for t he help!!!

  • Allie Riedl

    Just to note in general, lamb is always going to be the protein that is most sensitive to a dog’s stomach. If you’re going to go with a protein that will cause the least amount of problems, start with lamb.

  • Allie Riedl

    Vital Essentials! A great line of raw food. Has both frozen patties/niblets and freeze dried niblets and treats. Expensive but worth looking into. They are also regulated by the USDA so it’s all top quality stuff.

  • KevinKelly

    We have been feeding our 4 year old Border Collie mix a raw food diet (raw meaty bones) for the past 2+ years. Mostly chicken quarters with small portion of veggies (sweet potato, rice, beans). Seems to be working well so far. She has sparkling teeth, smaller less offensive poops, and otherwise perfect health/energy. Looking for something comparable for travel and leaning towards the dehydrated products mentioned by Dr. Becker. Anyone care to weigh in on this plan?

  • Crazy4cats

    Yes, you are right. My human friends with Graves’ disease eyes were affected. Maybe because he lost all the hair on his nose, it looked that way. But you could definitely see a big portion of the whites of his eyes and now you can’t. Weird? He definitely looks and feels a lot better now and only a small dose of meds.

  • Shawna

    Bulging eyes is a symptom of hyperthyroid in humans. I didn’t realize it could be a symptom of hypo in dogs….. Interesting.

  • Crazy4cats

    Hi Alison-
    Just wanted to let you know that my furry lab nephew was diagnosed with hypothyroidism as well about 9 months ago. My sister gives him a tiny pill everyday. The results are amazing! He is like a new pup. His eyes are not bulging, his hair has grown back and he has a ton of energy. She’s not sure she’s crazy about his new energy level, though! She has to spend a lot of time throwing him tennis balls again. LOL! I’m not saying that you shouldn’t change his food or find a holistic vet, but wanted to let you know not to be too afraid of the medication. They will check her blood every few months until everything levels out. Good luck! I think that it is awesome that you rescued a dog from the humane society. Good luck!

  • Alison Lake Lukomske

    Up to this point she has been healthy. Thank you for your advise. I will look into a holistic vet.

  • Shawna

    Hi Alison,

    Certain foods can cause hypothyroidism in two different ways that I know of. 1. Certain foods, in susceptible people and pets, can damage the gut (villous atrophy is the technical term) in such a way that the nutrients fed can not fully absorbed. Dairy did this to me and I became iron deficient, b12 deficient and iodine deficient (which caused my thyroid to become under active or hypothyroid). The gluten grains (wheat and barley are often used in dog foods) are other foods that can do this. 2. Lectins are a type of protein in many foods that can get past the gut into the bloodstream and from there can affect any part of the body including the thyroid gland. Food intolerances, yeast infections, some medications etc can cause the gut damage that can let those lectin proteins in. Foods with lectins are dairy, soy, all grains (esp gluten grains), legumes/lentils, eggs, potato, chicken and more. Unless feeding a home made or raw diet it is likely difficult to avoid all these types of food — and unnecessary. Other than the hypothyroid, and resulting symptoms, has your girl been healthy?

    Do you by chance have a holistic vet near by that you could take your girl to? I perosnally wouldn’t feed Nutro but I think it is important to have your vet on board with dietary changes. I never started meds for my hypothyroid and was able to completely reverse it by taking therapeutic grades of kelp (for the iodine). But I wouldn’t do this without the support and recommendation of a holistic vet.

  • Alison Lake Lukomske

    I have a heinz 57. Adopted from the Humane society. She is two years old now and recently started losing her fur on both sides. She was diagnosed with low thyroid and has been put on medication. They said she would have to be on it from now on. I am not a big believer in having to take medication, can some of her issues be resolved through her diet?
    The vet switched her food about 6 weeks ago to Nutro Max chicken and rice. Not sure if this is the best for her.
    Please help, i am at a loss. She is such a good dog but lately seems to be stressed out and withdrawn.

  • mari schala

    I have a 38 lb Border Collie mix, 4 years old. Moderately active. I want to transaction her off Blue Buffalo. I purchased a bad of merrick grainfree chicken sweet potato. The Protein is 38% and fat 17%. Is that too much for her?

  • Anita Sievers

    I have a 2 year old, 9# Shih Tzu. Ever since we got her 1 year ago it has been difficult to get her to eat. Her foster mother also had the same problem. She came from a family where the owner died, so she was placed with a rescue group. I have been feeding her dry kibble food and have tried probably 4-6 different brands over a period of time. She seems to like the food for two weeks and then stops eating. I did feed her some canned wet food, but was told that wet food wasn’t healthy for her. She really liked the canned food mixed with the dry kibbles. I would like some advice on which type of food to use and possibly some suggestions of brand names, since she doesn’t eat most brands. I have used expensive food, not budget ones. Hope someone can help me.

  • Mary

    Aimee: go to FDA.gov and all the information you want is there. It is there on every dog food in existence, not from a mere dentist since he cannot possibly have a brain as large as the bank of data the FDA possesses. Use caution and search the government agencies who are being paid by you. Your income tax money pays their paycheck. With regard to practicing outside his scope of practice, it is ILLEGAL in every state in the US to practice any medical advice without the proper education and license issued by the Dept of Professional Regulation or Medical Licensure in the State where the state boards were passed. No professional for instance, licensed in New York as a …let’s say dentist, can legally practice dentistry in Rhode Island without applying for reciprocity in that state.

  • http://DogFoodAdvisor.com/ Mike Sagman

    While it would be ethically inappropriate for me to offer professional veterinary advice, I feel fully qualified to read and interpret the product labels of every dog food on this website.

    On our FAQ page, How We Rate Dog Food, I answer the question with which you appear to be concerned…

    Don’t you need to be a veterinarian to read a pet food label?

    Absolutely not. That would be like saying only a licensed medical doctor is qualified to read the side panel on a box of corn flakes.

    Although some believe that to judge a dog food label one must possess a long list of educational accomplishments and veterinary credentials after his name, nothing could be further from the truth.

    Anyone with a little dedication, a realistic knowledge about product labeling and the willingness to do a reasonable amount of research can learn to read a pet food label.

  • aimee

    Hi Mary,

    If you are referring to Dr. Sagman, this is my own personal opinion on the matter. He is a licensed dentist. Answers to certain questions could be interpreted as giving out specific medical advice and he could be sanctioned by his licensing board for practicing outside of his scope of practice.

    I don’t know if that is the reason or not but it makes sense to me.

  • Mary

    I don’t understand why the person answering these questions states he/she is not able to answer some particular questions since he/she is not a vet. If not a vet? And not a pet nutritionist who has taken courses, why or what credentials do you base your information on? If you choose to answer pet food questions, wouldn’t it be feasible to be educated in these matters?

  • DogDaze

    Sounds great, thank you both!

  • Crazy4cats

    Yes,I agree with Patty. Also, remember that there are really only two recognized categories of food: 1.) All Life Stages/Puppy and 2.) Maintenance. All of the others you see on food are just marketing. Have fun with your new pup!

  • theBCnut

    For at least the first couple weeks, go with what she is used to. Then start her on a rotational diet by doing a transition with each new bag. Feeding vaiety is as healthy for most dogs as it is for humans.

  • DogDaze

    Hi! We are adopting a one year old lab/spaniel mix (approx 30 lbs) and I want to start her on the right food. We have a bag of merrick chicken and sweet potato, but the foster mom currently uses Nutro natural choice young adult formula. Merrick says it is for all life stages, but should I go with Nutro because it’s for young adults and it’s what she’s used to? Many thanks for your help!

  • Hound Dog Mom

    Hi Susan –

    Due to the nature of kibble (a starch is necessary to bind the product), very few kibbles are that low in carbohydrates. However there are a couple I know of that meet your specs:

    Dr. Tim’s Momentum: 35% protein/25% fat
    Red Paw Power Edge: 38K 38% protein/25% fat
    Native Level 4: 35% protein/25% fat

    There’s also a company named Abady which makes granular dog food and most of their formulas are high protein and high fat. It’s a product marketed toward performance dogs, I’m sure they have something in the ranges you’re looking for.

  • Susan Christine

    I need a high protein (30-45%), high fat (25-40%), low carb (<25%) food for my chocolate lab. He has always eaten kibble, so that is much preferred. If possible, I would also like a canned form to feed in smaller amounts as a supplement. If it also contains omega 3's and arginine that would be a real bonus. I would settle for the right percentages and worry about supplementing after the fact, though. All I seem to be able to find is high protein low fat and low carb. Thanks for any help you can provide.

  • Eva Hickman

    I also feed Life Abundance, but I always have another different food to rotate with. I feed Life Abundance one day, and the different food the next, and then Life Abundance again, etc.

  • Janine

    Dalmatian welfare have some listed recommended kibbles. (They have had them laboratory tested for suitability for stone formers) Our dog prefers the Europa chicken & rice over burns kibble (never tried iams) we found the Europa keeps it’s crunch better when served with lots of liquid which is recommended for dallies.
    Hope this is helpful.

  • Rabbinator

    Try adding some digestive enzymes or switching to a food that has them added in.

  • Kcj

    My dog is a 7 yr old 65# male yellow lab-shepherd-hound mix. For the last few years we have fed him Simply Nourish Lamb and Oatmeal. I think we need to change his food bc he tends to get gas and often licks his rear end or the carpet where he has been sitting (gross). I try to research this site but get overwhelmed and don’t make a change! If anyone has any suggestions or guidelines for research, I would greatly appreciate it. Thank you!

  • Shawna

    Hi Baldy Greg,

    Nutritionist Lew Olsen of B-naturals website linked to the below Dalmatian Club of America article. In the article they write

    “But, for urate stone-forming Dalmatians, the amount of protein which helps or aggravates their health problem is less important than the type of protein, specifically purine-yielding proteins.

    Remembering it is not the amount but the type of protein affecting this specific urinary problem, a “high protein” diet hypothetically made up with no purine-yielding proteins would not be as dangerous to be fed to a stone-forming Dalmatian. Conversely, a “low protein” diet of only purine-yielding proteins would be extremely undesirable for that same Dal.” http://www.thedca.org/fallacy.html

    From what I can find, there are really no kibbled diets that have adequate (for my standards at least) amounts of protein but are also low purine. Additionally, not all Dalmatians are stone formers so you might be feeding a lower protein diet needlessly..
    What might work is using a low purine kibble and add low/no purine, high protein foods as toppers. Eggs are a good option as an example. You might want to try a Dalmatian, or low purine, Yahoo Group for more information??

  • Baldy Greg

    Any recommendations for a dry kibble suitable for an 8 month old Dalmation. They do have dietary issues regarding too much/wrong protiens in their food and as such are prone to skin complaints and bladder stones. We started him off on Iams puppy but were told by a dog trainer to switch to Burns.
    Doesn’t seem to be any difference with the dog himself after the switch.

  • Pattyvaughn

    Price varies from place to place, so what the price would be for you is not what the price would be for me.

  • InkedMarie

    I’m not the one looking for prices, the person I replied to was/is.

  • InkedMarie

    I suggest you print up the lists and go to the store/look online yourself.

  • Hello

    If you have looked at the dog food bag/can then you know or could easily determine the cost for that day or you could go to one pet store and take down the price of the dog foods on that one day and the size that you priced pricing the largest bag/can available. This would at least give people an idea of relative costs. It doesn’t if different companies have different sizes and you could list it as price per pound.

  • Hello

    Please inform me of which is the least expensive dog food brands in each of your groups 1*, 2*, 3*, 4*. and 5* for dry food and wet food

  • sammysmom

    Thank you so much for your advice! I will check out that site and see if I can get an idea of some foods without peas. Who knew that dogs would be so picky with food!

  • somebodysme

    Smart dog, my dog is very allergic to PEAS. HA! Personally I believe they have no place in our dogs’ food just from the reaction my dog has had to them. Sadly, most all the grain free recipes include peas now. I can’t begin to tell you which food to use…every dog is so different. Maybe check EVO, it has potato instead of peas. Natural Balance Ultra Premium is pea free and probably easier to find in a pet shop. Most of the pea free foods available will have some sort of grains like rice or oatmeal. A good place to check ingredients quickly is a place like chewy.com. They have an ingredient list for each food they sell.

  • sammysmom

    I recently switched to Rachey Ray (dry) 6 Ingredients brand, and I noticed that my dog literally takes out all of the peas!!! I am in a rush now to find a new food because he really doesn’t seem to care for this particular food and I want him to eat a good healthy food but keep running into confusion. He was on beneful, but with all the bad reviews I took him off it. He does seem to have allergies and the vet had also confirmed that he has air borne allergies. But he needs a food that he will like! Any suggestions of foods without peas??!

  • Dana

    6 poison s in dog foods that cause cancers and death ,,, Avoid ,,, Propylene Glycol , Ethoxyquin , BHA , BHT , TBHQ and Propyl Gallate . These are dangerous artifical preservatives . You can look them up ?

  • Pattyvaughn

    What one of my dogs likes best is not what the other two like best, so just like people, dogs have their own opinions on what tastes good. Sorry, there is no easy answer to that problem. The only thing to do is see if you can get samples to try. Interestingly, my picky, hates everything dog is not longer picky now that I’m rotating foods. It has been well over a year since he last turned up his nose at his meal.

  • Jenn

    So, now I have gone and researched the top “starred” performers and I have narrowed down my search. It would also be helpful to have some kind of dog “taste test” to know which brands/flavors were preferred by dogs!

  • InkedMarie

    First, prices vary dependent on what store you shop in or where you order from. Second, take a minute to think how much time it would take to even do a best guess price for each food. Oh and do you mean the smallest, mid size or largest bag? Oh, you mean a couple of brands that have even larger bags? Cans, you say? What size? Single can or by the case? Dehydrated? Wht size? Frozen comes in various size chubs, medallions etc.

    Get the idea of the undertaking?

  • LabsRawesome

    Lmao. Ain’t nobody got time for that.

  • Laura M

    I would like cost to be considered, or at least mentioned in the reviews. Consumer Reports is my bible for all purchases and Dog Food Advisor could be helpful in the same way. Possibly putting $$$ next to the products so we have an idea of the cost.

  • Pattyvaughn

    Yes, rotating foods is a great idea. It helps support a wider variety of probiotics in the gut which is a huge part of the immune system. Also each brand of foods has it’s own vitamin/mineral premix and varying these helps to insure that your dog gets a good variety of micronutrients, plus if one is high in something you aren’t always feeding too much of that one thing. Some believe that rotating protein sources helps to reduce allergy/intolerance problems.

  • Pat

    have 2 senior shih Tzu’s and currently feeding them Life’s Abundance small bites, a 4 star dry food; they have been on this food for over 3 years now; they eat 1/3 cup 2x/day but we are noticing some skin issues. Is it a good idea to rotate with some other high quality food?

  • http://www.dfwpugs.com/ sandy

    You might even try mixing in 1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon of coconut oil in her food.

  • Hound Dog Mom

    I would pick out any 4 or 5 star wet food and mix in a spoonful of Tripett. Tripett is canned green tripe – most dogs go nuts for it. Unfortunately it’s not a complete and balanced food so you have to mix it with a balanced food, but often just a spoonful will pique the interest of even the most picky dogs.

  • Mar

    Help me pick a good 5 star healthy dry dog food designed for a very picky 4lb Chihuahua breed & their health requirements.. She will only eat Caser wet food. I’ve tried Ultra, Blue, Natural Balance.

  • Bailey’s mom

    How do I transition from dry to wet. I really dead this because I’ve kept his wt off with the longevity by bb. All his blood panels and urinalysis have been good until the last one with a pH of 8.5my husband says I worry too much but he’s my baby!!

  • Pattyvaughn

    Merrick has a wide range of choices at a good price, both grain inclusive and grain free.

  • Bailey’s mom

    I think I’m going to put my yorkie on canned food only because of the struvite crystals. I only have one dog so yeah I can afford it. He ways 7lbs and gains wt real easy. He only needs 167 calories a day. I need some suggestions for 5 star canned food. I like the blue wilderness but it has too much fat.He has been eating the divine delights and I like them because they are the perfect size but someone on here said not enough fat and I agree because he is always hungry. Please give me some choices. My other yorkie had to eat hills prescription but hopefully I’m learning. I love reading everyone’s answer. You people do a great job!!!

  • http://www.dfwpugs.com/ sandy

    Around 30 is moderate. 35+ is high as far as kibble goes. I don’t feed mine less than 30% (33% dry matter) in kibble but I also feed mine raw foods which is alot higher than that. My fosters eat a kibble that is 28% (31% dry matter) – Nutrisource grain free Lamb. And I also feed grain free canned foods too like Wellness Stews (44%), Core (54%) and Weruva Human Style (60%), Merrick (46%), Merrick grain free (44%) There are even some yorkies and chis that eat prey model raw. You can see these at dogforums(dot)com. Search for “raw feeding picture thread”. The forum here has a picture thread as well. Doesn’t have as many pictures though yet. http://www.dogfoodadvisor.com/forums/topic/pictures-of-dogs-eating-raw-raw-meals/

    Amicus (horizonpetfood.com) is a really small kibble since it’s made for toy breeds but there’s alot of options. I did feed this one before. The Nutrisource grain free Lamb and the Brothers Complete I have here are the smallest ones I have. Instinct is also small but you might not want to go to a “high” protein “high” fat kibble right off the bat. I’d start around 30%.

  • Pattyvaughn

    If your dog actually chews the kibble, which most don’t, it might scrape off the tips of the teeth, but before it gets where it is needed, the gum line, it has exploded into a number of pieces that won’t do any part of the tooth any good. Brushing and bones are needed to keep the gums healthy.
    Kibble with canned and extra water mixed in will help keep everything flushed out, but with such a small dog you might not use up a can before it goes bad. Since you would probably need to transition to canned anyway, you have time to find out which way works for you.
    And I would agree about filtered water for a number of reasons. The stuff in city water is not so great.

  • Pattyvaughn

    The line about protein and Yorkies, and quite a number of other breeds, is a persistant myth, nothing more.

  • Hound Dog Mom

    The dental benefits provided by kibble are minimal, at best. Whether you’re feeding kibble or canned, if you don’t brush your dogs teeth regularly and/or feed raw meaty bones regularly, your dog will very likely have periodonal disease by the age of five or six. If you feed canned and brush your dogs teeth and give him some bones to chew on occasionally your dog should have great dental health.

  • bailey10

    I forgot the berry balance is a cranberry supplement. What range is mod-high protein?I’ve always heard yorkies should not have protein over 30 percent.

  • bailey10

    Patty I could go totally canned but I thought thy needed some kibble for their teeth. Is this wrong. I was thinking about going dry with canned as a topper. He’s on such low protein now that I’m going to have to go real slow.he’s on distilled water but some people say use filtered. Which do you think would be best?thanks for ur time.

  • http://www.dfwpugs.com/ sandy

    A wet food, (grain free, mod-high protein, like BB Wilderness canned) diet will definitely benefit him by giving him more moisture to flush out crystals. You can also add some apple cider vinegar to his food, maybe 1/4 to 1/2 tsp. I happen to use Flea Free Supplement which is vinegar, and I also give a vitamin C capsule couple times a week. You can check his pH at home with urine test strips too or take a sample to the vet to see how his pH is doing.

  • Pattyvaughn

    My understanding has always been that more meat protein makes for more acidic urine. Is the Solid Gold Berry Powder a cranberry supplement? Can you go totally canned food for him? The added water would help too.

  • bailey10

    I have a 5 year old male yorkie his urine test last week showed his Ph at 8.5 and crystals. My question is this/ What food should he be on to get a more acidity pH. he is on bb longevity and I give him extra fruit like blueberriers,apples,strawberries. I also give him a teaspoon of plain yogurt every night with his fish oil. M vet says he needs a different diet. he sorta recommended purina nf for 3 or 4 weeks, retest and go from there. I do not want him on this food. I have ordered solid gold berry powder and i’m going to add this to his food. What should I do? Should I use the purina nf for a few weeks and if i do what holistic food after that.?I have also been adding divine delights by bb for the past week just to give him a little wet food and a different protein. He weighs 7.1 lbs.