The best dog food: How to choose the right food for your pet
In the same way that you wouldn’t let a child eat a few packets of Haribos for dinner, you need to monitor your dog’s diet. A pet is always part of the family, which is why they deserve the best dog food available. Plus, as your dog grows up, their dietary needs may change in accordance with their age and activity level.
Whether you’re the proud new owner of a lockdown puppy, or you’re simply overwhelmed by the sheer number of dog food options out there, this is your complete guide to choosing the perfect food for your pooch.
It’s easy to fall into the trap of just picking the cheaper option, or the one with the most adorable packaging, but there are important factors to consider.
Firstly, there’s the type of dog food: dry, wet and raw. Dry dog food may come in the form of kibbles, biscuits or pellets. Wet food may come in a gravy sauce or contain chunks of jelly (sounds disgusting but dogs love it). Raw dog food is often frozen and has a high meat content.
When buying dog food, check whether it is ‘complete’ or ‘complementary’. A ‘complete’ meal is one that will adequately satisfy your pet on its own. ‘Complementary’ food, on the other hand, needs to be supplemented with another food. In other words: it’s the Haribos of the dog world.
What is the healthiest food for your dog?
The best dog food has a high meat content. “Generally, protein of animal origin will have a higher biological value than protein from a plant source,” explains British Veterinary Association Junior Vice President Daniella Dos Santos. Dogs still need a balanced diet, however, so Dos Santos recommends a mixture of animal and plant-derived proteins in commercially-prepared dog food.
She does not advise a vegan diet for pets. “Owners would need to take expert advice to avoid dietary deficiencies and associated disease, as it is much easier to get the balance of nutrients wrong than to get it right.” In other words: don’t remove meat from your dog’s diet.
Meat in dog food often comes from “animal derivatives” – by-products of the human food industry which may not be traditionally eaten by people in this country. It may sound ominous but this food is safe for your dog because all pet food in the UK must be fit for human consumption.
How do you deal with a picky dog eater?
If your dog is a fussy eater, try to change their diet gradually. “We recommend buying smaller packets of dog food when trialling something new and introducing it to their diet gradually,” Dos Santos advises.
No matter how desperate the situation gets, don’t cave in and give them packets of dog biscuits or a plate of bangers and mash. Instead, you should contact a vet for advice – especially if the dog starts losing weight.
Dog food comparison
Taking all of the above into consideration, we have sifted through multiple brands and read countless ingredient lists in the quest for the best dog food. We have considered dry, wet and raw foods, as well as hypoallergenic and grain-free options for dogs with more sensitive stomachs.
This is our top pick for dry dog food because of its high meat content. The crunchy kibbles consist of 30% dried chicken and turkey, making them a good source of protein. They also include Omega 3 and 6 to keep the shine in your dog’s coat.
We were also impressed by Purina Beyond Simply 9 dry dog food because of its high chicken content (20%) and its mixture of vegetables. For its value for money, we also rated Wagg Original Beef And Vegetable dry dog food which costs just £9 for 12kg. While this food is only 4% beef, Wagg is a member of the Pet Food Manufacturers’ Association (PFMA), which guarantees the food’s nutritional value.
Suitable for all dog types, this wet food consists of 85% fresh beef, so it is high in protein. There is also a mixture of chickpeas, parsnips, spinach, apples, oranges and a variety of minerals to give your dog a balanced diet.
For a bigger variety of meats, we recommend the Chappie Loaf Wet Adult 1+ dog food. This combines 4% chicken with 14% white fish, so your pet can benefit from the high protein as well as the Omega 3 and 6. Applaws also won us over with both its adorable brand name and the variety of the Meaty Tins, which include 28% chicken breast and 17% salmon, as well as vegetables.
This complete dry food from Lily’s Kitchen is our favourite grain-free dog dish. It has a high meat content, including 31% chicken and 8% duck, plus a healthy portion of sweet potatoes (30%) which are a good source of carbohydrates. Lily’s Kitchen is verified by the PFMA and also received a Royal Warrant from HRH The Prince of Wales.
Harringtons Grain Free Chicken & Potato is another viable option, given its high meat content (60% chicken and 26% dried potato). We were also impressed by the 90% meat content in the Forthglade 100% Natural wet dog food, although this is a complementary meal, so will need to be supplemented.
James Wellbeloved is a brand specifically tailored to dogs with food intolerances. The Duck and Rice dish contains a minimum of 27% duck, 27% rice and 12% organic oats, making it a good source of protein. It also contains omega 3 and 6, plus a natural prebiotic that helps to maintain a healthy gut.
For an option with a higher meat content, try Sainsbury’s Hypoallergenic Recipe Adult Dog Food with Fresh Lamb. This contains 60% lamb, as well as 6% beet pulp – which helps with a dog’s digestion. If your dog is intolerant to lamb or other mainstream meats, try Burns Sensitive+ Plus Pork and Potato. This is also a good source of carbohydrates, with a 35% potato content.
If you want to transition your dog to a raw-only diet, you should do this over the space of a week – starting with feeding them 50% raw food and 50% of what they were eating before. The following are our favourite raw dog food offerings.
5. Natures Menu Country Hunter Complete Wild Venison Nuggets
For the dog who appreciates the finer things in life, try these 80% venison nuggets. Not only are they full of protein, they also include peas, swede, carrots, spinach, seaweed and even blueberries for a more balanced diet. Simply keep the nuggets frozen, then defrost before serving. Natures Menu is an accredited member of the PFMA.
Cotswold Raw is also a member of the PFMA, making it a trustworthy brand. The Active 80/20 Mince raw dog food may be pricey (almost £30 from Amazon for 8kg) but it’s worth it for its high meat content of grain-free chicken and turkey mince. Nutriment Chicken Formula Raw Dog Food also caught out eye because of its high protein content (85% British meat, offal and bone) and mixture of fruits and vegetables.
For a cheeky dog treat, we recommend these cheesy nibbles. Ideal for both small and large dogs, these chewy treats combine beef and cheese into a tasty snack. They also include vitamins and calcium to maintain a healthy immune system and strong bones.
For an even healthier alternative, give your dog Burns Carrot Treats, a low-fat snack that’s made from 100% carrot. Or if you want a treat that will soothe your dog, try Lily’s Kitchen Organic Bedtime dog biscuits. This hypoallergenic snack contains probiotic yoghurt to ease digestion and honey and chamomile to soothe your pet, making it the perfect bedtime treat.
It’s slightly more expensive but this dry dog food for puppies is worth it. Firstly, it’s grain-free (using potato and sweet potato as alternatives) so suitable for pups with sensitive stomachs. Furthermore, it has a protein-rich content (27% salmon and 21% dried chicken) and contains calcium – essential for healthy bones and teeth in a growing pup.
Royal Canin Mini Puppy Dry Dog Food is also a suitable alternative for puppies as it’s high in protein and contains probiotics to support digestive health. For puppy-appropriate treats, try Lily’s Kitchen Chicken and Fish Slices Puppy Training Treats. These contain high-quality ingredients (including 40% British chicken and 35% sustainably sourced white fish) and are sure to go down a treat.
This protein-packed dry food is our top pick for dogs entering a well-earned retirement. It’s grain free, so it’s suitable for sensitive stomachs, and it’s made with a high concentration of real dried chicken (minimum 32%) and sweet potato (23%) to give your dog plenty of energy and boost their protein intake. What sets it apart, though, is it’s ‘superfood’ content – a blend of kale, spinach, beetroot and linseed, among others.
We were also impressed by James Wellbeloved Senior dry dog food, which has added Vitamin E to help support a senior dog’s immune system, and by Tribal Senior dog food, which is cold-pressed (ie. cooked at low temperatures) to retain as much goodness and as many nutrients as possible.
This is our top pick for those lucky pups that get customised dog food. Butternut Box will run you through a series of questions – including your dog’s age, breed, activity level and approximate weight – to provide a tailor-made menu from their range of recipes.
Butternut Box comes out on top for ingredient quality – their doggie dishes are hand-prepared with fresh ingredients, immediately frozen to lock in the goodness and then delivered to your door. Recipes include ‘Beef it Up’, which is made with 60% beef (topped with nutrient-rich veggies) and ‘Swiss Fish Dish’, made with 60% sustainably-sourced white fish. All recipes are grain-free, and there are even low fat options if you have a pooch who needs to watch their weight. Butternut Box definitely isn’t the cheapest option out there, but if you want to splash out on human-quality ingredients for your dog, it’s the best of the bunch.
Tails has a similar setup to Butternut Box, where you fill out a quiz to get personalised dog food suggestions, but it’s our top choice for delivery as it’s slightly more affordable. Their pricing starts at just over £10 per month (although if you have a medium-to-large sized dog, you’ll pay a bit more). The range includes tailor-made kibble and slow-cooked wet food as well as a range of treats and supplements.
Their subscription service takes the stress out of picking the right food, as it takes everything from health concerns to fussy eaters into account when calculating your dog’s menu. Dishes are made from a range of wholefood ingredients including salmon, chicken and root vegetables, so you get nutritionally balanced food delivered right to your door for the same price as some supermarket alternatives. What more could you want?
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