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Recommended Brands of 3-Star Dog Food for 2024: Are they Worth the Dime?

Written by

Mary Nielsen

Reviewed by

Updated on:

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If a 4-star or 5-star dog food is out of your price range, a 3-star dog food might be the best option. These dog foods may not offer the same level of quality as other products but they offer a decent compromise between quality and price.

Many store-brand dog foods, for example, are 3-star dog foods because they offer decent nutritional value but, as a store brand, they can be sold at a lower price.

Before you buy a 3-star dog food, however, you still need to make sure that it will meet your dog’s nutritional needs and that it doesn’t contain any harmful ingredients.

Top Recommended Brands of 3-Star Dog Food

You should always buy your dog the highest quality food you can afford. For some people, that means purchasing a 3-star dog food instead of a 5-star dog food.

While it is true that 3-star dog foods are not as good for your dog as a 4- or 5-star product, these foods can still include quality ingredients.

The lower you go on the rating chart, the more careful you need to be about evaluating the dog food before you buy to make sure that it will meet your dog’s nutritional needs and to ensure that there aren’t any harmful ingredients listed. If you are shopping for a 3-star dog food, consider one of the brands below:

  1. Abady – Robert Abady Dog and Cat Food Company
  2. Bil Jac Dog Food Review – Family Owned
  3. Blue Seal – Kent Nutrition Group, Inc
  4. California Natural Dog Food Review – manufactured by Mars, Incorporated
  5. Diamond Dog Food Review – manufactured by Diamond Pet Foods company
  6. Eukanuba Dog Food Review – manufactured by Mars, Inc,
  7. Great Life Dog Food Review – manufactured by Great Life Performance Pet Products
  8. Iams Dog Food Review – manufactured by Mars, Inc
  9. Natures Recipe Dog Food Review – manufactured by Big Heart Pet Brands
  10. Nutro Dog Food Review – manufactured by Mars, Inc
  11. Pro Pac Dog Food Review – manufactured by Midwestern Pet Foods, Inc
  12. Purevita Dog Food Review – manufactured by KLN Family Brands
  13. Purina Pro Plan Select Dog Food Review – manufactured by Purina
  14. Science Diet Dog Food Review – manufactured by Hill’s Pet Nutrition Company
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What Goes Into a 3-Star Dog Food Brand?

A 3-star dog food will still meet your dog’s nutritional needs, but you should be aware that these products may include some low-quality ingredients. Some 3-star dog foods list quality proteins like fresh meat, poultry, or fish as their number-1 ingredient, but this is not always the case.

Many 3-star dog foods rely on by-product meals or unnamed protein sources (like poultry meal rather than chicken meal) as their primary source of protein. While these ingredients may not be harmful, it is difficult to judge the quality of by-products and unnamed ingredients because the quality and source varies greatly from one batch to another.

If you look at the guaranteed analysis for a 3-star dog food you will still find that the minimum requirements for protein and fat are met – that is 18% protein and 5% fat for adult dogs and 22% protein and 8% fat for puppies – but these products typically don’t go much higher than those minimums. You may also notice high fiber content upwards of 5%.

One trick that low-quality pet food manufacturers use to keep their products affordable (and to preserve more of their profits) is to add bulk to dog food with plant-based fillers and to increase the protein content with plant-based proteins.

For example, it is not uncommon for 3-star dog foods to include corn, wheat, or soy-based ingredients as supplementary carbohydrates or proteins. For example, corn gluten meal contains about 60% protein but, because it comes from a plant, it is less biologically valuable than meat, poultry, or fish.

storage container

Dog food manufacturers frequently use ingredients like this to increase the protein content of their products (as seen in the guaranteed analysis) without actually adding more meat. Plant proteins are much less expensive than quality animal proteins.

You may also notice that many 3-star dog foods include a long list of synthetic supplements and other additives. This is often due to the fact that the extrusion process (the high-heat cooking process used to make traditional kibble) destroys a significant portion of the nutritional value for the raw ingredients.

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To make sure that the recipe meets AAFCO requirements for complete and balanced nutrition, the company then has to add back some of those lost nutrients in the form of synthetic supplements.

Some 3-star dog foods will include chelated minerals, though usually only for two or three of them, and they often include artificial flavors, colors, and preservatives. You may also notice added extracts which are sometimes used as preservatives or flavorings.

If you have a limited budget when it comes to feeding your dog, you need to work a little bit harder to find a quality product within your price range. In some cases, store brands offer decent nutrition at an affordable price point, but you still need to do the work in evaluating any pet food product before you buy.

Keep in mind that 3-star dog foods will include a lower quality of ingredients on the whole, but protein should still be the number-1 ingredient.

If your budget forces you to make compromises in terms of the quality of your dog’s diet, you may want to consider one of the 3-star brands listed above.

What is a 3-star dog food?

Many 3-star dog foods will list a fresh meat or meat meal as the first ingredient and primary source of protein, but that won't always be the case. Another difference between a 3-star dog food and a better brand is that the 3-star dog food may use corn, wheat, and soy ingredients.

What is a 4-star dog food?

Similar to 5-star dog foods, a 4-star dog food will be rich in animal-based protein and it will list a high-quality source of meat, poultry, or fish as the first ingredient.

What is a 5-star dry dog food?

A 5-star dog food is one that is made with fresh, natural ingredients and processed in a way that preserves rather than destroys the nutritional content of those ingredients. There are many ways to evaluate the quality of a dog food brand, but most of the information you need will be right there on the package.

What color dog food should I never buy?

First and foremost, dogs can't see colors as humans do, and natural, non-colored dog food will be brown colored after cooking. Any other color can be attributed to the artificial dyes of Red 40, Yellow 5 & 6 and Blue 2.

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