Disclaimer: The information contained in this post is the researched opinion of the writer and should not be substituted for experienced medical advice from a licensed Veterinary specialist.
All dog owners want the best for their pets and one of the most important decisions they can make is their choice of dog food.
Whether you are a new pet parent or an experienced veteran, this decision can be rather daunting. With so many different brands out there, how can you best determine what is right for your dog?
Here at DogFood.Guide we have a dedicated mission to provide dog owners like you with well-researched information so they can provide the nutrition and health care towards their dogs.
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This guide is here to make that process much simpler. This guide will teach you the difference between bad and good pet food, and help you make an informed decision on what will best benefit your dog. Here are the worst & best dog food reviews for 2023:
Overall Best Dog Foods in 2023
Ollie Fresh Pet Food
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Taste of the Wild High Prairie Grain-Free
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American Journey Salmon & Sweet Potato
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Blue Buffalo Life Protection Formula Puppy
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True Acre Foods Chicken & Vegetable Recipe
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Gentle Giants Canine Nutrition Chicken
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VICTOR Hi-Pro Plus Formula Dry Dog Food
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Diamond Naturals Beef Meal & Rice Formula
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Merrick Grain-Free Texas Beef & Sweet Potato
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Instinct Original Recipe with Real Chicken
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Below is the list of products reviewed on this article:
- Ollie Fresh Pet Food Turkey Recipe
- Taste of the Wild High Prairie
- American Journey Salmon & Sweet Potato Recipe
- Blue Buffalo Life Protection Formula Puppy
- True Acre Foods Chicken & Vegetable Recipe
- Gentle Giants Canine Nutrition Chicken
- VICTOR Hi-Pro Plus Formula
- Diamond Naturals Beef Meal & Rice Formula
- Merrick Real Texas Beef & Sweet Potato
- Instinct by Nature's Variety Original
1. Ollie Turkey Recipe
Ollie is created by canine nutritionists, a raw food system designed to give your pet optimum nutrition in a limited ingredient formula.
Everything is created using restaurant grade ingredients and shipped within days of getting made. It’s easy to set up your account and manage things based on your dog’s needs. If you’ve got the extra budget, it’s worth it.
The limited ingredients present in Ollie's formula makes it a great option for dogs with sensitive stomachs and will help prevent potential allergic reactions.
By cutting out the plant proteins that are typically found in dry dog foods to boost the protein content, your dog will be less likely to suffer from digestive distress.
Ollie is therefore perfect for even the pickiest of dogs. Of the four unique vet-crafted recipes on offer, we would recommend the Turkey Recipe option.
It incorporates turkey breast, turkey liver, kale, carrots, blueberries and chia seeds to provide a flavor and texture that is unrivaled.
This fresh dog food formula is grain-free and contains no fillers. The meat is also sourced from farms that provide vegetable-fed and hormone-free turkey. All these factors make Ollie a step above other luxury formulas.
Whole fruits and veggies provide excellent doses of vitamins and minerals, which helps with immune support, while coconut oil and cod liver oil contains essential fatty acids for maintaining skin and coat health.
Everything is packaged in easy to use portion sizes, so there’s no confusion about how much to feed each mealtime. This is the closest to a homemade dog food out there.
Fill out a questionnaire for your dog and receive perfectly portioned meals. Put them in your refrigerator or freezer, and they’re ready to serve when you are.
Despite its steep price point, we truly believe that Ollie is the best dog food on the market today. We feel confident in stating that your dog will love it, and you would to if you tasted it!
- Fresh dog food
- Raw nutrition with limited ingredients
- Well-sourced ingredients
- Perfect for sensitive pets
- Designed specifically for your dog
- Delivered to your door
- Regular deliveries
- Weekly and biweekly delivery not available for some areas (may cause storage issues)
2. Taste of the Wild High Prairie
Most Popular – Taste of the Wild has produced a brilliant canine formula a that we are not sure can be beaten at this price point. Using bison and venison as its two animal protein sources, this dry dog food takes its inspiration from the ancestral diet of prehistoric canines.
It contains 32% protein and 18% fat. These numbers are brilliant and far above average. A high amount of protein and fat will do wonders for supporting the growth and maintenance of your dog's muscles and bones. High-fat content is also necessary for your dog to maintain a healthy immune system.
It is worth pointing out, however, that some of the protein in this formula is vegetable-based, with pea protein and potato protein featuring on the ingredients list.
Vegetable proteins are harder for your dog's stomach to break down, but it shouldn't be too much of a concern if your dog does not have any digestive problems.
Some dogs might also need to avoid eating potatoes and peas. If your dog does have trouble digesting foods, you might be better off trying a limited ingredient food instead.
As well as its great protein and fat content, Taste of the Wild has packed this formula full of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. This will help maintain a dog's health, improving their coat and skin.
The tomatoes, blueberries, and raspberries present in the formula will also help supplement these effects by providing your dog with valuable antioxidants and vitamins. This formula is free from grain, corn, wheat, filler, artificial flavors, colors or preservatives.
All this means that Taste of the Wild has focused on what's really best for a dog's diet, without cutting costs and reducing its quality.
This really is an all killer, no filler dog kibble! We feel confident in saying this is the best dry dog food in its price range. We love it and think your dog will to!
- High in Protein
- High in Fat
- Also available in canned food
- Packed with vitamins, antioxidants, and fatty acids
- Use of vegetable proteins
3. American Journey Salmon & Sweet Potato Recipe
Most Inexpensive – American Journey has produced a dry dog food that goes to show that cheap does not have to mean poor quality. Using salmon as its main source of animal protein, this formula contains 32% protein and 14% fat.
This is amazing for a budget kibble and will be more than enough to ensure your dog maintains a healthy immune system, bones, and muscles.
However, some of this protein is from the vegetable source pea protein. This is harder for dogs to digest than animal protein, but shouldn't be too much of an issue for a healthy dog.
This kibble does also use chicken and turnkey meal to bolster its protein content, which could be of some concern to dogs with food allergies. In those cases, you would be better off going with American Journey's limited ingredient range. Still, this formula is grain-free,
This formula does include “dried plain beet pulp” as a source of fiber. This is fine but the saponinins in it has been found to cause irritation in a minor amount of dogs' gastrointestinal tract.
For this reason, we would recommend looking out for any irregularities or discomfort in your dog's behavior when transitioning to using this food.
As we said, it's usually fine in most dogs, but being cautious will help you guarantee that no allergic reactions are occurring.
We love that American Journey has included chickpeas in the recipe as a great source of fiber and protein, and the usage of sweet potatoes as a substantial ingredient means that this dry dog food will deliver high levels of vitamin A and beta-carotene.
These elements will help your dog's eyes remain in great shape. We have heard some complaints in the reviews of this product that the kibble was too hard for the teeth of toy dog breeds.
It's worth keeping that in mind if you do have a small dog, but other than this problem, there was a near-universal positive response from consumers reviewing the product.
Salmon can be a funny ingredient to dogs, with some not liking the pronounced fish odor and refusing to eat it. Whilst we have opted for the salmon and sweet potato recipe due to its higher proportion of omega-3 fatty acid, any of the other recipes in this range would be an option for any dog owner on a budget.
Overall, American Journey has produced a well-balanced kibble offering that is sure to give your dog the luxury experience, at an affordable price. Another best dog food at an affordable price.
- High in protein
- High in fat
- Packed with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants
- Uses pea protein
- Salmon might not be appropriate for all dogs
- Can be too hard for smaller dog breeds
4. Blue Buffalo Life Protection Formula Puppy
Best Puppy Food – Blue Buffalo Life Protection Formula Puppy Chicken & Brown Rice Recipe is a kibble designed for puppies under the age of 12 months and contains different feeding specifics for 1-3 months, 3-5 months, 5-7 months, and 7-12 months.
They have tried to produce a formula that will best enable your puppy to develop into a strong and healthy adult, and so have included a few extra vitamins and minerals that aren't always seen in regular puppy kibbles.
Blue Buffalo have utilized flaxseed and menhaden fish meal in the formula to give it a large amount of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids.
This will help your puppy develop strong and healthy skin and coat. It has also been enriched with calcium and phosphorus to help strengthen the bones and teeth of your puppy. We really like the approach that Blue Buffalo has taken with this food in taking into consideration all the needs of a puppy.
The kibble has been made smaller than usual to help dogs with smaller jaws and aids in tartar removal. DHA and ARA have also been added to boost brain and eye development. These fatty acids are typically found in mother's milk and so can help make up for an absence of this in your puppy's diet.
At $50 for a 30-lb bag, this puppy food is definitely in the more expensive category of dry dog food. We believe it justifies this price through its abundance of vitamins and minerals.
At 26% protein derived from chicken and 16% fat, Blue Buffalo has produced a formula with adequate levels of nutrition. These are pretty average amounts and will be just about enough for you to not have the fear that your puppy needs another source of protein to grow its muscles.
Some of this protein does, however, come from pea protein which can be difficult for some dogs to digest. With no corn, wheat, soy or chicken (or poultry) by-product meals used, you can rest assured that only the finest quality ingredients will be going into your puppy.
Your puppy will love the use of proper ingredients to fill this food with flavor. It contains apples, spinach, blueberries, and pumpkin. These premium natural ingredients exist not only to produce a great taste but also to fuel your puppy with a whole host of crucial vitamins and minerals.
It should be noted that this formula is not grain-free. Whether a pet food should be grain-free or not is a hotly debated issue, but it should not be a deal-breaker in choosing this specific formula for your puppy.
The use of brown rice in the product might be a problem for some dog's with weaker stomachs, so pay careful attention to your puppy's if you plan on transitioning to this food.
We see no reason why you would need to transition away from this kibble after 12 months other than price. It contains more than enough nutrients to power an adult dog throughout its life.
Overall, we love the attention to detail that the veterinarian's who designed this formula clearly had when they crafted this food from the ground up.
Blue Buffalo Life Protection Formula, therefore, gets our seal of approval as the best dog food for puppies on the market.
- Specialized puppy formula
- Good amount of protein and fat
- Small kibble
- Not grain-free
- A little expensive
More Top Rated Brands
5. True Acre Foods Chicken & Vegetable Recipe
Using chicken as its main protein source, True Acre Foods have created a reasonable formula that gives quite a lot of value for money. Whilst it only contains an average amount of protein and fat at 24% and 13% respectively, this is all from animal protein sources.
This (along with the good sources of fiber present) make this a great food if your pooch has a weak stomach. The omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids present within the formula will also work to ensure your dog's coat and skin remain healthy and vibrant.
All of True Acre's dry dog foods are made with ingredients sourced from trusted farms, and without grains, wheat, corn or artificial colors, flavors or preservatives. Whilst peas are listed as one of the ingredients, it will be difficult to escape this ingredient within this price bracket.
At $39.99 for a 40-lb bag, this formula is quite reasonably priced and represents a good buy for the pet parent on a budget.
6. Gentle Giants Canine Nutrition Chicken
Gentle Giants have produced a chicken-based dry budget dog food that is packed with vitamins and minerals. It uses twelve whole fruits and vegetables including beets, tomatoes, blueberries, cranberries, spinach, celery, and apples.
This means that your dog will not only be enjoying a flavor sensation, they will also be absorbing Vitamin A, Vitamin B 12, and Vitamin C from natural sources. These aim to foster good immune health in your dog. We are a little disappointed in this formula's protein and fat content.
Containing only 22% protein, this food falls below the average amount in this price bracket. Still, this will adequately meet the nutritional needs of your dog and support their muscles and bones.
This formula has been designed for dog's with sensitive stomachs, so it might be a good idea to try this if your pet is having digestive trouble with standard canine food.
Whilst, it isn't really competitive with premium foods, Gentle Giants will be more than adequate for pet parents on a tight budget.
7. VICTOR Hi-Pro Plus Formula
Victor has crafted a good mid-range all-rounder canine formula that should please any paw-rent. Containing 30% protein and 20% fat, this food is well above the average levels and will go a long way in developing and maintaining your pet's muscles and bones.
This formula is great for dog's with sensitive stomach as it is gluten-free and contains no corn, wheat, or peas. It is also loaded with natural fruit and vegetable ingredients that will aid digestive health.
The formula does contain a wide variety of animal protein sources, which can increase the risk that your dog will have an allergic reaction to one of the ingredients included. If this is the case, it might be worth investigating limited ingredient foods.
This formula includes the proprietary VICTOR CORE of selenium yeast (metabolic function, cellular regeneration and a strong immune response), mineral complexes (support a healthy coat and skin, paw pad integrity, immune response and efficient metabolism), prebiotics (promote immune defense and healthy digestive systems), and probiotics (promote healthy digestion and a strong immune system).
Victor Hi-Pro Plus Formula is priced at $50 for a 40-lb bag and we think that's a fair price. It's not a perfect canine formula, but it one that is unlikely to disappoint.
8. Diamond Naturals Beef Meal & Rice Formula
Diamond Naturals Beef Meal & Rice Formula is a mid-priced canine formula that does little to impress, but also does little wrong.
It only comes in one size, but at $36 for a 40-lb bag, this food fits comfortably between a budget and mid-range price point.
Diamond Naturals take a holistic approach to crafting dog food, aiming to meet every pet's needs with the use of proprietary probiotics and the inclusion of superfoods.
They believe that by making their dry dog foods contain 10-20% “superfoods” (kale, blueberries, chia seeds, pumpkin, quinoa, coconut, and spinach), your dog will be able to properly absorb all of its required vitamins and minerals.
These superfoods replace common fillers such as corn, wheat, and soy (which are never present within Diamond Naturals' recipes). It contains 25% protein and 15% fat which is pretty average in this price range.
9. Merrick Real Texas Beef & Sweet Potato Recipe
If you are specifically looking for grain-free canine formula, then you can't go wrong with this Merrick recipe.
It's perfect for all breeds, ages, and sizes and is available in a variety of different flavors. We recommend the beef and sweet potato recipe as it is poultry-free (a common allergy in dogs).
Containing a whopping 38% protein and 15% fat, Merrick's philosophy is that these two properties in combination with a host of vitamins and minerals will do wonders for promoting the overall dog's health.
They are extremely transparent with regards to the ingredient composition, choosing only the best available products and containing no corn, wheat, soy or gluten ingredients.
This helps give us tremendous confidence in recommending the brand. At $60 for a 25-lb bag, this does fall into the premium category.
Whether the exceptional nutritional content is worth the increased price is up to you.
10. Instinct by Nature's Variety Original Recipe with Real Chicken
Nature's Variety has produced a premium grain-free recipe that excels in all areas. The recipe uses chicken as its main protein source, with all the poultry used in its production coming from cage-free chickens.
Every piece of kibble contains a raw ingredient, which Nature's Variety believes is the best way for dogs to take in nutrients. It does not include any grain, potato, corn, wheat, soy, by-product meal, artificial colors or preservatives.
This leaves more room for minerals and vitamins that will enable your dog to thrive! Peas are included in the formula, which might be a problem for some dogs with weaker stomachs. To counterbalance this.
Natural Balance has packed this formula with guaranteed levels of live, natural probiotics, natural omegas and antioxidants to encourage digestive health, healthy skin and coat, and immune health.
This is a relatively new formula, so if you have avoided Nature's Instinct formulas in the past, it might be worth reconsidering.
This is an excellent canine formula that is well worth the $60 for a 22.5 lb bag, all things considered.
5 Dog Food Related Trends Heading into 2023
- Fresh Pet Food Delivery – More and more companies are being created that offer fresh food delivered to your door. These services typically craft a recipe that has been personalized for your dog's specific dietary needs. They are quite often expensive and are therefore not affordable for a lot of dog owners. With that being said, some consider these to be the safest dog food options. We really, really like Ollie Pet Food Delivery.
- Pea Free Formulas – Following an FDA study in 2018, there has been a link found between canine heart disease and grain-free diets. This has been linked to the usage of potatoes, lentils, legumes, and peas in grain-free formulas. Check out our 9 Best Dog Foods without Peas.
- Transparency – Consumers are increasingly demanding to know where the ingredients in recipes come from. Sites are being established online to investigate the effects filler and substitute ingredients can have on dogs.
- Personalization – Many companies are crafting lines for dogs with specific dietary requirements. Limited ingredient diets are becoming increasingly popular as a way of preventing food allergies in dogs.
- Focus on Research and Feeding Trials – The 2018 FDA study has sparked a wave of research and feeding trials into the effects of a grain-free diet.
The Top 10 Worst Dog Food Brands of 2023
All pet foods are not created equal but most of the low-quality dog food brands have a few things in common. Some of the worst brands on the market load up their products with inexpensive fillers like corn and wheat products – their products also tend to be carb-heavy instead of meat-based.
Low-quality pet formulas make heavy use of by-products and plant proteins, plus they often use artificial colors and flavors to make their products more palatable for pets and the people who care for them.
Something else many of these foods have in common is a history of product recalls by their manufacturing company.
Below is an overview of the Top 10 worst dog foods of 2023 . We started our list with recipes that contain dubious and low-quality ingredients and worked our way down to the worst offenders with recent recalls under their belt.
10. ALPO Come & Get It! Cookout Classics
ALPO is a known dog food brand that may look to many as a quality pet food. But as turns out, it’s not. Or at least, this particular recipe isn’t.
This formulation does not start with meat. In fact, the first meat ingredient won’t be found until the 3rd slot in the list. And the only other meat is in 6th place.
What starts off this food is ground yellow corn, meaning that corn has the most significant volume in the diet. Not only that, there are two more corn ingredients in the recipe and one legume.
It’s a formulation that focuses more on carbohydrates rather than protein. (The minimum crude protein is only equivalent to 18%.) It meets the AAFCO standard, yes, but does not really go much above it.
The second thing we don’t like is the inclusion of artificial food coloring. Color is not a requirement in dog food, and dogs will be better off without it. The less artificial ingredients in dog food, the better.
The Come & Get It! Cookout Classics is the least of the worst dog foods in our list because it contains real and named meat ingredients.
Recall Info: None for this recipe, and the only recall for the ALPO brand happened way back in 2007 for possible melamine contamination.
Problem Ingredients: Ground yellow corn, corn germ meal, soybean meal, corn gluten meal, Red 40, Yellow 5, Blue 2, Yellow 6
9. Kal Kan Complete Adult Food For Dogs
Touted as a complete and balanced dog food diet, the Kal Kan Complete Adult Food For Dogs is advertised to contain all the protein necessary to provide dogs with enough stamina and energy.
While it does make good on its promise, we can’t help but check the label to see if it really is as good as it sounds. And that’s where it went downhill.
The first ingredient in this recipe is ground yellow corn. Now a dish that doesn’t start with meat is already low-quality in our opinion (unless the food was created specifically to address a medical condition or is a special diet), but the corn is supported by many more carb ingredients in the food.
Aside from corn, there is one more corn product (corn gluten meal), two grain products (wheat middlings and ground wheat), and one legume (soybean meal) ingredient. Three of them are in the first five of the ingredients list.
Now let’s move on to the meats. They’re both unspecified. Meat and bone meal does not refer to which animal contributed to the meal.
It’s a vague term that could mean either one type of animal meat was used or a lot. If your pet is particularly sensitive to some types of animal protein, then it becomes even more worrying. You don’t know what you’re feeding your pup.
Another thing is the use of the term ‘chicken by-product meal.’ When meat is simply stated as ‘chicken’ then it refers to the chicken’s muscle meat.
Throw in the word ‘by-product’ and that becomes open to interpretation. Anything leftover from processing meat is considered a byproduct. So you can get meat and organs, but you could also be getting entrails, feathers, and more.
Recall Info: None yet.
Problem Ingredients: Ground yellow corn, meat and bone meal, soybean meal, ground wheat, chicken by-product meal, wheat middlings, corn gluten meal,
8. Purina Dog Chow Complete With Real Chicken
It’s proudly tagged as having 23 vitamins and minerals as well as containing real chicken, so you’d expect it to be a healthy chicken-based dish for your pup. But that would be wrong.
There is no chicken to be found within the first five ingredients. But where’s the chicken? It’s in the 7th slot, after the corns and legume.
We’ll list down the first five ingredients here: Whole Grain Corn, Meat And Bone Meal, Corn Gluten Meal, Beef Fat Naturally Preserved With Mixed-Tocopherols, Soybean Meal. That’s a significant amount of corn and soybean when put together.
We don’t have a problem with corn. We recognize that corn contains nutrients and is not a filler. In most cases. However, for a recipe that’s not formulated to target specific canine medical conditions, we’d expect the corn to be merely a supporting ingredient and not the main one. Quality dog food should always contain more meat than carbohydrates.
The second thing we’ve noticed is that most of the meats are unnamed. That’s a red flag in dog food. While an unspecified meat ingredient will not harm your pup, it’s kind of worrying that you don’t know what’s going in your pet’s food. It’ll even be more worrying if your pet turns out to be sensitive to the ingredient included.
There’s Meat And Bone Meal and Poultry By-Product Meal. What meat do these refer to? Pork, beef, chicken? What kind of poultry? Turkey or chicken?
And since we’re talking about byproducts too, which parts were used? Muscle meat, organs, entrails? The fresh chicken (which the name of the product is referring to) doesn’t appear until the 7th slot.
And lastly, this recipe contains artificial food coloring which is totally unnecessary and not beneficial to dogs.
Recall Info: There is no recall history for this specific product although the Purina brand has been involved in several recalls since 2011.
Problem Ingredients: Whole Grain Corn, Meat And Bone Meal, Corn Gluten Meal, Soybean Meal, Poultry By-Product Meal, Yellow 6, Yellow 5, Red 40, Blue 2
7. Kibbles ‘n Bits Homestyle Grilled Beef & Vegetable
At first glance, this recipe looks alright. It’s promoted as having a culinary-inspired formula and is supposed to be loaded with proteins.
The texture — crunchy kibbles with soft, meaty bits — is also something that would definitely interest a pup. However, if you look closely at the label, you’ll see that the food is made up of low-quality ingredients.
It’s not meat-based. Although it’s billed as a beef and vegetable recipe, the vegetables come first and there are more of them than necessary.
In fact, the main ingredients of the meal are corn and grains. The meat doesn’t come in until the third slot. and it’s the only meat within the first eight ingredients of the recipe (if you don’t count animal fat. We don’t).
We don’t usually have a problem with corn or grains, but this many? And it’s not only that. There’s corn syrup in the food. While corn syrup is not a dangerous ingredient, it has a high sugar content.
It’s not necessary in dog food, and manufacturers only add it to enhance the flavor. If your pup is already struggling with obesity, then this sugar product makes the problem worse.
Lastly, we’re not a fan of artificial colors, and this food has plenty of it. Dogs aren’t tempted by colored foods, so the artificial hues are really intended to attract pet owners.
Recall Info: No food recall for this specific recipe although Kibbles ‘n Bits has been involved in a recall for its canned foods back in 2018.
Problem Ingredients: Corn, Soybean Meal, Ground Wheat, Corn Syrup, Wheat Middlings, Titanium Dioxide (Color), Yellow 5, Yellow 6, Wheat Flour, Red 40, Blue 1.
6. Pedigree Complete Nutrition Adult Grilled Steak & Vegetable
This dog food is billed as providing complete nutrition for adult pups and even includes an optimal content of omega fatty acids for shiny hair.
It also proudly boasts that it is made of the finest ingredients. Looking closely at the label, however, we see a different story.
The first ingredient of the meal is ground whole grain corn. The third ingredient is also corn (but this time it’s called corn gluten meal) while the fifth is soybean meal.
So in the first five slots, you get three corn and legume ingredients, which means that this is not a meat-based dish at all. Here, the meat acts as support only and not the other way around, and there are too many grains.
The second thing we don’t like about this recipe is that it uses unrecognizable animal ingredients. We’re talking about the meat and bone meal.
Meat meals are usually okay provided that the animal the meat comes from is named. For example, chicken meal or lamb meal. But meat and bone meal? Which animal meat was used? Is there more than one kind of animal? And then, which parts?
Lastly, while the brand says that the recipe does not contain “artificial flavors or sugar,” it does contain artificial colors. There are four we could see, and they’re listed midway in the list, having more volume than the added nutrients the food contains.
Recall Info: The Pedigree Adult Complete Nutrition dry dog food line was recalled way back in 2014 due to the possible presence of metal fragments in the bags, although no illnesses or injuries were reported. The line has not had a recall since.
Problem Ingredients: Ground Whole Grain Corn, Meat And Bone Meal, Corn Gluten Meal, Soybean Meal, Brewers Rice, Ground Whole Grain Wheat, Red 40, Yellow 6, Blue 2, Yellow 5
5. Ol’ Roy Complete Nutrition Roasted Chicken & Rice
Ol’ Roys is a Walmart brand that has been in production since 1981. This specific recipe from the brand is crafted for adult canines of all sizes with essential nutrients to provide a balanced diet.
It’s billed as an inexpensive pet food due to lack of advertising and promotion, but if you look closely at the ingredients, you’ll see another reason why.
We’ll list the first six ingredients here: Ground Whole Grain Corn, Meat and Bone Meal, Soybean Meal, Rice Bran, Animal Fat (preserved with BHA and BHT), and Poultry By-Product Meal. And most of these are problematic.
We don’t have anything against corn. Grains are okay too. In fact, these are healthy ingredients to have in dog food. But within reasonable quantities and never as the most significant part of a diet. In this recipe, the corn and grains make up the most volume and overwhelm the meat.
Second thing, the meats are all unspecified. They’re labelled as meat and bone meal and poultry byproduct meal. The labels don’t indicate exactly what animal the meat comes from and which parts (regarding the byproducts) were used.
Lastly, the food contains artificial colors and artificial preservatives (BHA and BHT).
Recall Info: There has been no recall yet for this formulation, although the Ol’ Roy brand has been involved in several recalls since 1998. The most recent one was in 2018 where samples of its Gravy Train line were found to contain traces of sodium pentobarbital.
Problem Ingredients: Ground Whole Grain Corn, Meat and Bone Meal, Soybean Meal, Rice Bran, Animal Fat (preserved with BHA and BHT), Poultry By-Product Meal, Red #40, Yellow #5, and Blue #2
4. Pro Pac Performance Puppy
This recipe is designed for puppies from weaning until the 12th month. It’s also billed as an excellent feed for pregnant or nursing canines.
We don’t find anything wrong with the ingredients because it starts with chicken meal, an animal protein. Ground yellow corn as the second ingredient may be a little bit off, but still not bad. What’s more concerning is the recent recall of this product.
The maker of this recipe is Midwestern Pet Foods, the same manufacturer of Sportsmix, Nunn Better, and Splash Fat Cat.
The company is currently embroiled in one of the worst pet food recalls to date concerning aflatoxin, a possibly fatal type of toxin that was found in Midwestern Pet Food’s Sportsmix products.
Included in the recall are two Pro Pac recipes. This particular formulation and the Pro Pac Adult Mini Chunk.
Recall Info: On January 11, 2021, and FDA alert was issued on the Pro Pac Adult Mini Chunk, 40 lb. bags and Pro Pac Performance Puppy, 40 lb. bags manufactured in Midwestern Pet Foods’s Oklahoma plant (denoted with a “05” in the date/lot code) with expiration dates of July 9, 2022 or earlier.
This is an expanded recall that was issued out of caution since the Pro Pac recipes were produced in the same plant as the Sportsmix foods that have caused the deaths of more than 70 dogs and the illness of around 80 at least.
Problem Ingredients: none
3. Sportsman’s Pride Professional Formula 30/20
Sportsman’s Pride is a dog food line geared towards canine athletes and is billed as supportive of the endurance and energy requirements of working dogs and active pups.
While that sounds good, we need to take a look at the recent recall of one of its products (Professional Formula 30/20) and the ingredients it contains.
On June 3, 2021, the FDA issued an alert regarding one lot of Professional Formula 30/20. Sunshine Mills, Inc., which manufactures Sportsman’s Pride and the brands Sprout, Intimidator, and FRM Gold Select (all involved in the recall), issued a voluntary recall of this recipe for potential salmonella contamination.
But looking past the recall alert, we’d have to say that this recipe doesn’t meet our standards either. The main ingredient in this food is chicken byproduct meal, a rather dubious ingredient with regards to quality.
Chicken byproduct can mean any leftover part of the chicken, and not just its organs. With quality recipes, manufacturers generally state “chicken liver, chicken heart, “ and so on.
When a manufacturer lists byproduct only, that means it’s probably a combination of a lot of unsavory things that won’t sound as good when listed down and specified.
Lastly, this food uses more carbs than protein to supply the energy needs of dogs because there are three grain and corn ingredients within the first five slots.
Recall Info: For possible salmonella contamination, Sunshine Mills recalled the 40 lb bags of Sportsman’s Pride Professional Formula 30/20 Dog Food with a use by date of Oct. 7, 2021. These bags were sold in the states of MS, FL, TN, LA, VA, NC, TX.
The potential for contamination was noted after a sample of 5 lb. Sprout Sporting Dog Food product was collected and tested positive for salmonella during routine surveillance.
Sunshine Mills manufactures the recalled Sprout, Intimidator, Sportsman’s Pride, and FRM Gold Select dog foods in the same plant.
No illnesses or complaints have been reported to date.
Problem Ingredients: Chicken By-Product Meal, Rice, Corn Meal, Corn Gluten Meal
2. Bravo Packing Performance Dog
We normally like raw pet food because most of these are free from fillers and the meat included are in their purest forms, free from processing of any kind. However, in the case of Bravo Packing’s raw diet, we’d have to rethink this.
Bravo Packing’s (not to be confused with Bravo Pet Foods) Performance Dog and all of Bravo Packing’s other raw diets have undergone a recall this year.
Although no deaths or illnesses have been associated with the food, it is troubling that the brand has once again been involved with a recall.
From 2011 to 2015, Bravo had 7 recalls, which included expanded recalls. (Expanded recall means a company had to recall a product then expanded that recall to include other products.)
There was another in 2018 and another in 2019 before the one for 2021. All of the past recalls were due to the possible presence of Salmonella or Listeria.
Recall Info: On March 3, 2021, Bravo Packing, Inc. issued a voluntary recall of two of their raw pet food products (Ground Beef and Performance Dog frozen raw) for possible cross contamination after samples collected during a US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) inspection tested positive for Salmonella and Listeria monocytogenes.
The brand expanded the recall on March 16 to include ALL of its pet food and bone products of all sizes. No lot code or date code has been provided for the recent recall so assume, for the safety of your pets, that all are possibly contaminated.
1. Sportmix Premium High Energy 26/18
This makes the top of our worst dog foods list because of the sheer number of dogs that were affected by the aflatoxin levels found in several Sportsmix products, including this one.
Many pets have died (the Sportsmix products involved cat food too) and many more were left ill. (See recall info below for complete details.)
But even without the aflatoxin situation, this recipe was not a particularly good one to begin with. We normally like dog foods that start with a meat ingredient because that shows that meat makes up the most volume in the recipe. However, we aren’t sold on byproducts, and this recipe starts with one.
When byproducts are mentioned, it means this is what is leftover after the meat is removed. So a chicken byproduct meal is essentially dried out chicken leftovers that may include organs (good) but also other stuff like hide, hair, or intestinal contents (bad).
Are these harmful to your dogs? No. Are these nutritious? They can be. But are these high-quality ingredients? Definitely not.
Aside from the byproduct meal ingredient, this recipe also contains meat meal. But that ingredient is ambiguous. What animal was used? Which part/s?
The thing about unnamed ingredients is that it could mean anything. The meat could be sourced from one animal or it could be sourced from several. It’s not a quality ingredient, that’s for sure.
Recall Info: Just December of last year, Midwestern Pet Foods, which manufactures Sportmix, issued a voluntary recall for several of its products, including this recipe. Tests showed that aflatoxin, which is produced by mold, exceeded acceptable levels, leaving 28 dogs and cats dead and eight others ill.
The recall involved 50- and 44-pound bags of Premium High Energy with an expiration of either March 2 or 3, 2022. The recall was later expanded (January 11, 2021) to include more recipes and the updated toll numbered over 70 dogs dead and at least 80 more ill.
Problem Ingredients: Chicken By-Product Meal, Meat Meal
Key Differences Between the Worst and Best Dog Foods
- The best dog food will exceed the minimum nutritional requirements – Whilst all commercially available foods will reach the minimum required nutritional levels, the minimum is not enough to make your dog fully thrive.
- Protein – According to Kate Barrington at Petsumer.com, the best dog food will have over 25% protein. This should be ideally from all animal sources, without using vegetable protein.
- Fat – The best foods will have at least 10% fat content.
- Enriched with Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids.
- The first five ingredients on the label should not contain any fillers, by-products, or additives.
Different Types of Dog Food in 2023
- Cheapest and most popular
- Usually comes in the form of dry kibble
- Good for teeth
- Requires water with the meal
- Easy to store
- Fussy dogs might find flavor and lack of aroma unappealing
- Good for picky dogs
- A bit more expensive
- More hydrating than dry
- Easier to digest
- Tend to be higher cost
- Focus on raw/lightly processed ingredients
- Stores longer than kibbles
- Requires re-hydration
- A type of dry pet food
- Not cooked at a high temperature to lock in nutrients
- May need to be combined with warm water
- Easy storage
- Comparable in price with dry kibble
- Raw food diet
- Can be pricey
- Very high in protein and fat
- Might be prone to bacteria
- Difficult to store
- New to the pet food market
- Deliverable to your house
- Designed specifically for your individual dog
- Guaranteed nutritional quality
- Much more expensive than other options
FAQs regarding General Dog Nutrition
- What is the best vet recommended dog food? – The truth is, there is no real consensus among vets on which food is the best. This is because all dogs are different and unique. There is no one catch-all formula that would be perfect for any dog. We would, therefore, recommend searching for a well-regarded food that is high in protein and fat, and that your dog likes the taste of!
- What foods should dogs avoid? – There are more foods that dogs should avoid than could ever be listed here. Some common human foods that are poisonous to dogs are chocolate, caffeine, onions, garlic, and sweetcorn. Check with a veterinary website before you feed your dog anything that isn't marketed as canine food.
- Is Grain Free Dog Food Really Better? – Dogs have been found to have trouble digesting grains and therefore grain-free foods can help aid digestion. A grain-free diet for your dog will also mean that you are likely buying formulas with higher levels of vegetables, fiber, and proteins. This will help the development of your dog's coat and skin, as well as provide your dog with more energy. A grain-free diet has however recently been linked to a small increase in canine heart disease.
- What dog foods are causing heart problems? – The FDA has recently begun to investigate how grain-free canine formulas might increase the risk of canine heart disease. It's still too early to come to any major conclusions, but we will keep an eye out on this story as it develops.
Choosing what you feed your pet is one of the most important decisions a paw-rent makes, and knowing the difference between good and bad formulas will go a long way in ensuring your dog leads a long and happy life.
We hope to have given you the means to identify a great dog formula, as well as make you aware of the potential problems that some ingredients might inflict on dogs with sensitive stomachs.
We believe that any of the products on this list will do an excellent job of feeding your dog. If your dog has tried any of the recipes on the list, be sure to leave a comment at the bottom of the page. We'd love to know what your dog's favorite food is!