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Bark-Worthy Bites: Unveiling Our Best Dog Food Brands

Written by

Ma. Leonor Dollisen

Reviewed by

Updated on:

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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 pet food labels out there, how can you best determine what is the right food for your dog? Are there tips in choosing the best dog food?

Our guide is here to make that process much simpler. It will teach you the difference between bad and good pet food, and help you make an informed decision on what will best benefit your dogBelow are our worst & best dog food brand reviews, read on.

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Best Dog Food Brands

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Bark-Worthy Bites: Unveiling Our Best Dog Food Brands 1
Ollie Turkey Recipe
  • Dog-centric longevity formula
  • Moist blend bridging dry and wet
  • Diverse recipe selection
Check Price Here!
Bark-Worthy Bites: Unveiling Our Best Dog Food Brands 2
Open Farm Pasture Raised Lamb
  • Protein rich
  • Meats from trusted sources
  • Zero meat by-products
Check Price on Amazon
Bark-Worthy Bites: Unveiling Our Best Dog Food Brands 3
Redbarn Beef
  • Single protein
  • Semi-moist food
  • Suitable for hiding pills
Check Price on RedbarnCheck Price on Amazon
Bark-Worthy Bites: Unveiling Our Best Dog Food Brands 4
Jinx Salmon, Sweet Potato & Carrot
  • High in lean proteins
  • Rich in natural fibers
  • Contains antioxidants
Check Price on ChewyCheck Price on Amazon
Bark-Worthy Bites: Unveiling Our Best Dog Food Brands 5
I and Love and You Lamb and Bison
  • Zero fillers
  • Protein-rich formula
  • Non-GMO ingredients
Check Price on ChewyCheck Price on Amazon
Bark-Worthy Bites: Unveiling Our Best Dog Food Brands 6
A Pup Above Porky Luau
  • Pork free from hormones
  • Rich in collagen and amino acids
  • Loaded with veggies and superfoods
Check Price Here!
Bark-Worthy Bites: Unveiling Our Best Dog Food Brands 7
Blue Buffalo Life Protection Formula Puppy Canned
  • Fortified with DHA
  • Made from real chicken
  • Supports brain and eye development
Check Price on ChewyCheck Price on Amazon
Bark-Worthy Bites: Unveiling Our Best Dog Food Brands 8
Instinct Original Recipe
  • Locally made (USA)
  • Crafted from premium ingredients
  • No grain, wheat, corn or soy
Check Price on ChewyCheck Price on Amazon
Bark-Worthy Bites: Unveiling Our Best Dog Food Brands 9
Purina Pro Plan Bright Mind Adult 7+
  • Contains real beef
  • Promotes mental alertness
  • Boosts immune system
Check Price on ChewyCheck Price on Amazon
Bark-Worthy Bites: Unveiling Our Best Dog Food Brands 10
Merrick Lil' Plates Salmon & Sweet Potato
  • Help support joints
  • Designed to clean teeth
  • Promotes optimal digestion
Check Price on ChewyCheck Price on Amazon
Bark-Worthy Bites: Unveiling Our Best Dog Food Brands 11
Holistic Select Large breed
  • Helps maintain bone strength
  • Contains live good bacteria
  • With antioxidant-rich superfoods
Check Price on ChewyCheck Price on Amazon
Bark-Worthy Bites: Unveiling Our Best Dog Food Brands 12
Natural Balance LID Sweet Potato & Venison Recipe
  • Single animal protein
  • Designed for sensitive pets
  • Promotes better gut health
Check Price on ChewyCheck Price on Amazon

1. Ollie Turkey Recipe

Bark-Worthy Bites: Unveiling Our Best Dog Food Brands 13

First 5 ingredients:

Turkey, Butternut Squash, Turkey Livers, Oats, Lentils

Protein: 10.0% min

Fat: 7.0% min

Fiber: 2.0% max

Moisture: 72.0% max

Food Type: Coarse Pâté

Best for: All Breed, All Life Stages

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 perfect even for 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 is a grain-free dog food 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 it is the best dog food label on the market today. We feel confident in stating that your pooch will love it, and you would to if you tasted it!

Pros

Fresh dog food

Well-sourced ingredients

Delivered to your door

Regular deliveries

Perfect for sensitive pets

Raw nutrition with limited ingredients

Cons

Expensive

Weekly and biweekly delivery not available for some areas


2. Open Farm Freeze Dried Raw Lamb Recipe

Bark-Worthy Bites: Unveiling Our Best Dog Food Brands 14

First 5 ingredients:

Lamb, Lamb Liver, Lamb Heart, Ground Lamb Bone, Butternut Squash

Protein: 38.0% min

Fat: 32.0% min

Fiber: 5.0% max

Moisture: 5.0% max

Food Type: Freeze Dried, Raw

Best for: All Breed, All Life Stages

Open Farm brand of dog food is widely regarded as a low-risk option for canine nutrition. With an average carbohydrate content of 10% and protein content of 40%, it stands out for its balanced nutritional profile.

Enriched with essential vitamins and minerals, most variants boast high-quality ingredients such as grass-fed, pasture-raised, and grass-finished beef, along with wild-caught fish (excluding farmed salmon oil).

While a couple of offerings have slightly higher carbohydrate levels than anticipated, the overall ingredient quality remains commendable, featuring organic produce.

This single-protein formula showcases 100% pasture-raised New Zealand raw lamb, complemented by organic vegetables and superfoods, promoting holistic well-being in your furry companion.

As the brand introduces their new look, customers should be aware that during the transition phase, they may receive either the original or updated packaging, based on inventory availability.

Pros

Lightly processed

Ingredients 100% traceable

Fat content is less

Lamb used is from New Zealand

Features all organic produce

Fish components are sourced from the wild

Cons

Salmon oil appears farmed

Does not provide omega-6 : omega-3 ratio


3. Redbarn Naturals Beef Recipe

Bark-Worthy Bites: Unveiling Our Best Dog Food Brands 15

First 5 ingredients:

Beef, Beef Lung, Beef Liver, Wheat Flour, Egg Product

Protein: 14.0% min

Fat: 6.0% min

Fiber: 3.0% max

Moisture: 43.0% max

Food Type: Semi Moist

Best for: All Life Stages, Small – Large Breeds

Beef stands as a cherished choice among canines and is prominently featured as the primary ingredient in this formula, comprising over 50% of the recipe. Renowned for its high-quality protein content, beef provides all the essential amino acids vital for your pup's well-being.

We appreciate the substantial meat content in the food, ensuring ample energy for your furry friend's daily activities while also enhancing satiety.

Although the absence of vegetables is notable, the inclusion of flaxseed compensates by offering significant nutrients such as magnesium, iron, calcium, vitamin B-6, and omega fatty acids.

Crafted with a single protein source, this formulation caters well to pups with sensitivities to specific animal proteins, provided they are not allergic to beef.

The texture of the food rolls is dense yet easily cut to desired portions, suitable for both training treats and smaller pups. While the texture may crumble under pressure, a hint of smoky aroma suggests a potential smoky flavor profile.

Upon scrutinizing the ingredients, no concerning components are found, although a touch of fruit or vegetables could enhance the nutritional profile further.

Pros

Single-protein recipe

Locally made (USA)

Zero artificial preservatives, flavors or colors

Very versatile: meal, treat, topper or pill concealer

Cons

Funky smell

Not for sensitive tummies

4. Jinx Salmon, Sweet Potato & Carrot

Bark-Worthy Bites: Unveiling Our Best Dog Food Brands 16

First 5 ingredients:

Salmon, Turkey Meal, Chickpeas, Lentils, Ground Peas

Protein: 27.0% min

Fat: 14.0% min

Fiber: 5.0% max

Moisture: 10.0% max

Food Type: Dry

Best for: Adult, Small – Large Breeds

Packed with natural sources of omega fatty acids, this formula is crafted to promote optimal skin and coat health in your four-legged friend. A suitable choice to feed your dog who is suffering from allergy or sensitivities.

With real salmon leading the ingredient list, you can have confidence in providing your dog with a high-quality protein source. Complementing this, the recipe incorporates superfoods, probiotics, heart-healthy taurine, and essential vitamins and minerals.

The addition of sweet potato serves to enhance natural fiber intake, aiding digestion, while the supplementary vitamins and minerals contribute to bolstering your dog's immune system.

As an added benefit, this dry kibble is devoid of artificial preservatives, corn, wheat, soy, fillers, and byproducts, ensuring a pure and nourishing meal for your cherished companion.

Pros

Made from real Salmon

With BC30 probiotics

Free from any grains

Contains over 20 superfoods

Ideal for pets with sensitivities

Rich in Vitamins A, E and C

Cons

Not a hit among picky eaters


5. I and love and you Naked Essentials Lamb & Bison

Bark-Worthy Bites: Unveiling Our Best Dog Food Brands 17

First 5 ingredients:

Lamb, Chicken Meal, Turkey Meal, Dried Garbanzo Beans, Dried Lentils

Protein: 30.0% min

Fat: 15.0% min

Fiber: 4.0% max

Moisture: 4.0% max

Food Type: Dry

Best for: All Breed, All Life Stages

Special Diet: Grain-Free

Crafted as a grain-free dry food, this formula is expertly tailored to meet the nutritional requirements of dogs across all breeds, sizes, and life stages.

Brimming with flavor and nutrition derived from wholesome ingredients, this multi-protein recipe is designed to satisfy your dog's palate and dietary needs.

Lamb takes center stage as the predominant ingredient in this Naked Essentials formula. Sourced from free-range environments where they graze on pasture, lamb is renowned for its nutritional richness.

Packed with essential nutrients such as selenium, zinc, vitamin B12, and B3, along with omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, lamb meat offers a myriad of health benefits.

Furthermore, this lamb and bison recipe incorporates flaxseeds, known for their high fiber content and abundance of omega fatty acids.

Rich in lignans, flaxseeds boast potential cardiovascular benefits and may aid in cancer prevention. Their anti-inflammatory properties can alleviate symptoms of arthritis, regulate blood pressure, enhance kidney function, and promote healthy skin and coat in dogs.

Nevertheless, some owners of dogs allergic to chicken were surprised to discover chicken in a lamb and bison recipe. If you have a dog with any form of food allergies or sensitivities, it's essential to thoroughly review the full list of ingredients before buying any product.

Additionally, consider opting for limited ingredient recipes or single-source protein foods specifically designed for such pets.

Pros

Free from grains

Enriched with Taurine

Rich in Omega fatty acids

Loaded with pre and probiotics

Free of any fillers or by-products

Cons

Has chicken (not for allergic pets)

Caused diarrhea in some dogs


6. A Pup Above Porky Luau

Bark-Worthy Bites: Unveiling Our Best Dog Food Brands 18

First 5 ingredients:

Pork, Pork Liver, Sweet Potatoes, Pork Bone Broth, Green Beans

Protein: 13.6% min

Fat: 5.2% min

Fiber: 1.6% max

Moisture: 73.4% max

Food Type: Fresh

Best for: All Breed, All Life Stages

This is a frozen dog food that brings the essence of homemade meals straight to your pup's bowl. Loaded with high protein, low carbs, and abundant collagen and healthy amino acids, this nutrient-packed meal offers your furry friend a whole foods diet they'll adore.

Crafted with human-grade ingredients, this grain-inclusive food combines pork and pineapples with non-GMO, pesticide-free veggies to form a hearty recipe that your pup will devour! With a higher caloric content, it's best suited for more active dogs.

Utilizing a unique sous-vide cooking method, it creates a naturally savory gravy for optimal hydration and irresistible taste sensations. Featuring traceable ingredients (pork, sweet potatoes, green beans, and pineapple), each mouthful transports your pup to paradise.

Treat your canine companion to the ultimate dining experience with this delicious meal.

Pros

Single source protein

100% human-grade

Boasts non-GMO veggies

Enriched with superfoods

With nutritious bone broth

Promotes joint and digestive support

Cons

Bit pricey


7. Blue Buffalo Homestyle Recipe Puppy 

Bark-Worthy Bites: Unveiling Our Best Dog Food Brands 19

First 5 ingredients:

Chicken, Chicken Broth, Chicken Liver, Carrots, Peas

Protein: 9.0% min

Fat: 6.0% min

Fiber: 1.3% max

Moisture: 78.0% max

Food Type: Wet, Pâté

Best for: Puppy, All Breeds

This specialized canned dog food caters to pups below 12 months, offering tailored feeding guidelines for 1-3 months, 3-5 months, 5-7 months, and 7-12 months. Crafted to support optimal growth into healthy adulthood, it incorporates additional vitamins and minerals uncommon in standard puppy diets.

Ideal for your maturing companion, this delectable wet puppy food boasts an irresistible taste crafted solely from premium natural components. Beginning with top-tier protein sourced from succulent chicken chunks, it is enriched with an array of garden-fresh fruits and vegetables, complemented by essential vitamins and minerals. 

Designed with DHA to bolster brain, eye, and cognitive growth, this pate-style puppy cuisine features wholesome ingredients devoid of any by-product meals, corn, wheat, soy, artificial flavors, or preservatives.

While not grain-free, this canned dog food's grain content remains subject to debate. Nevertheless, this shouldn't deter consideration of this specific dog food for puppies.

Pros

Made from real chicken 

Promotes muscle growth

Zero , corn, wheat or soy

With DHA to support brain, eye health

Can be given as a treat, topper or entree

Free from by-product meals, additives and preservatives

Cons

Dented cans upon arrival

Caused loose bowels in some


8. Instinct Original Recipe

Bark-Worthy Bites: Unveiling Our Best Dog Food Brands 20

First 5 ingredients:

Chicken, Chicken Meal, Peas, Chicken Fat, Tapioca

Protein: 37.0% min

Fat: 20.0% min

Fiber: 3.0% max

Moisture: 10.0% max

Food Type: Dry

Best for: All Lifestages, All Breeds

Special Diet: Grain-free

Instinct has developed an exceptional grain-free food that excels across the board. The food contains chicken as its primary protein source, sourced exclusively from cage-free chickens.

Each kibble piece contains raw ingredients, a method Nature's Variety believes is optimal for dogs to absorb nutrients. There are no grains, potatoes, corn, wheat, soy, by-product meals, artificial colors, or preservatives included.

This formulation prioritizes minerals and vitamins crucial for your dog's well-being, fostering thriving health. While peas are part of the formula, which may pose issues for dogs with sensitive stomachs, Instinct has addressed this concern.

To mitigate any potential digestive upset, Instinct has fortified this formula with guaranteed levels of live, natural probiotics, as well as natural omegas and antioxidants. These additions support digestive health, promote a healthy skin and coat, and bolster immune function.

Pros

Grain-free formula

High protein content

Helps develop strong muscles

Promotes better digestion, coat and skin

Suitable for dogs with food sensitivities

Guaranteed levels of live, natural probiotics

Cons

Formula is not consistent

Tummy issues for some pets


9. Purina Pro Plan Bright Mind 7+

Bark-Worthy Bites: Unveiling Our Best Dog Food Brands 21

First 5 ingredients:

Water, Beef, Wheat Gluten, Liver, Brown Rice

Protein: 12.0% min

Fat: 3.0% min

Fiber: 1.5% max

Moisture: 75.0% max

Food Type: Wet, Chunks in Gravy

Best for: Senior, All Breeds

This wet food is specifically crafted for adult dogs aged 7 years and older, aiming to support their mental nourishment throughout their senior phase.

Drawing from Purina's proprietary research, enriched botanical oils serve as a brain fuel source for aging dogs, naturally aiding cognitive function akin to their younger years.

This Purina Pro Plan dog food primarily features real beef, offering a high-quality protein source renowned for its flavor. However, it also includes unspecified animal ingredients such as liver and meat by-products, alongside wheat gluten, which is deemed a lower-grade protein source.

These undisclosed animal ingredients may pose challenges for senior dogs with food sensitivities, representing inferior quality components.

Despite these ingredient drawbacks, many pet owners have been astounded by the results of this wet dog food for senior dogs. Observing heightened alertness and activity, previously lethargic dogs seem revitalized.

Overall, this wet food comes highly recommended based on its transformative effects on numerous senior pets. Witnessing their renewed vitality and enthusiasm during mealtime brings immense joy to dog parents, making it a worthwhile consideration for owners of senior canine companions. It may be the best food available for your dog that meets his sunset years.

Pros

Packed with protein (real beef)

Nourishes skin and coat

Highly palatable (with gravy)

With enhanced botanical oils 

Food is appropriate for seniors

Helps promote alertness and mental sharpness

Cons

Too rich for some seniors


10. Merrick Lil' Plates Salmon & Sweet Potato Recipe

Bark-Worthy Bites: Unveiling Our Best Dog Food Brands 22

First 5 ingredients:

Deboned Salmon, Salmon Meal, Whitefish Meal, Sweet Potatoes, Potatoes

Protein: 32.0% min

Fat: 14.0% min

Fiber: 4.5% max

Moisture: 11.0% max

Food Type: Dry

Best for: All Life Stages, Extra Small – Small Breeds

Special Diet: Grain-free

Lil' Plates represents Merrick’s solution tailored for small breed dogs with hearty appetites, offering a grain-free lineup designed to meet the nutritional demands of petite mouths.

Featuring smaller-sized kibbles in a crunchy texture, this type of food aim to support dental health while providing essential nutrients such as protein, glucosamine, and chondroitin for robust bones and joints.

These recipes prioritize deboned meat as the primary ingredient, omitting corn and soy, and incorporating whole foods, along with prebiotics and probiotics to promote digestive wellness.

The specific Lil' Plates variant featured showcases salmon as the key animal protein source, with deboned salmon leading the ingredient list, complemented by salmon meal and whitefish meal to enrich its nutritional profile.

This formulation also includes three ingredients rich in fat — coconut oil, flaxseed, and sunflower oil — known for their nutritional benefits, including healthy fats and essential fatty acids.

Recognizing the unique dietary requirements of smaller breeds, Merrick's recipe caters to their accelerated metabolism, ensuring adequate nutrition beyond what is typical for larger canines.

Addressing the size of the kibbles and nutrient levels, this formula comprehensively meets the dietary needs of small breed dogs.

Pros

Made from real salmon

Free from grains

Helps reduce plaque

Rich in Omega fatty acids

Promotes better skin and shiny coat

Probiotics added for optimal digestion

Filled with natural chondroitin and glucosamine

Cons

Strong seafood scent

Picky eaters are not a fan


11. Holistic Select Large & Giant Breed

Bark-Worthy Bites: Unveiling Our Best Dog Food Brands 23

First 5 ingredients:

Chicken Meal, Rice, Oatmeal, Oats, Chicken Fat

Protein: 24.0% min

Fat: 13.0% min

Fiber: 4.0% max

Moisture: 10.0% max

Food Type: Dry

Best for: All Life Stages, Large-Giant Breeds

This dog food works specifically for large dogs, featuring a meal that's tailored to their larger mouths and unique digestive requirements. This natural dry dog food is designed with larger kibble sizes to accommodate the size of their mouths, ensuring comfortable chewing and digestion.

At the core of this recipe is their proprietary Digestive Health Support System, which incorporates active probiotics, healthy fiber, and digestive enzymes. These components work synergistically to promote optimal digestive function, aiding in the breakdown and absorption of essential nutrients. By supporting a healthy digestive system, this formula facilitates the efficient utilization of nutrients throughout your dog's entire body, promoting overall wellness.

In addition to the Digestive Health Support System, this recipe is enriched with high-quality, natural ingredients, including chicken meal and oatmeal. These components provide a rich source of protein, carbohydrates, and essential nutrients, contributing to your dog's overall health and vitality.

With consistent use, this all-inclusive approach to nutrition ensures that your dog not only looks healthy on the outside but also feels healthy from within.

Pros

Supports healthy digestion

No poultry or meat by-products

Free from gluten, wheat or fillers

Filled with antioxidant-rich superfoods

Zero artificial flavor, color or preservatives

Rich in taurine, glucosamine and Omega fatty acids

Cons

Not that appealing 

Kibble size too small for giant breeds


12. Natural Balance LID Sweet Potato & Venison Recipe

Bark-Worthy Bites: Unveiling Our Best Dog Food Brands 24

First 5 ingredients:

Sweet Potatoes, Potatoes, Venison Broth, Venison, Potato Protein

Protein: 7.0% min

Fat: 4.0% min

Fiber: 2.0% max

Moisture: 78.0% max

Food Type: Wet, Pâté

Best for: All Life Stages, All Breeds

Natural Balance is dedicated to crafting Limited Ingredient formulas tailored to fulfill your dog's nutritional requirements without sacrificing taste or quality!

This canned wet food is a grain-free allergy formula crafted specifically for adult dogs prone to sensitivities caused by proteins, carbohydrates, and food additives commonly found in many different brands. 

This single protein recipe features venison paired with sweet potatoes, a highly digestible source of energy. Not only is this formula appetizing and gentle on the stomach (suitable food for sensitive stomachs), but it also supports healthy skin and digestion thanks to the inclusion of salmon oil. Moreover, it ensures overall well-being by addressing all of your furry friend's nutritional needs!

Smooth and velvety, the pâté texture of this canned food ensures a luxurious dining experience for your furry companion. As your dog takes a bite, they'll encounter a consistency that's not too dense nor too loose, striking the perfect balance for easy consumption and enjoyment.

Designed by veterinarians for dogs dealing with allergies, skin irritations, and respiratory issues, this formula is enriched with essential vitamins B6 and B12, crucial for maintaining a healthy metabolism and gastrointestinal function throughout every stage of life.

Pros

Suitable for all life stages

Free from any grains

Highly digestible formula

Balanced and complete meal

Limited number of ingredients

Ideal for highly sensitive pets

Cons

Cans only 3/4 full

Sudden change in consistency (runny)


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5 Dog Food Related Trends Heading into 2024

  • 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.
  • 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.

Our Worst Dog Food Brands 

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 our 10 worst dog foods as of this writing . 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 dog food

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 dog food nutrient profile, 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. 

This kibble 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

kal kan complete dog food

Touted as a complete and balanced dog food diet, the Kal Kan Complete adult food 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

Bark-Worthy Bites: Unveiling Our Best Dog Food Brands 25

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, 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

Bark-Worthy Bites: Unveiling Our Best Dog Food Brands 26

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

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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.

The brand also 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 5 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: This 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

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Ol’ Roy 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 marked 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

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This recipe is designed for puppies from weaning until the 12th month. It’s also labelled 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

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This is a dog food line geared towards canine athletes and is sold 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 the food may contain 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

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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

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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.
Best Dog Food Brands

Different Types of Dog Food

Kibbles / Dry Food:
  • 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
Wet Dog Food:
  • 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
Dehydrated:
  • 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
Frozen:
  • Raw food diet
  • Can be pricey
  • Very high in protein and fat
  • Might be prone to bacteria
  • Difficult to store
Human Grade:
  • New to the pet food market
  • Deliverable to your house
  • Designed specifically for your individual dog
  • Dog food made from the “kitchen” (aka Homemade)
  • Guaranteed nutritional quality
  • Much more expensive than other options

FAQs regarding General Dog Nutrition

Which dog food brands adhere to WSAVA standards? – WSAVA stands for World Small Animal Veterinary Association and currently, only five brands align with both AAFCO and WSAVA guidelines.

What is the best vet recommended dog food? – Truth is, there is no real consensus among vets on which they recommend as the best dog food. 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, tamarind 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.

Final Say

When seeking the best pet food that are better for your dog, consider both wet and dry dog food options. Finding one that meets WSAVA and AAFCO standards ensures you're selecting the right food for your pet's nutrition.

By prioritizing quality ingredients and adhering to reputable guidelines, you can contribute to a happy, healthy dog. Explore different brands and types of foods to discover the optimal choice for your beloved pet.

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