There is little doubt that Walmart is a popular retail store.
Shoppers flock to their physical stores and shop online every day. What you may not know, though, is that if you know what to look for you can find some of the best dog food at Walmart for your furry friends.
In the dog food market, there are plenty of things to avoid, watch for and understand.
In this review, we will cover what should and shouldn’t be in your dog food ingredient lists. We will also look at the best options you can find at Walmart for each life stage of your pup.
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Top Walmart Dog Food Choices : Quick Look
Food for each stage of your dog’s life—puppy, adult, and senior—will be reviewed in this article. The food for these various stages should be the best you can find, and we have the top picks for you here.
- Best Overall Dog Food – Nutro Wholesome Essentials
- Best Premium Dog Food – Weruva Caloric Harmony
- Best Value Dog Food – Merrick Grain Free Real Texas Beef
- Best Dog Food for Seniors – Blue Wilderness Senior
- Best Puppy Food – Merrick Grain Free Puppy
How to Read an Ingredient Label
The FDA has made ingredient listings mandatory, and the manufacturers must adhere to certain rules about what and how they list. Knowing those rules will help you not only identify what is in the dog food but how much.
The first thing you need to know is that every ingredient must be listed. If it is a whole ingredient or a byproduct of mixing two others, it still must be on the list. Secondly, the ingredients with the most content (by weight) are listed first.
What this means to you, is that when you look at the ingredient label, the first ingredient is generally the item with the most content in the kibble. By generally, we mean that this can be slightly misleading.
For example, chicken is very high in water content. Even if the chicken is listed first, once the chicken is cooked and the moisture is gone, other ingredients may have total content in the final kibble.
Content to Look For
Another thing to watch for is the wheat content. You will notice on certain labels that there are a lot of wheat items listed in a row. Some companies use wheat as the main protein. By listing chicken first, for example, they can say they are a chicken protein dog food. Though, when you read the label, chicken may be listed first, but five different types of wheat are listed next.
The FDA has mandated that all single source meats must be listed by type. This means if the major meat source is turkey, then the label must state it is a turkey. However, there are some loopholes for meat-like ingredients. Meat byproduct and meat meal, for example, can be sourced from several different sources.
On the label the manufacturer is only required then, to list “meat” as the meat source. The problem here is that it can be any type of meat, including fowl, pork, beef, fish, raccoon, weasel, etc. We will cover things to avoid in a later section., including the term “meat.”
The final important note about reading the ingredient list is that individual vitamins and minerals can be listed separately, but they do not have to do so. However, if the vitamin or mineral is from a secondary source, they are not required to list the exact item. As an example, you may see fish oil. This is generally an omega-3 fatty acid, but it could also be omega-6 fatty acids.
Most vendors want their vitamins and minerals listed and will do so. However, if you don’t see the actual vitamin on the list, you will need to look for the vitamin source.
Ingredients to Look For
While you are examining the label, there are certain things you will want to look for. Having these ingredients on the list is crucial to your dog’s overall health. You may also be told by your veterinarian to ensure there are certain foods included in their diet. The following list is the ones you will want in your dog’s food.
Real meat should always be the first listed ingredient. The meat should be listed by name as well. Chicken is one of the most common first ingredients, but it can also be things like turkey, beef, pork, buffalo or any other meat protein.
Dogs are carnivorous by nature, and their bodies are designed to process meat proteins more efficiently than grain proteins. Therefore it is crucial that real meat proteins are listed as at least the first ingredient.
Another option that has come under fire, meat meal, is a great source of meat protein. Just like the main meat source, any time meat meal is listed, you should make sure it is a real meat source. Things like chicken meal and beef meal are quite popular.
Meat meal is real meat ground with the bone (instead of deboned meats) and added to the kibble. These meals are a high source of protein and other vitamins and minerals that are derived from the bone and marrow within.
Seeing a real meat meal listed is not a bad thing as some have feared. Dogs, unlike humans, can eat the bone and marrow without any digestive issues. However, any listing that just says “meat” should be avoided.
Fruits and Vegetables
To ensure proper nutrition, your dog will need naturally sourced vitamins and minerals. These come in the form of fruits, vegetables, and berries. One of the least expensive (and therefore most widely used) are white potatoes. You will also see things like kale, sweet potatoes, peas, apples, blueberries, and others.
Vitamins and minerals can also be added separately or as part of a nutrition pack. However, naturally sourced vitamins from the ingredients in fruits and vegetables will be more easily absorbed and maintained in the dog’s digestive tract. You will want to find flavors your dog will eat and then find those foods on the ingredients list.
Ingredients to Avoid
There are a couple of things you will want to look for on the label to know not to purchase that food or brand. Let’s take a look at what those are here.
Anytime you see the word byproduct; you should put the food down and move away. Even if the meat is named (such as chicken byproduct, beef byproduct, etc.), it isn’t good for your dog.
In fact, the byproduct has been deemed by the FDA as non-consumable by humans. While it is still legal for consumption by canines, it shouldn’t be. Other than to ensure byproduct doesn’t get into human food, there is no other regulations on it.
By-product is a 4-D food, which stands for dad, dying, diseased and deformed. The meat is what is left over after butchering the edible meats form the animals. It is also expanded to include expired meats, road kill, and other sources. The process doesn’t even discriminate against the packaging the spoiled meat is wrapped in. It is all added to the mixer.
Artificial Colors and Dyes
There are additives to some dog foods to make them more eye appealing to humans. You will usually find these in brands that brag about their vegetable content or savory flavors. The dyes are added to make the food look more like the flavor that was also added, so the kibble that tastes like carrots will be dyed orange to look more like a carrot piece.
The problem here is two-fold. First, the dyes can come off on your dog’s fur, especially around the mouth and paws. It can also leach into their skin and discolor their fur. Lighter colored dogs will be more affected by this, but it can happen to any dog and any coat type or color.
The second and more serious problem is allergies. Food-borne allergies are generally triggered by these colors and dyes. It may not even happen right away, either. Some breed and individual dogs are allergic to the dyes from birth. Others will develop the allergy as they continue to ingest it.
For these two reasons, any time you see things on the ingredient list such as Red 40, Blue 2, Yellow 5 & 6, etc. you should avoid them completely. It is better to find an all-natural food without these additives than to chance an allergic reaction in your pup. We promise, that while the food may not be bright and colorful, your dog won’t mind at all.
Brands to Avoid
Any brand that lists the above-mentioned ingredients to avoid should be on your naughty list. As a help here are some that you can add to that no-no list right now.
Walmart’s brand is very budget friendly, which makes it attractive to bargain shoppers. However, the food itself has near zero nutritional value at all. There are no natural meat protein sources in any flavor. Ol’ Roy also uses meat byproducts in their mixes. Certain flavors will also have dyes and colors added as well.
Beneful by Purina
A lot of Purina brands use chemicals and dyes in their mixes. Beneful is one that uses them all. Each kibble is a different color to make it appear like actual foods that the flavors claim to taste like.
You will also find chemicals as BHT and BHA included in the Beneful brands, though some are starting to do away with them. Regardless of the protein sources, the chemicals, dyes, and additives should be avoided altogether.
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Best Dog Food at Walmart
The choices are vast and varied depending on the size of your Walmart or if you are shopping online. With a little research, you can find the best dog food at Walmart for your pup. Here are the best choices, sorted by life stage.
Best Overall – Nutro Wholesome Essentials
Nutro Wholesome Essentials delivers more vitamins and minerals than most other dry foods have total ingredients. They also don’t use white potatoes for those that are looking to steer clear of those for various reasons. What you will find is whole, natural deboned chicken and chicken meal as the first two ingredients.
Designed to be packed with flavor and vitamins to promote strong, healthy growth, digestion, and metabolism, the first five ingredients are chicken, chicken meal, whole brown rice, brewers rice, and split peas. – Buy At Chewy (30% Off)
What Customers Like
- All natural ingredients, including farm-raised chicken for healthy growth.
- Mixes well with wet food as a topper.
- Little waste and easy to portion.
- Bags for large breed, standard and small breed formulas look identical and easily mixed up.
- Doesn’t hold up well with water if mixing for gravy.
Best Value – Merrick Grain Free Texas Beef & Sweet Potato
Merrick Grain Free formulas use sweet potatoes and white potatoes as the binding agent for the kibble (and flavor, of course), instead of wheat. You also won’t find any corn or rice in the ingredient list either. What you will find is a lot of meat proteins from beef, lamb, and pork. – Buy At Chewy (30% Off)
Along with the potatoes, you will also find apples, blueberries, and peas. The first five ingredients are deboned beef, lamb meal, sweet potatoes, peas, and potatoes.
What Customers Like
- Has a lot of natural vitamins and minerals to promote growth and bone support.
- Easy to eat kibble mixes well with water or wet food for a topper.
- Natural antioxidants to improve immunity and blood health.
- Some picky eaters may not like all the flavors.
- Contains white potatoes which some people want to avoid in their dog’s diet.
Best Premium – Weruva Caloric Harmony
Weruva Caloric Harmony has 39 percent crude protein which is one of the highest dry kibble protein levels available. Sources from natural, free-range and wild-sourced chicken, turkey and salmon, the dog food provides more minerals and fatty acids than most other brands. – Buy At Chewy (30% Off)
The first five ingredients are deboned chicken, chicken meal, lentils, chickpeas, and green peas.
What Customers Like
- The cage-free fowl options and wild salmon offer a lot of natural meat proteins.
- Contains a lot of minerals, like iron and copper, that a lot of other foods don’t have.
- Mixes well with water for gravy.
- Does not pair well with wet food as a topper except in very small batches.
- Not always in stock and can be difficult to find locally.
Best Puppy Food at Wal-Mart
Best Dry Food – Merrick Grain Free Puppy
Merrick Grain Free also has a puppy formula with even more vitamins, and minerals included. Aimed at promoting proper growth rates and nutrition to keep the active puppies moving, digesting and bouncing around, the small, easy to eat kibble has a lot of meat proteins to go along with the vegetables. – Buy At Chewy (30% Off)
The first five ingredients are deboned chicken, chicken meal, potatoes, peas, and sweet potatoes.
What Customers Like
- Easily mixes with wet food or water for more flavors and edibility.
- Has all the vitamins a growing puppy needs in one bag.
- Keeps puppies active and healthy.
- Picky eaters may find that the flavors aren’t agreeable.
- Contains white potatoes and peas which some want to avoid.
Nutro Puppy wet food comes in a single serve contain for easy portioning. You will also find high levels crude proteins and crude fats that puppies need to maintain bone health and grow at healthy, proper rates. – Buy At Chewy (30% Off)
Easily mixed with dry food for added proteins, if you wish, you can find the first five ingredients are Beef Broth, Beef, Beef Liver, Chicken Wheat Gluten, Pork Plasma.
What Customers Like
- The formula has been revamped with added flavors to appease more dogs.
- Easily mixes with dry food for added proteins.
- Stores easily and serves quickly.
- Some flavors aren’t liked by the picky eaters.
- Can still purchase the older formula, which can become confusing.
Best Senior Dog Food at Wal-Mart
Best Dry Food – Blue Buffalo Life Protection Formula Senior Chicken & Brown Rice
Blue has long been a standard value brand that is overly enjoyed by most dogs. One of their best formulas is the senior variety. It has added vitamins and minerals to support older bones and joints and also helps to keep the metabolism and digestion working properly. – Buy At Chewy (30% Off)
The first five ingredients are deboned chicken, brown rice, barley, oatmeal, and chicken meal.
What Customers Like
- No soy, corn or wheat included in the recipes.
- Easily digested by older systems.
- Can be mixed with wet food or water.
- Rice and grains can take longer to digest, leading to less frequent feedings.
- Overeating is possible, leading to late-stage obesity.
Best Wet Food – Blue Wilderness Senior
Blue also has a senior wet food formula that pairs well with their dry food. Alone it is a great source of meat proteins, added vitamins, and minerals for a healthy late stage life. The added nutrients promote bone health and joint lubrication to keep even the oldest dogs more active. – Buy At Chewy (30% Off)
The first five ingredients are turkey, chicken broth, chicken, potato protein, and potatoes.
What Customers Like
- Easily digested wet formula pairs well with dry food.
- Added nutrients for bone and joint health.
- Great flavors most every dog loves.
- Can be too protein rich hen mixed with dry for some breeds.
- Maybe too soupy in its consistency at times.