Best Dry Dog Food : Top Kibble Brands of 2019

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For a long time, the only choice you had for your dog was canned food, and that was after generations of feeding your dog scraps from your own table. Now, you don’t have to deal with the moisture and mess of canned food.

Dry kibble is convenient and easy to store, but it does have a bad reputation for not having enough nutritional content. Don’t get too put off by that reputation. There are quite a few quality options that use premium ingredients to satisfy all your dog’s nutritional needs. Let’s take a look at a few things you should know before you choose your dogs dry food.

Why Quality Food Matters for Your Dog

Food that doesn’t give your dog complete nutrition offers only empty calories that put your dog at the risk of gaining weight. Quality food gives your dog the building blocks for health and well-being.

Beginning in the puppy years, premium kibble can offer your dog building blocks for strong bones and muscles while growth is controlled. Adults receive immune support and the elements of healthy skin and coat. Senior dogs are aided by formulas that help control weight.

Premium kibble helps your dog’s teeth as well. Appropriately sized kibble helps scrape plaque from the teeth and prevent bacterial build up that can cause other health problems. Dogs who have primarily dry food have fewer instances of tooth issues.

Top Foods: Quick Look

  • Best Overall – Merrick Backcountry Great Plains Red Recipe
  • Best Premium – Instinct Raw Boost Real Beef
  • Best Value – Taste of the Wild High Prairie
  • Best for Seniors – Merrick Real Chicken & Sweet Potato Senior Recipe
  • Best for Puppies – Nulo Freestyle Limited + Salmon Puppy Recipe
  • Best for Allergies – Zignature Turkey Limited Ingredient
  • Best for Sensitive Stomach  – Nulo Freestyle Limited + Salmon Puppy Recipe

3 Common Health Issues

Dry food has many excellent benefits, but there are three specific health issues that dry food can help solve for your dog.

Dental Health

Your dog’s teeth are frequently overlooked, but just like humans, dogs can develop dental issues with cheap, sugary foods. Tooth decay and gum disease can make it difficult for your dog to eat, but it can also cause other serious health problems. As dogs swallow bacteria living on the teeth, that bacteria travels through your dog’s body where it can cause other issues.

Quality dry foods help clean your dog’s teeth and provide the right balance of minerals and proteins to build strong enamel. Even aging dogs can still have strong teeth if the building blocks are there. You should be caring for your dog’s teeth (brushing and regular checkups), but premium dry foods can make that process a lot easier.

Weight

Sure your dog loves that wet food and food from your table, but rich foods can cause serious weight gain. Kibble helps with weight control when it has the correct amount of fiber and contains no empty calories.

Portion sizes can be difficult with raw or cooked diets. Kibble offers easy portioning to help prevent overeating and keep your dog on track. If your dog is already overweight, switching to a premium kibble can be the catalyst for your dog getting back down to its target weight.

Spoilage

Wet dog food and raw foods have higher chances of being improperly stored and causing spoilage. Dogs are notoriously resistant to many bacteria that would cause a human to run for the toilet, but that doesn’t mean they’re invincible to food poisoning.

Kibble has been dehydrated, so it stores for far longer without spoiling than wet foods. Moisture is a breeding ground for bacteria, and all it takes is one damaged can for you to have a mess on your hands.

What to Look For in a Quality Dry Dog Food

A quality kibble will have the proper mix of proteins (listed as the first ingredient) and carbohydrates for long-lasting energy and healthy muscles. The precise measure will depend a lot on your dog’s breed, age, and life stage (lactating for example), but looking at the first five ingredients of the food should tell you a lot.

Carbohydrate sources should come from things like brown rice or lentils, which break down slowly and provide plenty of natural fibers. Fiber encourages better digestion and helps keep your dog’s stools soft enough to pass without pain. It also controls weight, helping your dog feel full for longer.

Fruits and vegetables can offer vitamins and antioxidants to support immune health and other biological systems such as the eyes and heart. They’re vital as prebiotics, or substances known to encourage healthy gut flora. Dogs are omnivores, and this more closely aligns with the types of things dogs would have eaten during ancestral days.

Foods with omega fatty acids can help support the skin and coat. If your dog has allergies, they can also help relieve some of the itchy skin your dog could be experiencing. It also helps with brain development and could help keep joints lubricated.

If your dog is older or a large breed, glucosamine, and chondroitin may have quite a few beneficial effects on joint health. Older dogs may need supplementation to ease the degeneration of joints, and large breed dogs need preventative care to prevent premature joint issues because of their large size. Both compounds are thought to help maintain joints and possibly even repair some of the damage already done.

Ingredients to Avoid in Your Dry Dog Food

Many cheap dry foods contain cheap fillers as the main ingredients. These ingredients can lower the cost of your food, for sure, but it comes at a higher price elsewhere. Corn provides only empty calories, causing your dog to eat without gaining vital nutrients, and soy can cause food allergies.

A recent study also discovered a possible link between a food heavy in potatoes, legumes, and peas, and a condition known as canine dilated cardiomyopathy, or an enlarging of the heart. The link isn’t yet understood, and we don’t recommend throwing out your old food just yet. Until we know more about what’s going on, we recommend that you avoid foods that list those ingredients in the first three places to be on the safe side.

If your dog has significant food allergies and chronic itchy skin or digestive issues, you may want to switch to a limited ingredient food. This type of food contains a single protein source and is usually grain and gluten-free. Fewer ingredients means your dog doesn’t have to work as hard to digest the food and is less likely to experience inflammation as a result of consuming too many different ingredients.

Dry food companies that are frequent offenders for using cheap fillers and artificial ingredients are some well-known names in big box stores. Ol Roy and Kibbles ’n Bits aren’t known for using quality ingredients from single protein sources, for example. You may save some money in the short term but could end up spending that money on extra vet visits.

Dry Food Feeding Chart

Kibble portion sizes are usually clearly marked on the package. For quality kibble, fewer portions and smaller portion sizes are needed because your dog is getting more complete nutrition on less. This is good news because premium kibble can be a bigger investment than cheap kibble.

Here are some general recommendations for feeding kibble:

  • Puppies: Your puppy will change a lot over a short time, so the way you feed it will also change. Your veterinarian can give you a clear path for feeding your puppy properly so that it receives all the proper building blocks for lifelong health.
  • Adults: Feeding kibble depends on your dog’s ideal weight. Smaller dogs may receive only a 1/4 cup portion twice a day while the largest breeds may receive anywhere from four to six cups per day. Your veterinarian can give you advice on maintaining your dog’s target weight and how to assess if your dog is carrying more pounds than necessary.
  • Seniors: Senior dogs will receive much the same nutrition as they did when they were younger adults, but if your senior dog struggles with weight, this could be a time to cut back feeding and treats at the direction of your veterinarian. It could also be time to switch to a smaller kibble size if necessary for mouth comfort.

Best Dry Dog Food

Best Overall: Merrick Backcountry Raw Infused Great Plains Red Recipe with Beef, Lamb & Rabbit Grain-Free Dry Dog Food

Our first food is a grain-free recipe with whole proteins from multiple sources. The first ingredient is whole beef, a complete protein source excellent for developing proper muscle tone and maintaining proper weight. Sweet potatoes provide carbohydrates for all-day energy.

It uses freeze-dried bits of raw beef for texture and flavor, helping your dog eat without pickiness. Essential fatty acids help keep skin and coat healthy, and there are no grains or gluten that can cause allergic reactions. Glucosamine and chondroitin help keep joints in top condition even in large breeds.

First Five Ingredients:

  1. Deboned Beef
  2. Lamb Meal
  3. Salmon Meal
  4. Sweet Potatoes
  5. Potatoes

About The Company

Merrick’s primary mission is to provide kibble that uses only quality ingredients, never cheap fillers. There are no artificial ingredients. And it uses no corn or soy. Whole protein sources combined with real fruits and veggies make Merrick’s foods some of the best kibble you can get your adult dog for dense nutrition without empty calories.

What Customers Like:

  • freeze dried raw bits
  • joint support
  • proper protein and carb ratios
  • no artificial fillers
  • Gluten-free

Common Complaints:

  • freeze dried bits sink to the bottom of the bag
  • meat bits are inconsistent from bag to bag

Best Value: Taste of the Wild High Prairie Grain-Free Dry Dog Food

Taste of the Wild’s food is a grain-free formula with a whole protein source (buffalo) as the first ingredient. High Prairie formula uses buffalo and bison, good options for dogs allergic to poultry, and sweet potato for all-day energy.

Whole fruits and veggies provide excellent vitamins and antioxidants for immune support. Essential fatty acids help keep the skin and coat healthy and supple. It contains no cheap fillers or grains that can irritate your dog’s digestive system.

First Five Ingredients:

  1. Buffalo
  2. Lamb Meal
  3. Chicken Meal
  4. Sweet Potatoes
  5. Peas

About The Company

Taste of the Wild is part of the family-owned Diamond Food Company. It’s headquartered in Missouri and uses quality ingredients to provide dense nutrition for your dog in forms that are less likely to irritate its digestive system. Whole protein from varied sources give you a choice for what best suits your unique dog, but none of the foods ever use cheap fillers or artificial flavors.

What Customers Like:

  • buffalo whole protein
  • no poultry
  • no cheap fillers
  • excellent source of essential fatty acids
  • suitable for sensitive digestion

Common Complaints:

  • contains peas
  • may cause gas

Best Premium: Instinct by Nature’s Variety Raw Boost Grain-Free Recipe with Real Beef Dry Dog Food

This formula uses whole beef for a complete protein source but also encourages dogs to eat with real bits of freeze-dried raw meat for taste and flavor. It contains a quality mix of protein and carbohydrates to help your dog feel full longer and to provide dense nutrition.

It has plenty of fruits and vegetables to support the immune system with a variety of vitamins and antioxidants. Essential fatty acids support coat and skin health as well as maintain brain function. It uses no cheap fillers, no artificial ingredients, and no potatoes.

First Five Ingredients:

  1. Beef
  2. Turkey Meal
  3. Herring Meal
  4. Peas
  5. Chicken Fat

About The Company:

Instinct by Nature’s Variety provides foods that use only quality ingredients with whole proteins as its primary source. They use bits of freeze-dried raw bits in each of their foods so that their kibble more closely mimics the diet your dog’s ancestors would have eaten. They regularly donate meals to animal shelters in hopes of providing each and every dog with quality nutrition needed to grow strong and healthy.

What Customers Like:

  • blend of raw and kibble
  • whole protein sources
  • no cheap fillers or artificial ingredients
  • no potatoes
  • good source of vitamins

Common Complaints

  • raw kibble can settle to the bottom
  • large bags aren’t resealable

Puppies

Puppies need the right building blocks for lifelong health. They should get quality ingredients with plenty of protein and veggies for proper bone, muscle, and skin health. Discuss with your veterinarian the best ways to provide this nutritional foundation for your puppy and how to best meet your puppy’s nutritional needs.

Nulo Freestyle Limited+ Salmon Recipe Grain-Free Puppy & Adult Dry Dog Food

Nulo’s puppy formula is a limited ingredient food that helps your newly weaned puppy get used to solid foods and receive dense nutrition for proper growth. It uses whole salmon as the first ingredient, which provides a complete, lean protein plus omega fatty acids. It’s grain free but uses chickpeas for good fiber and carb content.

Specially formulated probiotics help support the immune system and promote healthy gut flora. It has no potatoes and is easier on the gut for digestion. There are no cheap fillers (corn or soy), no preservatives, and no peas or pea protein.

First Five Ingredients:

  1. Deboned Salmon
  2. Salmon Meal
  3. Chickpeas
  4. Chickpea Flour
  5. Canola Oil

About The Company

Nulo uses premium ingredients to provide your puppy with an excellent nutritional start. It uses whole protein sources and plenty of fruits and veggies for immune support. They believe that nutrition starts early and the right puppy food can set your puppy up for a lifetime of health.

What Customers Like:

  • no peas
  • multiple protein sources
  • good essential fatty acids for brain development
  • mostly lean meats
  • good kibble size

Common Complaints:

  • may cause some gas
  • has a strong smell

Seniors

Seniors need joint support and probiotics for healthy digestion and immune system. They may need some weight control formulas because of decreased activity levels, especially if they’ve developed any joint sensitivity or pain. Talk with your veterinarian about the right path for your senior dog, but this is our current favorite.

Merrick Real Chicken & Sweet Potato Recipe Grain-Free Senior Dry Dog Food

Whole chicken and sweet potato provide the perfect blend of lean proteins and carbohydrates to help your senior dog feel full and energetic all day. There are no empty calories, just dense nutrition that won’t contribute to excess weight gain. It has plenty of real fruits and veggies for vitamins and minerals, as well as industry-leading levels of joint-favorites glucosamine and chondroitin.

It’s all natural, grain free, and gluten free plus no empty fillers such as corn or soy. The food is suitable for sensitive digestion and is thoroughly tested in Merrick’s test kitchens. The company uses locally sourced ingredients for top quality and nutrition in your senior’s twilight years.

First Five Ingredients:

  • Deboned Chicken
  • Chicken Meal
  • Sweet Potatoes
  • Peas
  • Potatoes

About The Company

Merrick’s local test kitchen makes sure that every food that hits shelves contains the best nutrition available for dogs in their twilight years. There are no empty fillers and high-quality protein and carb balance, so your senior won’t miss out on crucial nutrition as they age.

What Customers Like:

  • good protein/carb blend
  • good sized kibble
  • No fillers
  • probiotics
  • glucosamine and chondroitin

Common complaints:

  • may not satisfy picky eaters
  • contains potatoes and peas

Special Foods

If your dog has sensitivities here are some alternatives that may help.

Best For Allergies: Zignature Turkey Limited Ingredient Formula Grain-Free Dry Dog Food

Zignature’s limited ingredient formula contains none of the usual allergy suspects, chicken, corn, soy, gluten, or grain. It uses turkey as a whole protein source and chickpeas for fiber and energy. It’s low glycemic and contains whole fruits and veggies for immune support. It shouldn’t trigger any of the usual allergic reactions but still offers balanced nutrition for your dog.

First Five Ingredients:

  1. Turkey
  2. Turkey Meal
  3. Chickpeas
  4. Peas
  5. Pea Protein

About The Company

Zignature uses limited ingredients and a variety of proteins, including exotics, to help you finally find the food that helps your allergic dog to thrive. They use only whole proteins, no artificial flavors, and plenty of fruits and veggies to encourage better, smoother digestion.

What Customers Like:

  • limited ingredient
  • turkey lean protein
  • low glycemic
  • no allergenic foods
  • Balanced

Common Complaints:

  • uses peas/pea protein
  • taste may not satisfy picky eaters

Best For Sensitive Stomachs: Nulo Freestyle Limited+ Salmon Recipe Grain-Free Puppy & Adult Dry Dog Food

Nulo’s limited ingredient recipe gets rid of all poultry completely in this salmon recipe. The fish provides a good source of protein and chickpeas fiber and carbs. It uses none of the usual allergic offenders, soy, corn, gluten, wheat, or poultry. It’s suitable for all life stages, including puppies, so if you’ve got a sensitive dog, you can get their digestive system used to the food from the very start.

First Five Ingredients:

  1. Deboned Salmon
  2. Salmon Meal
  3. Chickpeas
  4. Chickpea Flour
  5. Canola Oil

About The Company

Nulo wants your dog to have complete nutrition without the discomfort of gas and itchy reactive skin. It eliminates anything that may cause your dog to be reacting poorly to the food, and you can begin getting your dog used to it from the very beginning.

What Customers Like:

  • appropriate for all life stages
  • limited ingredient
  • no poultry
  • no peas or potatoes
  • no fillers

Common Complaints

  • strong smell
  • some dogs may not like the taste.

Final Thoughts

Dry dog food stores well and can offer complete nutrition for your pet regardless of life stage or size. It can get a bad reputation, but if you look at better brands of kibble, they will have plenty of whole proteins and premium nutrients to keep your dog in the best health of its life. No need for complicated raw recipes or the smell of cans. Kibble has you covered.

1 comment

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  • I read an article a year or so that pointed out the dog’s natural diet is supposed to have a lot of moisture. If that’s not evidence (albeit anecdotal), I’m not sure what is.

    That aside, I found that gives excellent advice. For instance, it mentions dogs can get loose stools on a wet food diet. That’s such an important thing to mention because, an older or sick dog can’t afford for that to happen.

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