Do you have a picky eater on your hands? It can be worrisome and stressful when your beloved pet refuses to eat. You’ve taken them to the vet and determined nothing is medically wrong, but still, they turn their nose up at mealtime. You want the best for your furry best friend and a healthy, balanced diet is very important. Finding the best dog food for your picky eater is critical for their health and overall wellbeing.
Wouldn’t it be easier if we could just ask our pets what they like and what they don’t? Well, we have the next best thing. Below are tried and true options that other pet parents have found success in increasing their choosy pup’s appetite. Whether you’re looking for a food brand that your pup finds irresistible, a food topper to get them going, or alternative diets that are both healthy and delicious – we’ve got you covered!
Below we are going to cover our favorite dog foods for picky eaters. You’ll also learn about several reasons why your pup may not be eating. You’ll want to make sure you are up to speed on any potential health issues that could be keeping your pup from eating regularly. We will also look at food toppers in the event you don’t want you swap foods. Let’s dive in.
At A Glance: Best Dog Foods For Picky Eaters
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Why Are Some Dogs Picky Eaters?
There can be many reasons your dog has decided it no longer wants its food. It can be distressing when your pet refuses to eat. Some sources of the problem are more serious than others. As with any of our advice, we can only provide you with guidance. You’ll want to check with your vet if you have concerns about the way your pup is behaving. Let’s take a look at the common causes of selective eating in canines.
First and foremost, you want to make sure an underlying health condition is not causing your dog’s lack of interest in eating. The first sign that picky eating might be health-related is if a dog that has never been selective with food before suddenly stops eating. Your first stop should be the vet to rule out any concerning health problems.
Your dog could be suffering from gastrointestinal issues like an upset stomach or indigestion. This might make them reluctant to eat. While not generally a serious health concern, it can be chronic if the cause of indigestion is not removed from their diet. There are food options for pups with sensitive stomachs that could help with this issue. Focus on high-fiber and probiotic diets that do not contain common allergens.
If your pet is given a clean bill of health, it’s time to examine your and your dog’s habits around food. Does your pup get lots of snacks or treats throughout the day? Do you give them table scraps or even leftovers? It’s possible all these treats are filling your dog up to the point where they aren’t hungry for their actual meal. And in all likelihood, their meal is probably more nutritious. They also might ignore their main meal in hopes they get that preferred piece of leftover chicken from mom and dad’s dinner instead.
We also recommend reducing free feeding and opting for designated meal times for your pet. Cutting out snacks, table feeding, and free access to their food can all help to increase your dog’s hunger around mealtime and, therefore, their overall appetite.
Food Quality & Freshness
As mentioned above, the problem could begin with the type of food you’re providing. If it’s low quality and lacking in flavor, your dog may be opting out. It’s possible they just don’t like the particular meat base you’ve chosen. Experimenting with your dog’s preferences might be enough to pin down the type of food they enjoy.
Make sure whatever you are feeding is fresh. Checking expiration dates and properly storing your pet’s food is important for both taste and health. Never leave food lying out for more than a day. You can refrigerate leftovers, but we recommend just tossing and starting each meal fresh.
Finally, the issue could be rooted in something as small as a texture and temperature preference. We find this is more common in small dogs than in larger breeds. If you have a small dog like a chihuahua, you’ll want to look at foods made specifically for the Chihuahua breed. This is especially important if your dog has any dental problems, which could make hard food difficult to eat. Temperature can also play a factor. Your dog may be indifferent to their kibble but suddenly reduced to a puddle of droll if you simply add a bit of water and warm it up.
Some breeds are flat-out just pickier than others. Many times it comes down to the dog, but some breeds can be pickier than others just by nature. Some breeds that can be picky when it comes to food are the Great Pyrenees, the Siberian Husky, and the German Shepherd. It may take you several different food experiments to find the right dry kibble for your pup. It’s important not to get discouraged as you test.
Tips For Feeding a Choosy Pup
While there are many ways you can help assist your dog to become more food-friendly, there are some tips and tricks that you can utilize that are better than others. Below we’ve put together a condensed checklist of the solutions discussed above and a few additional suggestions for you to try.
- Find fiber-rich food options that promote healthy digestion for sensitive stomachs.
- Limit treats, snacking, and table feeding.
- Do not free-feed by giving your dog access to their food all day.
- Find a high-quality food option that has lots of flavors for your dog to enjoy.
- Identify your dog’s flavor and texture preferences.
- Identify any allergies or indigestion triggers that may be making meals unpleasant.
- Some dog owners have had success with hand-feeding their pets.
- Level up your kibble by adding water and heating it up; some dogs like hot meals.
- Try toppers to entice eating, this can be pet-specific store-bought toppers.
- You can also try homemade foods like shredded chicken or beef added to their food.
- With consultation from your vet, try putting your dog on an alternative diet.
- Rule out the possibility of an underlying medical concern.
- Some dogs may need a chicken-free dog food if they have a poultry allergy.
- Dogs should be fed a meat-based diet, but some pups like fruits and veggies mixed in.
Your Veterinarian may recommend other alternatives to help your pup start to eat more frequently. Raw diets are becoming more popular. But they aren’t easy to manage, and they are definitely not the most economical choice. With that being said, you should always consult with your vet to make sure there are no other underlying issues that your pup may have.
Best Dog Foods For Picky Eaters
It’s possible your dog just doesn’t like the taste of boring old kibble. Imagine eating the same dry, flavorless pieces of food every day. You might lose your appetite, too, right? The below dog food brands are packed with savory flavors that pups go crazy for while still maintaining high nutritional value.
When doing research on any type of dog food, it’s worth noting that the FDA is investigating correlations between DCM in canines and pet food. It’s been said that grain-free foods can cause DCM, but this hasn’t been completely proven yet. Research is still being done to this day.
There is a correlation between certain foods and DCM, but this has only been a trend that’s been identified. It’s not a complete correlation equal to causation. If you want more information about the study, you can check out the article here.
Taste of the Wild Pacific Stream
- Delicious smoked salmon flavor.
- Grain-free formula.
- Probiotics for gut health.
- No corn, wheat, or grains.
- Made in the United States.
- 360 Calories per cup.
- 25% Protein, 15% Fat, 3% Fiber.
Our favorite dog food for picky eaters is Taste of the Wild’s Pacific Stream formula. This dry dog food features salmon as the protein base which many owners report that even the choosiest pups enjoy. The kibble is easily chewable and equally enjoyable for both big and little breeds.
For this article, we are focusing on the Pacific Stream’s salmon-flavored dry dog food because salmon is both high in protein and ideal for dogs with allergies and sensitive stomachs due to its digestibility. Salmon is also the first listed ingredient!
The formula features healthy sources of carbs, such as sweet potatoes, and is packed with delicious fruits and vegetables like blueberries, tomatoes, and raspberries. The result is a nutritional meal full of vitamins, minerals, and omega fatty acids.
Unlike Rachael Ray’s Nutrish formula, Pacific Stream does not have any corn or soy products, making this an excellent choice for pups who suffer from these common allergens. This dog food comes in a dry formula but also has a wet food option for dogs who don’t like to crunch.
We love that salmon is the first ingredient listed, meaning this formula will have a strong salmon flavor, which most dogs love. This dry dog food is free of common allergens such as grain, corn, wheat and does not include any fillers or artificial flavors. We like that Taste of the Wild includes three different species-specific probiotics for digestive health.
Purina Pro Plan Complete Essentials
- Contains tender pieces of food.
- Natural prebiotic fibers.
- Optimal protein to fat ratio.
- Omega fatty acids for skin & coat health.
- 387 Calories per cup.
- 26% Protein, 16% Fat, 3% Fiber.
Another great dog food for picky eaters is the Savor formula by Purina Pro. Many dogs suffer from gastrointestinal issues that make their stomachs feel upset, which reduces their appetites. Purina Pro Plan is specifically designed for choosy pups who have digestion problems by creating a probiotic-packed dog food formula that is also hard to resist.
Found in both dry and wet food options, Purina’s Beef and Rice dry dog food is one of their most popular amongst picky dog owners. With beef listed as the number one ingredient, it’s hard for pups to turn down this savory, meaty flavor. The fiber-rich formula helps support digestive health while also providing all the minerals and vitamins needed for a balanced diet.
Purina Pro is definitely one of the more affordable options on this list, but the price reduction comes with some drawbacks. There are color additives, meat by-products, and wheat gluten present in this recipe. All undesirables might be enough for most dog food purists to pass on this option. However, Purina offers an affordable, well-balanced, and delicious alternative for pups who are choosy.
We love that live probiotics and fiber are fortified into the formula to support digestive health and help give relief to dogs suffering from gastrointestinal issues. Real beef is the first ingredient listed, meaning this formula will have a strong meat flavor, which most dogs will love. Purina Pro is also a very affordable option for those looking to provide a balanced diet on a budget, even for feeding giants like Great Danes.
Fromm Game Bird Recipe
- Made without grains.
- Reduces stool odor.
- Glucosamine and Chondroitin boost.
- Taurine for heart health.
- Made with USDA inspected ingredients.
- 393 Calories per cup.
- 29% Protein, 17% Fat, 6.5% Fiber.
Many dog owners swear by this high-quality dry dog food option from the family-owned company Fromm. The formula with the most success is the Game Bird Recipe, which features duck, pheasant, quail, and turkey. The meat-heavy ingredients make this a hard-to-resist dog food formula and an excellent dog food for picky dogs.
It’s also balanced with plenty of other nutrients, vitamins, and minerals. However, the mixture of different meats proves not a great option for owners trying to identify a suspected meat-based allergy.
This dry dog food formula is easily chewable, described as “pea-sized,” and can be a great option for both little and big dogs. Owners even report pups with missing teeth successfully chewing this kibble. Fromm adds canine-approved probiotics to their food to encourage healthy digestion and regular bowel movements.
While there are lots of good here, Fromm isn’t without its disadvantages. They are a more expensive option than many others on this list. However, the company claims there’s a reason for this price hike. Fromm prides itself on being a family owned business and only using the best quality ingredients, which comes at a cost.
We love that Duck is the first ingredient listed, meaning this formula will have a strong meat flavor, which most dogs love. This recipe is grain-free, meaning common allergens such as grain, corn, and wheat are not present. The ingredient list is packed full of proteins, fresh fruit, and veggies, and even features cheese for added flavor, which most dogs will love.
Honest Kitchen Dog Food
- Made with free-range chicken.
- Whole-grain formula.
- Made with organic barley.
- No preservatives or GMO ingredients.
- Made in the United States.
- 485 Calories per cup.
- 24.5% Protein, 14% Fat, 4% Fiber.
This yummy option by The Honest Kitchen comes in a variety of flavors, including cage-free turkey, free-range chicken, and ranch-raised beef. These proteins are mixed with a variety of fruits, vegetables, and organic whole-grain barley and then dehydrated. This dehydrated process is a proven effective method of preserving food while still maintaining all the original nutrients present in this recipe’s human-grade ingredients.
Adding water will reanimate the dish into a ready-to-eat feast! For choosy pups, we recommend adjusting the water amount to your pup’s preference; some will prefer their food more textured and crunchy, while others will like a soupy broth. You should also warm the water for a more satisfying taste.
The most popular choice for picky canines is the chicken recipe. This quality organic choice is full of protein, calories, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants – all included to ensure your pup is receiving the proper nutrients they need for a healthy and balanced diet while still tasting great!
The first four ingredients are chicken, barley, potatoes, and flaxseed. This formula contains top-quality ingredients and flavor-packed bites. Because of this, The Honest Kitchen’s Organic Whole Grain dog food has become a staple choice amongst dog owners with food-selective pups. Many owners report their pups having increased excitement around mealtime.
We love that all ingredients are “human-grade” and an excellent choice for dogs whose owners complain that they only have an interest in “people food.” It’s an organic dry dog food with no preservatives means you don’t have to worry about GMO ingredients, artificial flavorings, or any other non-desirables.
Rachael Ray Nutrish
- Made with tasty real salmon.
- No preservatives or artificial ingredients.
- Natural high-fiber ingredients.
- Omega acids for skin and coat health.
- Grain-free formula.
- 355 Calories per cup.
- 26% Protein, 14% Fat, 5% Fiber.
The popular chef and talk show host Rachael Ray created her own line of pet food called Nutrish. This dry food formula is known for using American-farmed ingredients and real protein with no fillers or by-products. Each recipe’s formula has protein listed as the first ingredient, with their most popular choices being salmon, beef, and poultry. This gives the kibble an irresistible meat-based flavor that dogs almost all dogs will love!
This is a very reasonably priced option and is great for those looking to introduce a grain-free diet to their pup. The formula, which is made in the USA, does not contain any artificial flavorings or preservatives. There is also prebiotics included in the recipe, which helps support healthy gut and digestion and can be very beneficial for dogs with sensitive stomachs.
While food picky small breed dogs might turn their nose up to harder dog food, softening the kibble with warm water can help. This dry dog food is mixed with dehydrated fruit and vegetables, meeting all the requirements for a well-balanced nutritional diet. Reviewers praise Nutrish as one of the tastiest dry food options on the market.
We love that this formula lists their protein as the top ingredient. The results are an intense meaty flavor that dogs cannot resist. It’s made in the USA and features American-farmed ingredients meaning you know where your dog’s food is coming from and are supporting American businesses. A percentage of Nutrish’s profits are donated to US animal rescue organizations.
Dog Food Toppers
The list above is comprised of traditional dog food options that owners of choosy canines have had success with. However, there are other solutions out there for pups that turn their noses up to store-bought dog food. One solution is to utilize a food topper to entice eating and alternative diets, generally prepared with fresh ingredients.
Food toppers can be very effective in persuading a dog to begin eating their food. Then, next thing you know, they’ve gobbled their dinner down! Oftentimes, this can be a cost-effective and low-maintenance solution for choosy dogs. It just requires sprinkling the topper on your dog’s food each meal. A few of our recommendations are below.
NUTRO Hearty Stews
- Made with Non-GMO ingredients.
- Premium wet food.
- Can be used as a topper.
- Made with a taste dogs love.
- Made in the United States.
- 312 Calories per can.
- 9% Protein, 3% Fat, 1% Fiber.
Nutro Hearty Stews is a popular choice for pups who prefer wet food in addition to their dry kibble. As the name suggests, Nutro prides itself on offering an irresistible stew-like recipe with chunks of real meat and veggies in a tasty gravy. All the ingredients are natural, with no meat by-products, preservatives, or artificial flavoring.
Nutro Hearty Stews is a grain-free formula and has no common allergens such as corn or soy. It also has no artificial colorings or flavors, meaning everything your pup is tasting is the real deal!
Nutro claims to be an excellent option for dogs with sensitive stomachs and skin issues, making this a great option for owners whose dogs may be refusing food due to an upset stomach. Because the meat chunks are a bit large, this formula might be best for bigger pups.
We love that this product’s meat and gravy recipe has had very positive results with picky pups due to the intense meaty flavor and smell that dogs find irresistible. This recipe is grain-free and does not contain any artificial flavors or preservatives, which means you’re feeding your pup all-natural.
Stella & Chewy’s Raw Topper
- Made with cage-free chicken.
- No hormones or antibiotics.
- Similar health benefits to raw feeding.
- Probioitics for digestion.
- Made in the United States.
- 50 Calories per .25 cups.
- 48% Protein, 28% Fat, 5% Fiber.
This highly-rated food topper provides owners with tasty, chewable pieces of freeze-dried chicken, chicken organs, and bones. Fruits and vegetables are also included to make this topper not only delicious but nutritious. Reviewers love that Stella and Chewy’s adds a flavor punch that gets their dog eating and is also packed with added nutritional benefits.
We love that this topper is highly recommended by others. It’s a cheap alternative to trying a brand-new formula. While you won’t quite get the nutritional benefits of mixing in wet dog food, this topper is sure to make most dry dog foods infinitely better for your picky pup.
Stella & Chewy’s Dinner Dust
- Comes in perfectly sized packages.
- 95% Meat contents.
- Contains organ meat, real vegetables.
- Grain-free and Gluten-free.
- Made in the United States.
- 11 Calories per TBSP.
- 44% Protein, 35% Fat, 5% Fiber.
For picky pups who are especially particular about texture or for those known to just pick out toppers and leave the rest behind, Stella & Chewy’s has a freeze-dried “dust” option. This dust still has all the benefits of their original topper, with the formula maintaining 95% meat, organs, bones, and organic fruits and vegetables.
We love the ease of use for this topper. Instead of bite-sized chunks, this comes as dust that you can sprinkle over your dog’s food to add indistinguishable flavor to their dry dog food.
Instinct Raw Boost Mixer
- Made with freeze-dried ingredients.
- Provides benefits of raw feeding.
- No corn, wheat, or soy.
- Made in the United States.
- 291 Calories per cup.
- 36% Protein, 30% Fat, 15% Fiber.
Instinct’s Freeze Dried Raw Boost is much like Stella & Chewy’s raw topper. This competitor also has very favorable reviews. Their most popular topper is their beef option, which is advertised as responsibly sourced and all-natural with non-GMO vegetables and fruits included. These toppers support healthy digestion and can be an excellent added nutrient to your dog’s meal while also encouraging them to eat!
We love that this topper is freeze-dried, meaning it contains real meat. It will entice your pup to eat their typical dry formula while providing added benefits of raw food ingredients.
Dr. Harvey’s Fine Ground Dog Food
- Premium topper mix.
- 100% Grain-free mixture.
- Minimally processed.
- No wheat or soy ingredients.
- No added sugar or salt.
- Great for smaller dogs.
- 2% Protein, 1% Fat, 12% Fiber.
Dr. Harvey’s Veg-to-Bowl Fine Ground Dog Food advertises itself as a dehydrated base mix for homecooked meals. All one needs to add to this product is meat and oil to create a completely balanced diet. This fine-ground formula also functions excellently as a dusting topper to standard dry dog food to get your dog gobbling. This ground is grain-free, high in calcium, has no dyes or preservatives, and tastes great!
We love that this topper is grain-free and made completely naturally. This is a great option for pet parents that have a bigger budget to make sure their pup eats their food regularly.
When what’s on the shelves at your local pet store just isn’t cutting it, it may be time to get your hands dirty with some canine meal prep. While this is obviously not the most convenient option, thousands of pet parents swear by feeding their dogs an alternative diet in lieu of store-bought options. Many claim this not only solved any “pickiness” but has also had major nutritional benefits.
The popularity of feeding household companion pets a raw meat diet has risen in recent years. While the idea of feeding your sweet and snuggly pup raw meat and bones may seem gross and even barbaric, advocates for this diet argue this is how their canine ancestors survived for thousands of years.
Vitamins and minerals are still just as important in a meat-based diet. Your pup can receive essential minerals that they need to survive, such as calcium and phosphorus, through animal bones. Their diet should feature about 1/3 of bones like chicken wings, turkey necks, beef tail bones, and lamb ribs. Their vitamins will come from nutrient-rich organs like the liver, kidney, and spleen of various animals.
Of course, the main component of a raw diet is muscle meat. These meats should be lean and comprise half of their intake as this will be their primary source of protein. It’s important to note that this raw meat diet is considered controversial by some. Just remember, you should always consult with your vet before placing your picky eater on any alternative diets. They can review your meal plan and your specific dog’s medical history to determine whether the diet is safe and holistic.
There are many advantages to home-cooked your dog’s meals. You have the peace of mind of knowing exactly what your dog is eating. No preservatives, additives, by-products, or ingredients you can’t name.
There is also the human-grade taste factor. This is sure to be much more enticing for picky eaters than standard dry dog food. The third benefit is freshness. Even if you meal prep and freeze for added convenience, your dog’s diet is likely to be one of the freshest around.
However, there are serious considerations to make when switching your dog to a home-cooked meal plan. Firstly, cost and inconvenience are likely to be higher than most options. Some pet parents, however, are willing to put in the work. That’s great! But well intentions don’t necessarily lead to the most nutritious diet. It’s important you have complete information before moving forward with home-prepared meals.
Just like with a raw diet, you should never make a drastic change in your pet’s food without consulting with your veterinarian. They can look over your meal plan and determine whether you are providing all the essential nutrients your dog needs to thrive. Dr. Harvey’s Veg-to-Bowl Fine Ground Dog Food, which we mentioned above, can be a great addition to home-prepared meals to ensure proper nutrients.
Feeding your pup unbalanced, homecooked food can have serious health ramifications. It can lead to deficiencies that may take years to surface. Nevertheless, if you are diligent in your research and prep, a daily homecooked meal may just be the yummiest and freshest solution for your pup!
Frequently Asked Questions
Am I enabling my picky eater?
If you are feeding your dog lots of snacks between meals, sneaking table scraps, or allowing free-feeding, it’s possible you are enabling your dog’s picky eating habits. Limiting these behaviors can help increase your dog’s appetite around mealtime.
Why has my dog suddenly started being choosy with food?
Sudden changes in your dog’s behavior should always be noted. It’s best to take your pup to the vet to rule out any health concerns that could be contributing to their loss of appetite. It’s possible your dog is just going through a phase, and the pickiness will clear up on its own, but it’s best to have a trained medical professional make that determination.
How should I introduce new food to my picky eater?
The answer is to do it very slowly! So you’ve found the dog food for your picky eater that you’d like to test. That’s great! However, the transition process that happens next will be very important. Slowly introduce the new food to your dog’s diet by mixing it with their old food in gradually increasing increments over the next few weeks.
Which is better: dry food, toppers, or alternative diets?
It’s really up to you and your specific dog. Some dogs just need a little topper to get them started. For others, it’s just about finding the right food brand that they can’t get enough of. And for the pickiest eaters or pet parents who can afford the prep time, an alternative diet might be the way to go. The key is patience, trial and error, and finding that “sweet spot” that works for you, your dog, and your budget.
What’s the best dog food for picky eaters overall?
Any of the options we’ve mentioned is an excellent choice. If we had to pick just one food, Taste of the Wild’s pacific stream is an excellent dog food formula that many canines just can’t resist. We’d start here and work our way through the list over time.
A pet refusing to eat can be disheartening. But we hope you are encouraged by the many solutions available to pet parents to get their dogs excited about food. Outlined above are some of the best dog foods for picky eaters and food topper brands, which we encourage you to check out.
If you feel an alternative diet might be the route for you, please consult with your veterinarian on the best course of action. You can find thousands of articles online claiming the best canine diet. Just like humans, there isn’t just one answer for the best diet to follow.
Every dog will be different, and you have to find what works for them. Empathizing with your pup is a great place to start. What would YOU want to eat if you had to eat the same thing every day? Something yummy, fresh, high-quality, nutritious, and flavorful, right? Start there, and the rest is sure to follow. Good luck!