Healthy, well-balanced nutrition is one of the most critical factors in a dog’s health. Nutrition is the cornerstone of development, provides dog’s energy, and supports their bodies throughout their lives. As soon as a puppy comes home, owners will work hard to find the best food for them.
Dogs will have unique nutritional needs, and healthy dog food means different things, but most importantly, it is food made with high-quality, real, natural ingredients. High-quality whole-food ingredients make for the healthiest foods. As a rule, owners should avoid foods that use highly processed, artificial ingredients and fillers, Added chemical preservatives and colorings are also a bad sign.
Finding the healthiest pet nutrition is a process, and it can be a big one due to the massive variety of products on the market. To help owners decide what foods are healthiest and meet their pet’s needs, we have reviewed several of the top dog food choices on the market today. Let’s jump in and talk about healthy dog food.
At A Glance: Our Favorite Healthiest Dog Foods
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Dog’s nutritional needs will vary depending on breed, size, age, and individual health. Some dogs will have special needs and need food specifically formulated, like low sodium, grain-free, or weight management. The information presented here is for informational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for nutritional advice from a veterinarian or pet nutrition expert. All dogs need good nutrition, but some dogs may need more specialized diets than others. Always discuss any special nutritional needs a pet may have with your veterinarian.
Kinds of Food
There are four main kinds of chow owners have to choose from. Not all dogs eat only one type of diet. Owners often mix and match to find the best combination that works for their dog. Flavor, preparation methods, price, and availability are all considerations.
Dry dog food is also called kibble, vittles, and chow. It is often round, square, or oval and comes in many different varieties. Kibble uses the same ingredients as the others, including proteins, fruits, vegetables, fats, and carbs. Ingredients are made into dough, baked, and cut into kibble-sized pieces. It can be very nutritious and offer complete balanced nutrition. Dry kibble has less moisture than wet or fresh, so owners often choose to supplement with toppers, wet food, and access to plenty of fresh water. Kibble is the most affordable of the options and stays fresh the longest.
Wet, also called canned, comes in cans, pouches, and Tupperware-like containers. It can be in a pâté or chopped and shredded with gravy. Canned can be healthy, but owners must look for high-fat gravies and sauces. This option has a higher moisture content than most other options. Water can sometimes make up a lot of the weight, so owners need to ensure their pups get enough to eat, especially protein, if on a wet or moist diet.
Fresh and raw food is made from human-grade ingredients and is prepared specially for dogs at each meal. Meals are based on high-quality animal proteins and have few preservatives and no artificial additives. Fresh meals are cooked, but raw is not. Fresh pet foods can be purchased through delivery and subscription, at the local pet store, or online. Some owners may want to make their own, but this can be tricky. Always discuss a nutrition plan with your veterinarian or pet nutritionist. Puppies can be fed a fresh diet but should not be fed a raw diet. That can be too hard on their digestive systems.
Freeze-dried dog food is a rising trend in the pet nutrition market. This option is quite pricey but is very healthy and nutritious. It also tastes great. Freeze-dried can be rehydrated or served as is. It has a longer shelf life than raw or fresh but delivers the same high level of taste and unbroken-down, quality nutrients. Freeze-dried is considered raw food but has gone through a process that preserves the taste and nutritional value.
Ingredients To Look For
Owners can consult the American Association of Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) for guidelines on what should be included in pet foods.
Whole, natural meats should always be the first ingredient. The protein should be named. Keep in mind that meat meals are used to boost protein in some recipes. This is needed because fresh and frozen meat does not have enough protein to support a dog’s energy and nutritional needs fully. Meat meals remove the water, creating a protein-packed substance used in many dog foods. Look for named proteins and meat meals like chicken, beef, lamb, salmon, turkey, bison, etc. Whole meats should be listed first. Meat meals should not be the first ingredient. Meat provides essential dietary components like amino acids, fats, oils, vitamins, and minerals, along with protein.
Canines need carbohydrates in their diets because meat by itself is not enough to properly sustain them and keep giving them enough energy. Oatmeal, brown rice, potatoes, lentils, and peas are good sources of these healthy carbohydrates. Complex screens are a good source of fiber that aids in digestion.
Omega Fatty Acids
Not all fats are bad. Canines need fat in their diets to support digestion, skin, bones, coat, organs, eyes, vitamin absorption, and whole health. Meat meals, fish, fish oils, flax seeds, and plant oils can be high in these very beneficial Omega fatty acids. These are not the same as eating foods high in fat, so owners need to read the labels to make sure the option they feed their dogs has healthy fat, not the harmful kind.
Fruits & Vegetables
Fruits and vegetables are a source of minerals, vitamins, and antioxidants that help boost a canine’s immune system. These are crucial to help them fight illness, disease, germs, and overall well-being. Fruits and vegetables also are a great source of healthy fiber that is important to the digestive system. Additionally, fiber can help pets feel full longer, helping them avoid overeating leading to weight gain.
Glucosamine is an essential nutrient, an amino sugar, that is found in things like meat meals, eggs, fish oils, and green lip mussels. It is necessary for the development of cartilage in both dogs and humans. Glucosamine helps support joint health, which becomes particularly important as the pup ages. Glucosamine is also a vital element in the diet of larger-breed canines. It is often offered as a supplement to older dogs or those suffering from joint health or pain issues.
Essential Amino Acids
Essential amino acids are essential to the overall function of the canine body. Everything that they do is dependent upon having these important elements. Amino acids are found in proteins like animal meats, fish oils, and egg products. Some manufacturers will add in extra amounts of healthy amino acids, including arginine, histidine, isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan, and valine.
Natural preservatives are always better than artificial ones and should be something good owners look for when choosing dog food. Preservatives are required to help keep products like kibble and wet food fresh and edible. Some natural preservatives like rosemary extract, peppermint, Vitamin C, and Vitamin E are good examples. Avoid artificial colors and flavors.
Vitamins & Minerals
Vitamins and minerals are crucial elements in canine diets that support dogs in many ways. Just a few of the most important are listed below.
- Vitamin A works to bolster the immune system.
- Vitamin B12 is essential in supporting the nervous system.
- Vitamin D regulates things like calcium and phosphorus.
- Vitamins C & E are antioxidants and support overall health.
- Vitamin K works to metabolize calcium and helps prevent blood clots.
- Iron carries calcium throughout the body.
- Calcium and phosphorus are essential in bone structure.
- Zinc works to promote healing.
Healthiest Dog Foods
Healthy canine diets will contain high-quality meat and protein sources, fresh vegetables, and fruit, and be packed full of Omega acids and healthy fats for skin, coat, eye, and brain health. Foods that use minimally processed ingredients and high-quality, fresh proteins are best. Remember that dogs of different breeds, sizes, and ages will have differing needs. In no particular order, here are our reviews of the healthiest dog foods available.
- Vet-formulated recipes.
- Whole animal proteins.
- Free range proteins.
- Average of 36% protein content.
- Fresh cooked and flash frozen.
- 1% of revenue donated.
Ollie is one of the best pet food companies on the market today for human-grade fresh foods. They make veterinarian-formulated recipes. They also offer a baked product line. Every ingredient used is human-grade. Meals are cooked fresh and flash-frozen to save all that good nutrition. Every recipe starts with one high-quality animal source. This is intended to help digestion. Rather than mixed proteins, high-quality meat is easier to digest.
Ollie runs on a subscription and is delivered right to the dog door every month. Owners can choose the date of delivery. After setting up a profile for their pet, owners will receive a meal plan custom created for their pup. They offer beef, chicken, lamb, and turkey option for fresh meals. Ollie has an average of 36% protein content across its product lines. Recipes are formulated for all life stages.
We love that this option is so high quality and has such a variety of ingredients. They use no artificial ingredients and list every ingredient on the label. Foods are made with ingredients like sweet potato, kale, spinach, blueberries, carrots, and other beneficial fruits and veggies. Meats are free range from American and Australian farms. Plus, Ollie donates 1% of revenue to no-kill shelters and animal rescue groups, so buying this food helps more than just the dog eating it.
- 100% human-grade ingredients.
- Hand prepared in open kitchens.
- Supports immune health.
- Small batch preparation.
- Natural, whole ingredients for top nutrition.
JustFoodForDogs is one of our favorites for fresh, healthy food that does not require a subscription. They use all 100% human-grade ingredients cooked in small batches. Meals are hand prepared in open-to-the-public kitchens. Formulas are developed with a team of veterinarians who serve on a team dedicated to providing the best nutrition possible.
The ingredients used in JustFoodForDogs products make it an above-average choice. They have both grain-inclusive and grain-free recipes. Protein choices include chicken, beef, turkey, cod, lamb, venison, and fish. Vegetables include sweet potato, squash, green beans, broccoli, and more. In total, the company offers 15 whole-food recipes. The brand has an average protein content of 34% across all recipes.
We love that this brand uses high-quality ingredients and recipes formulated to support immune health. Additionally, the company conducts feeding trials on all daily canine recipes. Foods are packed full of flavor, meat, and nutrients. The small batch preparation keeps quality high, and nutrients are not broken down or altered by over-processing.
The Farmer's Dog
- Vet-developed recipes.
- Only human-grade ingredients.
- Customizable to individual dog’s needs.
- USDA-certified kitchens.
- Biodegradable insulation packing materials.
The Farmer’s Dog is another company that makes fresh dog meals and delivers them right to your door. Recipes are made fresh and are developed by certified veterinarians. All recipes use only human-grade ingredients. Proteins include beef, chicken, turkey, and pork. Plans are customized to meet each dog’s unique nutritional needs. Foods are delivered just a few days after being made, so they stay as fresh and tasty as possible.
Recipes are simple yet designed to provide everything a pup needs. The high quality of the ingredients and care taken in preparation make this one of the healthiest fresh chows around. Less processing keeps the nutritional value high. Though it is pricey, it is worth every penny and provides the utmost healthy nutrition for dogs.
We love that this option can be customized to a dog’s age, health, and activity level. All recipes are prepared in USDA-certified kitchens. Products are packed in biodegradable insulation materials. Dogs love the taste and owners report that their dogs start feeling better and even improve in health after switching to this diet.
- Fresh, non-GMO ingredients.
- Biologically appropriate recipes.
- 85% animal ingredients.
- 2/3 of animal proteins are fresh or raw.
- Healthier grain choices.
- Whole fruits and vegetables.
Orijen Original is one of the healthiest choices for dry kibble. While it is not the fanciest option out there, it is reliable and made from fresh, highly nutritious ingredients. 85% quality animal ingredients, with the other 15% being fruits and vegetables. The company operates on three principles: making biologically appropriate canine foods, using regionally sourced ingredients, and never outsourcing manufacturing. The original recipe is 38% protein, 18% fat, and 4% fiber.
This company uses only fresh, non-GMO ingredients. Foods are not frozen and never have fillers, by-products, artificial preservatives, flavors, or colors. The biologically appropriate recipes use healthier grains like chia, oats, and quinoa. Two-thirds of animal proteins are fresh or raw to keep food as nutrient-dense as possible. The first four ingredients are all real meat, and the recipe contains whole fruits and vegetables.
We love that this option is packed full of high-quality ingredients and that the cooking methods do not compromise nutritional value. This formula can support a very active canine and promotes joint, skin, and coat health. We also like that this recipe is high in fiber, making it easier to digest. It is full of flavor and does not compromise the quality or nutritional value of ingredients.
Blue Buffalo Life Protection
- Multiple options for age and size.
- LifeSource Bits provide vitamins and
- Real animal protein.
- Wide selection of products.
- All food made in the US, in-house remanufacturing.
Blue Buffalo is a highly reputable brand that makes a wide variety of products. They make 21 different kibbles. The Life Protection Formula is one of the healthiest choices. Whole lean proteins and healthy grains are part of every recipe. Real meat is the first ingredient in every recipe. Most of the animal protein in this recipe is from chicken and chicken meals.
This dry food has “LifeSource bits” in the kibble that give a boost of vitamins and antioxidants. This is a grain-inclusive recipe. No artificial preservatives or BHA. Those who want a grain-free recipe can try the Blue Buffalo Wilderness line. All products are made in the US in two manufacturing plants. Owners like that it is affordable, higher than some kibbles, but far more affordable than fresh. It is excellent used in combination with wet and fresh meal options.
We love that this brand is so reliable and has so many options for ages and stages. Blue Buffalo is a well-known, well-liked breed, and dogs like the taste. It is healthy, with natural animal proteins, whole grains, garden fruits, and veggies. This line comes in a puppy formula as well as large and small breeds.
CANIDAE Pure Salmon & Sweet Potato
- Salmon is the first ingredient.
- Only 8 whole food ingredients.
- 459 calories per cup.
- A custom blend of antioxidants and probiotics.
- Easy to digest.
- Grain-free formula.
CANIDAE Pure Salmon & Sweet Potatoes is a top choice of healthy kibble. This is for adult dogs of all breeds and sizes. The company offers several high-quality grain-inclusive and “all ages” options for owners looking for that.
This limited-ingredient formula has no fillers or additives like corn, soy, wheat, hard-to-digest grains, or artificial ingredients. It is made with salmon as the first ingredient, followed by salmon meal, so it has a lot of high-quality protein. This one has 459 calories per cup.
This formula is made from a whole food recipe at one US facility. The blend of salmon and sweet potato in this one is very popular, but they offer several other flavors, including proteins like lamb, bison, chicken, duck, venison, and more. They include veggies like lentils, peas, carrots, garbanzo beans, and other wholesome vegetables. Food consists of a custom blend of probiotics and antioxidants. Recipes include Omega 3 and Omega 6 fatty acids, as well as plenty of essential nutrients.
We love that this food has so many protein choices and is made from limited, high-quality ingredients. With only eight real food ingredients, it is very easy to digest and tastes great. Dogs enjoy the flavors, and plenty of variety keeps them interested.
- High-quality proteins.
- Low in fat, high in protein.
- Grain-inclusive and grain-free options.
- Lots of flavor variety.
- High in moisture.
- All natural ingredients.
Wellness Stews canned is a top choice for healthy diets. The product line comes in six different recipes, with grain-inclusive and grain-free options. Chicken and chicken broth are the first two ingredients. Broth adds more flavor than nutrients but is common in wet and canned food. The chicken adds high-quality protein and nutrients. Chicken liver adds more protein. Peas, carrots, potatoes, and fiber flavor carbohydrates. Salmon oil is added as a boost of high-quality fat. Supports coat skin and immune system health.
This recipe is high in flavor and protein but low in fat. It uses high-quality ingredients and offers both grain-free and grain-inclusive recipes. The chicken flavor is a top choice, but the line also includes turkey, lamb & beef, venison & salmon, and turkey & duck.
We love that this canned stew is not high in fat and thick gravy but still packs a huge flavor and healthy protein load. The flavor variety helps keep dogs interested, and we like that there are grain-free options for dogs with sensitive stomachs. It can be a complete meal, a topper, or mixed with high-quality kibble.
Taste of the Wild Sierra Mountain
- Lamb and lamb liver.
- Salmon oil for DHA, Omega fatty acids.
- All breeds and sizes.
- Probiotics for digestive health.
This canned recipe uses lamb as the first ingredient. Lamb liver and roasted lamb pack a massive punch of flavor and protein in this hearty stew. Lamb is a lean, healthy protein. This recipe is grain free and has salmon oil for added DHA and Omega fatty acids to support whole health.
This formula can be used for dogs of all ages and life stages. However, it should be noted it may be hard for small breeds to digest and may not have the right amount of nutrients needed to fully support a senior dog who suffers from joint issues. Those dogs may need a senior-specific formula. It is a tasty way to supplement and add that much-needed moisture to a dog’s diet.
We love that this recipe uses lean protein and is so flavorful. Used along with a well-balanced kibble, this food gives a healthy boost of protein and flavor.
- High-protein pate, 95%.
- For adult dogs, small and medium breed puppies.
- Whole animal proteins.
- No soy, corn, potato, or other fillers.
Instinct Original wet is a solid choice for healthy nutrition and flavor. Most of the protein comes from beef. This is a pate recipe, best for adult dogs and puppies of small to medium sizes. This one is high in protein, about 52%.
95% beef and beef liver, 5 % vegetables, fruits, and other ingredients, Grain-free, no soy, potato, wheat, or corn. No artificial flavors, preservatives, or fillers. Manufactured in-house in the US.
We love that this recipe makes real animal proteins the main focus. This company is known for incorporating the benefits of raw food into its recipes. Chicken, turkey, beef, and fish options are available.
Spot and Tango Unkibble
- Unkibble is a cross between fresh food and kibble.
- 41% protein.
- Subscription-based food.
- High nutritional value and great taste.
- Personalized food plans.
Spot and Tango Unkibble is a happy, healthy medium between dry and fresh dog food. Made with fresh, human-grade ingredients and developed by veterinarians. This food is minimally processed. It uses all human-grade ingredients and has no artificial fillers, additives, or preservatives. All meats and eggs are humanely raised and antibiotic-free.
Recipes have an average protein content of 41% and a mean fat content of 20%. This indicates a higher-than-average, low-fat food. Whole food ingredients are all sourced in the United States. Ingredients are all cooked separately and then mixed together. Unkibble is not a dehydrated product. It resembles dry kibble but has a high nutritional value and a great taste of fresh meals.
We love that this food is so tasty and fresh yet offers the convenience of kibble. This alternative to kibble is super nutritious and a very healthy choice. It is a perfect pick for owners who want to feed their pups fresh meals but cannot commit to it. Unkibble is tasty and super healthy. Owners set up a profile for their pets, and the nutritional team sets up a plan just for them.
Open Farm Freeze Dried
- Whole animal proteins.
- Prepared raw, then freeze-dried.
- Grass-fed beef.
- Organic fruits and vegetables.
Open Farm freeze-dried raw food is a healthy, tasty choice. 85% of the protein is from natural animal ingredients and organic fruits and vegetables. Proteins include humanely raised, grass-fed beef and pork, grass-fed lamb and poultry, and wild-caught Pacific salmon. Grain-free recipe.
We love that this recipe uses whole animal proteins. The beef recipe uses beef flesh, heart, kidney, liver, and ground bone. Along with that is a blend of fruits, veggies, and other top-quality elements, including salmon oil. This food has a ton of nutrients and flavors. Prepared raw and freeze-dried.
Stella & Chewy Freeze Dried
- All ages & stages.
- Grass-fed, cage-free, and wild-caught proteins.
- All ages & life stages.
- Supports whole body health.
- Gluten and grain-free.
- Fresh taste, top nutritional quality.
Stella & Chewy’s makes healthy, fresh, raw dog foods that are freeze-dried to retain as much nutritional content as possible. Developed for all stages and ages of life. The brand works to use allergy-free ingredients for easy digestion. Made from grass-fed, cage-free, and wild-caught proteins. Fruits and vegetables are 100% organically certified. Food is developed for all canine life stages and breeds. The meal mixers are formulated to support whole body health, coat and skin, healthy digestion, and more.
We love that this brand has products made just for puppies, as well as freeze-dried raw patties. It can be used as a whole meal or a topper. Easy to digest and packed with authentic meat flavor. Formulated to be as close as possible to a canine’s natural diet. No gluten, fillers, grain, artificial colors, or flavors.
Nutrition is one of the cornerstones of canine health. Picking the best dog food is a big task for pet owners. There is no one size fits all option that works for every dog. Owners must choose the best option to suit their pup’s individual needs. Nutritional needs will change as pups age or if they have specific conditions like being overweight, diabetes, heart, or joint issues. Owners should always read the ingredients and reviews before purchasing a new product. Always ask your veterinarian for recommendations before switching to a new diet. Healthy nutrition with whole animal proteins and fresh fruits and vegetables is the best. Hopefully, our list of healthy dog food options has helped make the decision less intimidating.