What is the healthiest dog food for my canine? That is a question many dog owners find themselves asking. Numerous people struggle to find a healthy dog food for their pets, since many brands contain unnatural ingredients and meat that isn’t real.
It’s important for owners to find healthy food options for their dogs, providing them with the nutrition they need to lead a long, happy life.
Not only will a dog’s overall quality of life be improved with healthy dog food with high-quality ingredients, but their coats will be shinier, their teeth in better condition, and their weight will be kept in check.
Healthiest Dog Food: Quick Picks
- PICK #1: The Farmer’s Dog [Fresh Dog Food]. Freshly cooked human-grade dog food customized uniquely for your pooch (+ get 50% for new owners).
- PICK #2: Ollie [Another Fresh Food] Another fresh, custom-cooked dog food option that can be delivered to your door (new customers can get 50% off with code K9OFMINE)
- PICK #3: Wellness Core Grain-Free [Best Kibble] A high-quality grain-free kibble with real meat as the first ingredients, plus plenty of probiotics and omega fatty acids. [Available from Amazon or Chewy]
- PICK #4: Blue Buffalo Life Protection [Best Budget Pick] A more affordable grain-inclusive kibble with meat as the first ingredient, leaving out soy, wheat, corn, and chicken by-products. [Available from Amazon or Chewy]
- PICK #5: Canidae Pure [Best Limited Ingredient] High-quality limited-ingredient diet featuring 10 ingredients or less (with meat as the 1st ingredient). Ideal for dogs with food allergies or stomach issues. [Available from Amazon or Chewy]
Key Ingredients of Healthy Dog Foods
Each owner may have his or her own preference when it comes to important ingredients for their dog’s food. While some may agree that real meat is best, others will focus on finding food with no fillers.
Overall, there are some key ingredients to look for when choosing healthy dog foods for your pet.
- Real Meat Options. Finding dog food with real meat is ideal. Canines are carnivores and require meat to satisfy not only their hunger, but also their natural instincts. The label should not simply state that it contains meat or poultry, and should instead verify what type of animal the meat is coming from, such as lamb, chicken, or beef.
- Meat As #1 (And #2) Ingredients. Most halfway-decent dog foods will have animal meat as the first ingredient, and good healthy foods will usually have meat as the second ingredient two. Dogs require a heavy amount of meat protein in their diet. Seeing identifiable meats at the top of the ingredient list indicates an appropriate medium or high-protein dog food.
- No Fillers. Fillers include things like cereal by-products, corn bran, and peanut hulls, among others. These fillers may fill a dog up quickly, but they add very limited nutritional value.
- No Artificial Preservatives. Artificial preservatives are chemicals put in dog food to make it last longer. It is unhealthy to consume, and plays a major role in many health problems for pets.
- Vegetables. Dogs need vegetables just as humans do. It is best to look for a dog food that lists some type of vegetable within the first few ingredients. The only one that should be avoided is corn, as this is difficult for dogs to digest and typically used as a filler.
The best brands of dog food offer key ingredients, and do not possess the typical filler options that many popular brands on the market have.
Top Healthy Dog Food Picks
These brands are widely regarded as being some of the healthiest dog foods on the market today. We’ll detail the main features and highlights of each dog food brand, along with the pros and cons.
Remember, ultimately, the healthiest dog food will be the one that works best for your canine. There is no single “healthiest” dog food brand, as each individual dog reacts differently to different dog foods.
In researching these healthy dog foods, we found that even with dog food brands that had the best quality ingredients and highest endorsements, there were always some owners reporting that they dog’s stomach got upset or skin reacted strangely. Every dog is different, and finding the best food for your dog will likely be a process of trial and error.
We suggest starting with this list of the healthiest dog foods available, and see which works best for your four-legged friend!
1. The Farmer’s Dog
The Farmer’s Dog is a fresh dog food company that delivers quality, custom-made dog food. Food is customized based on your dog’s activity level, age, and a variety of other data points that are collected with a quick online survey when you sign up.
Custom fresh food based on your dog’s needs
Tailored human-grade dog food designed for your dog’s activity level, breed, age, and more.
Note: We’ve done a full review of The Farmer’s Dog – check it out for the full in-depth scoop!
The Farmer’s Dog is one of the original fresh dog food companies, so they’ve been at this a while!
Each of their recipes (featuring beef, turkey, or pork) are formulated The Farmer’s Dog’s original nutrient blend to ensure your pooch is getting all the nutrients he needs. Food comes in pre-portioned baggies to make feeding time easy!
This is an especially good food to try if your dog is a picky eater!
- Food is prepared in USDA kitchens – the same ones used for your food!
- Meal plans are customized and food is delivered with a few days of cooking.
- Each delivery uses biodegradable insulation materials, which allow you to compost them or dissolve them in water.
High-quality, customized, freshly-cooked dog food your pooch will drool over.
As with all fresh dog foods, The Farmer’s Dog isn’t cheap. However, since trials are 50% off, it’s still worth trying even for more budget-focused owners.
2. Ollie’s Healthy Turkey Fare
Healthy Turkey Fare is high-quality dog food from Ollie, a manufacturer making fresh, human-grade dog food. It doesn’t get any fresher than this!
Ollie dog food uses premium ingredients and leaves out the bad stuff – that means no fillers (aka no corn, soy, or wheat), no preservatives, and no artificial ingredients.
Each of Ollie’s dog food recipes (Healthy Turkey Feast, Hearty Beef Eats, Chicken Goodness, and Tasty Lamb Fare) are formulated by a professional veterinarian and source quality meats from US and Australian farms.
Ollie’s Healthy Turkey Fare
Premium fresh dog food with no fillers
Vet-formulated, minimally-processed fresh food with quality animal proteins and a mix of fruits and veggies.
While all of Ollie’s recipes are solid picks, we liked that the Healthy Turkey Fare has a variety of turkey ingredients, from ground turkey and turkey thigh to turkey liver!
Besides the main focused on animal protein, this recipe also include fresh fruits and veggies – namely, carrots, lentils, kale, blueberries, and coconut oil, as well as the addition of cod liver oil for boosting benefits.
The folks at Ollie also cook all their food in small batches at low temperatures for minimal processing, which allows ingredients to retain more of their nutritional value.
Owners create a profile for their dog when they sign up, offering info on your canine’s breed, age, activity level, and any potential allergies. Ollie then sends you the right meals for your pooch and provides a custom portioning scoop to prevent over-feeding and helping you to combat or avoid any obesity-related health issues!
As a bonus, Ollie gives 1% of all revenue to rescues and shelters, so even while your pup is indulged at dinner, less-fortunate canines are getting help and support!
- Fresh, natural dog food with no filler, preservatives, or artificial ingredients.
- Sources quality meats from farms in the US and Australia
- Portioning is easy with included custom scooper, preventing overfeeding and obesity
- Ollie has a money-back guarantee – if your dog doesn’t like the food, you don’t pay!
Ollie is an extremely high-quality, ultra-healthy dog food with no fillers, additives, or anything else you’d never want to see in your dog’s bowl. We also love the emphasis on small-batch, minimally-processed cooking which helps retain nutrients for your fur baby.
Ollie is an extremely high-quality, human-grade dog food, and as a result, it’s very expensive!
Ground turkey, pumpkin, turkey thigh, turkey liver, turkey heart...,
carrot, turkey gizzard, lentils, kale, blueberries, coconut oil, chia seeds, dicalcium phosphate, calcium carbonate, cod liver oil, salt, zinc gluconate, ferrous sulfate, vitamin E supplement, manganese sulfate, potassium iodate.
3. A Pup Above
A Pup Above provides fresh, drool-worthy dog food that’s cooked via sous vide! Sous vide is already a popular cooking technique for humans who want moist, perfectly juicy, and properly cooked meat. Now the power of sous vide tech benefits your pup too!
Texas Beef Stew
Lightly-cooked sous vide fresh food with non-GMO ingredients
This flavor-packed fresh food features no antibiotics or growth hormones. Available online and in some select stores.
A Pup Above’s flavorful, vet-designed meals use USDA meat and pesticide-free veggies, and recipes emphasize protein while limiting carbohydrates.
Owners have the option of purchasing one-off meal packs or signing up for a subscription. Even some mortar locations carry A Pup Above in their refrigerated shelves!
- Vet-designed recipes featuring USDA meat and fresh pesticide-free produce
- Cooked via sous vide to lock in nutrients, retain volume, and maintain taste
- Human-grade, non-GMO food with no antibiotics or growth hormones
- Lot tracker allows you to see exactly where all the ingredients in your dog’s specific pack of food are sourced from
Unique sous vide cooking method allows this high-quality food to stay moist and preserve nutritional value by bypassing high-heat cooking methods.
As with other quality fresh foods, A Pup Above isn’t one of the cheaper feeding options. Many recipes are grain-free which may give some owners pause (although the Turkey and Chicken recipes do contain rice).
Beef, beef liver, tomatoes, greenpeas, carrots...,
russet potatoes, safflower oil, turmeric, thyme, parsley, minerals [dicalcium phosphate, calcium carbonate, potassium chloride, sodium bicarbonate, magnesium oxide, zinc amino acid chelate, iron amino acid chelate, copper amino acid chelate, manganese amino acid chelate, potassium iodide,sodium selenite], vitamins [vitamin D3 supplement, vitamin E supplement].
4. Pet Plate Chompin’ Chicken
Pet Plate’s Chompin’ Chicken is another human-grade dog food, this one from the folks at Pet Plate.
Pet Plate provides fresh, vet-designed, pre-cooked meals for your pooch. Featuring USDA meat, fresh produce, and a unique supplement blend, this stuff is definitely a big step up from kibble.
Fresh pre-cooked food with USDA meat
Human-grade dog food made with fresh produce and no artificial ingredients that comes in pre-portioned containers.
Pet Plate’s food comes in pre-portioned containers, so you don’t need to stress about feeding Fido too much or too little. Plus, the containers are microwave safe, so you can heat them up in a minute and have your dog chow down instantly!
- Vet-designed recipes featuring USDA meat, fresh produce, and a unique supplement blend
- Pre-cooked, in pre-portioned containers
- Human-grade quality, no artificial ingredients, made in the USA
- Money back guarantee
Super high-quality ingredients with USDA meat. Plus, pre-portioned containers that can be tossed in the microwave makes feeding your pooch a healthy meal ridiculously easy and fool-proof.
High-quality means a high price tag, and this is true for Pet Plate as with other dog foods.
Chicken, sweet potatoes, broccoli, chicken liver, apples...,
butternut squash, dicalcium phosphate, salmon oil, calcium carbonate, salt, potassium chloride, parsley, proprietary supplement blend (vitamin E, zinc oxide, ferrous fumarate, copper gluconate, manganese gluconate, potassium iodide, vitamin D3)
5. Nature’s Logic Sardine Meal Feast
About: Nature’s Logic Sardine Meal Feast is an extremely high-quality dog food kibble, with a variety of recipes ranging from duck & salmon to rabbit.
Nature’s Logic Sardine Meal Feast
Protein-rich kibble with sardine meal + healthy grains
A high-end kibble with unique protein recipe options and millet as a healthy grain option.
All Nature’s Logic foods tend to be very good quality, so don’t be afraid to browse their full selection of kibbles.
- Extremely High Quality. Nature’s Logic is one of the few dry dog foods with high-quality ingredients. In fact, the ingredient list starts with sardine meal (a fairly unique protein).
- Grain-Inclusive. For those looking for grain-inclusive formulas, Nature’s Logic includes high-quality grain sources like millet.
- No Artificial Additives. There are no chemically synthesized vitamins, minerals or amino acids added or any artificial colors, flavors or preservatives used in Nature’s Logic.
Nature’s Logic is an extremely protein-rich food, and with unique proteins like sardines and rabbit, plus healthy millet grains, it’s no wonder why this brand is so popular.
This ultra high-quality kibble comes with a high price tag, but this is common with higher-quality foods.
Sardine Meal, Millet, Chicken Fat (Preserved With Mixed Tocopherols), Pumpkin Seed, Yeast Culture,...,
Alfalfa Nutrient Concentrate, Montmorillonite Clay, Dried Kelp, Spray Dried Porcine Plasma, Dried Tomato, Almonds, Dried Chicory Root, Dried Carrot, Dried Apple, Dried Pumpkin, Dried Apricot, Dried Blueberry, Dried Spinach, Dried Broccoli, Dried Cranberry, Parsley, Dried Artichoke, Rosemary, Dried Mushroom, Dried Lactobacillus Acidophilus Fermentation Product, Dried Lactobacillus Casei Fermentation Product, Dried Bifidobacterium Bifidium Fermentation Product, Dried Enterococcus Faecium Fermentation Product, Dried Bacillus Coagulans Fermentation Product, Dried Pineapple Extract, Dried Aspergillus Niger Fermentation Extract, Dried Aspergillus Oryzae Fermentation Extract, Dried Trichoderma Longibrachiatum Fermentation Extract.
6. Merrick Grain Free Dog Food
About: Merrick Grain Free Dog Food sources high-quality proteins and comes in a variety of formulas.
Merrick Grain Free
A meat-rich grain-free recipe
Protein-packed, boasting 70% meat composition with several animal protein recipes to choose from.
- Quality Proteins. Merrick dog foods have a variety of great protein sources to choose from, including chicken, duck, buffalo, lamb, salmon, beef, turkey, and venison.
- 70% Meat Source Ingredients. The Merrick dog food composition is 70% meat sources 30% fresh produce (with ingredients like sweet potatoes, peas, apples, and blueberries) which also offer additional vitamins and antioxidants.
- Good For Joint Relief. Merrick dog food is rich in Omega 6, Omega 3 Glucosamine and Chondroitin, elements used to reduce joint inflammation and improve mobility.
- No Grains. Merrick’s grain free dog food uses sweet potatoes and potatoes as better, more easily-digestible carbohydrate sources, making it a great dog food for dogs with allergies or dogs that have stomach issues.
Owners find this dog food to be high quality and are comforted by the fact that it is made in the USA.
As with other dog foods, Merrick isn’t cheap. Merrick has also recently been bought out by Purina, and some owners are concerned that this may end up compromising Merrick’s quality in the future.
7. Taste of the Wild
About: Taste of the Wild features high-protein, grain-free dog food that also contains added benefits like probiotics, fruits and veggies, antioxidants, as well as a mix of various vitamins and minerals.
Taste of the Wild
Grain-free kibble featuring biston
Bison and venison-based protein with fruits, veggies, and plenty of probiotics.
- 30 Pound Bag. Taste of the Wild Dry Dog Food comes in a large, 30 pound bag. This will last your dog quite a while. You also get the option to purchase smaller bags if you wish, which are available for lower prices, although bigger bags offer the best value per pound of dog food.
- Bison and Venison. One of the more popular ingredients in this dog food is the bison and venison (if your dog loves venison, you can even try dog foods that rely on venison as the single protein source). These meats are lean and provide the protein and nutrition a dog needs. You can also choose lamb, salmon, and wildfowl, all of which are also good meat options.
- Supplemented With Fruits and Vegetables. Not only is there real meat in Taste of the Wild dog food, but there is also plenty of fruits and vegetables. The food is supplemented with these healthy ingredients, providing additional nutrients to any dog who consumes this food.
Taste of the Wild is a grain-free option, which is a major plus for many owners. This healthy holistic dog food contains good meat content and high protein, packed with antioxidants that support healthy immune systems.
Some dog owners found that this brand caused their dogs to have a bad skin reaction. Ultimately, all dogs react different to different types of dog foods. While the majority of owners praise Taste of the Wild, you’ll have to see how your dog reacts.
8. Blue Buffalo
About: Blue Buffalo Life Protection dog food promises a healthy diet for your dog, with formulas that focus on real meats (the first ingredients in this formula are deboned lamb and fish meal – always great to see two meat proteins at the top of the ingredient list).
The Life Protection formula – featured here – is designed for dogs of all different breeds and ages, but Blue Buffalo also offers custom age and breed-based formulas as well.
Blue Buffalo Life Protection
Budget-friendly grain-inclusive dog food
This formula features lamb as the #1 ingredient and includes healthy whole grains like brown rice and oatmeal while leaving out the corn, wheat, and soy.
- LifeSource Bits. The Blue Buffalo Life Protection brand offers LifeSource bits. These are specially formulated bits of dog food that contain a blend of the healthiest ingredients, with whole grains, antioxidants, vegetables, vitamins, and minerals all blended precisely to create a healthy food option for dogs.
- 30 Pound Bag. Blue Buffalo offers a 30 pound bag of food for owners who want their dog food to last. It also comes in smaller bag options if you don’t want to commit to the 30lb bag.
- Breed and Size-Specific Offerings. One big thing that sets Blue Buffalo apart is their wide array of choices and customization for different dog breeds and sizes, from the best food composition for senior dogs, to the best chow for puppies. You have many options to choose from with Blue Buffalo, and you’ll probably be able to find the perfect blend of dog food for your individual dog’s needs.
- Lamb and Brown Rice. One of the best options for ingredients is the lamb and brown rice. It pairs a lean meat choice with a whole grain option. There is also a healthy weight chicken and brown rice option, as well as other lean meat choices.
Many buyers agree that Blue Buffalo helps their dogs lose weight and keeps their coats shiny. Blue Buffalo is a big favorite amongst owners who are dedicated to feeding their dog natural, healthy foods. Blue Buffalo has a very appropriate slogan – “love them like family, feed them like family.”
Some buyers state that this dog food brand caused their dogs to develop stomach issues, as some dogs are sensitive to the ingredients. Again, as with all dog foods, while in rare instances a dog with a unique condition might not do well with Blue Buffalo, the vast majority of dogs will devour this dog food and thrive off of it.
Since this food is often used to help dogs maintain a healthy weight, it may not be ideal if you’re trying to fatten up a dog who is too skinny. In that case, you’ll want to look at dog food designed to help dogs gain weight!
9. Canidae All Life Stages
About: Canidae is a highly reputable dog food brand, vet-formulated to provide nutrition to your pooch without using corn, wheat, soy, or by-product meat in their food.
Canidae’s All Life Stages line is a great grain-inclusive dry food with a mix of chicken, turkey, lamb and fish meals animal proteins.
Canidae All Stages
A multi-protein dog food that’s grain inclusive
This recipe features a mix of animal proteins along with a healthy variety of grains.
- Rich Mix of Proteins. Includes chicken, turkey, lamb and fish meals resulting in a nutritionally-packed formula.
- Includes Probiotics. This formula features a combination of probiotics, antioxidants and omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids.
- Corn, Wheat, & Soy Free. Canidae doesn’t use corn, wheat, or soy, and uses healthy grains.
- Grain Inclusive. This formula includes healthy grains like brown rice, white rice, rice bran, oatmeal, and barley for DCM-safe carbohydrates.
Owners note that even picky eaters love the mix of proteins provided in this formula.
The mix of protein sources may be problematic for dogs who have allergies or intolerances to certain proteins. Luckily, Canidae offers limited-ingredient formulas too (see below).
10. Canidae Grain-Free Pure
About: Canidae Grain Free Pure is a limited-ingredient formula ideal for dogs with sensitivities, as all ingredients in this line are easily identifiable, with only 7-10 main ingredients. This makes it an especially good choice for dogs with sensitive stomachs.
Canidae Grain-Free Pure
Limited-ingredient kibble that’s great for allergies
This USA-made dog food is a limited-ingredient formula with just 10 essential ingredients.
- Real Meat As #1 Ingredient. Quality dog foods always have meat as the first ingredient – Canidae has several meats & identified meat meals are first ingredients, so you know your pooch is getting quality proteins.
- Includes Probiotics. This formula features probiotics designed to support healthy canine digestions, as well as antioxidants for immune system benefits.
- Omega 6 and 3 Fatty Acids. Canidae Life Stages includes omega 6 and omega 3 fatty acids which can ensure that your pooch’s skin stays healthy and his coat remains smooth and silky.
- Corn, Wheat, & Soy Free. Canidae leaves out corn, wheat, soy, and by-product meal, leaving only the good stuff.
- Alternative Carbohydrates. Rather than using wheat for carbohydrates, Canidae includes peas, lentils, and sweet potatoes leaving out grain for dogs who may not agree with it.
- Several Different Recipes. This formula includes several different recipes – from lamb, chicken, salmon, and wild-boar, to age-custom formulas including a puppy and senior offering.
Numerous owners have reported that Canidae Grain Free Pure has firmed up their dog’s stools and resolved skin issues. Even picky dogs with reported stomach issues tend to really love this food.
Some owners have reported receiving counterfeit bags that are not legitimate, so be sure to check the bag carefully and potentially consider buying from an alternative retailer if the bag you receive online looks questionable. There has also been some recent controversy surrounding grain-free diets for dogs, so discuss with your vet to ensure it’s a good option.
11. Wellness Core Natural Grain Free
About: Wellness Core Natural Grain-Free food comes from the Wellness brand – a quality dog food manufacturer that produces protein-focused foods, with several lean meat options like chicken, turkey, and salmon.
Wellness Core Grain-Free
Turkey-packed recipe with no corn, wheat, soy, or other artificials
Deboned turkey, turkey meal, and chicken meal are first 3 ingredients in this healthy, additive-free formula.
- Several Formulas to Choose From. Wellness Core offers several healthy dog food formulas so you can pick the perfect blend for your dog. Options include puppy, reduced fat, wild game, large breed, small breed, and other formulas.
- Grain-Free & No By-Products. The Wellness Core dog food is grain free and 100% natural, with fruits, vegetables, and dog-friendly salmon oil in addition to real protein sources. There are also no meat by-products and no grain, corn, soy, wheat-gluten, or artificial preservatives, colors or flavors.
- Probiotics. Probiotics are essential for a dog’s digestion. This food contains probiotics for dogs that aid a canine’s overall health. This healthy dog food also has calcium, glucosamine and chondroitin to help maintain bone and joint health.
- Omega Blend. The fish and flax within this food blends together to offer omega fatty acids that are beneficial to dogs, helping to keep their coats shiny and healthy.
Many owners say that this food has helped their dogs become more active when they previously slept often and were slow-moving.
A few owners state this food is too expensive, as it costs over $50 for a 26-pound bag, when other brands offer a 30 pound bag for less.
12. Diamond Naturals
About: Diamond Naturals is a mid-tier dry dog food that has a decent mix of protein and healthy grains at a reasonable price that will delight budget-minded owners.
An affordable dry dog food that’s solid quality
Made with beef meal plus real fruits, vegetables, and grains.
- Beef-Based. This recipe features beef meal as the #1 ingredient.
- Grain Inclusive. Diamond Naturals includes decent-quality grains like grain sorghum and ground white rice while staying away from problematic ingredients like corn, wheat, filler, artificial flavors, colors, and preservatives.
- Vitamins + Omega Fatty Acids. Includes added vitamins and antioxidants from fruits and vegetables, plus omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids for healthy skin and coat.
This is a great affordable pick for a grain-inclusive recipe that’s fairly healthy and won’t break the bank.
While beef is the #1 ingredient, there are no other major meat proteins in this recipe, resulting in just an average protein composition.
Should I Worry About DCM and Taurine Deficiency?
New research has recently come out alerting owners to the startling increase in dogs with dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM).
There is a lot of confusion and misunderstanding around this increase in DCM. Some veterinarians believe that BEG diets are causing the issue (Boutique, Exotic, Grain-free). Some suspect that the ingredients being used to replace grains in grain-free diets (ex. lentils, chickpeas, potatoes) are problematic.
The truth is that no one knows for sure what is causing the increase in DCM cases.
Researchers have yet to discover what is at the root cause, and while different people have various theories, there is no definitive answer.
Rather than any specific ingredients being at fault, it could be the interactions of the ingredients, the heat treatment, or the food processing.
Generally, as has always been true, you’ll want to aim to feed your dog high-quality, animal-based proteins, and avoid dog foods which rely on plant-source proteins as their primary protein sources.
Many dogs eat BEG diets and are fine. But not all. Ultimately, it’s probably best to speak to your vet about any concerns, as they’ll be up to date on any new research breakthroughs. Talking to your vet about your dog’s diet is doubly important for breeds known to have a higher risk for DCM (Doberman Pinscher, Boxer, Irish Wolfhound, and Great Dane, & others)
It’s also worth noting that most dogs currently being diagnosed with DCM do not exhibit low taurine levels. Many owners have advocated for adding taurine supplements to their dogs’ diet, but in many cases taurine levels are irrelevant.
Those are our top picks for the healthiest dog food. Do you have any favorites from this list? What is the healthiest dog food in your opinion? Share your thoughts in the comments!