Best Dry Dog Food: An In-Depth Review
Best Dry Dog Food Brands for a Happy and Healthy Pooch
If your pooch likes to nibble on kibble, but you’re afraid you’re feeding them the wrong kind, we feel you. With so many dry food options out there, it can be difficult.
We at Alpha Paw can help you feed your furry friend the best dry dog food on the market. Please note that we’re not supported by affiliate links, and we selected the brands in this article using a set of rigorous criteria.
How We Evaluated Best Dry Dog Food
As a community of dedicated dog parents, we made sure that our top picks were truly the best of the best. We spoke to the experts at two local vet clinics about what a balanced diet should include and learned about what to look for in dog kibble.
We consulted three sales associates from our favorite pet stores (two small, independent shops and one chain store) about the price-to-quality ratio, what kibble sells best, and what they feed their pups.
Apart from expert opinion, we sought advice from our community of dog lovers because, ultimately, they know what works best for their four-legged friends. Our own furry companions were the last testers as the final goal of this research was to see what makes our pooches wag their tails with vigor and joy.
How We Chose Our Top Picks
We started by looking into 53 products. It took us four months to get from that number to our top five picks we’ll present here. Based on what we learned about proper dog nutrition, we established a set of criteria and compared all 53 products against them. These criteria are the following:
- An animal protein tops the ingredient list
- The animal protein is not a generic “meat” protein, but a named one (beef, chicken, lamb, etc.)
- The product meets the requirements of the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO)
- The product doesn’t contain a generic fat source, by-products, and artificial sweeteners and preservatives
These are all vital for ensuring that the product contains only the best-quality ingredients that won’t harm your pup. You don’t want your dog’s protein source to be “meat meal”—this stands for various meats of a dubious origin, usually rejected by the food industry and mixed together into a gray mass of goo in a rendering plant. Yikes!
Apart from the quality of the ingredients, we checked if the food contains a proper ratio of protein, carbs, fats, vitamins, and minerals. You want the kibble you feed your pooch to be rich in protein, but other nutrients are important as well. Here’s a table of the average nutrient requirements for adult dogs:
|Nutrient||Dry dog food requirements|
|Minerals needed in large amounts||
|Important trace minerals||
After we narrowed down our choices based on these criteria, we were left with 18 brands. These 18 products satisfied all the requirements that make dry dog food balanced, at least on paper. Our dog lover community volunteered to help us test them, so we ordered each of these products and distributed them to everyone.
We all monitored our dogs over the course of three months to see what effect the food would have on them and if they would like it at all. After all, what good is healthy kibble if Fido refuses to eat it?
Based on our personal experiences during that trial period and hundreds of other users’ reviews we read online, we selected the five best dry dog food brands. We do not profit from promoting any of these brands—they are genuine recommendations, coming from loyal human companions.
|Alpha Paw Picks||Brand||Rating|
|Best overall||Blue Buffalo Life Protection Formula||4.9|
|Runner-up||IAMS Proactive Health Adult Minichunks||4.7|
|Best on a budget||Diamond Naturals Adult Dog Beef Meal and Rice Formula||4.8|
|Best for senior dogs||Nutro Ultra Senior||4.8|
|Best for puppies||Merrick Grain Free Puppy Recipe||4.9|
Our Top Pick: Blue Buffalo Life Protection Formula Adult Dog Food
Image source: Blue Buffalo
The Blue Buffalo Life Protection Formula is the king of dry dog food brands. It represents the perfect blend of all the right nutrients that will satisfy your pup’s taste buds and feed their body on a cellular level. With high-quality deboned chicken as the main protein source, your furry baby will enjoy every bite of it. It’s also rich in other food groups and makes for a wholesome meal.
What We Love About It
- It doesn’t contain wheat, soy, or other filler carbs
- It doesn’t contain chicken by-product meals
- It has no artificial flavor enhancers or preservatives
- The pellets are cold-formed, which helps the ingredients retain their nutritious value
|Crude Protein||24.0% min|
|Crude Fat||14.0% min|
|Crude Fiber||5.0% max|
|Omega 3 Fatty Acids||0.5% min|
|Omega 6 Fatty Acids||3.0% min|
|Glucosamine||400 mg/kg min|
Deboned Chicken, Chicken Meal, Brown Rice, Barley, Oatmeal, Pea Starch, Flaxseed (source of Omega 3 and 6 Fatty Acids), Chicken Fat (preserved with Mixed Tocopherols), Dried Tomato Pomace, Natural Flavor, Peas, Pea Protein, Salt, Potassium Chloride, Dehydrated Alfalfa Meal, Potatoes, Dried Chicory Root, Pea Fiber, Alfalfa Nutrient Concentrate, Calcium Carbonate, Choline Chloride, DL-Methionine, Preserved with Mixed Tocopherols, Dicalcium Phosphate, Sweet Potatoes, Carrots, Garlic, Zinc Amino Acid Chelate, Zinc Sulfate, Vegetable Juice for color, Ferrous Sulfate, Vitamin E Supplement, Iron Amino Acid Chelate, Blueberries, Cranberries, Barley Grass, Parsley, Turmeric, Dried Kelp, Yucca Schidigera Extract, Niacin (Vitamin B3), Glucosamine Hydrochloride, Calcium Pantothenate (Vitamin B5), Copper Sulfate, Biotin (Vitamin B7), L-Ascorbyl-2-Polyphosphate (source of Vitamin C), L-Lysine, L-Carnitine, Vitamin A Supplement, Copper Amino Acid Chelate, Manganese Sulfate, Taurine, Manganese Amino Acid Chelate, Thiamine Mononitrate (Vitamin B1), Riboflavin (Vitamin B2), Vitamin D3 Supplement, Vitamin B12 Supplement, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride (Vitamin B6), Calcium Iodate, Dried Yeast, Dried Enterococcus faecium fermentation product, Dried Lactobacillus acidophilus fermentation product, Dried Aspergillus niger fermentation extract, Dried Trichoderma longibrachiatum fermentation extract, Dried Bacillus subtilis fermentation extract, Folic Acid (Vitamin B9), Sodium Selenite, Oil of Rosemary.
Runner-up: IAMS Proactive Health Adult Minichunks Dry Dog Food
Image source: IAMS
The IAMS Proactive Health Adult Minichunks is formulated with farm-raised chicken that you would gladly eat yourself. The minichunks are tiny powerbites full of all the necessary nutrients that will keep your furball healthy and vigorous. It’s especially suitable for tiny jaws that would have trouble munching on bigger food pellets. The blend is formulated with L-carnitine, which further helps boost your dog’s metabolism.
What We Love About It
- It contains no soy or wheat
- There are no artificial flavor enhancers
- It aids digestion and supports the immune system
- The pellets are small and easy to chew
|Crude Protein||25.00% min|
|Crude Fat||14.00% min|
|Crude Fiber||4.00% max|
|Selenium||0.35 mg/kg min|
|Vitamin E||60 IU/kg min|
|L-Carnitine||30 mg/kg min|
|Omega-6 Fatty Acids||2.05% min|
Chicken, Ground Whole Grain Corn, Ground Whole Grain Sorghum, Chicken By-Product Meal, Dried Beet Pulp, Natural Flavor, Dried Egg Product, Flaxseed, Caramel Color, Potassium Chloride, Carrots, Choline Chloride, Chicken Fat (preserved with mixed Tocopherols), Fructooligosaccharides, Calcium Carbonate, Brewers Dried Yeast, Vitamin E Supplement, Ferrous Sulfate, Zinc Oxide, L-Carnitine, Sodium Selenite, Mixed Tocopherols (a preservative), Ascorbic Acid, Manganese Sulfate, Copper Sulfate, Calcium Pantothenate, Biotin, Thiamine Mononitrate (source of vitamin B1), Vitamin B-12 Supplement, Vitamin A Acetate, Niacin Supplement, Riboflavin Supplement (source of vitamin B2), Inositol, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride (source of vitamin B6), Vitamin D3 Supplement, Manganous Oxide, Rosemary Extract, Potassium Iodide, Folic Acid
Best Dry Dog Food on a Budget: Diamond Naturals Adult Dog Beef Meal and Rice Formula
Image source: Diamond Pet
If you need a cheaper dry food option for your pooch, Diamond Naturals Beef Meal and Rice Formula is a great choice. Its main protein source is top-quality pasture-raised beef. If your pup has a sensitive stomach, Diamond will be perfect for them as it contains over 80 million CFUs of probiotics. This food is rich in antioxidants and Omega fatty acids, which will make their coat silky and boost their immune system.
What We Like About It
- Its protein source is grass-fed cattle
- It’s good for your pup’s tummy
- It doesn’t contain any artificial flavors, colors, or preservatives
|Crude Protein||25.0% min|
|Crude Fat||15.0% min|
|Crude Fiber||3.5% max|
|Zinc||150 mg/kg min|
|Selenium||0.35 mg/kg min|
|Vitamin A||15,000 IU/kg min|
|Vitamin E||150 IU/kg min|
|Omega-6 Fatty Acids||2.4% min|
|Omega-3 Fatty Acids||0.4% min|
|Glucosamine||300 mg/kg min|
|Chondroitin Sulfate||100 mg/kg min|
(Lactobacillus plantarum, Bacillus subtilis, Lactobacillus acidophilus, Enterococcus faecium, Bifidobacterium animalis)
|Not Less Than 80,000,000 CFU/lb|
Beef meal, grain sorghum, ground white rice, dried yeast, egg product, rice bran, cracked pearled barley, chicken fat (preserved with mixed tocopherols), dried beet pulp, natural flavor, flaxseed, potassium chloride, salt, DL-Methionine, choline chloride, taurine, dried chicory root, glucosamine hydrochloride, kale, chia seed, pumpkin, blueberries, oranges, quinoa, dried kelp, coconut, spinach, carrots, papaya, yucca schidigera extract, dried Lactobacillus plantarum fermentation product, dried Bacillus subtilis fermentation product, dried Lactobacillus acidophilus fermentation product, dried Enterococcus faecium fermentation product, dried Bifidobacterium animalis fermentation product, vitamin E supplement, beta carotene, chondroitin sulfate, iron proteinate, zinc proteinate, copper proteinate, ferrous sulfate, zinc sulfate, copper sulfate, potassium iodide, thiamine mononitrate, manganese proteinate, manganous oxide, ascorbic acid, vitamin A supplement, biotin, niacin, calcium pantothenate, manganese sulfate, sodium selenite, pyridoxine hydrochloride, vitamin B12 supplement, riboflavin, vitamin D3 supplement, folic acid.
Contains a source of live (viable), naturally occurring microorganisms.
Best Dry Food for Senior Dogs: Nutro Ultra Senior
Image source: Nutro
Nutro Ultra Senior combines chicken, salmon, and lamb to meet your senior dog’s need for protein. These are mixed with 15 superfoods, such as flaxseed, apples, blueberries, chia, and more, to support the aging body of your furry companion. Nutro is packed with substances such as chondroitin and glucosamine, which keep your pooch’s joints in check. There are no artificial substances that could endanger your dog’s health.
What We Like About It
- It contains protein from three sources
- It’s great for your pup’s aging joints
- It’s packed with superfoods
- It’s rich with minerals, vitamins, and antioxidants
|Crude Protein (min.)||26.00%|
|Crude Fat (min.)||11.00%|
|Crude Fiber (max.)||4.00%|
|Docosahexaenoic Acid (DHA) (min.)||0.10%|
|Zinc (min.)||250 mg/kg|
|Selenium (min.)||0.60 mg/kg|
|Vitamin A (min.)||5000 IU/kg|
|Vitamin E (min.)||80 IU/kg|
|Chondroitin Sulfate (min.)||200 mg/kg|
|Glucosamine (min.)||80 mg/kg|
|Omega-3 Fatty Acids (min.)||0.60%|
|Omega-6 Fatty Acids (min.)||2.80%|
Chicken, Chicken Meal (source of Glucosamine and Chondroitin Sulfate), Whole Brown Rice, Brewers Rice, Rice Bran, Lamb Meal (source of Glucosamine and Chondroitin Sulfate), Salmon Meal, Whole Grain Oatmeal, Natural Flavor, Dried Plain Beet Pulp, Chicken Fat (preserved with Mixed Tocopherols), Pea Protein, Sunflower Oil (preserved with Mixed Tocopherols), Whole Flaxseed, Fish Oil (preserved with Mixed Tocopherols), Potassium Chloride, Choline Chloride, DL-Methionine, Salt, Mixed Tocopherols and Citric Acid (preservatives), Whole Chia Seed, Dried Coconut, Dried Egg Product, Tomato Pomace, Dried Kale, Dried Pumpkin, Dried Spinach, Dried Blueberries, Dried Apples, Dried Carrots, Zinc Sulfate, Niacin Supplement, Biotin, Vitamin E Supplement, Iron Amino Acid Chelate, D-Calcium Pantothenate, Riboflavin Supplement (Vitamin B2), Selenium Yeast, Vitamin B12 Supplement, Copper Amino Acid Chelate, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride (Vitamin B6), Manganese Amino Acid Chelate, Vitamin A Supplement, Thiamine Mononitrate (Vitamin B1), Vitamin D3 Supplement, Folic Acid, Rosemary Extract.
Best Dry Dog Food for Puppies: Merrick Grain Free Puppy Recipe
Image source: Merrick Pet Care
If you’re searching for a perfect puppy blend, look no further than Merrick Grain Free Puppy Recipe. This food’s first ingredient is deboned chicken, and your puppy will love the taste. Other ingredients include whole foods such as blueberries, apples, and peas, which contain all the vitamins and minerals necessary for your doggie to develop into a strong and healthy pooch. All the veggies in the mix are obtained from local farmers. Merrick is suitable for all breeds.
What We Like About It
- DHA in the blend supports the development of your puppy’s brain
- It consists of nutrient-rich ingredients
- It’s made of locally sourced veggies and meat
- It’s completely grain-free
|Crude fiber||(max.)4.50 %|
|Omega-6 fatty acid||(min)3%|
|Omega-3 fatty acid||(min)0.40%|
|Chondroitin sulfate||(min.)800 mg/kg|
Deboned Chicken, Chicken Meal, Peas, Sweet Potatoes, Potatoes, Dried Egg Product, Chicken Fat, Pea Protein, Salmon Meal, Natural Flavor, Deboned Salmon, Sunflower Oil, Salmon Oil, Salt, Organic Dehydrated Alfalfa Meal, Potassium Chloride, Choline Chloride, Apples, Blueberries, Minerals (Iron Amino Acid Complex, Zinc Amino Acid Complex, Zinc Sulfate, Sodium Selenite, Manganese Amino Acid Complex, Copper Amino Acid Complex, Copper Sulfate, Potassium Iodide, Cobalt Proteinate, Cobalt Carbonate), Taurine, Yucca Schidigera Extract, Mixed Tocopherols for Freshness, Vitamins (Vitamin E Supplement, Vitamin B12 Supplement, Vitamin A Supplement, d-Calcium Pantothenate, Thiamine Mononitrate, Niacin, Riboflavin Supplement, Biotin, Vitamin D3 Supplement, Folic Acid, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride), Citric Acid for Freshness, Dried Lactobacillus plantarum Fermentation Product, Dried Lactobacillus casei Fermentation Product, Dried Enterococcus faecium Fermentation Product, Dried Lactobacillus acidophilus Fermentation Product.
What Kind of Pooch Is Dry Dog Food For?
Kibble is suitable for all dog sizes and breeds. It’s one of the most convenient ways to feed your pup and the most popular option with busy pet parents. Dry food is easy to store and take on a trip, and it won’t go bad as fast as wet food, even when left out in the open. You can pour Fido a portion and leave it to them to decide when they want to eat it.
The hard texture of kibble helps maintain your pup’s dental hygiene, but it also means you should avoid it if your dog has sensitive teeth or gums. Another thing to be careful about is the pellet size. Small dogs and puppies can choke on a large chunk, especially if they have a voracious appetite. That’s why you should consider buying them the best dry dog food for small dogs.
As kibble is dehydrated, your pooch will always need to have a bowl full of water to gulp down the food. If you notice them lapping away bowl after bowl, maybe it’s time for a dietary change. This is especially true if you live in a hot climate or your dog has bladder or kidney issues.
What Is the Difference Between Dry and Wet Dog Food?
The main difference between dry and wet dog food is in the moisture content. Dry food is denser and contains much less water than the wet kind—only 10%. Wet dog food has a high level of moisture—as much as 78%. Which one you pick for your dog is up to you, but there are some considerations to have in mind when choosing what’s best for your four-legged companion.
Pros and Cons of Dry Dog Food
Dry food is budget-friendly, and in many ways more convenient than wet food. Here are some of its benefits:
- It is more affordable than wet food. Dry food is inexpensive, and your pup will need smaller quantities of it as it’s calorie-dense.
- It has a longer shelf life. You can keep kibble in your pantry for months, and once you open it, it won’t spoil for days.
- It’s good for your dog’s dental hygiene. Crunchy food prevents the development of plaque, and it stimulates the gums.
Kibble can also be less than ideal, especially if you buy your pup some of the worst dry dog food on the market. That’s why it’s important to check the quality and ratio of ingredients before you buy. Here are some of the potential downsides to kibble:
- It can be too hard for your old dog’s teeth. You can still buy them kibble if you go for the best senior dry dog food, which tends to be softer and easier to chew.
- Its taste can be subpar. Kibble is dehydrated, which means it doesn’t have the delicious smell and taste of fresh food.
- It doesn’t provide enough moisture. You need to take extra care of your pup’s daily water intake.
Pros and Cons of Wet Dog Food
There’s no denying that wet food has a richer taste and scent than kibble. If you feed your pooch the best-canned dog food, they will get a balanced meal just as they would with kibble. Here are some of the reasons why you may go for wet dog food:
- It’s a great source of hydration. If your pup doesn’t drink enough water, wet food can make up for that.
- It tastes delicious. If your pooch is lacking in appetite, they are more likely to eat wet food.
- It’s soft and easier to chew. If your furry buddy is missing some teeth or has other dental problems, canned food is your best option.
Kibble is more popular than wet food for a reason—or several reasons. Here are some downsides to wet dog food:
- It goes bad faster. Wet food doesn’t have a long shelf life, and once you open it, it can go bad within hours.
- It’s more expensive. As a large portion of canned food is just moisture, your pooch will need more of it to fill their tummy.
- It’s bad for dental hygiene. Wet food sticks to teeth and helps build plaque. You can support your pup’s dental health by introducing one of the top 10 best dog dental chews.
Can I Mix Wet and Dry Dog Food?
Yes! You can mix kibble and canned food, but you need to be careful about the quality of food and calorie intake. Dry food has more calories, and you should be careful not to overfeed your pup. If there’s a mismatch in ingredients quality, this can lead to an upset doggy stomach as well.
Mixing dry and wet food is usually something dog parents resort to if their pooch needs to gain weight. By pouring canned gravy over kibble, you can enhance its flavor and make your pup more interested in it.
If your dog has a sensitive stomach, you should avoid mixing these two and should serve them separately instead. Likewise, if they’re used to one type of food and you introduce a mix, it might cause an upset stomach or diarrhea.
How Much Dry Food Should I Feed My Dog?
There are no universal guidelines that can tell you the exact amount of food you should give to your pooch. Vets recommend you feed your dog twice a day, and their calorie intake depends largely on their size.
Toy breed dogs, such as Yorkies and Dachshunds, typically need as little as a cup of food a day. Depending on your dog’s habits, you can split this into two or three meals. Even if these tiny furballs have a voracious appetite, don’t overfeed them as this can lead to serious health issues in the long run.
Medium breeds, such as Cocker Spaniels or Bulldogs, will need anywhere from two to three cups of kibble a day, and larger dogs, such as Labradors and Golden Retrievers, will require two and a half to three and a half cups. If your furry baby is over 100 lbs., they’ll need over four cups of dry food every day.
Puppies need to get smaller portions throughout the day as they are developing and need a lot of energy. The size of their portions also depends on their weight.
Choose the top dry food for your fur baby
We tested a bunch of dry food brands and these came out as our top picks. Whichever kibble you choose from our favorites, you won’t do wrong, and your pup will eat it heartily. Just remember to size your portions correctly and pick the right food for your pooch’s age. Do not be afraid to introduce some crunch into your pup’s munch!
- Tjernsbekk, M. T., et al. “Protein and Amino Acid Bioavailability of Extruded Dog Food with Protein Meals of Different Quality Using Growing Mink (Neovison Vison) as a model12.” Journal of Animal Science, vol. 94, no. 9, Jan. 2016, pp. 3796–3804., doi:10.2527/jas.2016-0526.
- Morgan, Judy, and Hue Grant. Yin & Yang Nutrition for Dogs: Maximizing Health with Whole Foods, Not Drugs. Thirty Six Paws Press, 2017.