Updated January 2014
Experts agree: There really is a difference between dog food brands. Although the best dog foods usually cost more, they're real food and not filler -- so your dog won't need to eat so much of them, and the cost difference evens out, experts say. Based on the opinions of veterinarians and canine-diet experts, we scrutinized ingredient lists to hone in on foods that are free from fillers and risky ingredients that could harm your dog's health.
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Orijen Adult Dog
Orijen Adult Dog

Best dry dog food

Orijen Adult Dog is expensive, but experts -- and dog owners -- say it's worth it. It's made from fresh Canadian meats, eggs, produce and wild-caught fish, and it's grain-free (rare for a dry food).
See our full review

Taste of the Wild High Prairie
Taste of the Wild High Prairie

Best value dry dog food

It costs more than supermarket dog kibble, but experts say Taste of the Wild High Prairie is worth it: It's grain-free and soy-free, with no artificial preservatives. Bison is its No. 1 ingredient.
See our full review

Fromm Family Gold Salmon and Chicken Pate
Fromm Family Gold Salmon and Chicken Pate

Best canned dog food

Experts say dogs should really eat wet food, and Fromm Family Gold illustrates why. It's grain-free and loaded with meat (USDA-approved, human-quality meat, at that), and with veggies, vitamins and minerals -- a simple recipe that's ideal for dogs, reviews say. It costs less than other super-premium canned dog foods, too.
See our full review

The Honest Kitchen Embark
The Honest Kitchen Embark

Best raw dog food

You can get pretty close to a dog's wild diet with The Honest Kitchen Embark, reviews say. It's grain-free, made from near-raw turkey and veggies -- in a convenient, dehydrated powder that you mix with water to make a moist food; a 4-lb. box yields roughly 16 lbs. of dog food. With all-natural ingredients and a strong safety program, this is a hands-down expert favorite.
See our full review

Est. $45 for a 4-lb. box Estimated Price
Kirkland Signature Lamb, Rice & Vegetable
Kirkland Signature Lamb, Rice & Vegetable

Supermarket dog food

It's hard to find a quality dog food on the shelves of a supermarket or warehouse store, but Kirkland dry dog food (sold at Costco) comes pretty close. It has above-average meat content compared to its supermarket competition, and while the dog food is not grain-free, it mostly avoids the use of lower-quality grains.
See our full review

Est. $35 for a 40-lb. bag Estimated Price
See a side-by-side comparison of key features, product specs, and prices.

Best Dog Food Reviews: Runners Up

Acana Classics Chicken and Burbank Potato Est. $35 for a 15-lb. bag

5 picks including: DogAware.com, PetFoodRatings.org…

Wellness Core Grain Free Original Formula Est. $35 for a 12-lb. bag

5 picks including: DogAware.com, Petco.com…

Evo Turkey & Chicken Formula Est. $30 for a 13.2-lb. bag

4 picks including: DogAware.com, DogFoodAnalysis.com…

Dr. Tim's Pursuit Active Dog Formula Est. $29 for a 15-lb. bag

4 picks including: DogAware.com, PetFoodRatings.org…

Halo Spot's Stew Succulent Salmon Recipe Est. $3 for a 13.2-oz. can

4 picks including: DogAware.com, Whole Dog Journal…

Weruva Human Style Bed and Breakfast Est. $2.90 for a 14-oz. can

4 picks including: DogAware.com, Whole Dog Journal…

Doctors Foster & Smith Fish & Potato Formula Est. $2.10 for a 12.7-oz. can

3 picks including: DogAware.com, Whole Dog Journal…

Great dog food for any dog, or any budget

The pet-food recalls of 2007 served as a wake-up call to millions of pet owners, as well as some -- but not all -- pet-food makers. Although the panic over food tainted with melamine has largely subsided, owners are still casting wary eyes on pet-food labels. New recalls have done little to soothe pet owners' frazzled nerves, including a widespread 2012 salmonella recall that swept up many brands (including top premium brands like Wellness) and another in 2013 for several Procter & Gamble brands (including Evo).

Dog owners need help to pick a safe, nutritious food. Luckily, several websites and publications provide helpful and accurate information. Sites like PetsumerReport.com (and its companion blog, TruthAboutPetFood.com), DogFoodAdvisor.com, PetFoodRatings.org and DogAware.com put dog foods under the microscope, scouring labels for red-flag ingredients, demanding safety information and tracking recalls. Whole Dog Journal magazine publishes its own list of the best dog foods. Owner reviews are helpful as well, especially when it comes to learning which foods are eagerly eaten, and which ones leave our four-footed companions cold.

The result? We found good dog foods for every budget, from Costco kibble to pricey "human food" dog food. There are three main choices:

  • Dry dog food is convenient, and it costs the least per feeding (without water, it weighs less to ship and is a concentrated food source). Unlike cats, dogs will drink plenty of water to hydrate themselves, so dry food is perfectly acceptable. Just be careful: Supermarket kibble consists mostly of corn and soy pellets -- not the meat that dogs evolved to eat, experts warn. High-meat, low- or no-grain kibbles are best. Experts say you should serve canned or fresh food, too, to make sure your dog gets enough moisture and protein. The cost of dry dog foods varies widely, from as much as $3 per pound to as low as 88 cents per pound for good feeding choices.
  • Canned dog food is often high-meat and grain-free -- ideal for dogs, experts say. It's more expensive per feeding than dry dog kibble. Expect to pay about $2 to $2.50 for a can of high-quality dog food.
  • Dehydrated raw dog food gets closer to a dog's wild diet. Raw or lightly steamed meats and veggies are dried and ground up; you add water to make a moist dog food. Expect to pay about as much per feeding as top-quality canned food. Raw dog food is also sold frozen.

To find the top dog foods among all these types, we consulted the websites and publications named above and many more, including thousands of user reviews. Based on that information, we looked first at ingredient quality and the safety of the food -- paying special attention to recalls, the reasons behind them, and how forthcoming dog food makers are with their customers. While every dog owner might like to feed their dog the best food available, not all have the budget, so we also look to value to find choices that are close to the best but cost less.

Elsewhere in this report:

Dog Food Ingredients: What's in that dog food? We explain which dog food ingredients to look for and which ones to avoid.

Best Dry Dog Food: Which are the best dry dog foods? We look at expert advice to identify the most nutritious choices, and some great budget alternatives.

Canned Dog Food: Which is the best canned dog food? We name top choices based on dog food reviews by experts and dog owners.

Raw Dog Food: Is a raw dog food better for your four-footed friend? We look at what experts say and name top choices.

Buying Guide: What are the most important considerations when selecting a dry, canned or raw dog food? We discuss what you need to know in this dog food buyer's guide.

Our Sources: Links to the expert and user reviews we used to select the top dog food, along with our assessment of each reviewer's expertise, credibility and helpfulness.

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