There are a lot of benefits to feeding your dog dry dog food, which we cover elsewhere in this report, but for the best balance in his or her diet, your dog should have wet food as well, say experts. Canned foods tend to be higher-protein than kibble, lower in carbs, and they're always higher-moisture (extremely important for cats, and to a lesser extent dogs).
Whether dry or canned food is the right type is a matter of circumstances and your pet's eating habits. Mike Sagman at DogFoodAdvisor.com suggests that mixing the two types of food -- topping the kibble with some canned dog food -- "makes an especially tasty choice."
The very best canned dog foods are meat-rich and free of fillers, by-products and artificial preservatives. Newman's Own Organics dog foods fit that profile perfectly and even take things a step further, with 95 percent of its ingredients being USDA certified organic. Among the available varieties, Newman's Own Organics Grain Free Beef & Liver (Est. $2.25 for a 12-oz. can) wows reviewers: It's made of organic, free-range beef and liver and very little else. The beef is sourced from Uruguay, which raises some concern in some user reviews we spotted. However, the company notes that Uruguay is noted for being Mad Cow Disease free and has regulations in place that prohibit the use of growth hormones or antibiotics.
Other Newman's Own flavors have a great nutritional profile, too, experts say (although some include grains). Organic ingredients set Newman's Own apart -- and so does the company's philosophy. All profits are donated to animal charities, and Newman's Own has a clean recall history.
A recent recall has knocked our former top pick among canned dog foods out of its perch -- for now -- but if you can find varieties of Fromm Family Gold dog foods at your local retailer, and can look past what looks to be a small blip on what's been a stellar safety record up to now, it's still very much worth considering.
Among the varieties, Fromm Family Gold Salmon and Chicken Pate (Est. $2.75 per 12 ounce can) is a prime example of what an excellent food should look like. Every ingredient is USDA-approved (that means it's exactly the same food humans eat). All Fromm Gold flavors are grain-free and use very simple recipes. Fromm Gold Salmon and Chicken Pate contains wild salmon, chicken, chicken broth, a few veggies, vitamins and chelated minerals (for easy absorption), and that's it. Other varieties -- Chicken Pate and Duck and Chicken Pate -- are similar. That's ideal for dogs, experts say. All Fromm Gold dog food flavors earn the highest possible rating at DogFoodAdvisor.com.
Fromm is made in the USA, which pet owners appreciate. The other thing that they appreciated is that the company had had a terrific safety record, but that took a hit in March 2016 when the company recalled certain batches of their canned foods because of elevated amounts of Vitamin D. Pet food experts and dog owners give the company kudos for discovering the error on its own, initiating the recall without FDA involvement (although with the FDA's knowledge) and being forthright about the issue with pet owners and retailers. The announcement was posted on the company website, and can be found on various pet food websites, including Susan Thixton's TruthAboutPetFood.com.
Our research also turned up lots of other dog foods that rate highly with experts and owners. Dog owners actually enjoy cracking open a can of Halo Spot's Stew Succulent Salmon Recipe (Est. $2.77 for a 13.2-oz. can) or Weruva Bed and Breakfast (Est. $3.75 for a 14-oz. can). Both look and smell as good as (or better than) canned soup for humans, reviews say. Both list meat as their first ingredient (salmon for Halo, and chicken for Weruva) followed by whole foods like eggs and veggies. Halo also adds some rolled oats, but Weruva is grain-free. Neither dog food brand has ever been recalled, and both rate well with expert reviewers, especially Weruva, which earns a perfect 5-star rating at DogFoodAdvisor.com
One issue that concerns some pet food advocates with canned dog foods is the use of BPA (bisphenol A) to line the cans themselves. That's done to prevent the food from coming into contact with the metal, and BPA is also used in most cans that contain food for human consumption -- such as soups and vegetables. However, while the levels of BPA used to line dog food and other cans are deemed to be safe by the FDA, high levels of the chemical has been linked to cancer, reproductive problems and other diseases in humans.
Unfortunately, finding BPA-free cans has become a challenge in the canning industry, and nearly impossible in sizes larger than 5.5 ounces. Even some makers of pet foods that previously certified that its smaller cans were BPA free, such as Weruva, have had to modify that pledge as their suppliers can no longer make that guarantee to them: "While we have been informed that the above statement remains true as they pertain to our 3.0oz and 5.5oz cans, our manufacturing partner recently has informed us that the supplier of the cans will no longer certify that the cans are BPA free due to the fact that trace amounts of BPA may be present due to other items in the plant that contain BPA," the company now says.
Although it costs more than kibble or canned, many dog owners say feeding their dogs raw dog food is worth it; several report that their pets' skin problems, bad digestion and other ailments cleared up after switching to raw or near-raw food.
The Honest Kitchen Embark Turkey Recipe (Est. $95 for a 10-lb. box) is a standout choice in this category. It's a top pick of every single top expert source that rates dehydrated/raw food. Users weighing in at sites like Chewy.com and Amazon.com give it high grades as well.
The Honest Kitchen comes as a dehydrated powder, which you mix with water to make a moist food. Each pound of powder yields roughly four pounds of food, so the largest 10 pound box is good for 40 pounds of dog food -- enough to feed an average medium sized (31 to 50 pounds) dog for between 20 and 40 days, or a smaller dog (11 to 30 pounds) for between 40 and 80 days. Smaller size boxes (2 pounds and 4 pounds) are available as well, as is a 1 ounce sample.
The Honest Kitchen uses only human-quality ingredients, and it's made in a U.S. human-food factory. It's one of the few pet food companies that is permitted to use the term "human grade" in its product labeling, having received a formal statement of No Objection from the FDA. It's also one of handful of pet food companies that have signed the Pledge to Quality and Origin at Susan Thixton's website, TruthAboutPetFood.com, disclosing every ingredient and its source.
Unlike some other The Honest Kitchen varieties, Embark is grain-free. Cage-free turkey is its first ingredient, followed by organic flaxseed, potatoes, celery and spinach. Vitamins and chelated minerals are added to make this a complete, balanced food for dogs.
The ingredients in Embark dog food aren't quite raw; they're steamed to kill pathogens. The Honest Kitchen recalled some of its food in 2013 after its parsley supplier recalled a shipment for salmonella, and now steams its greens as well as its meats and fish. (It also dropped that parsley supplier.) While most recalls are a cause of alarm, experts and pet owners gave the company kudos for the way they reacted to this one. "They handled the recall in a very upfront and personal way with customers," says Carlotta Cooper at DogFoodGuru.com.
If you're willing to accept a little grain in exchange for a slightly lower price, The Honest Kitchen Thrive Chicken & Quinoa Recipe (Est. $85 for a 10-lb. box) is worth considering. It rates a little lower than Embark at DogFoodAdvisor.com, but others rate it on a par with the Embark. It's a limited ingredient food that only contains free-range chicken, organic quinoa, sweet potatoes, spinach, parsley, and organic kelp, plus minerals and supplements to make sure that the food is a complete diet.
Elsewhere in this report: