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. Fromm Family Gold Salmon and Chicken Pate (Est. $2.75 for a 13-oz. can) is a prime example. 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. For example, 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 -- and customers at Chewy.com say their dogs absolutely love it (even picky, sensitive-tummy dogs). Fromm is made in the USA and has a clean recall history, which pet owners appreciate.
Runners-up are made just as carefully -- but with less meat and more water than found in Fromm Gold dog food, so you'll probably have to feed more. Both are already slightly more expensive per ounce than Fromm Gold, too.
Dog owners actually enjoy cracking open a can of Halo Spot's Stew Succulent Salmon Recipe (Est. $3.35 for a 13.2-oz. can) or Weruva Human Style Bed and Breakfast (Est. $4 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). Both dog food brands are recall-free. Both foods also rate well with expert reviewers, especially Weruva, which earns a perfect 5-star rating at DogFoodAdvisor.com
Those concerned about pesticides, additives or artificial ingredients should consider an organic dog food. Among those, Newman's Own Organics 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. That's pretty similar to "a dog's natural ancestral diet," says Mike Sagman of DogFoodAdvisor.com. 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.
Newman's Own's other flavors have a great nutritional profile, too, Sagman says (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.
Doctors Foster & Smith Fish & Potato Formula (Est. $2 for a 12.7-oz. can) isn't organic, but it does promise "no artificial preservatives, colors, or by-products." It's grain-free and very meat-rich, like Newman's Own Beef & Liver.
But Doctors Foster & Smith doesn't have a stainless safety record. It was caught up in the widespread 2007 recalls due to melamine-tainted ingredients from China (the brand recalled one flavor of dry dog food, but no canned foods were recalled).
Neither food is perfect: Both contain carrageenan (a thickener linked to intestinal inflammation) and sodium selenite (instead of the safer selenium yeast). Doctors Foster & Smith Fish & Potato also contains garlic powder, which is controversial because garlic has been linked to rare cases of Heinz body anemia in dogs.
One issue that concerns some pet food advocates is the use of BPA (bisphenol A) to line the cans themselves to prevent the food from coming into contact with the metal. 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 large-size BPA-free cans has become a challenge in the canning industry. Even makers of pet foods that previously certified that all of their cans are BPA free, such as Weruva, have had to withdraw that statement as their suppliers can no longer make that guarantee to them in regards to its 14-ounce cans. If that's a concern, Weruva and Halo dog foods are available in BPA-free cans in smaller, 5.5-ounce sizes.
Elsewhere in this Report:
Best Reviewed Dog Food: From budget friendly kibble to premium dog food that rivals what you'd feed your family, we name top choices and explain what separates the best foods from dog food you should avoid.
Dog Food Ingredients: While reviews help, an informed shopper can make excellent dog food choices just by reading the label. Here, we tell you what to look for -- and what to avoid -- in every dog food in every category.
Best Dry Dog Food: Kibble can be a dog owner's best friend. It's inexpensive compared to other dog foods, convenient and nutritious -- or can be if you choose wisely. This is what to look for.
Raw Dog Food: Raw dog food can be pricey, but it is the closest thing to what your dog would eat in the wild. Here's the lowdown on the top choices, along with information on feeding your dog a homemade diet.
Buying Guide: Not sure where to start to find the best food for your dog and your budget? We explain what you need to consider and make suggestions to help you in your search
Our Sources: These are the reviews and other sources we consulted to find the best-rated dog foods of all types. They are ranked in the order of their expertise and helpfulness.