Kibble is convenient -- but for best health, dogs really need some wet food, top experts agree.
"Kibble is NOT a full meal for a dog," says Tracie Hotchner, author of "The Dog Bible" and host of the syndicated radio show "Dog Talk." The editors of Whole Dog Journal and TruthAboutPetFood.com's Susan Thixton agree: Canned foods tend to be higher-protein than kibble, and they're always higher-moisture (extremely important for cats, and to a lesser extent dogs). All of those sources say that it's fine to feed kibble along with canned, though.
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. $2.50 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: Chicken Pate, Duck and Chicken Pate and the most-often-reviewed Salmon and Chicken Pate. The recipe is very simple -- wild salmon, chicken, chicken broth, a few veggies, vitamins and chelated minerals (for easy absorption).
That's ideal for dogs, experts say. All Fromm Gold dog food flavors earn the highest possible rating at DogFoodAdvisor.com and several other top sources -- 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 for a 13.2-oz. can) or Weruva Human Style Bed and Breakfast (Est. $2.90 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.
None of these foods come in bisphenol A (BPA)-free cans, though. Though the levels of BPA used to line dog food cans are claimed to be safe, the chemical has been linked to cancer, reproductive problems and other diseases.
Those concerned about pesticides, additives or artificial ingredients should consider an organic dog food. Among those, Newman's Own Organics Beef & Liver (Est. $2.50 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. Newman's Own's other flavors have a great nutritional profile, too, he 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. $2.10 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), and neither uses BPA-free cans. 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.
Elsewhere in this report:
Best Dog Food: Which are the best dry and canned dog foods? Editors read expert opinions and user reports to identify the top choices.
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.
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.