As is the case with dry dog food, ingredients are the key to finding the best canned dog food. Reviewers give Newman's Own Organics grain-free varieties pretty high marks. As an example, Mike Sagman at DogFoodAdvisor.com calls Newman's Own Organics Organic Beef & Liver (*Est. $2.50 per 12 oz. can) a "top-notch dog food" with high protein, low carbs and below average fat when compared to a "typical" product. In addition to a very high meat content, the food is 95 percent organic and carries the organic seal from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). That's an extra bit of assurance for pet owners concerned about food safety. Animals used for the foods are range fed, and the food is free from growth hormones, antibiotics, pesticides and other chemicals.
Foods made by Wellness also rate very well with experts and owners. Wellness Core Turkey, Chicken Liver and Turkey Liver (*Est. $2.50 per 12.5 oz. can) is one example. DogFoodAdvisor.com gives the food its highest rating and Mike Sagman says that it is "enthusiastically recommended." Named meats and meat meals dominate the top of the ingredients list and carbohydrates are derived from non-grain sources. Wellness dog foods, including Wellness Core also make the list of top choices at DogAware.com and About.com, where veterinary technician Jenna Stregowski reports that the company's foods "do not contain any ingredients that are potentially allergenic, of inferior quality, or without nutritional benefit."
Blue Buffalo canned dog foods are another top choice -- but one that might not agree with all dogs. Dog Food Reviews looks at Blue Buffalo Homestyle Beef Dinner with Garden Vegetables & Sweet Potatoes (*Est. $2.50 per 12.5 oz. can) and gives it the top 5-star rating. It differs from Wellness Core in that carbohydrate sources appear higher in the ingredient list, and some high-quality grains are used. That's enough to knock it down one peg at DogFoodAdvisor.com, but the site still grants it 4 stars and calls the food "highly recommended." It also makes the lists of top foods at DogAware.com and About.com. One issue we saw was some user reports of stomach upsets when switching to the food. Dog Food Reviews notes the same and says that while most dogs do well with it, some with sensitive digestive systems can encounter issues.
Natura Evo canned foods, such as Natura Evo Turkey & Chicken Formula (*Est. $45 for a 13.2 lb. bag) remain popular, even after its acquisition by Proctor & Gamble in 2010. DogFoodAdvisor.com continues to give it 5 stars and says that it is "enthusiastically recommended." Mike Sagman adds that it is an excellent choice for someone looking for a food that's in keeping with a dog's natural diet. Others, such as DogFoodChat.com and DogAware.com also keep the food on their recommended list, but do raise some red flags regarding its change in ownership. Regardless, the food remains high in meat content and avoids grains. Natura also offers Evo in a 95 percent meat formula that draws good ratings. That said, DogFoodAdvisor.com rates Evo 95% Chicken & Turkey (*Est. $2 per 13.2 oz. can) a step below Evo Turkey & Chicken Formula because it's concerned over the food's higher than average fat content.
Halo Spot's Stew gets good ratings, but has less meat than most of the choices above, and pricing seems to be a bit higher. That said, user feedback at sites like Petco.com and OnlyNaturalPet.com is very positive. DogFoodAdvisor.com looks at Halo Spot's Stew Wholesome Beef Recipe (*Est. $4.20 per 13.2 oz. can) and calls it a "quality canned product" but one whose meat content is only moderate, earning it a 4-star rating. Halo dog food also makes the recommended list at DogAware.com, but Mary Straus notes that it has a higher amount of broth than other quality canned foods, "meaning you'll probably have to feed more than you would of other foods."
Although foods with the highest meat content tend to get the very highest ratings, for everyday feeding, a food with less but still considerable amounts of meats balanced with other high-quality ingredients will be easier on your wallet. Natural Balance Ultra Premium dog foods, such as Natural Balance Original Ultra (*Est. $1.75 per 13 oz. can), are less expensive than those above but have less meat content, earning them slightly less glowing reviews from some professionals.
For example, the Ultra Premium Lamb formula earns 4 stars from DogFoodAdvisor.com. The meat level is good, and carbohydrates come from better-quality sources. The company's testing is a plus, and that helps earn it a spot on the recommended canned dog foods list at DogAware.com. Natural Balance now also offers a line of limited ingredient foods that eliminates grains altogether. Dog Food Reviews names Natural Balance L.I.D. Chicken and Sweet Potato (*Est. $2 per 13 oz. can) to its list of top foods. However, DogFoodAdvisor.com expresses concern about the meat content in some other varieties of the food (the chicken & sweet potato recipe was not evaluated).
We also saw good recommendations for Canidae canned foods. Canidae garners good (though not top) 4-star ratings from DogFoodAnalysis.com and DogFoodAdvisor.com. It also makes Mary Straus's list of approved canned dog foods at DogAware.com. Canidae's Chicken, Lamb and Fish All Life Stages formula (*Est. $1.70 per 13 oz. can) lists chicken, chicken broth, lamb, chicken liver, ocean whitefish, brown rice and egg as the top ingredients. The food has no corn, wheat or soy; is free of chemical preservatives, byproducts and fillers; and uses chelated minerals for better absorption. Although this food includes some sources of carbohydrates and can be used as the sole food, the manufacturer recommends a 25 percent canned/75 percent dry mix for a balanced diet. Pricing is very reasonable for a premium-grade food, reports say.
When it comes to inexpensive dog foods, you're likely to find high levels of less nutritious ingredients, including glutens, less desirable grains (like corn) and meat byproducts. Most experts say they are poor choices. However, there are exceptions. Costco-exclusive Kirkland Cuts in Gravy earns a 5-star rating at DogFoodAdvisor.com, which looks at Kirkland Cuts in Gravy with Beef and Vegetables (*Est. 67 cents per 13.2 oz. can) in making its evaluation. The top five ingredients named are meats or meat broths, and no grains are used. That leads Mike Sagman to say that the food is "enthusiastically recommended."
Nutro Max is another better choice, and one that's easy to find in major pet stores. It is a bit more expensive than other non-premium foods, but its ingredient lineup is a bit more impressive. Nutro Max Adult Beef and Rice canned dog food (*Est. $1.11 per 12.5 oz. can) lists its top ingredient as beef broth, but that's followed up by beef, chicken and beef and chicken liver. Grains are used, which is a negative, though no corn or wheat. User feedback is too limited to be helpful, but what's out there is good. DogFoodAdvisor.com puts it in the second tier of foods, with a 4-star rating, but notes that a couple of varieties score lower. Nutro has been the target of an unusually large number of complaints at user forums, and had been the target of a false rumor that it was being investigated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). However, currently there's no indication that there are any issues with its pet foods.
Many other supermarket or large pet store chain foods do far worse. An example is Pedigree Choice Cuts in Sauce with Beef (*Est. 92 cents per 13.2 oz. can). To be fair, the food does meet the standards of the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) and actually doesn't fare all that badly at GoodGuide.com, though that site marches to a different drummer than others that rate pet foods. But most reviewers that bother to weigh in on the food, however, don't bother to hide their contempt. The top six ingredients are sufficient water for processing: chicken, meat byproducts, wheat flour, beef, liver and wheat gluten. Several of those ingredients -- and byproducts from unidentified meat sources in particular -- as well as some further down the list raise all sorts of red flags for experts. As a result, Mike Sagman at DogFoodAdvisor.com scores Pedigree Choice Cuts in Sauce with Beef as a 2-star food and flat out says that it is not recommended.