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Best Dry Dog Food

By: Carl Laron on May 29, 2018

Top-rated dry dog food

In the dry food category, we found a number of high-quality dog foods that earn great grades from pet-food advocates. Though we name Orijen Original Adult Dog Food (Est. $90 for a 25 pound bag) as our Best Reviewed selection, any of the top-rated foods that we discuss below deserve consideration. In the end, cost, availability and how much your dog likes or does not like a particular food will likely tip the balance for you.

But on to our top pick: Orijen Original Adult Dog Food is a grain-free dog food that earns nothing but praise and the highest ratings from every respected expert reviewer, and tons of praise from dog owners, too. This food is loaded with meat, 85 percent according to the maker: Deboned chicken, deboned turkey, yellowtail flounder, whole eggs, whole Atlantic mackerel, and chicken liver are the top six ingredients -- all preservative-free and delivered fresh daily to Orijen's Kentucky factory, along with whole eggs, fruits and veggies.

All meats are "Responsibly farmed, ranched or fished," and because production is never outsourced, and food sources come from a stable of trusted suppliers, Orijen is less susceptible to health issues caused by a third party, and the food has, to date, never been the subject of a recall. That said, the company is currently the subject of a class action lawsuit. However, reporting says that the suit is based on a study that experts have called into question, with Nancy Kerns of Whole Dog Journal adding that it's "currently so flawed as to be without any practical use." We will continue to monitor things, of course, but absent any new developments or information to the contrary, we will continue to give Orijen the very top sport among dry dog food choices.

Reviewers are ecstatic about the Orijen, and it lands at or near the top of every list of top foods we consulted. "Orijen Dog Food receives the highest rating for ingredient quality and nutritional value, with a conspicuous lack of controversial or low nutrition ingredients," says PetFoodTalk.com. "Highly recommended, I've heard nothing but good feedback from those who feed Orijen," says Mary Straus at DogAware.com. At Reviews.com, one Orijen variety, Orijen Tundra (Est. $40 for 4.4 pounds) is on the site's list of its 10 favorite dry dog food brands and lines.

However, we do have to share one caveat regarding most expert feedback. Orijen Original Adult Dog Food underwent a formula change last year, and production of most varieties has been moved from Orijen's Canada plant to a company owned plant in Kentucky (Tundra, however, is still produced in Canada). But looking at the ingredient list, there's nothing to indicate that the quality and freshness has changed.

Among experts, Dog Food Advisor has now separately evaluated Orijen's U.S. foods and continues to give those a top five star rating and adds that it is "Enthusiastically recommended." The formula draws its meat content from five different sources designed to closely resemble what a dog would eat in the wild. A few dog owners have said that the new version wasn't accepted by their dogs, but most say that their pets love it just as much as before. Because Orijen is sold primarily by authorized specialty retailers, online feedback isn't as plentiful as we'd normally like to see, Still, the Original formula draws roughly 80 reviews at Amazon.com (where it's sold online by one of those authorized sellers), and a 4.5 star rating.

If Orijen is simply beyond your price range, and you want a grain-free dog food that you can pick up in a local big-box pet store, Wellness Core Grain Free Original Formula (Est. $60 for a 26 lb. bag) is worth considering.

Most experts are impressed with the food. It's a 5-star selection at Dog Food Advisor, and does well with lots of other normally very strict dog-food critics. Users like it, too. The food is lumped together with other Wellness Core dog foods and treats, but the line as a whole earns a 4.4 star rating at Amazon, based on nearly 3,400 reviews. There's less feedback at Chewy, but Wellness Core Original (and only Original) earns an impressive 4.8 stars with more than 550 happy dog owners weighing in. The ingredient list starts off with deboned turkey, turkey meal, and chicken meal, followed by peas and potatoes.

However, Wellness hasn't been entirely free of concerns. In 2012, one Wellness dry dog food (not a Wellness Core variety) was recalled as part of the big Diamond Pet Foods salmonella recall. Wellness immediately stopped using Diamond to make any of its products.

For a few less pennies per pound, we are also seeing some positive feedback for Fromm Family Gold Adult Dog Food (Est. $70 for a 33 lb. bag). It's on Reviews.com's list of 10 top dry dog foods and on Straus' list of top dog foods at DogAware.com. It also earns a top grade at Petsumer Report, though Dog Food Advisor down rates it a little; it still makes the site's lists of top dry foods, but only with a 4 star rating as Mike Sagman finds that the meat content, while good, is a little short of the very meatiest foods. The company's dry foods enjoy a spotless safety record, though some of its canned varieties were voluntarily recalled in 2016. See our discussion of the best canned dog foods for more information.

Unlike Orijen or Wellness, Fromm Family Gold is not a grain-free food. Its top six ingredients are duck, chicken meal, chicken, brown rice, pearled barley and oatmeal. User feedback is strong, including a 4.5 star rating based on nearly 320 reviews at Amazon. It's not marketed as a good choice for dogs with food sensitivities, but several reviewers at Amazon say that it was well tolerated by dogs that suffer from those. 

Good dry dog foods on a budget

If you're looking for a high quality, grain-free dog food with an even smaller price tag, Taste of the Wild High Prairie (Est. $50 for a 30-lb. bag) looks like an excellent choice. This dog food contains no grains, soy or artificial preservatives, and it has beneficial bacteria, fruits and veggies -- all kinds of stuff you usually only find in super-premium dog kibbles.

Buffalo meat is Taste of the Wild's first ingredient, with venison down the list (both great meat sources, although Mary Straus at DogAware.com recommends holding back on some exotic proteins in case your dog ever develops allergies to more common proteins or needs an elimination diet). Lamb meal and chicken meal come second and third, followed by sweet potatoes and peas.

This dog food is not as meat-rich as Orijen -- or as squeaky-clean safety-wise. Taste of the Wild dog food was recalled in the spring of 2012 over concerns regarding possible salmonella contamination. Still, experts say it's a stellar value if you want to feed grain-free; most rate it either 4 stars or 5. Note that some other Taste of the Wild varieties have lower meat levels, and hence score a little lower in expert reviews. User reviews of Taste of the Wild are abundant and very positive -- 4.3 stars covering all varieties at Amazon following nearly 13,500 reviews -- and the High Prairie variety draws 4.8 stars at Chewy based on around 2,250 ratings.

Dr. Tim's Pursuit Active Dog Formula (Est. $70 for a 40-lb. bag) isn't grain-free, but experts say it's a good runner-up choice. Created by veterinarian Tim Hunt for his Alaskan Husky sled dogs, Dr. Tim's is made by a family-run Ohio company and uses North American ingredients, with no artificial preservatives. Each batch is tested for salmonella, and Dr. Tim's has never been recalled.

Dr. Tim's Pursuit has chicken meal as its first ingredient, followed by brown rice flour, chicken fat, whole oat groats and dried beet pulp. To some critics, that sounds great -- but to others, it's too much grain. Some criticize the beet pulp as just low-cost filler (it's left over from sugar beet processing), while others say it aids digestion. Interestingly, Dr. Tim's Pursuit is lower-carb than the grain-free Taste of the Wild High Prairie. Mary Straus at DogAware.com notes that the protein meals used are low ash, meaning less bone and more meat.

Whether they include grains, any of the dry foods discussed above are a far better choice than most supermarket dry foods. One possible exception is Kirkland Signature dog food, which is sold exclusively at Costco. The ingredients list of Kirkland Signature Adult Chicken, Rice and Vegetable (Est. $45 for a 40-lb. bag) formula, for example, falls short compared to the best choices, but the food doesn't cost nearly as much. Chiara Fucarino at PetFoodGuru.com says that "It's not one of the best brands on the market, but it's definitely one of the best in its price range." Meat content is good and, while grains are used, they are mostly higher quality. It earns a 4 star rating at Dog Food Advisor, and is "highly recommended."

One negative is that Kirkland brand dog foods have not been immune from recall issues -- and certain batches of Kirkland Signature Adult Chicken, Rice and Vegetable dog food were voluntarily recalled in the spring of 2012 because of possible salmonella contamination. In fairness, however, the same could also be said of some of the best-regarded foods -- and several of those were also caught up in the same recall. The bottom line: Regardless of which food they use, pet owners should keep an eye out in case safety issues arise. The FDA website is an excellent resource.

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Dog Food buying guide

What every best Dog Food has:

  • Complete nutrition.
  • Whole meat or a named meat meal as its top ingredient.
  • No fillers or low-quality grains.

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