The Healthiest food for dogs, and how to avoid bad pet food brands

healthiest food for dogs
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Being a responsible pet parent means seeking out healthy foods to feed your dog! Unfortunately, this is not always an easy task. Pet food manufacturers are not always up front about what goes into their foods, and sometimes pet parents may get duped into thinking that they are feeding their dogs a healthy food when they’re really not.

healthiest food for dogs
Do you know what’s in your dog’s food?

While the foods at the big box stores come decorated with all kinds of attractive pictures of fresh meats and vegetables, the truth is, those images rarely reflect what’s actually in the food.

Bad pet food companies are depending on you not being able to understand the nutrition label so that they can trick you into accepting a lower quality food, often at a premium price tag.

The goal of this article is to help you learn how to avoid these deceptive tactics so that you can become an informed consumer. We’ll also make some recommendations for some of our favorite healthy dog food brands to help you find a healthy food for your furry best friend! Let’s get started.

What should I look for to find a healthy food for my dog?

The most important thing to know when searching for a high quality dog food is to learn how to read the ingredient label. Many consumers don’t actually understand these labels, and that’s how they are tricked into buying a sub-par pet food.

Dog food manufacturers are required to list the ingredients in their products in order of prominence in the food. That means that the first few ingredients are what the food is mostly comprised of, no matter what the pretty pictures are showing you.

healthy foods to feed your dog

If you pick up pretty much any food at the grocery store, you will most likely see corn in the first position. Corn is a cheap filler item used by pet food manufacturers to save money. It provides little to no nutritional value, and it’s a sure sign of a low-quality pet food.

Don’t be fooled just because it says “lamb” on the bag. If the “lamb” does not appear until ingredient number seven, there is almost no real meat in that food, and you’re essentially feeding your dog meat flavored cereal masquerading as a “premium” pet food.

While “whole grain” may seem healthy, your dog needs meat. A food filled with grains is skimping on quality meat ingredients, and that’s a no-go for us. Make sure to avoid an over abundance of grains or wheat at all cost.

healthy dog food brands
Only accept named whole meats and avoid vague “meat products” of unknown origins.

In addition to this, sometimes the ingredients themselves can be confusing. When choosing the best dog food, seek out options which provide whole meat items and avoid anything that’s heavily processed or that the manufacturer will not name specifically.

If a meat item is listed as “poultry product” or worse “meat by-product” then the food could be made of pretty much anything. However, you can know for certain that it’s not made of any high-quality ingredients. These items are the leftovers that were deemed unfit to sell to humans. So, they grind them up and put them in your dog’s food instead.

Pet food manufacturers are even allowed to include 4D meat in their pet foods if they want to. This meat is sourced from animals that are diseased or what is the factory farm equivalent of roadkill. Yuck.

What’s Healthier: Dry vs Canned vs Fresh/Frozen?

While dry dog food is convenient for pet parents and pet food manufacturers, it’s not the healthiest food for your dog. Dry dog food is always higher in carbohydrates, and if your dog only eats dry dog food, then the lack of moisture could cause urinary tract difficulties.

which dog food brands are good?
Wet foods help your dog to get much needed fluids, which is very important for their health.

These issues often manifest themselves in the way of struvite crystals or bladder stones, because your dog is actually severely dehydrated. In many cases, dogs will get most of their fluids through eating, and they may not drink enough water to make up for the losses incurred by being fed a dry dog food only diet.

If you really want to feed your dog a healthy dog food, then go for a wet food. Fresh foods and frozen diets are best, but canned foods are a close second. Our most nutritious pet food reviews will always focus on them.

If you have to feed them a dry dog food for cost reasons, then you should at least consider feeding him a portion of his calories in a wet food diet. This makes it much more affordable for pet parents looking for a healthy dog food on a budget, but it will still at least help some to improve your dog’s health. You might also want to read our tips on getting your dog to drink more water.

Beanietoe’s Best Dog Food List

Alright, now that that’s out of the way, it’s on to our picks! Beanietoes has strict guidelines for how we pick pet foods, which you’ll find below.

How we pick dog foods

  • NO corn or wheat
  • NO by-products
  • NO fillers
  • Whole meat as the first ingredient
  • Named meats only
  • Healthy veggies only
  • Limited in ingredients
  • Low in carbohydrates
good dog food

We prefer foods which are limited ingredient recipes here at Beanietoes, because they are generally better for sensitive animals who have issues with allergies or digestion. We also prefer foods which are limited in carbohydrates, because these are often allergy triggers themselves. Though this will depend on the individual dog.

When scanning the ingredients lists, look for healthier veggies like sweet potatoes, pumpkin, broccoli, and carrots. These items are normally easier for a pup’s digestive system, and if your dog has any issues with vomiting, diarrhea, constant scratching, or hair loss, there’s a good chance that putting them on a new, limited ingredient diet will help them a lot.

If you are on a budget and need to use a dry food for cost reasons, then most of our choices should have some acceptable dry food varieties as well that you can try to mix and match. Alright, here are our recommendations for healthiest foods for dogs!

Editor’s Pick!

healthy dog foods

#1 NomNom

NomNom, previously known as NomNomNow, is a fresh pet food delivery service, and it’s the best pet food around.

If you’re looking for the healthiest food for dogs, hands down, then this is it. All of their meals use only human-grade ingredients, and they’re cooked fresh every week before being mailed out from their US kitchens.

With an attractive offering of limited ingredient diets, NomNom offers delicious, easy to digest meals for dogs that even humans could eat, and they have actually, on TV.

If you’re interested in giving this excellent pet food brand a try, then you should know that Beanietoes readers can save 50% off their first order if you’re interested in a trial.

So, what’s so great about NomNom? Well, let’s take a look! In the video below, you can see one of their recipes being cooked. This is, of course, a scaled down version as NomNom uses commercial kitchens for their diets, but it’s a good look at how the foods are made.

Chicken Chow-Wow contains 5 main ingredients: chicken, sweet potatoes, spinach, yellow squash, and fish oil, a good source of omega 3 fatty acids.
healthiest food for dogs

With just five main ingredients, and some great, easy to digest vegetables, this is easily our favorite NomNom flavor, and we’d recommend this one if you’ve got a pup with digestive problems or allergies.

However, NomNom’s foods are great for any dog, and if your pup has other health issues, then they are happy to give you advice as to what diet to pick. Plus, their food comes in cool little individually portioned bags, making it easy to help your dog maintain their trim figure or lose some pounds. They don’t use any nasty filler items like corn or wheat, and they offer simply the best dog food that you could ever hope for.

NomNomNow is the number one choice when looking for healthy foods to feed your pup. Click here to see more recipes and learn about their cool service.

Their foods are also equally good for small breed and large breed dogs, and even dogs that have allergies or medical conditions.

good dog food brands

#2 Wysong Archetype

If you’ve ever been curious about feeding your pup a raw diet but were intimidated by the process, this food could be the one for you.

Wysong’s Archetype combines the nutritional benefits of a raw diet with the convenience of a dry kibble food.

It’s a freeze dried raw formula which can be feed as is or re-hydrated with water, which we’d recommend.

This food is both limited in ingredients and extremely low in carbohydrates, making it a great choice for a variety of dogs, including those with allergies, or even diabetes. This food contains 95% meat in whatever flavor you choose: chicken, rabbit, pollock, or quail.

Having such a high meat content also means that this food is more attractive for dogs. That’s good news if you have a picky eater, and even if you’d like to go with a cheaper food, you can use this one as a topper to get them to eat their meal.

While many people have never heard of Wysong, this company has been creating premium pet diets since the 70s, long before most people really cared about pet nutrition and health.

If you’re interested in trying this food for your pup, then you can get the best price directly from Wysong, and they also offer a 10% discount on every order if you sign up for their auto-ship program. Click here to see the full ingredient list and learn more about this awesome limited ingredient dog diet.

healthiest dog foods

#3 Halo

If you’re a pet parent on a budget fretting over the cost of offering your darling pup a healthy diet without going bankrupt, then fear not, because Halo has you covered. This affordable and healthy option is made using only human-grade ingredients.

It’s a good dog food company to consider if you’re concerned about heavily processed food ingredients but can’t afford fresh foods for your dog.

Halo does not used heavily processed meat meals in any of their food, instead opting for higher quality whole meats that offer superior nutrition.

Halo offers many different options for pet owners including grain-free varieties and diets for senior dogs or overweight dogs as well. They also offer a wide variety of flavors, making it easy for you to find a food which your dog will eat. It’s our favorite dry food, and we think it may even be the best dry dog food.

If your pup frequently has issues with upset stomach or diarrhea, then you’ll be happy to know that this is a highly digestible food. Many of their recipes even include pumpkin which greatly assists dogs in staying regular and settling upset stomachs.

If you need a companion dry food to save on costs, then Halo also makes the healthiest dry food for dogs, which does not use any heavily processed meat meals, and they have grain-free varieties of those as well. Click here to read the reviews and browse the full ingredient list for this food.

healthiest dog food brands

#4 Wysong Adult

Wysong makes our list again thanks to their high quality and healthy dog diets. This item is their canned offering for adult dogs, and it uses organic, whole meat chicken as the first ingredient. In fact, chicken is actually over 95% of the composition of this high quality dog diet.

The food also features easy to digest and beneficial fruits and veggies like sweet potatoes and blueberries, and it’s an affordable option if you’re looking for an organic food with organic meat products. It does not look like every item in the food is organic though, just so you’re aware.

It’s more expensive than Halo, but it also features a high percentage of organic meat. This adds to the price, of course. Dog food which is high in meat is also very tasty for pups, helping picky dogs to be excited about meal time.

The ingredients are also very limited, making this a solid choice for dogs with allergies. If you’re interested in seeing the full ingredients list, then click here. Similarly to the Archetype, you can save 10% with auto-ship on what’s possibly our healthiest dog food in the canned category.

healthy dog food companies

#5 Stella and Chewy

Looking for a super digestible raw diet for your pup? Stella and Chewy offers the benefits of raw while still allowing for some helpful digestion helpers like pumpkin and pro-biotics.

This is a good choice for pups with sensitive stomachs, and it’s pretty tasty to boot. The only downside is that it’s on the pricey side, and your dog will likely never want to go back to kibble again after this!

Though, Stella and Chewy also offers an interesting raw-coated kibble if you’re interested! The ingredients are pretty good for this product as well, but not as good as Halo, because they use meat meals.

The good thing about this food is that dogs go crazy it, and they have a wide variety of flavors to choose from, so there will likely be some great options here for picky dogs.

If you don’t care for the meat-meals, then they also make a raw topper which you can add to your own dry dog food that better fits your qualifications. Doing this will significantly up both the nutrition and taste factors of feeding a raw diet. If you’d like to see the full ingredients list for Stella and Chewy’s products and read ecstatic reviews from pet parents and their pups, then click here to do so.

Healthiest Dog Food: Dry

While Beanietoes believes that fresh or canned foods are the best for doggie nutrition, we can also understand that this is sometimes outside of the budget for many pet parents. So, we’ve added on to our healthiest dog food list, and we’ve now included a list of healthy dry foods as well.

However, if you’d like to offer your pup most of the benefits of wet foods without breaking the bank, then you can try a mixture. Add something like Wysong’s raw diet to your pup’s food or some fresh foods like Ollie’s who can do partial food plans.

This allows you to give them a nice nutrition and liquids boost without spending a ton of money on their food if you can’t afford to feed them this all the time.

healthy food for dogs

#1 Halo

One of our favorite foods here at Beanietoes is Halo, and that’s because they’ve managed to make a super high-quality dry food that blows most of their competition out of the water, and they do it at a fantastic price.

In fact, you can start feeding your dog some of the healthiest dog food in our dry food category without spending much more than what you’d pay for a decent food at a big box store. All without skimping on quality when it comes to feeding your pup.

Why are Halo’s foods so good? Well, it’s because they only use premium ingredients. Everything they use is human grade, and that means you’ll never get any scary “meat by-products” or mystery meats when you buy Halo for your dog.

Halo also rejects the factory farm model, instead choosing to source pasture and cage-free meats. Plus, they use only whole meat items rather than meat meals, which is very hard to find in a dry dog food.

They also offer many specialty diets like grain free, senior, puppy, small breed dog formula, gluten free and more, allowing their foods to appeal to a wide audience. However, their best feature is that their foods are so easy to digest, giving relief to many sensitive pets. A pup suffering from vomiting, diarrhea, or itching will thank you for switching to this food.

healthy dry dog food

#2 Orijen

Looking for a little more meat in your dog’s diet? Then Orijen has a quality dry food that might be what you’re looking for.

While they are more expensive than Halo, they also offer a very good mix of proteins and some tasty dehydrated bits that dogs love.

They use only high-quality ingredients and their diets are biologically appropriate. This means that their foods use whole meats, organs and bones, just like dogs would get in the wild.

Not only do dogs love this, but it also gives them some excellent nutrients and vitamins they might otherwise be missing out on.

Orijen’s foods are over 85% meat, and a 13 pound bag of food will contain 11 pounds of fresh, raw or dried animal based proteins. This includes healthy proteins like dehydrated boar, goat, salmon, pork, chicken and more.

Their foods are also grain, potato and tapioca free if you’d prefer a food that doesn’t use these items. Their vegetable content comes from other sources like beans, peas and pumpkin, which is great for digestion!

While Orijen makes excellent products, if your dog has food sensitivities then this one may be a bad choice. This is because they use a lot of different proteins in each recipe and sometimes sensitive dogs have problems digesting these mixes.

good dry dog foods

#3 Farmina

This fantastic, yet little known pet food brand offers stellar nutritional value at a great price, though not quite as great as Halo’s.

They make one of the best dry dog food products around, and it comes in a variety of great flavors like lamb, chicken, and cod.

Farmina also has a variety of recipes for all different diets too. Including some which feature single proteins, for dogs with allergies.

Farmina also shuns GMO ingredients, uses no artificial preservatives, and their foods are 96% animal protein, rather than stuffing them full of lower quality veggie proteins and skimping on the meat.

Tips for transitioning your dog to their new food

Sudden changes in diet can cause undesirable effects for your pup. A dog who has been eating a diet mostly composed of corn can become ill or experience intestinal distress if introduced to a mostly meat based food too suddenly.

If you think your dog may be prone to vomiting or diarrhea, then it’s best to introduce them to the new food slowly. Many pet parents fail to do this and then wrongly label the food as bad when their dog throws up or has a nasty bout of diarrhea.

In most cases, these things will pass unless your dog has a food allergy, which is an entirely different issue. When changing foods it’s recommended to mix a bit of the new food in with your dog’s old food. You should continue to introduce larger amounts of the new food until they are completely switched over.

What do I do if it doesn’t pass?

If you have a dog that’s particularly sensitive, finding a food to accommodate them can be hard. A dog can’t tell you what’s wrong, and that means it’s up to you to figure out what’s triggering their allergies.

Even the healthiest dog food is a bad food if it’s wrong for your pup. That doesn’t necessarily make the food bad, it just makes it bad for them, and your best bet at beating allergies and food sensitivities is to choose a limited ingredient diet with less allergy triggers.

What you should not do is jump from food to food too quickly. This alone can cause digestive issues in dogs, and it’s recommended that you wait at least 14 days before you make any further decisions. This is a general time frame, but one which tends to work for diet adjustments.

Michelle Rei
Michelle Rei
Michelle is a pet parent turned amateur pet product researcher. After adopting a fur baby with digestive issues caused by bad pet food, she's poured hundreds of hours into research to find the best of the best to help him and other pets live happier and healthier lives.
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