Dry Dog Food What To Look For

What To Look For When Choosing The Best Dry Dog Food For Your Dogs

When you go to the grocery store, do you just go with any brand of dry food that’s on sale (or within reach) or do you make an effort to choose the best dry dog food you can afford for your pups?

Dog Food Container and Bowl

Just with humans, the food that you feed your dog is going to have a huge impact on his health, both right now and for the long term. Your dog needs nutrients that will promote his health, but also those nutrients are going to help him stay active and happy, too.

As much as we like to think that dog food companies have our pet’s best interest at heart, that isn’t always the case. Some dog food brands are more interested in a kibble that is cost effective and will leave them with the most profits.

In this article, we are going to discuss the what you should be looking out for when you’re choosing the best dry dog food and other factors that you should consider before you choose any old dog food that claims to be the best rated dry dog food or even the best tasting dry dog food.

Ready? Let’s get started!

What To Consider Before Purchasing Any Dog Food

Before you even think about purchasing any food for your dog, you will want first to consider some very specific factors:

  • What stage of life your dog is in? It is important that you choose a dog food whose recipe is geared toward meeting your dog’s age-specific nutritional needs. You wouldn’t want to choose a senior formula for your puppy, right?
  • What is your dog’s body condition? If your dog is underweight or overweight, they are going to have different nutritional needs than those who have a healthy body weight. Some formulas you may encounter when looking for the best quality dry dog food include weight control, performance, or maintenance.
  • What kind of medical conditions does your dog have, if any? Does your dog have allergies, arthritis, digestive problems, diabetes or even cancer? When you’re looking at dog foods, these health problems should be addressed so that you can select food that will address these problems.
  • How much money are you able to spend? As much as we’d like to be able to give our dog’s the very best that money can afford, the truth is dog food can get pretty expensive. This is especially true if your dog is a finicky eater or you want to go organic and look for the best natural dry dog food that has as little preservatives and additives as possible.

Ingredients To Look For In The Best Dry Dog Food

Now that you’ve thought about your dog and his specific needs, what are some of the must-have ingredients that you need to look for in the dog food?

1. Animal Protein – When you are looking at the ingredients, you should be aware that the dog food is listed by weight, so at the top of the ingredient list, you want to see named animal proteins, that means ingredients like:

  • Chicken
  • Beef
  • Fish
  • Lamb
  • Veal
  • …etc

2. Animal Protein as a Supporting Ingredient to The Main Meat – So, when you look at the ingredients, and you see “Chicken,” you need to understand that this ingredient is raw and full of water. Once that ingredient has been cooked, it is going to lose much of its weight.

Dog Meal Close Up

So, to supplement that, you’re going to want to look for another animal protein to supplement that. Typically, this will come in the form of a “meal,” which is meat, skin, bone, and connective tissue that has gone through a process of rendering and drying. While these ingredients don’t sound appealing to humans, it offers a lot of protein and little to no moisture, which is important for dogs.

3. Whole Fruits, Vegetables, and Grains – Your dog’s dry food should contain fresh, unprocessed produce and grains because these have all the essential vitamins, minerals, enzymes, and antioxidants that will help keep your dog healthy.

Fruits and Vegetables Dog Food

Sometimes you will find produce by-products listed, like rice bran or tomato pomace, but if they are further down on the ingredient list, that is okay.

4. The Expiration Date – Too often, we don’t consider the expiration date of our dog’s food. We think that because it is dry, it’s going to be good for a long time. While this is true, you will still want to be mindful of the “best by” date, which is about 10 to 11 months away. If you see a “best by” date that is a couple year away, then they probably have been made with synthetic preservatives like BHA, BHT, or ethoxyquin.

Expiraiton Date on can

Ingredients To Avoid

When you’re going through the ingredient list, you are going to want to spot these unsavory ingredients and avoid them:

  • Meat By-Products – There has been researching conducted that suggest that high-value ingredients may be processed and stored more carefully, which means it is kept cold and stored in a clean area. This means by-products and other low-quality ingredients do not have the same requirements, so there is no way to determine the true quality of these ingredients. It’s better to see these types of low-grade ingredients much further on the ingredient list—if at all.
  • Unnamed Fat Sources – Some dog foods will list “animal fat” as an ingredient. Since this fat source is unnamed, it could be a blend of various fats, including old grease from restaurants! If there is any fat added to a dog food, it should be a named fat, like “chicken fat” or “beef fat.” Remember, the more generic the ingredient is, the more suspicious you should be of it.
  • Artificial Preservatives, Flavors, or Colors – Artificial preservatives like BHA, BHT, or ethoxyquin have no place in your dog food because there are natural preservatives like tocopherols (compounds found with vitamin E), vitamin C, or rosemary extract that should be used instead. For artificial flavors, if the dog food is made with quality proteins and produce, there should be no need for artificial flavorings. As for the color? Well, your dog is color blind and could give to hoots if the “carrots” are orange enough!
  • Sweeteners – Much like us, our dogs love the sweet stuff. Sadly, sweeteners like corn syrup or sucrose are added to low-quality foods so that your dog will eat the stuff. These sweeteners have the same effect on a dog as they do us, meaning that they can worse, or cause, health problems like diabetes.

Now that you know what you should take into consideration when choosing the best dry dog food for your pup, let’s take a look at some of our favorite products and see how they stack up without busting the bank!

The Best Dry Dog Food Within The $30 To $70 Price Range

The following products range as low as $30 for a 28-pound bag to $70 for a 30-pound bag.

Rachael Ray Nutrish Natural Dry Dog Food

If you find yourself trying to stick to a budget, the Rachael Ray Nutrish line of dry dog food is a decent candidate. For this review, we are going to look at the “Beef and Brown Rice” variety.


Rachael Ray is a celebrity chef who has taken her passion for simple recipes and brought that to her dog food line. Every ingredient in her food “has a purpose,” which is why they choose high-quality proteins and combine them with “wholesome veggies” and essential vitamins and minerals.

Looking at the ingredient list, the first six ingredients include:

  • Beef
  • Chicken Meal
  • ​Ground Rice
  • ​Soybean Meal
  • ​Corn
  • Corn Gluten Meal

With two sources of meat protein, it looks like a quality source of protein, even though this is still a plant-based product. We do want to mention that the “veggies” consist of dehydrated alfalfa and dried peas, which appear as the seventh and eighth ingredients.

Of the customers who purchased this food, 81% gave the product 4 or 5-star reviews, which is pretty good. Of these reviews, customers say that the formula helped their dog’s digestion, there weren’t any allergic reactions, and the dogs love it.

On the other hand, 19% of customers reveal that their dogs didn’t want to eat the food at all. One customer said the kibble was really small and kept getting stuck in the dog’s cheeks. Though this is something to be aware of, only one instance of this happening was recorded.

While doing our research on this particular brand, we feel like we need to mention that this dog food has not had any recalls in the past.

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Diamond Naturals Dry Dog Food

If you’re looking for the best grain free dry dog food, you might be considering Diamond Naturals dry dog food, as it claims to be free of wheat, corn, and soy. The lack of these ingredients suggests that the food is full of “fresh meat” proteins and it is easy to digest.

Diamond Naturals Dry Food for Adult Dogs

Upon looking at the first six ingredients for the Adult Lamb and Rice recipe, for example, you’ll find:

  • Lamb
  • Lamb Meal
  • ​Ground White Rice
  • ​Barley
  • ​Peas
  • ​Chicken Fat

Although this food is a plant-based dog food, it uses a moderate amount of named animal proteins as the main source of protein, which is what you want when you’re trying to find the best dry dog food.

With that said, this product only receives 77% of positive feedback from customers who have purchased this food. Of these reviews, customers share that they dog enjoyed the food and at less than $1 per pound, it is worth the price. One customer said that her dog tends not to do well with a lot of foods because of a sensitive stomach. However the dog can stomach this food fine.

On the other hand, 23% of customers have given this food 3 stars and below, which is something that is a little concerning. Of these less than stellar reviews, people have wondered if the company has changed the recipe for their food. One particular customer said that they used to feed this to their dogs for several years, but the latest bag caused their dogs to become ill. Others back this up and share their own suspicions of a change in the formula that causes their dogs to get sick.

While doing our research on this particular brand, we feel like we need to mention that this dog food has had several recalls in 2012, but haven’t had any since then.

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Hill’s Science Diet Adult Sensitive Stomach & Skin Dry Dog Food

If you’re looking for the best dry dog food for small breeds, this is a good brand to consider. The dog food is fortified with Vitamin E and other essential nutrients that are crucial for promoting healthy skin as well as a glossy coat. The company has enlisted over 220 veterinarians, food scientists, technicians, and nutritionists to help develop the best dry dog food they can.

Hills Science Diet Large Breed Dry Dog Food

The company claims only to use ingredients from suppliers whose facilities meet quality standards that have been approved by Hill. With that said, let’s look at the first six ingredients:

  • Brewers Rice
  • Chicken Meal
  • ​Whole Grain Sorghum
  • ​Cracked Pearled Barley
  • ​Pea Protein
  • Pork Fat

Although the company claims to use real meat protein, there is no instance of fresh meat being used. Yes, chicken meal is a good source of meat protein, but is it really enough? We prefer to see foods with more fresh meat as part of its formula.

With that said, of the customer reviews, an astounding 90% of folks left 4 or 5-star reviews. Of these reviews, customers share positive experiences. Some said they saw a noticeable improvement in their dog’s coat. Some share that their dog’s allergies went away and they no longer scratch nonstop. Others share that they struggled to find food that was sensitive enough for their dog’s stomach in the past, but when they tried this food, their dog was able to eat it with no problem.

Of the 10% who left 3-star reviews and below, some have said their dogs had an allergic reaction. These folks talk about allergic reactions that range from vomiting to severe itching.

While doing our research on this particular brand, we feel like we need to mention that this dog food has had 2 recalls, one in 2014 where 62 bags of the Science Diet Adult Small and Toy Breed dog foods had the potential to be contaminated with Salmonella. The other recall was in 2015, which was voluntary. The reasons for the recall was unknown. There haven't been any recalls since then.

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Taste Of The Wild Dry Dog Food

Although this food is a little more expensive than the previous three on this list, we feel that it is a great brand if you are looking for the best dry dog food for large breeds. The formula for this dog food is designed to support a healthy immune system, and it is packed with highly digestible proteins and antioxidants.


When we take a look at this unassuming bag of dry dog food’s ingredients, we see:

  • Beef
  • Peas
  • ​Garbanzo Beans
  • ​Lamb Meal
  • ​Canola Oil
  • Egg Product

These are all great products, and the list of natural ingredients go on. We don’t see anything too questionable until we get to brewers yeast, which is a by-product of the beer making process. Even still, this ingredient is full of healthy minerals and other nutrients that have mixed opinions. Fans of the ingredient feel it’s a natural flea repellant and supports a healthy immune system. Others say that this could cause an allergic reaction in the dog.

Of the people who left feedback on this food, 89% left 4 or 5-star reviews, which is really encouraging. These reviewers share that their dogs enjoy the food and they didn’t experience any problems with allergies after eating. Many feel that this is a great food and worth the money.

On the other hand, 11% of people left 3-star reviews or lower. Of these, people said that you should buy the food from a local purveyor rather than Amazon, as the food they ordered came with mold or worms. This, of course, is a reflection of the Amazon seller and not the food itself. There were very few comments about this food giving their dog an allergic reaction.

While doing our research on this particular brand, we feel like we need to mention that this dog food has had one recall in 2012, but haven’t had any since then.

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Natural Ultramix Adult Dry Dog Food

At the top of this price range, we have the Natural Ultramix dry dog food. The company, Castor & Pollux Natural PetWorks, strives to create innovative and high-quality food for pets. To do this, they say they use the highest quality ingredients, then they test and retest each product for safety standards. They also claim that “no one does natural and organic” like they do.


Upon looking at their ingredient list, we see:

  • Chicken
  • Chicken Meal
  • ​Turkey Meal
  • ​Milo (gluten-free, starchy cereal grain with nutrient profile much like corn)
  • ​Oats
  • Barley

We like this product because of the amount of animal-based protein sources, but it is still considered to be a plant-based dry dog food. Even still, it is a great product that will give your pet the nutrition it needs to be healthy for a long time.

Of the people who have purchased this product, only 82% feel that this product deserve a 4 or 5-star review. Many of these people share similar experiences where their picky eaters gobbled up this food and haven’t had any adverse effects. Some have said that their dog’s digestive problems seemed to have been quelled upon eating this food and they haven’t strayed from this particular brand.

Of course, for the 18% of customers who gave the product 3-star reviews or below, it is a different story. Some customers say that the food is way too expensive when it isn’t on sale, while others feel that there is something wrong with the formula, as the dogs who eat it never seem satisfied. One customer stated that the food caused soft stool which later turned into diarrhea. Another shared the horror of their dog going through kidney failure as a result of eating the food. Granted, this is a single instance, but it is still worth noting.

While doing our research on this particular brand, we feel like we need to mention that this dog food has never had any recalls in the past.

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When you are in the market looking for the best dry dog food to feed your furry friends, it’s understandable that you’ll want to do a bit of research first. We hope that this article was able to provide you with the information needed to make a good decision.

Of the products listed, we feel that Taste of the Wild Dry Dog Food is a great option. It isn’t too expensive, and it features numerous wholesome quality ingredients. We also believe that Hill’s Science dry dog food is a good candidate as well, for the same reasons.

Whatever dog food you choose, be sure to read the ingredient list! The food you feed your dog is going to have a lasting effect on them so may as well choose the food with the highest quality ingredients. After all, your dog isn’t just a pet, it’s a beloved member of your family!

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