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Best dry dog food: Which brand of dry food is king of the kibble?

Best dry dog food
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Shopping around for the best dry dog food can be a stressful process. The price tags of some ‘organic’ and ‘freshly-made’ options can be eye-watering. Are grain, dairy and wheat bad for your dog? Which is the most sustainably sourced? And what  is the deal with insect protein?

To help answer these questions, we have created this guide to help guide you towards the best available buying options that are most likely to suit both your dog's needs and be more gentle to your bank balance.

The best dry dog food products have generally become the most affordable and widely available across the globe. This is largely down to the highly efficient production process used known as ‘extrusion’; the forcing of soft ingredients into a particular shape.

Although this results in an affordable product, when used in mass production it can remove some of the nutritional goodness of the food. This can lead to a lower standard of food. Things don't have to be this way though.

Your dog's  tastes and needs play a huge part in what food is the best option, so these recommendations are based on expert advice and analysis of the ingredients and nutritional value.

1. Lily’s Kitchen Dry Dog Food: Best dry dog food overall

Best dry dog food Lily’s Kitchen Dry Dog Food

(Image credit: Amazon)

Lily's Kitchen Chicken & Duck Dry Dog Food

Whole meat and vegetable ingredients with zero additives

Meat content: Chicken (31%), Duck (7%) | Feeding Guide: Small: 100-150g Medium: 150-250g Large: 250-350g | Amazon rating: 4.7/5

Grain-free
Only whole-meat formula
No artificial additives
Premium price

In our full review of Lily’s Kitchen Dry Dog Food, we were particularly impressed with the overwhelmingly positive customer feedback regarding both the product and the company service.

Lily’s Kitchen was born from a simple question, "Why doesn't pet food smell delicious and have human-grade ingredients?"

Faced with her border terrier Lily’s distaste for mass-produced pet food, founder Henrietta Morrison tried her hand at producing whole-meat and vegetable dishes for her pooch at her north London home.

Their dry dog food formula comes in three flavors; Chicken and Duck, Venison and Duck, and Lamb and proudly boasts an eco-friendly approach from its organic ingredients to environmentally friendly packaging.

One of the primary selling points of the formula is the 0% animal ‘meal’ content; the ultra-processed animal by-products (hooves, feet and bones) and preservatives such as stabilizers, emulsifiers, thickeners and anti-caking agents.

In the Chicken and Dry Duck formula examined in this review, only Methylsulfonylmethane, an inert chemical found in plants, and Chondroitin sulfate, an important structural component of cartilage, remain.

Alongside 13 herbs and botanicals including kelp, rosehips and antioxidant marigold, the only other ingredients in Henrietta’s Chicken & Duck Dry Food formula are whole meats from chicken (31%), duck (8%), chicken liver (3%) and sweet potatoes (30%) making up the vegetable portion totaling a whopping 72% of the ingredients coming from whole meat and vegetables.

The formula has added Vitamins A, D and E which help boost dogs’ immune systems promote healthy skin, and the addition of Omega 3 fatty acids from salmon oil helps lubricate joints and achieve a glossier coat.

The only knocks against are the price, which is towards the top-end of the market, and currently is not available in the USA. However, with the company’s recent expansion, US customers should be able to purchase it in the near future.

Read our Lily’s Kitchen Dry Dog Food review: Adult Chicken and Duck Complete

 

2. Wagg Complete Dog Food: Best dry dog food on a budget

Best dry dog food Wagg Complete Dog Food

(Image credit: Amazon)

Wagg Complete Dog Food with Chicken and Veg

A strong overall formula at a great price

Meat content: min 4% in brown chunk | Additives: Protein - 21%, Fat Content - 8%, Crude Fibre - 3%, Crude Ash - 8.5%, Omega 6 - 1.4%, Omega 3 - 0.3% | Amazon rating: 4.6

Fantastic value for money
Suitable for all breeds
Helpful serving size guidance
Not suitable for sensitive stomachs

Out of the most well-known commercial pet food brands that produce good quality dry dog food at an affordable price, Wagg is generally one of the most trusted. Produced by family business, Inspired Pet Nutrition in Thirsk, North Yorkshire, it is the more wallet-friendly option to the company’s other offering, Harringtons.

Its Complete Dog Food comes in Chicken and Veg and Beef and Veg flavors, and is suitable for dogs of all breeds aged upwards of eight weeks.

The formula boasts a high level of protein content (22%), and includes additional citrus extracts to support a healthy immune system, yucca plant to reduce flatulence, and probiotic MOS, which has the effect of promoting the health of the gastrointestinal tract

Moreover, it comes with no artificial colors or flavors and no added sugar, which is something that can't often be said about most types of mass-produced dog food.

Most of the protein and carbohydrate profile here is drawn from cereals, meat, and animal derivatives (24%). You could be forgiven for being slightly worried here if your dog has a sensitive stomach, but bearing in mind the overall strength of the formula and the additional ingredients it comes with, we are satisfied to say that it stands out as one of the best-value types of dry dog foods that is currently on sale.

Wagg Complete’s biggest talking point is its low price, which represents great value for a solid ingredient profile, as well as 100% recyclable packaging.

3. James Wellbeloved Naturally Healthy Light Kibble: Best dry dog food for weight loss

Best dry dog food James Wellbeloved Naturally Healthy Light Kibble

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James Wellbeloved Naturally Healthy Light Kibble

A solid low-calorie option from a trusted UK-based brand

Meat content: Turkey meal (24.8%) | Analytical Constituents: Protein 26.5%, Crude Fibres 4%, Crude Oils and Fats 10%, Crude Ash 8%, Moisture Not stated | Amazon rating: 4.5/5

Gluten, wheat and dairy free
Hypo-allergenic
Low in calories
Quite a bulky kibble

Before starting your dog on a weight loss program, you should always consult your vet to determine the appropriate exercise regiment and foods to use. But if you’re hunting for a lower calorie feed to help shed the pounds, James Wellbeloved’s Naturally Light Kibble may be just the ticket.

Another reputable name in the dog food market, James Wellbeloved has been making a wide range of high-quality products for over a quarter of a century.

Their Naturally Healthy Light offering comes in Turkey and Rice Dry Mix and has been specially formulated for overweight or underactive dogs. It is one of the company’s best-sellers in recent years.

The simple formula boasts a high protein content, coming from single-meat turkey meal (24.5%), when compared to many alternative options. The high animal meat content is included to keep your dog fuller for longer as well as to encourage loss of fatty tissue rather than muscle tissue.

Carbohydrates come from brown rice (23.2%), naked oats and white rice (12%) and the addition of barley and sugar beet is a natural provider of dietary fiber.

The name of the game with ‘diet’ food products is to balance whole, quality ingredients with a low overall calorific content and this product ticks both boxes.

One thing to bear in mind; it is quite a substantial-sized bite so as to fill the bowl and promote satiety, and can be tough going for dogs with weaker and smaller jaws.

4. Orijen Dry Dog Food: Best premium dry dog food

best dry dog food Orijen Dry Dog Food

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Orijen Dry Dog Food

A market leading, no nonsense old-school product

Meat content: 85% meat, 15% fruits and vegetables | Additives: Zinc chelate 100 mg pr kg | Dog Food Analysis rating: 5 star

Grain-free
Premium meat and fish sources
No additives or preservatives
High price point

When it comes to premium dog foods based around your dog’s biological nutritional needs, Orijen is really hard to beat.

It uses only fresh and raw meats sourced locally in the USA in an assortment of formulas catering for dogs in all life stages from puppy to senior.

Orijen’s brand motto, as suggested by the name, focuses on producing high-quality dog food mixes that closely match that of their gray wolf ancestors – high in protein and low in carbohydrates, especially from high-glycemic sources such as potatoes.

Their Original dry dog food is trademarked as 'Biologically Appropriate' by satisfying various meat-quality criteria; two-thirds fresh or raw and one-third dehydrated or raw meats, including chicken, turkey, mackerel, herring, and sardine.

This results in a market-leading minimum of 85% meat inclusion in their formula and produces a macro-nutrient breakdown of 43% protein, 21% fat and only 28% estimated carbohydrates.

With the majority of the fat coming from meat sources and whole eggs, the carbohydrates are sourced from an impressively diverse range of low-glycemic, highly digestible fruit and vegetables, ranging from fresh pumpkin and zucchini to blueberries, cranberries and brown kelp.

If we’re being cautious, the inclusion of whole peas may cause stomach irritation in some dogs, but it’s hard to find much wrong with the nutritional profile of this product.

The primary downside of Orijen dry dog food is its price, but if you can afford it you won’t find a more complete dry option on the market.

5. Pero Truline Fish Variety: Best fish-based dry dog food

best dry dog food Pero Truline Fish Variety

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Truline Fish Variety Dog Food

Meat/fish content: 75% Animal Ingredients | Additives: Yeast and malt extracts and chicken gravy | Amazon rating: 4.6

Nutritious animal ingredients
Added joint supplements
Zero grains or cereals
Not for dogs with a meat preference

No dry dog food list would be complete without including a pure fish option and Pero Truline’s offering is one of the best around.

A small family-run company from north Wales, Pero takes much the same branding approach as previously mentioned Orijen; whole animal ingredients and vegetables to match the ancestral dog diet.

Three-quarters of their formula consists of fresh trout and sardines; protein sources recommended by vets for being higher in healthy fats to improve your dog’s digestion and reduce joint inflammation.

Pero proudly avoids grain, wheat and any animal offcuts or ‘meal’ that can find their way into many dog foods and have been known to cause intolerances, instead including a mix of fast and slow-digesting carbohydrates such as potatoes, green beans and a variety of berries.

The company was given a ‘Brand of the Year’ award by the World Branding Forum for the 2017-18 and 2018-19 dry dog food category, and the fish variety is one of their best sellers.

Their range also includes lower-calorie and ‘fussy-eater’ options as well as a meat and fish Truline mix if a pure fish formula wouldn’t suit your pooch.

While the pure fish flavor could be slightly more pungent than poultry options, the high Omega 3 content provided by the high fish content could be a fantastic choice for dogs with creaky joints or those looking to try something different.

6. Nutro Ultra Senior Dry Dog Food: Best dry dog food for Senior Dogs

best dry dog food Nutro Ultra Senior Dry Dog Food

(Image credit: Amazon)

Nutro Ultra Senior Dry Dog Food

A high-grade formula focused on improving joint health and micronutrient absorption

Crude Protein: (min.) 23.00% | Additives: Alpha-Linolenic Acid, Docosahexaenoic Acid, Selenium, Vitamin E | Amazon rating: 4.2

High in three lean animal proteins
No Corn, no wheat, no soy
No artificial colours or flavours
Rice not suitable for some dogs

Like humans, as dogs age, their health and stamina slowly decline and their bodies lose the ability to repair themselves and maintain normal body functions.

As a result, when looking for options to suit your ageing pooch, formulas high in protein and fibre with an adequate fat balance and suitable carbohydrate levels could be the best option.

Nutro’s Ultra Senior product ticks these boxes, offering a minimum crude protein content of 26% coming from whole chicken as well as high-quality lamb and salmon meals to maintain your dog’s lean muscle mass and satiety.

The formula’s real strength lies in its rich superfood profile to promote glossy coats and increased energy including Vitamin B-rich oatmeal, Flaxseed, Chia seeds and Chicken fat as sources of healthy omegas and dried fruit and vegetables like kale, spinach, pumpkin and blueberries.

Alongside glucosamine and chondroitin for optimal joint health, chelated minerals (ones that are chemically attached to proteins) to aid digestion are included, an ingredient typically added in higher-quality dog foods.

With a 29% protein content, a fat level of 17% and estimated carbohydrates of about 46%, the formula represents an above-average protein, below-average fat and near-average carbohydrate content when compared to its competitors.

The formula doesn’t include added probiotics, something usually included in senior dog food formulas to improve nutrient absorption. It also opts for sunflower oil over higher Omega 3 oils such as flaxseed or canola.

Additionally, the formula includes three different rice products (brown rice, brewers rice, rice bran). Rice bran is considered a strong source of fiber, while brown rice and brewers rice provide only a modest nutritional benefit to dogs, primarily as a source of energy, but can be harder to digest.

But overall, the formula is one of the top options for ageing dogs, particularly with regards to the strength of the macro and micro-nutrient offering from its high superfood content.

How to choose the right dry dog food

Even though we’ve done our best to cater to multiple needs, there are a huge variety of factors to consider for both owner and pet before deciding on the right dog food.

First and foremost, it’s always best to know your dog’s needs inside and out. Different breeds, sizes and ages have different nutritional needs and as a result, many options may not be suitable for your dog.

Intolerances, sensitive stomachs, injuries and other maladies also play a huge part in deciding on the right dry feed.

While it may seem a daunting task, the first step should be to book a vet consultation, where your dog’s overall health can be evaluated. The vet may be able to recommend appropriate options.

If you feel like you know what you’re looking for and are simply looking to try more options, our list may be the perfect starting point.

In general, the golden rule is to find a formula that is affordable for your budget in the long term, high in quality animal protein and with minimal additives… and most importantly, one that your dog enjoys!