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Tracie Hotchner

Professional Pet Expert

Dry Dog Food

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Before I tell you the very best of the best kibbled dog foods, I want to suggest you have a quick look in “The Dog Bible” to learn how dry dog food is made – because no matter how good the original ingredients may be, (and every dry food on this list is made from tip-top things), it still becomes a highly processed food in order for those quality food ingredients to be transformed into dry little triangles or squares. Since the best nutrition for any of us – human or animal - is food in its least processed state, that means you need to rethink the conventional thinking of feeding solely dry kibble to dogs – instead, I’d like you to think of dry food as a side dish for your dog, as you would rice, potatoes or pasta. At least half of his meal should be a nice quality protein – scrambled eggs, your meat, fish, or chicken leftovers, or any of the canned foods on the Tibesti list.

It wasn’t easy to pick the very best dry foods because there is a growing number of wonderful foods to choose from – I wanted those with the best quality and amount of animal protein, no by-products or artificial colors or preservatives, and grains and vegetables in as natural a state as possible. Organic ingredients are always great, as long as the other points are covered. Because of this wealth of choices, this list evaluates all the best dry dog foods. Very soon I will do a separate listing of grain-free kibble.

A note about carbohydrates: by their nature, all dry dog foods are carb-laden, making them fattening and probably the leading cause of obesity in pets. Carbohydrates also potentially raise health issues for breeds at risk for cancer (or for dogs who are already cancer survivors) because it is now known that cancer cells thrive on carbohydrates. When you see foods that say “grain free” this does not mean without carbs - it simply means that the carbs are from potatoes or rice some other non-grain source.

Best Dry Dog Food by Tracie Hotchner

The Best You Can Get

  • Newman's Own Organics

    Tracie says: It wasn’t that long ago that people thought it was ridiculous and wasteful to put organic chicken in a “dog food,” of all things. Many people weren’t willing to pay that little bit more for the vegetables and other high quality ingredients - even if they knew that the company’s profits were all given to animal shelters and charities. Isn’t it amazing that this little organic branch of the philanthropic empire that is Newman’s Own wound up being a trendsetter and setting the bar high for all copycats and competitors? I have to believe that if it weren’t for their example that dries dog food would still be years away from the level of healthy quality food that Newman’s Own Organics pioneered.

  • Halo

    Tracie says: "Spot's Stew" was the first food this company made 20 years ago, when it was unheard of to have a simple recipe that sounded like a human "chicken in the pot" – chicken and a bunch of vegetables. The whole idea of a dog food with recognizable ingredients was revolutionary at the time, but this company stayed the course and now finally the rest of the pet food world has caught up with them. Halo now has several other versions of Spot's Stew with different main protein ingredients. Their devoted following will undoubtedly now enlarge with Ellen Degeneres as part owner of the company.

  • Merrick

    Tracie says: This family owned, Texas-based Company makes all its own food with ingredients often from its own ranches and slaughterhouses. The bags have fun names like “Grammy’s Pot Pie” or “Cowboy Cookout” and in addition to the topnotch protein sources; you can see pieces of dried apple, carrots and peas. They now use organic chicken in one flavor and rainbow trout in another. This brand seems to be available in most premium pet food stores and is so popular because the food looks good to people, who also seem to be unanimous about how much their dogs like it.

  • Innova & California Natural

    Tracie says: These two foods are made by the same company, and use excellent ingredients like organic free-range chicken and interesting sources of carbohydrate like organic grains and seeds. They are manufactured in the company’s own plant in Nebraska, although they are headquartered in California.

  • Fromm's

    Tracie says: From what I can tell this is a really delicious kibble because my own dogs devour it when I feed this food (in rotation with others.) It is a family-owned company, which has its own plant in Wisconsin, so you can rest assured about the quality of ingredients, which include duck, chicken and fish meal. This food may be less well known than some of those on the list, but I hope this helps get it the accolades it deserves.

You will be happy with any of these

  • By Nature Organics

    Tracie says: This company also uses protein sources in the form of “meal,” which may sound less appealing than just the word “chicken” or “beef” but actually results in a really high protein level. Another company in Sherburne New York makes this food for By Nature, which is based in New Hampshire.

  • (Dick Van Patten's) Natural Balance

    Tracie says: There is now an organic formula of this popular food, one of the few kinds of premium kibble that is sold at Petco.

  • Prairie

    Tracie says: Another Texas-based dog food, this one is family owned but the food is made for them in a larger pet food manufacturing plant. Nonetheless, the company claims to keep a close eye on production and has high standards for the other ingredients.

  • Nutro Ultra Holistic

    Tracie says: This super-premium version of well-known Nutro has whole grains and three different protein sources. They own two production facilities, one on either coast of the United States, presumably for fast and cost-effective shipping, and it does not seem to have affected quality or consistency.

  • Wellness

    Tracie says: This very popular family-owned dog food used to be sold only in premium pet stores but has just gone into the big box stores like Petco and Petsmart (not really endearing itself to the small stores on which it built its reputation). The food has always been made of quality ingredients produced by three different plants – with the need to produce a much greater volume as they go into the big box stores, one hope they will be able to maintain their standards.

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