You make sure to eat a healthy and balanced diet, but how about your furry family member? Should he or she be eating more protein, less grains or an all-vegetable diet? To help you keep your pooch at his or her peak, we gathered both human and canine experts to find the best natural or organic chow for your BFF’s bowl.
The first step in ensuring a pooch’s healthy diet is determining its appropriate weight range; the American Kennel Club has a handy chart of every breed’s optimal weight. Remember that just like people, age, level of exercise, and medications also factor into ideal weight. Bottom line—check with your vet on what’s optimum for your four-pawed buddy. Once you know your dog’s needs, check out our poll of more than 20 canine friends — big and small, from puppies to senior dogs — for the specific brands and flavors that make their tails really wag.
BEST FOR PUPPIES
While the puppy stage doesn’t last much more than a year, the AKC warns against feeding a puppy adult dog food as it won’t get the necessary nutrients it needs. Tiny tummies need special food and in the case of puppies, the parents we polled favored both the dry and canned varieties from grain-free Taste of the Wild.
BEST FOR OLDER DOGS
Dogs in their senior years (above age 8) have different dietary needs; caloric consumption requirements are different if your dog is exercising less. The older pooches we asked lap up Wellness Complete Health Senior Formula, which gives them extra protein and antioxidants.
BEST FOR SMALL DOGS
Smaller breeds require careful feeding because they can be prone to hypoglycemia (low blood sugar), so the key is to serve them a calorie-dense diet. The wee ones we asked prefer Natural Balance Limited Ingredient Diet (in wet and dry formulas). Stella & Chewy’s Meal Mixers also help keep them fit, full and happy.
BEST FOR LARGE DOGS
Because large breeds grow bigger and faster than smaller breeds, they require specific nutrition from the early years through adulthood. Check with your vet about amounts and preferred brands to avoid improper nutrition. The large breed pooches we asked favor Holistic Select’s nutrient-dense digestive-friendly varieties, which also offer formulas for those with allergies.
BEST FOR WEIGHT CONTROL
Is your pup’s tummy getting a bit of pooch? While obesity in dogs is a serious concern, it’s preventable. The dogs we polled who have put on a few preferred Blue Wilderness Healthy Weight dog food. A bonus—this brand has different formulas depending on breed, size, and dietary needs.
According to Dr. Jennifer Coates on PetMD, “Dogs can eat a vegetarian diet and thrive…It is true that dogs belong to the order Carnivora, but they are actually omnivores. The canine body has the ability to transform certain amino acids, the building blocks or protein, into others, meaning that dogs can get all the amino acids they need while avoiding meat.” For plant-based, meat-free alternatives, we know certain pooches who are big fans of all-natural offerings from V-Dog and Three Dog Bakery, available in stores and online.
Several of our canine friends mentioned Beams from Honest Kitchen, which promotes healthy teeth and gums, as favorite snacks for training, supplements or anytime. It’s worth noting that dog snacks can also be made at home pretty easily and even the finickiest pups won’t know the difference between homemade and store-bought snacks.
DOG EAT DOG FOOD
Here are more “Four Paws Up” faves from other furry friends:
Maeby, Rhodesian Ridgeback mix, age 2 (loves cucumbers)
Clementine, Chihuahua, age 3 & Bellini, Blue Heeler, age 8 (a vegan)
Henry Meatball, Labradoodle, age 3 (obsessed with bacon)
Lola, Yorkshire Terrier, age 5 (has a hearty appetite)
Gary, Pug, age 6 (watching his weight)
Favorite Food: BLUE Life Protection Formula Small Breed Adult Dog Food; Favorite Snack: Just Food for Dogs Peanut Butter Treat
Abby, Shiba Inu, age 7 & Roscoe, Shiba Inu, age 11 (apple fan)
Favorite Food: Holistic Select in the sardine, anchovy and salmon flavor; Favorite Snack: Buddy Biscuits and Pedigree Dentastix
Mr. Fox, Papillon, age 9 (a rescue!)
Bogey, mixed breed, age 12 (any snack from Trader Joe’s)
Cindy is a digital writer and editor with over a dozen years of lifestyle journalism experience — both in print and online — with an interest in profiles and a focus on food, spirits, beauty, travel, and N.Y.C. culture.
Also published on Medium.