We all love our dogs, and we will do anything to keep them healthy, safe and happy. Most of us raise them with the same care, love and attention that we raise our own children. It’s no wonder, they are there for us during good times and bad, they are always happy to see us when we get home and most importantly they rarely complain. Yes, you can tell if they need to go “to the bathroom” by the way they circle you and lead you toward the door, and you also know when they’re feeling playful by how they gallop next to you as you walk past them, but they don’t tell you if they’re tired, bored or even sick. They also don’t tell you if the dog food they are eating is making them strong and healthy or it’s making them frail and sick. No problem, we’re here to help with our “HTR” Dog Food Review.
Let’s unconfuse things first…
You’re not alone if you look at a dog food ingredient label and don’t know what you’re reading. We human beings are bombarded with contradictory information about our own diets, so how could we possibly know what’s best for our dog??? It’s actually easier than you think because of one fundamental difference… Dogs did not exist 30,000 years ago, which is very, very short in the annals of time. Dogs are the recent descendants of wolves, which makes them carnivores first and foremost. This also means that the first ingredient in any dog food analysis must be meat. Preferably chicken, fish or turkey, but lamb, venison or beef are fine too. If you look at the dog food label and the first ingredient is corn (corn is the most common “cheap ingredient”) or any other grain or starch such as potato or tapioca), then we are highly confident that the food will be cheap to buy, and not great for your otherwise healthy dog. Foods high in grains and/or starches tend to create coarse coats of fur and skin that is dry, oily and flaky – and that’s just on the outside!
Vegetables are fine as well, but the dog food should have more meat than vegetables unless there is a specific medical or dietary reason otherwise.
How much meat?
In our pet food ratings, you’ll notice that the dog food rated #1, Orijen Adult Dog Food had 38% proteins – chicken, eggs, fish and turkey. As an aside, Orijen is exactly what we feed our two (very different) dogs Miles (he’s the 2 year old, white, 15-pound Coton de Tulear – pictured above) and Ginger (she’s the 7 year old, black 55 pound Golden-Doodle – pictured to the right) and it is what our vet recommends at her clinic.
PetMD.com suggested the following minimums in the dog food for your furry little friend:
- Protein at least 30%
- Fat at least 18%
- No more than 10% moisture
- Omega Fatty Acids – present on the label, but no % given
- Calcium– present on the label, but no % given
- Phosphorus – present on the label, but no % given
- No artificial colors or flavors (of course)
What Is a Guaranteed Analysis?
Where to find the ingredients. Make sure the dog food you buy has a label called the GUARANTEED ANALYSIS. This is the breakdown of all the good (and bad) that is important to your dog in the food. Below is a photo of the Ingredients GUARANTEED ANALYSIS for Orijen Adult Dog Food.
A GUARANTEED ANALYSIS is required on all pet food sold as pet food (i.e. not home made dog food) by the Association of American Feed Control Officials, so if yours does not have one then run, do not walk away. Also let us know and we’ll provide a “very different” review than the one you’re reading now!
What is AAFCO and why is it important?
The Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) is a voluntary membership association of local, state and federal agencies charged by law to regulate the sale and distribution of animal feeds and animal drug remedies.
The Association provides a forum for the membership and industry representation to achieve three main goals:
- Safeguarding the health of animals and humans
- Ensuring consumer protection
- Providing a level playing field of orderly commerce for the animal feed industry.
These goals are achieved by developing and implementing uniform and equitable laws, regulations, standards, definitions and enforcement policies for regulating the manufacturing, labeling, distribution and sale of animal feeds – resulting in safe, effective and useful feeds by promoting uniformity amongst member agencies.
All of our dog foods reviewed on this page have an AAFCO label ensuring compliance with their consistency reporting standards.
Why is Ethoxyquin-free important?
Ethoxyquin is a fat preservative often used in dog food that has received a controversial reputation.
Much of the concern of ethoxyquin in pet food may be related to its use as a pesticide and in making rubber, however, most food safety experts agree that when used properly, the synthetic additive is not toxic and therefore not a major issue in dog-food. Still, we eer on the side of caution and you will note that both Orijen and Taste of the Wild are free of Ethoxyquin.
What about homemade dog food recipes?
Many people swear by them, but we’re always a little wary of homemade dog food recipes because unless the preparer is really well trained, there is a good chance they will not get the balance right.
Below you’ll find Hot Ten Reviews Top Dog Food Reviews
Orijen Dog Food is Hot Ten Review’s Top Choice. Yes, it’s a little more expensive than the other options, but comparatively speaking we think it’s a bargain for what it provides your furry little friend. Orijen is grain free, packed with the right combination meat, with the top ingredients listed as: Boneless chicken, chicken meal, chicken liver, whole herring, and boneless turkey.
Orijen cites that these ingredients come fresh from Canada. While we don’t really see that as a positive or a negative, we do note that the Orijen dog food is grain free as well as Ethoxyquin-free and contains no by-products. It also contains the right combination of PetMD.com suggested ingredients as shown below on the Orijen Dog Food image which shows its Guaranteed Analysis. Orijen Dog Food is formulated to meet the nutritional level established by AAFCO Dog food nutrient profile for all life stages.
Finally, (and as an interesting aside) we like the Orijen Feeding Guide. It goes into far greater detail about different recommended feeding levels than the others including active or inactive, size, etc.
For those on a budget, Taste of the Wild High Prairie Dog Food is our Top Value choice. Taste of the Wild has all of the requirements that we seek. It’s grain free, has no by-products, and is Ethoxyquin-free. The meat is exotic (by human standards) and includes Bison and Venison but it is actually quite healthy and tasty by dog-standards. The top ingredients listed are: Bison, lamb meal, chicken meal, sweet potatoes, peas.
Its Guaranteed Analysis matches the recommendations by “PetMD” spot on. Although the manufacturer is a little less descriptive of the quality of meat (and the location from which it was derived), don’t put too much emphasis on this because they still do a better job than the average supermarket. Taste of the Wild High Prairie Dog Food is formulated to meet the nutritional level established by AAFCO Dog food nutrient profile for all life stages
Wellness CORE Natural Grain Free Dry Dog Food is our third place winner. What we really liked about Wellness CORE dog food is that it possesses the same key characteristics as Taste of Wild High Prairie Dog Food. It’s grain free, 34% protein and has all the other key ingredients and proportions that PetMD.com recommends. It’s meat content is a little less “high prairie,” with the top five ingredients listed as: Deboned Turkey, Turkey Meal, Chicken Meal, Peas and Potatoes. What we didn’t like was that it was a little more pricey than Taste of the Wild High Prairie Dog Food. Like Taste of the Wild, there is no meat by products and it is grain free.
Its Guaranteed Analysis hit all the important ratios correctly (below). It’s AAFCO statement is a little more general than the first two, But this does not mean much isolation:
“Wellness CORE Original Formula Adult Dog Food is formulated to meet the nutritional levels established by the AAFCO Dog Food Nutrient Profiles for maintenance.”
Also we could not find any mention of it being Ethoxyquin-free anywhere, where both Orijen and Taste of the Wild High Prairie were easy to find and confirm.
Still, we may be putting too much on “what is not 100% confirmed” and acknowledge that accordingly.
If price is not your main concern we highly recommend Orijen Adult Dog Food as the top dry dog food on the market. If you’re look for the best value we recommend Taste of the Wild High Prairie Dog Food. Either way, your best friend will love you for it!