Vet Recommended Dog Food Brands

As a veterinarian, dog lovers are always asking me for my opinion on the top vet-recommended dog food brands for their furry friends.

But one thing owners also want to consider is the price range they can afford.

So, I have to consider the best cheap dog food brands that are also good enough for pets.

Hopefully, this list will help you make a better choice for your Fido, too.

Quick Glance at Our 13 Vet-Recommended Dry Dog Food Brands

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ImageVet Recommended Dry Dog Food DetailsPrice
CARNA4 Hand Crafted Dog Food, 3-Pound, ChickenCarna4 Hand Crafted Dog Food
  • Best Overall Dry Dog Food
  • Great nutrition panel
  • High Protein
  • Independently-owned company
Check Price
Essence Ranch & Meadow Dog Food 4lbEssence Grain Free Dog Food
  • Best Value Dog Food
  • Grain-Free
  • 86% of protein is animal source
  • Independently-owned
Check Price
ORIJEN Original Dry Dog Food, Grain Free Dog Food for All Life Stages, Fresh or Raw Ingredients, 23.5 lbOrijen Original Recipe
  • Best Bang for Your Buck
  • Grain-Free
  • Free-Run Chicken
  • High Protein Dog Food
Check Price
NutriSource Adult Dog Food, Made with Chicken and Rice, with Wholesome Grains, 30LB, Dry Dog FoodNutri Source
  • Pre and Probiotics in Food
  • Made in the USA
  • Independently Owned
  • Good amount of Omega 6s for Dogs
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Taste of the Wild Pacific Stream Grain-Free Dry Dog Food with Smoke-Flavored Salmon 28lbTaste of the Wild
  • No Corn, Wheat or Barley
  • Grain-Free
  • Low in Carbohydrates
  • Great starter dog food
Check Price
Wellness CORE Grain-Free High-Protein Dry Dog Food, Made in USA with Real Meat & Natural Ingredients, All Breeds, Adult Dogs (Turkey & Chicken, 26-lb) With Nutrients for Immune, Skin, & Coat SupportWellness Core
  • Grain-Free
  • Made in the USA
  • Protein rich dog food
  • Contains Taurine
Check Price
Tender & True Organic Chicken & Liver Recipe Dog Food, 11 lbTender & True Organic Chicken & Liver Recipe Dog Food
  • USDA Organic Dog Food
  • Best for active dogs
  • Nutrient dense formula
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Kirkland Signature Adult Formula Chicken, Rice and Vegetable Dog Food 40 lb.Kirkland Signature Dog Food
  • Primary source of protein is from animals
  • Made by a reputable company
Check Price
NUTRO ULTRA Adult Large Breed High Protein Natural Dry Dog Food with a Trio of Proteins from Chicken Lamb and Salmon, 30 lb. BagNutro Ultra
  • Grain-Free and Whole Grain Options
  • No Corn, Wheat, or Soy
Check Price
The Honest Kitchen Human Grade Dehydrated Whole Grain Dog Food – Complete Meal or Dog Food Topper – Turkey, 10 Pound (Pack of 1) (makes 40 lbs)The Honest Kitchen
  • Human Grade Dog Food
  • No artificial ingredients
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Natural Balance Limited Ingredient Adult Grain-Free Dry Dog Food, Salmon & Sweet Potato Recipe, 24 Pound (Pack of 1)Natural Balance Dog Food
  • Grain-Free Dog Food
  • No controversial ingredients
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Royal Canin Medium Breed Adult Dry Dog Food, 30 lb bagRoyal Canin Adult Dry Dog Food
  • Breed and Size Specific Dog Food
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Purina Pro Plan High Protein Dog Food With Probiotics for Dogs, Shredded Blend Chicken & Rice Formula - 35 lb. BagPurina Pro Plan
  • Great Weight Gaining Dog Food
Check Price

5 Vet-Recommended Wet Dog Food Brand List

ImageVet Recommended Wet Dog Food DetailsPrice
ORIJEN Chicken Recipe Stew with Shredded Chicken and Eggs Wet Dog Food, WholePrey Ingredients, 12.8oz (Case of 12)Orijen
  • Best Overall Wet Dog Food
  • Rich Nutrient Panel
  • Primarily animal protein sources
  • It is a stew which is healthier
Check Price
FirstMate 12 Pack of Cage-Free Chicken Formula Canned Cat Food, 12.2 Ounces Each, Gluten-FreeFirstMate: Cage-Free Chicken Formula
  • Runner Up
  • Limited ingredients
  • Next feature
  • Does not use thickeners
Check Price
Zignature Lamb Canned Dog Food 13oz, case of 12Zignature
  • Excellent Nutrition Panel
  • Protein heavy recipe
  • Contains Taurine
Check Price
Taste Of The Wild Grain Free Real Meat Recipe Premium Wet Canned Stew Dog Food (12) 13.2 oz. Cans
Taste of the Wild
  • Great Beginner Brand
  • Grain-Free
Check Price
Nature's Domain Canned Dog FoodKirkland Signature
  • Designed by reputable pet manufacturer
  • Protein-Rich
Check Price

Top Vet Recommended Dog Food BrandsEven though I always mention that I have my favorite brands…

Each canine will have specific needs, and there is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to dog nutrition and food (source).

So, it's best to have a chat with your vet about your dog's individual needs before switching its diet.

In another context, healthy dog food that ticks off the boxes while being affordable is the name of the game.

Still, for this article, I've put an arbitrary list of 13 vet-recommended dog food brands that are good enough for most canines.

BONUS: If your dog likes wet dog food, I've gone ahead and put that list together as well.

This is a comprehensive guide, so be sure to check out some discussions below:

Vet-Recommended Dog Foods: An Overview

Top Dog Tips offers a complete breakdown of the pet food market and the best dog food brand that meets the following vital criteria:

  • Holistic
  • Human-grade
  • Completely natural

I can't say I disagree with their top dog food choice pick.

The Honest Kitchen is also on my dog food list, only that it's very expensive.

However, this company has some good reasons why, which I'll discuss in a bit.

As a vet, I always remind dog parents out there that the nutrition their dog requires is based on a lot of variables, such as:

  • Age
  • Size
  • Breed
  • Weight
  • Medical history
  • Skin and coat condition

Because the pet food market is so huge today, many dog food brands offer blends for Fidos with sensitive stomachs, skin allergies, and other special dietary requirements.

They also have a wide range of pet supplements and vitamins that boosts your dog's nutritional needs, too.

Glucosamine and chondroitin are common supplements found in many pet foods, specifically for active and senior dogs.

To learn more about commercial dog food safety, I recommend you give a listen to these 2 podcast interviews:

Making homemade dog foods is also a viable option if you know what you're doing.

Reminder: Consult with your veterinarian before making any large changes to your dog's diet to ensure they're getting what they need.

RELATED: Top Vet-Recommended Dog Supplements

Vet Recommended Dog Food Brands

Selecting 13 Vet-Recommended Dog Food Brands

When choosing the best dog food brand for your Fido, you also need to consider its health and nutritional benefits.

And as pet parents, we don't settle for unverified claims and marketing stints as proof.

Here at Top Dog Tips, we'll help you look for the vital criteria in choosing the best dog food for your beloved pooch.

Firstly, you can start by reading dog food labels closely.

“What are they?”

Vet Recommended Dog Food

Basic Criteria for Selecting a Dog Food

Does it meet AAFCO standards for balanced nutrition?

AAFCO stands for the American Association of Feed Control Officials.

This voluntary quality standard group sets nutritional standards for each stage in a pet’s life.

And most commercial pet food companies formulate their dog foods based on AAFCO’s standards.

As a vet, I also refer to AAFCO's and FDA's recommendations, especially for this vet-recommended dog foods list.

I think you should, too.

Look for the AAFCO statement on the bag or can of dog food — if it’s there, it’s a sign of quality.

Commercial raw diets and freshly prepared diets should also meet AAFCO requirements or NRC (National Research Council) standards.

In my years of veterinary practice, all of my vet-recommended dog food brands also meet AAFCO standards.

Vet Recommended Dog Food Brands

How reputable is the dog food company?

With Salmonella threats and the 2007 melamine pet food recall, it's hard to know which big brand you can trust these days.

At some point or another, it seems that every food company out there has had problems with bacterial contamination.

So, there's always a risk that dog food brands will be recalled.

RELATED: Vet-Recommended Safe Dog Treats for Snacking

Going with a boutique raw diet or freshly prepared meal won’t necessarily prevent food contamination either.

Some food companies have had more problems than others (repeat offenders), and those companies are not included on my list.

As far as commercial pet food companies are concerned, my favorites for balanced nutrition, palatability (how tasty dogs think it is), and quality control are listed below.

Note: Whenever you see a brand that says “Chicken Recipe” or “Duck Formula,” the rule is that ingredient must make up at least 25% of the product.

The Top 13 of Vet-Recommended Dog Food Brands

1. Best Overall: Carna4 Chicken Dog Food

CARNA4 Hand Crafted Dog Food, 3-Pound, Chicken
574 Reviews
CARNA4 Hand Crafted Dog Food, 3-Pound, Chicken
  • Authentic - All The Vitamins,...
  • Real Meat - Contains Meats In...
  • Safe - Every Batch Of Carna4...
  • Convenient – Easy-To-Serve...

Topping my list of vet-recommended dog food brands is Carna4.

As a Canadian company, Carna4 has been a forerunner in quality control and AAFCO nutrition standards since 2010.

It has an amazing nutrition panel and is completely synthetic-free.

Unfortunately, many companies sacrifice profit over nutrition with how the kibble is processed.

When manufacturers process kibble, they use extremely high temperatures that suck out the nutrients, which are replaced with cheaper synthetic ingredients.

Meanwhile, Carna4's kibble is also slow-baked which is great.

What's more, the owners of Carna4 are independent companies, which means they are much more stringent about what they put into their food.

Now, this option is definitely more on the expensive side. But, we can see why.

2. Best Value: Essence Grain Free Dog Food

Essence Ranch & Meadow Dog Food 4lb
25 Reviews
Essence Ranch & Meadow Dog Food 4lb
  • Recipe is completely grain...
  • First four ingredients are...
  • Age range description: All...

Essence is a much newer brand that started in early 2019.

Like any dog food brand, Essence prides itself on their nutrition panel.

However, what makes them different is 86% of their protein is from animal sources.

This makes it a much safer option than normal commercial brands that use filler ingredients.

The other ingredients as stated by the company also contain the following:

  • Pumpkin
  • Chia seed oil
  • Coconut flour
  • Custom vitamin pack

3. Best Bang for Your Buck: Orijen

ORIJEN Original Dry Dog Food, Grain Free Dog Food...
12,763 Reviews
ORIJEN Original Dry Dog Food, Grain Free Dog Food...
  • One (1) 23.5 lb bag of ORIJEN...
  • Nutrient-dense, grain free*...
  • Dry dog food made with the...
  • The first five ingredients are...
  • Dry dog food made in the USA...

If you're concerned about human-grade food traceability, then Orijen is also one of the best that you can get.

Orijen is also a Canadian pet food company dedicated to sourcing its raw ingredients from across the globe.

With the company's transparency, it publishes where its primary ingredients (fish, meat, fruits, and vegetables) are sourced for its products on its website.

What's more, all Orijen products meet AAFCO standards and Fido’s taste test, too!

Orijen is usually at the top of many pet food lists, but that ranking has changed over time.

The company has gotten much bigger over the past few years, so they have changed some of their nutrition panel.

4. Nutri Source

NutriSource Adult Dog Food, Made with Chicken and...
1,526 Reviews
NutriSource Adult Dog Food, Made with Chicken and...
  • Provides The Optimal Nutrition...
  • Balanced Omega 3 & 6 With Dha
  • Contains Probiotics And...
  • Chicken Is The Number One...
  • A Source Of High Quality...

Nutri Source is another awesome choice for dog owners.

I personally prefer products manufactured in the United States, so this company checks that box for me.

Moreover, the nutrition breakdown includes the following:

  • Barley
  • Chicken
  • Oatmeal
  • Brown rice
  • Chicken meal

So just from doing my own research, this brand uses a high amount of carbohydrates, which is my only griff about them.

I like that they include chicken fat, which has healthy fatty acids and is super important for a dog's overall health.

NutriSource also adds pre and probiotics in their food, which is important for dogs' digestion.

Like Carna4, NutriSource is also independently owned.

That means they have more control of their ingredients vs. large corp filler ingredients, too.

5. Taste of the Wild

Taste of the Wild Pacific Stream Grain-Free Dry...
21,676 Reviews
Taste of the Wild Pacific Stream Grain-Free Dry...
  • Taste of the Wild Pacific...
  • Nutrient-rich and provides the...
  • Each serving includes high...
  • FAMILY-OWNED and MADE in the...

Taste of the Wild makes it on our list because of its high-protein content.

Plus, they curate their recipes without corn, wheat, barley, or rice.

What I like about Taste of the Wild is that they offer a pretty solid ingredient list, which is the following:

  • Peas
  • Lamb meal
  • Water buffalo
  • Chicken meal
  • Sweet potatoes

Of course, you want most of your dog's diet to be an animal-source protein with some carbohydrates, right?

So, I recommend this brand for owners that want to keep their pup on a grain-free diet.

Recently, a study linking grain-free diets causing DCM (dilated cardiomyopathy) in dogs has been debunked.

The study itself, according to sources, was flawed by design and was disproven.

6. Wellness Natural Food for Dogs

Wellness CORE Grain-Free High-Protein Dry Dog...
2,428 Reviews
Wellness CORE Grain-Free High-Protein Dry Dog...
  • MADE IN USA: Using only the...

If you're a health nut and want the convenience of relatively inexpensive commercial food, Wellness may be a good option for your pup.

Wellness provides whole-food-based nutrition with a balance of the following:

  • Omega-3
  • Probiotics
  • Antioxidants
  • Omega-6 fatty acids

Wellness has been in the dog food business for the longest time.

That said, they've established a household name as one of the best vet-recommended dog food brands in the market.

7. Tender & True

Tender & True Organic Chicken & Liver Recipe Dog...
151 Reviews
Tender & True Organic Chicken & Liver Recipe Dog...
  • USDA Organic Certified chicken...
  • #1 ingredient is cage free...
  • Grain-free Recipe
  • No corn, wheat or soy
  • A balanced formula for all...

Tender & True offers one of the only USDA Organic brands of dog foods.

Many of their canned diets resemble home-cooked, stew type of meals, which is appetizing for your dog.

Personally, I have used them before myself with my own dogs, and taste-wise, my dogs usually love this brand.

It's a great option, and I have a lot of trust in their future dog food releases.

8. Kirkland Pet Foods

Kirkland Signature Adult Formula Chicken, Rice and...
68 Reviews
Kirkland Signature Adult Formula Chicken, Rice and...
  • Ideal Protein Sources: This...
  • Joint Management Nutrition:...
  • Antioxidants: Guaranteed...
  • Omega Fatty Acid Nutrition:...

Kirkland Pet Foods is a surprising one. Kirkland Pet Foods is made by Diamonds Pet Foods.

Diamond Pet Foods makes Taste of the Wild along with Diamond Naturals, so they are a larger company.

This nutrition panel is also pretty solid with a good list of animal protein with some carbohydrates.

The price is also great to start it off and see if your pets like the taste of Diamond Pet Foods.

9. Nutro Ultra

NUTRO ULTRA Adult Large Breed High Protein Natural...
1,847 Reviews
NUTRO ULTRA Adult Large Breed High Protein Natural...
  • Contains one (1) 30 lb. bag of...
  • Features trio of protein from...
  • Our premium dog food kibble is...
  • NUTRO ULTRA Dry Dog Food...
  • We will never add artificial...

Nutro Ultra provides a natural blend of ingredients for optimal nutrition. It offers a variety of formulas for large and small breeds alike.

While it offers a trendy grain-free option, it also uses grains that are less likely to cause allergies, such as whole-grain oats and brown rice.

Many veterinarians recommend this dog food brand as one of the top choices among grain-free dog foods.

10. The Honest Kitchen

The Honest Kitchen Human Grade Dehydrated Whole...
9,985 Reviews
The Honest Kitchen Human Grade Dehydrated Whole...
  • EASY HOMEMADE: Just add warm...
  • HUMAN GRADE: Unlike most pet...
  • WE SAY NO TO: This recipe...

If you are interested in whole, human-grade dog foods but don’t have the time to cook a balanced diet for your dog…

Then, The Honest Kitchen might help you.

This brand provides balanced, freeze-dried dog food that makes it easy to cook up your pup’s dinner in no time.

Unfortunately, their whole-grain diets tend to have high-carbohydrate content.

This is OK. But for most canines, it should only make up about 12-15% of your dog's diet.

I personally use this brand for my dogs and they love it.

Their offerings also include low-allergen duck and fish and whole grains like quinoa.

The company also continues to grow, innovate with human-grade dog food, and provide better products for pet parents in America.

Important: Avoid feeding this to your Fidos if they're diabetic or need lower-glycemic dog food.

11. Natural Balance

Natural Balance Limited Ingredient Adult...
3,989 Reviews
Natural Balance Limited Ingredient Adult...

Natural Balance is one of the more affordable diets that contain balanced nutrition with a boost of healthy omega-3s.

While Natural Balance is not a hypoallergenic diet, many dogs with allergies benefit from its novel protein and carbohydrate recipes such as:

  • Potato
  • Venison
  • Salmon
  • Sweet potato

By using this brand, many owners also see an improvement in their dog’s coat without a prescription diet.

12. Royal Canin

Royal Canin Medium Breed Adult Dry Dog Food, 30 lb...
3,035 Reviews
Royal Canin Medium Breed Adult Dry Dog Food, 30 lb...
  • IMMUNE SUPPORT: A blend of...
  • SKIN AND COAT HEALTH: Optimal...
  • SPECIALIZED KIBBLE: Palatable,...

Royal Canin is about on par with Hill’s Science Diet for quality and nutrition.

It offers some specific foods for particular breeds, which can be very helpful.

While certain breeds don’t require different nutrients from other breeds, some characteristics of the Royal Canin breed-specific foods are quite appropriate.

For example:

The Royal Canin Yorkshire terrier dog food has appropriately sized and shaped kibble, making eating dry food much easier for tiny mouths.

Breed-specific diets aren't extremely common, but in some instances, they are necessary.

13. Purina Pro Plan

Purina Pro Plan High Protein Dog Food With...
9,640 Reviews
Purina Pro Plan High Protein Dog Food With...
  • Hard kibble dog food combined...
  • High protein dog food formula,...
  • Dry dog food fortified with...
  • Dog food formula used to be...
  • Hard dog food with vitamin A...

Purina is one of the oldest pet food companies in North America and provides solid nutrition for a good price.

Over the last 80 years, much of the published nutritional research in canines was done by Purina.

ProPlan, Purina’s more premium line, is a favorite of veterinarians and dogs alike.

With some of the recent publicity they've been having lately, the company continues to innovate and satisfy the majority of its customers.

The 5 Best Vet-Recommended Wet Dog Food Brands

Best Overall Wet Food: Orijen Original Canned Dog Food

ORIJEN Chicken Recipe Stew with Shredded Chicken...
73 Reviews
ORIJEN Chicken Recipe Stew with Shredded Chicken...
  • Twelve (12) 12.8 oz cans of...
  • ORIJEN wet dog food is...
  • ORIJEN dog food containing 95...
  • Wet food formula is ideal to...
  • Made in the USA using quality...

I like this canned dog food because it basically lays out the ingredients that primarily make up the food:

  • Turkey
  • Chicken
  • Chicken liver
  • Chicken bone broth
  • Turkey bone broth

This canned food is pretty new, so they have not changed the ingredient panel as they have with their dry dog food.

Unless your dog cannot have protein, it's important that it makes up a good portion of its food.

Orijen also ticks off this box with its first 5 ingredients.

What separates it from the hundreds of canned dog food is that it's a stew.

Hence, the bone broth makes it a nutrient-packed option that's also great for older dogs.

2. Runner Up: First Mate: Cage-Free Chicken Formula

First of all, First Mate is a unique brand that is based in British Columbia, Canada.

As I mentioned earlier, Canada has more stringent food processing requirements making this a very reliable option for dog owners.

First Mate has a very simple ingredient panel, which makes their food a limited-ingredient dog food.

The common problem with other commercial brands is they add thickeners as a filler so they don't need to add as many nutrients even though the dog food fills the can.

Thickeners are also hard for your dog to digest.

Fortunately, Firstmate does not use thickeners.

This is why I also considered them as #2 on this list.

3. Best Value: Zignature

Zignature Lamb Canned Dog Food 13oz, case of 12
209 Reviews
Zignature Lamb Canned Dog Food 13oz, case of 12
  • Grain Free
  • Antioxidant from fruits,...
  • Highest quality

While Zignature is a less well-known dog food brand, they have 13 different formulas, which are excellent sources of protein.

All formulas have an awesome nutrition panel overall.

Aside from protein, the fat in their formula makes up most of the ingredients, which is something I like to see.

This makes their product unique and stands out compared to average commercial wet dog food where they rely heavily on carbohydrates.

Carbohydrates are also great, no doubt.

But, to make cheaper brands sometimes mean that companies use lesser amount of high-quality animal protein.

On top of that, Zignature also includes taurine in its ingredients.

As I said earlier, DCM (dilated cardiomyopathy) is prevalent in dogs that don't have enough taurine in their diet.

So, I personally love that ingredient on my dog's diet.

4. Taste of the Wild

Taste Of The Wild Grain Free Real Meat Recipe...
2,354 Reviews
Taste Of The Wild Grain Free Real Meat Recipe...
  • Taste of the Wild Wetlands...
  • Nutrient-rich and provides the...
  • FAMILY-OWNED and MADE in the...
Just like their dry dog food, Taste of the Wild's wet food variety is also a great choice for new pet owners.

They are a grain-free brand which is good because that means they rely on protein for their ingredient panel.

Since a dog's nutrition requires more protein than carbohydrates, grains in its diet are fine as long as given in moderation.

The only caution I would remind you of is that Diamond Pet Foods is a large company and has also had a couple of recalls in the past.

Otherwise, I highly recommend this brand.

5. Kirkland Signature: Nature's Domain

Our fifth and final recommendation is Kirkland Pet Foods.

Kirkland Pet Foods is Costco's brand. However, it was created by Diamond Pet Foods which created Diamond Naturals, Taste of the Wild, and 4health.

The ingredient panel for this brand is consistently heavier on protein vs carbohydrates, which is always a good thing unless your dog has a renal condition.

18 Best Vet-Recommended Dog Food Brands: Final Thoughts

While this list is a top 18 of my vet-recommended dog food brands, you should select the best food for your own budget, lifestyle, and individual needs.

Some dogs are more picky eaters than others, while some will eat whatever whenever.

The goal is also to provide the best nutrition you can and for your dog to enjoy eating it.

As a vet myself, speaking to your veterinarian saves you time, effort, and money with regard to your pet’s diet or health.

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In the last 8 years, Dr. Shores has worked as a clinical veterinarian for dogs, cats, small mammals and non-human primates as well as a writer on the subject of pet health. Her passion is breaking down the intricacies of proper dog health care and dog nutrition.