As a veterinarian, dog lovers are always asking me for my opinion on the top vet recommended dog food brands that are healthy for dogs.

But one thing owners 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.

This list of veterinarian recommended dog foods will help you make a better choice for your Fido.

Top Vet Recommended Dog Food BrandsI always mention that even though I have my favorite vet recommended dog food brands, each canine will have specific needs, and there is no “one size fits all” when it comes to dog nutrition and foods (source).

It is best to have a chat with your veterinarian about your specific dog's individual needs before switching his diet.

Healthy dog food that ticks off the boxes while being somewhat 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 many canines. And then after that, if you're dog likes wet dog food I've gone ahead and put that list together as well.

Quick Glance at Our 13 Vet Recommended Dry Dog Food Brands

ImageVet Recommended Dry Dog Food DetailsPrice
Carna4 Hand Crafted Dog Food
  • Best Overall Dry Dog Food
  • Great nutrition panel
  • High Protein
  • Independently-owned company
Check Price
Essence Grain Free Dog Food
  • Best Value Dog Food
  • Grain-Free
  • 86% of protein is animal source
  • Independently-owned
Check Price
Orijen Original Recipe
  • Best Bang for Your Buck
  • Grain-Free
  • Free-Run Chicken
  • High Protein Dog Food
Check Price
Nutri Source
  • Pre and Probiotics in Food
  • Made in the USA
  • Independently Owned
  • Good amount of Omega 6s for Dogs
Check Price
Taste of the Wild
  • No Corn, Wheat or Barley
  • Grain-Free
  • Low in Carbohydrates
  • Great starter dog food
Check Price
Wellness Core
  • Grain-Free
  • Made in the USA
  • Protein rich dog food
  • Contains Taurine
Check Price
Castor & Pollux
  • USDA Organic Dog Food
  • Best for active dogs
  • Nutrient dense formula
Check Price
Kirkland Signature Dog Food
  • Primary source of protein is from animals
  • Made by a reputable company
Check Price
Nutro Ultra
  • Grain-Free and Whole Grain Options
  • No Corn, Wheat, or Soy
Check Price
The Honest Kitchen
  • Human Grade Dog Food
  • No artificial ingredients
Check Price
Natural Balance Dog Food
  • Grain-Free Dog Food
  • No controversial ingredients
Check Price
Royal Canin Adult Dry Dog Food
  • Breed and Size Specific Dog Food
Check Price
Purina Pro Plan
  • Great Weight Gaining Dog Food
Check Price

5 Vet Recommend Wet Dog Food Brand List

ImageVet Recommended Wet Dog Food DetailsPrice
  • Best Overall Wet Dog Food
  • Rich Nutrient Panel
  • Primarily animal protein sources
  • It is a stew which is healthier
Check Price
FirstMate: Cage-Free Chicken Formula
  • Runner Up
  • Limited ingredients
  • Next feature
  • Does not use thickeners
Check Price
  • Excellent Nutrition Panel
  • Protein heavy recipe
  • Contains Taurine
Check Price
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 Dog Tips have done a complete breakdown of the pet food market and picked the best dog food brand that's holistic, human-grade, and completely natural. I can't say I disagree with their top dog food choice pick.

The Honest Kitchen is on my veterinarian recommended dog foods list as well.

However, it's also very expensive, which may not be ideal for many pet parents.

Further in the article, I mention why vets consider these dog foods best for their pets. Scroll down for more details on my picks of ten vet recommended dog food brands.

The nutrition that your dog requires is based on a lot of variables. It's affected by his breed, size, age, weight, skin and coat condition, medical history, and overall health, to name a few.

Your veterinarian knows your pet and understands his specific health needs. They will give you a list of vet recommended dog food brands that will best meet your dog's needs and suggest any additional pet supplements that he may require that can't be met by dog food alone.

Actually, because the dog food market is so huge today, many great vets recommended dog food brands offer blends for dogs with sensitive stomachs, skin allergies, and other special dietary requirements.

For more on commercial dog food safety and humanization of pet food, I recommend you these two podcast interviews:

Dog owners can purchase commercial dog food recipes with certain supplements and vitamins for dogs added to them.

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

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

Below I've chosen my top 10 vet-recommended dog food brands, and I hope to explain a little more in detail what goes into my selection process.

Then you can use similar criteria when selecting your dog’s diet.

However, as I mentioned, you really should consult with your dog's veterinarian before making any large changes to his diet.

Often you can do this over the phone without having to pay for an office visit.

Just remember that paying for a vet visit won't be much compared to the bill for treating a dog with allergies or other issues related to the wrong diet.

RELATED: Top Vet Recommended Dog Supplements

Vet Recommended Dog Food Brands

Selecting 13 Vet Recommended Dog Food Brands

As a pet parent, when choosing the best dog food brand for your Fido, you need to consider the health and nutritional benefits of that dog food.

Don't just take the company's claims as proof that the food is healthy.

You should be looking for certain things to make sure the dog food you select will give your pet the nutrition that he requires.

Start by reading dog food labels closely and analyze well what's on them.

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 is not a government regulatory agency but a voluntary quality standard group that sets nutritional standards for each stage in a pet’s life.

Most commercial dog food companies formulate their dog foods for puppy, adult, and senior/mature life stages based on AAFCO’s standards.

I use AAFCO's and FDA's recommendations to go by, including for this list of best vet recommended dog foods. 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.

All of my vets recommended dog food brands meet AAFCO standards.

Vet Recommended Dog Food Brands

How reputable is the dog food company?

On the other hand, in an era of Salmonella contamination scares and the 2007 melamine pet food recall, it is hard to know which “big brand” you can trust these days.

It seems that every food company out there has had problems with bacterial contamination at some point or another, so there is 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 diet 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 Thirteen of Vet Recommended Dog Food Brands

1. Best Overall: Carna4 Chicken Dog Food

CARNA4 Hand Crafted Dog Food, 13-Pound, Chicken
86 Reviews
CARNA4 Hand Crafted Dog Food, 13-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.

This recommendation has come from my research and stumbling upon The Tattooed Dog Trainer. She is a pet nutritionist and has years of experience in both pet nutrition and dog training.

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

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

Many companies sacrifice profit over nutrition with how the kibble is processed.

When manufacturers process kibble, they use extremely high temperatures which sucks out the nutrients.

Then cheaper, synthetic replacements are put back into the kibble to replace what the high heat took out.

Their kibble is also slow baked which is great.

Now, this option is definitely more on the expensive side so we've found more affordable options if price is an issue.

Lastly, the owners of Carna4 are an independent company, which means they are much more stringent on what they put into their food.

2. Best Value: Essence Grain Free Dog Food

Essence Air & Gamefowl Grain-Free Dry Dog Food

Essence is a much newer brand it started in early 2019. They pride themselves on their nutrition panel.

What makes them different, is 86% of their protein sources is animal protein.

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

The other ingredients as stated by the company contain, “chia seed oil, coconut flour, and pumpkin, as well as a custom vitamin pack” (Essence, 2019).

3. Best Bang for Your Buck: Orijen

ORIJEN Dog Original Recipe, 25lb, High-Protein...
9,781 Reviews
ORIJEN Dog Original Recipe, 25lb, High-Protein...
  • ORIJEN Original dog food...
  • With 85% quality animal...
  • Using fresh and raw animal...
  • Our Fresh Regional Ingredients...
  • Age Range Description: All...

Orijen is still one of the best that you can get if you are concerned about human-grade food traceability.

Orijen is a Canadian pet food company dedicated to sourcing its raw ingredients from Canada only.

But over the years that has changed in the past couple years to Kentucky.

What's so important about that is Canada has higher standards for raising their meat production animals.

The company publishes the exact province where the fish, meats, fruits, and vegetables are sourced for its products on its website.

All Orijen products meet AAFCO standards and Fido’s taste test, too!

Orijen would normally be at the top of the list, but that ranking has changed over time.

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

4. Nutri Source

NutriSource Adult Dog Food, Made with Chicken and...
963 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.

The nutrition breakdown includes: chicken, chicken meal, brown rice, barley, oatmeal, and so on. So just from doing my own research, this brand uses a high amount of carbohydrates, which is my only griff about them.

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

NutriSource also add pre and probiotics in their food which just like in humans is important for dogs' digestion.

NutriSource is also independently owned, which is a bonus because that means they have more control of their ingredients vs. large corp filler ingredients.

5. Taste of the Wild

Taste of the Wild Pacific Stream Grain-Free Dry...
12,725 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 is number five on our list because of its high protein content and since they curate their recipes without corn, wheat, barley or rice.

Taste of the wild has a pretty solid ingredient list: water buffalo, lamb meal, chicken meal, sweet potatoes, and peas. You want most of your dog's diet to be animal-source protein with some carbohydrates.

Taste of the Wild also is great for owners that want to keep their pup on a grain-free diet and it's not a bad dog food to start them on.

Recently, there was a study that linked grain-free diets to DCM (dilated cardiomyopathy) in dogs, but that has been debunked. The study itself according to sources was flawed by design and was disproven.

6. Wellness Natural Food for Dogs

Wellness CORE Natural Grain Free Dry Dog Food,...
7,839 Reviews
Wellness CORE Natural Grain Free Dry Dog Food,...
  • WHOLE BODY HEALTH: Supported...

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

Wellness provides whole-food-based nutrition with a balance of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids and a boost of antioxidants and probiotics for healthy digestion.

Wellness has been in the dog food business for the longest time, and they continue to lead the way for many vets recommended dog food brands.

7. Castor & Pollux

Castor and Pollux ORGANIX Grain Free Dog Food,...
1,792 Reviews
Castor and Pollux ORGANIX Grain Free Dog Food,...
  • One (1) 18 lb Bag - Castor and...
  • USDA organic certified grain...
  • Natural dog food that is...
  • This Non GMO dog food recipe...
  • This organic grain free dog...

Castor & Pollux 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 tasty for your dog and more pleasing to human eyes.

Personally, I have used them before myself with my own dogs, and taste-wise, canines 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...
64 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...
1,736 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...
  • Protein rich NUTRO ULTRA Dry...
  • Made with no chicken...

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 the trendy “grain-free” formulas, it also makes most of its dog foods with grains less likely to cause allergies, such as whole-grain oats and brown rice.

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

10. The Honest Kitchen

The Honest Kitchen Human Grade Dehydrated Whole...
9,543 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, The Honest Kitchen 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 okay, but for most dogs, it should only make up about 12-15% of your dog's diet.

I personally feed my dog this, and she loves it, but you shouldn't feed this to your dog if they are diabetic or need lower glycemic dog food.

Their offerings 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.

11. Natural Balance

Natural Balance Limited Ingredient Adult...
4,804 Reviews
Natural Balance Limited Ingredient Adult...

Natural Balance is one of the more affordable “natural” 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 salmon and potato or venison and sweet potato.

Many owners 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...
3,130 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...
17,624 Reviews
Purina Pro Plan High Protein Dog Food With...
  • One (1) 35 lb. Bag - Purina...
  • Hard kibble dog food combined...
  • High protein dog food formula,...
  • Dry dog food fortified with...
  • Dog food formula used to be...

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 Dog Food: Orijen Original Canned Dog Food

Orijen Chicken Recipe Stew Can Dog Food, 12.8...
9,791 Reviews
Orijen Chicken Recipe Stew Can Dog Food, 12.8...
  • The first 5 ingredients are...
  • Our authentic WholePrey diet...
  • Comes in an easily digestible...
  • Feed alone or incorporate into...
  • High in moisture to keep your...

I like this canned dog food because it basically lays out the ingredients that primarily make up the food: chicken, chicken bone broth, turkey bone broth, chicken liver, and turkey.

Orijen is owned by Champion Pet Foods.

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

Since it is a fairly new product I have not successfully found out what other people say about their wet dog food.

As always, unless your dog cannot have protein, it's important that it makes up a good portion of your dog's food.

Orijen ticks off this box with it's first five ingredients: chicken, chicken bone broth, turkey bone broth, chicken liver, and turkey.

What separates it from the hundreds of canned dog food is that it is a stew hence the bone broth making it a nutrient packed option that is 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. Firstmate does not use thickeners which is why they are considered number two on this list.

3. Best Value: Zignature

Zignature Grain-Free Lamb Canned Dog Food 13...
198 Reviews
Zignature Grain-Free Lamb Canned Dog Food 13...
  • Grain Free
  • Antioxidant from fruits,...
  • Highest quality

Zignature is a less well-known dog food brand. They have thirteen different formulas all of which are excellent sources of protein for dogs.

All formulas have an awesome nutrition panel overall.

The protein and fat in their formulas make 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 great but can be used because it's cheaper for companies to use instead of high-quality animal protein.

On top of that Zignature includes taurine in its ingredients. As I said earlier DCM is prevalent in dogs that don't have enough taurine in their diet, so I personally love the intention with that ingredient.

4. Taste of the Wild

Taste Of The Wild Grain Free Real Meat Recipe...
2,374 Reviews
Taste Of The Wild Grain Free Real Meat Recipe...
  • A taste of the wild with REAL...
  • Premium ingredients with added...
  • Ingredients From Trusted,...
  • Nutrient rich and HIGHLY...

Taste of the Wild's wet dog food just like their dry dog food is a great choice for new dog owners.

They are a grain-free brand which is good because that means they steer clear from grains making them rely on protein for their ingredient panel. Grains in a dog's diet is fine as long as it is in moderation since dog's require more protein than carbohydrates.

The only caution I would remind you of is that Diamond Pet Foods is a large company and has 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 dog’s individual needs.

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

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

Speak to your veterinarian if you are concerned about your pet’s diet or health.

RELATED: Why and Where to Shop for Wholesale Pet Supplies

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