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Aafco Approved Dog Food List 2021

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If Buddy is barking at you to fill his bowl, listen up.

He may also be speaking up to demand a switch in his daily dinner, or breakfast and lunch too, for that matter.

Since we all love our fur babies as our own, what we feed them matters. Finding the right kibble can be difficult, as there is a sea of choices for pooches of all shapes and sizes with less-than-helpful packaging and guidance.

The first step when choosing a dog food is to consult your local vet, as they know what is best for their favorite, slobbery patients. However, for those that want even more recommended or even a place to start before your annual visit, we have that covered.

We spoke with Dr. Danielle Bernal, a veterinarian for Wellness Pet Company as well as Dr. Katy Nelson, senior veterinarian at Chewy about what to look for in a dog food formula, what to avoid and also any tips and tricks for choosing the right chow for your Chihuahua and the best munchies for your Maltese.

Read on for the answers to those questions and more, plus our top picks for pet food brands you can buy online right now.

What Is The Number One Recommended Dog Food

Best Overall: Purina Pro Plan

In addition to wet and dry options, Purina Pro Plan formulas include food nutritionally designed for adult dogs, puppies of various sizes, senior dogs, and specialized diet support for overweight dogs, sensitive stomachs, and more.

Is Instinct Dog Food Good For Older Dogs

Instinct Raw Boost Senior Grain-Free with Real Chicken is designed specifically for older dogs. Each recipe contains over 40% dry matter protein and about 18% fat. Calorie content is around 478 calories per cup. The recipe meets AAFCO nutrient profiles for all life stages which makes it a healthy option for senior dogs. For more choices, visit The Dog Food Advisors best senior dog foods here.

Also Check: Is Cat Food Healthy For Dogs

Purina Pro Plan High Protein Chicken & Rice Formula Dry Puppy Food $19+

The recipe is crafted with high-quality protein, including chicken as the #1 ingredient to help build lean muscles and the food includes glucosamine and EPA, an omega-3 fatty acid, for joint health and mobility, said Dr. Nelson. Plus, vitamin A and omega-6 fatty acids will help nourish your pups skin and coat.

This dry dog food is sold in a variety of sizes from six to 34 pounds, lasting your pup a while until they become a big kid well, big dog.

How Are Aafco Guidelines Established

10 Best High Calorie Dog Food for Weight Gain (2021)

Like any reputable organization, the AAFCO relies on scientific data retrieved from detailed studies to reach conclusions. They test the benefits of feeding animals certain ingredients as part of a regular diet. The organization understands that conducting such testing aids in understanding how certain diets affect animals in different lifestyles or age groups.

While AAFCO tests are not the only reliable source of information, nor do they provide a full range of data, they can be extremely useful. They also refer to outside studies for information.

The AAFCO website includes a tab titled Laboratory which provides links to useful information and studies. The listed information is transparent and detailed. They even provide a publication.

While some criticism is warranted, all organizations have room for growth. The methods and studies used by the AAFCO are regarded as generally beneficial and trustworthy.

Also Check: What Food To Give My Dog To Gain Weight

Best Wet: Hill’s Science Diet

Amazon

  • Offers both regular and prescription wet foods

  • Multiple can sizes available

  • Brand focus on quality and safety

  • Formulated by team of nutritionists and vets

Hills Science Diet is another brand that gets the seal of approval from Dr. Frione, and its especially popular for those who prefer to feed their dog wet food. This brand offers an impressive selection of wet dog foods, including formulas for puppies, adults, and seniors, and it also has a highly regarded line of prescription foods for dogs with specific medical problems.

This brand is committed to creating high-quality dog foods, and its products all meet or exceed the nutrient profiles and manufacturing guidelines of the AAFCO and the World Small Animal Veterinary Association . The company employs over 220 Ph.D. nutritionists, veterinarians, and scientists, and its safety standards are modeled after those of human food manufacturers.

Best Dry: Royal Canin

  • Formulated by scientists and nutritionists

  • Highly palatable to most dogs

  • Some formulas can be expensive

Dry dog food is a popular choice for many pet owners thanks to its convenience and shelf stability, and one of the best dry dog food brands is Royal Canin, which offers more than 80 dry formulas. In addition to dry food for adults, puppies, and senior dogs, Royal Canin has a unique line of breed-specific foods, each of which is tailored to that dog breeds traits and common problems. Even the kibble shape is selected based on the breeds jaw structure and biting pattern.

Royal Canin is another brand that Dr. Frione personally recommends, and the company employs nutritional and research teams that help create its products. The brand takes a nutrient-focused approach to pet food, evaluating the specific nutritional needs of dogs and creating optimal diet profiles based on scientific findings.

Recommended Reading: Is Cesar Dog Food Good For Yorkies

An Accessible Option Thats High

Chewy

There are lots of grain-free dog foods out there, but if youre looking for a quality brand with plenty of grain-free options, Dr. Krause recommends I And Love And You. This brand is great because it uses clean ingredients in its formulas and it is available at grocery stores and online, she says, adding, I trust the quality of its ingredients and the extensive safety testing performs. The Naked Essentials line is protein-rich, includes digestion-friendly prebiotics and probiotics and is free of corn, wheat, soy and rice. Price-wise, its also easy on the wallet.

Recipe And Label Analysis

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Instinct Original Grain Free with Real Chicken was selected to represent the other products in the line for detailed recipe and nutrient analysis.

Label and nutrient data below are calculated using dry matter basis.

Instinct Original Grain Free with Real Chicken

Dry Dog Food

Estimated Dry Matter Nutrient Content

Ingredients: Chicken, chicken meal, peas, chicken fat , tapioca, herring meal, menhaden fish meal, natural flavor, dried tomato pomace, salt, vitamins , carrots, apples, cranberries, minerals , potassium chloride, montmorillonite clay, taurine, choline chloride, freeze dried chicken, freeze dried chicken liver, pumpkinseeds, freeze dried chicken heart, dried Bacillus coagulans fermentation product, rosemary extract

Fiber = 2.8%

Red denotes controversial item

Read Also: Where Can I Buy Hill’s Science Diet Dog Food

Best For Puppies: Purina One

Amazon

  • More affordable than Purina Pro Plan

  • Brand employs team of nutritionists and vets

  • Products made in USA

  • Limited number of products

The brands above all offer high-quality puppy food, but another top choice for puppies is Purina One. Similar to Purina Pro Plan, Purina One is a science-based food that offers premium nutrition for growing dogs. This brand offers three puppy-specific foods, including a regular dry food, large breed puppy dry food, and wet food option, and you can typically find these products at big name retail and grocery storesnot just specialty pet stores.

Like other Purina brands, Purina One formulas are created by the companys team of nutritionists, veterinarians, and scientists, and they provide balanced and complete nutrition for growing puppies. The food follows AAFCO guidelines, and its made without any unnecessary filler ingredients.

Dog Food That Promotes Healthy Development

Chewy.

Formulated to support brain, eye and skeletal development, as well as a healthy immune system, this Puppy Healthy Development Small Bites Dry Dog Food from Hills Science Diet has everything your growing pup needs. Its made with wholesome ingredients like chicken and barley and enhanced with antioxidants, vitamin C, vitamin E and DHA to support developing organs and learning ability. Plus, the kibble is smaller than normal and easier to digest than other dog foods, so if you have a puppy who gets a little over-eager at meal times, this food will be easier for its developing digestive system to handle.

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Wellness Core Puppy $20+

CORE recipes are crafted based on the nutritional philosophy that dogs, based on their primal ancestry, thrive on a natural diet mainly comprised of meat. Packed with premium protein along with nutrient-rich superfoods and nutritional supplements to ensure your puppy has everything they need to thrive from the CORE, said Dr. Bernal.

Starting at $20 for the four-pound bag, the dry kibble can be ordered to pick up in store, or shipped to your home for easy feeding.

Wellness Core Digestive Health Age Advantage $20+

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Designed specifically for the needs of senior dogs, Wellness CORE Digestive Health Age Advantage is a highly digestible, probiotic-coated kibble crafted with a unique blend of prebiotic fibers to support digestive health. This recipe is made with guaranteed levels of Glucosamine, Chondroitin Sulfate, and Calcium to support healthy joints and bones. So, every dog, at any age, can live their best life, said Dr. Bernal.

Digestive health is really important for any age, but senior dogs especially. Thats why this formula sold at Petco is made with small, easy-to-eat kibble bits.

Also Check: The Farmer’s Dog Pet Food

Best Wet: Hills Science Diet

Amazon

  • Brand focus on quality and safety

  • Formulated by team of nutritionists and vets

Hills Science Diet is another brand that gets the seal of approval from Dr. Frione, and its especially popular for those who prefer to feed their dog wet food. This brand offers an impressive selection of wet dog foods, including formulas for puppies, adults, and seniors, and it also has a highly regarded line of prescription foods for dogs with specific medical problems.

This brand is committed to creating high-quality dog foods, and its products all meet or exceed the nutrient profiles and manufacturing guidelines of the AAFCO and the World Small Animal Veterinary Association . The company employs over 220 Ph.D. nutritionists, veterinarians, and scientists, and its safety standards are modeled after those of human food manufacturers.

What Is Better For Dogs Rice Or Sweet Potato

Chicken and rice: These two ingredients are very easy for dogs to digest, and are the prime ingredients in many commercial dog foods. This mixture will give your dog the protein and carbs needed for recovery. Sweet Potato: Full of healthy fiber and vitamins that dogs need, most pets consider sweet potatoes a treat.

Recommended Reading: Black Gold Explorer Dog Food

Blue Buffalo Life Protection Dry

Rating:

Blue Buffalo Life Protection Chicken and Rice is one of 21 kibble recipes included in our review of the Blue Buffalo Life Protection product line.

  • First 5 ingredients: Deboned chicken, chicken meal, brown rice, barley, oatmeal
  • Type: Grain-inclusive
  • Other recipes: Puppy, large breed, small breed, senior, lamb, fish and more

This Life Protection example derives the majority of its animal protein from chicken and chicken meal. Our dry matter label analysis reveals the recipe contains 27% protein, 16% fat and 50% estimated carbs creating a fat-to-protein ratio of about 58%.

A top-rated, grain-inclusive kibble. One of The Advisors most popular recommendations.

Sample buyer reviewMy dog is a very picky eater with a sensitive stomach and this food has done wonders for him. Hes finally eating as much as he should without stomach issues and its made him almost a brand new dog. I tried a few different foods with him but this seemed to give me the best results

Quick Answer: What Dog Food Is Approved By Aafco

The only nutritionally BALANCED homemade dog food (featuring 5 AAFCO tested recipes)
  • What is the healthiest food to feed your dog?
  • What pet foods are AAFCO-approved? In short, AAFCO does not approve, certify or otherwise endorse pet foods. There is no AAFCO-approved pet food. Most state feed laws and regulations reference to the AAFCO Official Publication as part of the nutritional adequacy labeling for pet foods.

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    Merrick Classic Healthy Grains

    Feed your pup balanced, flavorful nutrition with Merrick Classic Healthy Grains. This line of dog food offers easily digestible recipes that are loaded with protein, fruits, vegetables, and a blend of whole grains to support digestion, skin health, heart health, and more. What’s even better is that this food is enriched with health-boosting nutrients like omega fatty acids, chondroitin, and glucosamine.

    Merrick Classic Healthy Grains offers recipes for all breed sizes and life stages. Treat your dog to big flavor and nutrition with each bite!

    Complete And Balanced Dog Foods

    One of the first things you should look for on a dog food label is the statement is formulated to meet the nutritional levels established by the AAFCO Dog Food Nutrient Profiles. This isnt just an advertising slogan. The Association of American Feed Control Officials has strict requirements to make sure that a product is in fact complete and balanced for dogs . Complete and balanced diets must contain the minimum amount of all of the nutrients necessary for dogs, which is also indicated in the guaranteed analysis. This analysis gives the minimum amount of crude protein and fat, along with the maximum amounts of water and crude fiber. The analysis does not, however, give the exact amount of these components, which means there is room for considerable variation. The manufacturers average nutrient profile is often a better tool for evaluating a product.

    You can always contact the dog food company directly to get more information about its product. A reputable company that has your dogs interests at heart should be happy to answer your questions and in many cases will give you more information than what is available on the website or product label. The World Small Animal Veterinary Association has a helpful sheet with questions you can ask a company representative.

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    How Long Does Fresh Dog Food Stay Fresh

    Since fresh dog food contains no preservatives, it must be kept refrigerated or frozen.

    Storage instructions vary from brand to brand. In most cases, fresh dog food can last for up to 6 months, as long as the food package remains frozen and unopened.

    Once a container is defrosted, it should be kept in the refrigerator and used within 4 days.

    Is A Beef Entree An All

    Freshpet Vital Grain Free Poultry Small Breed Dog Food

    Generally, no. Although, a pet food label can indicate what your pooch is in store for.

    According to the Merck Veterinary Manual, terms like beef entree, beef dinner, and beef platter suggest the food isnt the equivalent of a filet mignon but does contain 10% beef as an active ingredient.

    With beef means the product is at least 3% beef.

    As for just beef? The product is 70% beef.

    Read Also: Blue Buffalo Senior Dog Food Review

    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 pets life.

    Most commercial dog food companies formulate their dog foods for puppy, adult, and senior/mature life stages based on AAFCOs 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 its there, its a sign of quality.

    Commercial raw diets and freshly prepared diets should also meet AAFCO requirements or NRC standards.

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

    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 wont necessarily prevent food contamination either.

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

    Best Wet Dog Food For Adults

    Some dogs really prefer the taste or texture of wet food, says veterinarian Jamie Richardson, chief of staff at Small Door Veterinary in New York City. Of course, pet parents want their dogs to enjoy their meals, so it makes sense that this is a popular choice.

    Other pros of wet food are that it tends to have a longer shelf life before it’s opened, and according to Richardson, some wet foods may be less “processed” or contain fewer preservatives, which can make them easier to digest.

    Luckily, the same nutritional standards apply to both dry and wet food. But comparing their labels isn’t exactly apples to apples because wet food has much more water content. So in order to understand how a wet food’s nutrition compares to a dry food, you need to look at the percentages of protein, fat, and fiber on a “dry matter basis.” Cummings Veterinary Medical Center at Tufts University has some handy instructions on how to calculate that yourself. Another option: Call the brand that makes the food or ask your veterinarian for help. For the foods we recommend in this guide, we contacted the manufacturer to get all the info.

    Our picks for adult wet dog food:

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