The Top 15 Best Dog Foods Veterinarians Recommend for Healthy Puppies and Adult Dogs

Choosing the right dog food is one of the most important decisions any pet parent can make. The food you feed your canine companion impacts their health, behavior, energy levels, skin and coat condition, digestive function, and more. With so many dog food options on the market, it can be incredibly overwhelming trying to select the best food for your pup.

That’s why we turned to veterinary nutritionists and veterinarians themselves to get their recommendations on the top-rated dog foods they advise their clients to feed. After consulting with numerous vets across the country, we compiled this list of the 15 highest quality dog foods that veterinarians consistently recommend for optimal canine health and wellbeing.

How We Chose the Best Dog Foods Vets Recommend

In creating this list, we considered the following criteria that both veterinarians and pet parents find important in a high quality dog food:

  • Main Protein Sources: Quality animal-based proteins like chicken, salmon, lamb, turkey, duck etc.
  • Limited Ingredients: Avoidance of filler ingredients, by-products, artificial preservatives, colors and flavors.
  • Whole Food Ingredients: Fruits, vegetables and wholesome carbohydrates like brown rice, barley or oatmeal.
  • Vitamins & Minerals: Balanced blend to meet all nutritional requirements.
  • Omega Fatty Acids: Omega-3s and omega-6s for skin/coat health.
  • Digestibility: Easily absorbed nutrition without excess waste.
  • Reputation: Trustworthy brands recommended by veterinary nutritionists.
  • Quality Control: Rigorous safety standards and testing for purity.
  • Budget: Reasonably priced foods accessible for most pet parents.

We meticulously combed through all the top-rated dog food brands to bring you the definitive list of foods we feel confident veterinarians would endorse or prescribe for their own patients.

The 15 Best Dog Foods Vets Recommend

1. Royal Canin Veterinary Diet

Royal Canin Veterinary Diets are therapeutic foods specifically formulated to help dogs with certain health conditions. While these prescription diets require veterinary approval and oversight, they are the #1 recommendation from vets for dogs needing specialized nutritional support.

Key Benefits:

  • Developed by veterinary nutritionists and backed by science
  • Formulas for kidney disease, skin allergies, digestive issues, urinary health, weight management and more
  • Protein sources tailored to the health needs of each formula
  • Contains essential vitamins, minerals, fatty acids and nutrients
  • Highly digestible and palatable

Protein Sources: Hydrolyzed soy protein, chicken meal, pork protein

Price: $$$$

2. Hill’s Science Diet

This brand pioneered veterinary nutrition over 80 years ago. Hill’s Science Diet foods are recommended by vets more than any other brand for long-term health and longevity. Their clinically-proven nutrition helps avoid illnesses impacted by diet.

Key Benefits:

  • Formulated by 200+ PhD nutritionists and veterinarians
  • Clinically-proven to improve health conditions
  • Made with high quality, natural ingredients
  • Supports mobility, digestion, oral health, vitality and more
  • Provides balanced nutrition tailored to each lifestage or breed size

Protein Sources: Chicken, lamb, turkey, salmon, pork

Price: $$$

3. Purina Pro Plan Veterinary Diets

Purina Pro Plan Veterinary Diets offer advanced nutrition in therapeutic formulas to manage specific diseases. These foods provide targeted nutrition that requires veterinary approval and oversight.

Key Benefits:

  • Formulated for dogs with certain health conditions or nutrient deficiencies
  • Provides optimal protein, fat, carbohydrate, vitamin and mineral levels
  • Highly digestible formulas
  • Supports dogs with food sensitivities or allergies
  • Boosts energy, joint health, digestion, weight, urinary tract health and more

Protein Sources: Salmon, lamb, chicken, egg, rice

Price: $$$$

4. Iams Veterinary Formulas

Iams Veterinary Formula diets are customized to help dogs with particular medical issues improve their health through tailored nutrition. These therapeutic foods provide veterinarian-recommended nutritional solutions.

Key Benefits:

  • Targeted formulas for specific health conditions
  • Veterinarian-recommended and -supervised
  • Easily digestible animal proteins
  • Added vitamins, minerals and nutrients
  • Improves skin, coat, joints, digestion, urinary tract and more

Protein Sources: Chicken, lamb, salmon, egg

Price: $$$

5. Wellness CORE RawRev Natural Grain-Free Dry Dog Food

This protein-packed food from Wellness CORE provides the benefits of a raw food diet in the convenience of kibble. It’s fortified with probiotics and nutrients for complete and balanced nutrition.

Key Benefits:

  • Made with premium all-natural ingredients
  • High protein (38%) from real turkey, chicken liver and turkey liver
  • Has probiotics, antioxidants and omega fatty acids
  • Grain-free with no wheat, corn or soy
  • Supports healthy muscle growth and lean physique

Protein Sources: Turkey, chicken, chicken liver, turkey liver

Price: $$

6. American Journey Salmon & Sweet Potato Grain-Free Dry Dog Food

American Journey offers premium nutrition without the premium price tag. This salmon and sweet potato recipe provides quality protein and digestible carbohydrates for overall health.

Key Benefits:

  • Budget-friendly option
  • Grain-free recipe with real, deboned salmon as first ingredient
  • Sweet potatoes provide natural source of fiber and nutrients
  • Enriched with vitamins and minerals
  • Free of corn, wheat, soy, by-product meals, artificial colors and flavors

Protein Sources: Salmon, turkey meal, menhaden fish meal

Price: $

7. Taste of the Wild High Prairie Grain-Free Dry Dog Food

This high protein, grain-free food from Taste of the Wild provides roasted bison and venison for lean nutrition. It contains probiotics, fruits and vegetables to support overall health and wellbeing.

Key Benefits:

  • Grain-free recipe with premium animal proteins
  • Made with real roasted bison and venison
  • Contains probiotics for healthy digestion
  • Nutrient-rich fruits and vegetables
  • Free of corn, soy, wheat, fillers, artificial flavors, colors and preservatives

Protein Sources: Roasted bison, venison, beef

Price: $$

8. Blue Buffalo Life Protection Formula Senior Chicken & Brown Rice Recipe Dry Dog Food

This Blue Buffalo senior dog food is specially formulated to meet the unique nutritional needs of mature adult dogs. It contains glucosamine, omega fatty acids and antioxidants for joint, heart and immune system health.

Key Benefits:

  • Ideal protein and fat content for less active, aging dogs
  • Enhanced with glucosamine and chondroitin for joints
  • Fortified with vitamins C and E for immune system health
  • Contains omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids to nourish skin and coat
  • Natural ingredients with no poultry by-product meals

Protein Sources: Deboned chicken, chicken meal, fish meal

Price: $$

9. Nutro Natural Choice Small Breed Dry Dog Food

This Nutro food is tailored specifically for small breed dogs with easy-to-chew kibble and the perfect protein and fat ratio for higher metabolism. It supports healthy energy levels and lean muscle mass.

Key Benefits:

  • Made for toy and small breed dogs
  • Right protein and fat content for small dogs’ higher energy needs
  • Smaller kibble size and bite for tiny mouths
  • Contains no artificial colors, flavors or preservatives
  • Rich in omega fatty acids for skin and coat health

Protein Sources: Farm-raised chicken, lamb meal

Price: $

10. Purina Pro Plan Sport All Life Stages Performance 30/20 Formula Dry Dog Food

This high protein, low fat formula from Purina Pro Plan provides optimal protein for building lean muscle mass and supporting an active lifestyle at any age or breed size.

Key Benefits:

  • 30% crude protein, 20% crude fat ratio
  • Optimal protein supports strength and energy
  • Glucosamine boosts joint health and mobility
  • EPA from fish oil nourishes skin and coat
  • Natural prebiotic fiber aids digestion

Protein Sources: Chicken, rice, fish meal

Price: $$

11. Merrick Grain Free Real Texas Beef + Sweet Potato Recipe

Merrick crafts this grain-free food with real, deboned beef as the first ingredient. It offers quality protein, digestible sweet potatoes, probiotics and omega fatty acids.

Key Benefits:

  • Grain-free recipe with leading deboned beef
  • Contains probiotics and prebiotics for healthy digestion
  • Glucosamine and chondroitin support hips and joints
  • Made in USA facilities with USDA-inspected ingredients
  • No corn, soy, wheat, gluten or fillers

Protein Sources: Deboned beef, lamb meal, chicken meal

Price: $$$

12. Whole Earth Farms Grain Free Recipe Dry Dog Food

This affordable grain-free option from Whole Earth Farms contains quality protein sources like beef, lamb and fish meal. It has probiotics, vitamins and minerals for complete nutrition.

Key Benefits:

  • Budget-friendly grain-free choice
  • Leading proteins include beef, lamb, turkey and fish
  • Contains dried fermentation products for digestive health
  • Enriched with vitamins, chelated minerals and nutrients
  • Free of corn, wheat, soy, by-products, artificial colors and flavors

Protein Sources: Beef, lamb, poultry, fish

Price: $

13. Nature’s Recipe Grain Free Easy to Digest Salmon, Sweet Potato & Pumpkin Recipe

Nature’s Recipe delivers optimal protein and limited ingredients for dogs with food sensitivities. Pumpkin aids digestion while salmon and sweet potatoes provide gluten-free, grain-free nutrition.

Key Benefits:

  • Designed for dogs with food allergies or sensitivities
  • Grain-free recipe with gluten-free ancient grains
  • Pumpkin contains fiber to support digestive health
  • Omega fatty acids nourish skin and coat
  • Free of corn, soy, wheat, fillers and by-product meal

Protein Sources: Salmon, ocean fish meal, sweet potatoes

Price: $$

14. Purina ONE SmartBlend Natural Lamb & Rice Formula Adult Dry Dog Food

Purina ONE SmartBlend provides quality nutrition with real, natural ingredients like lamb as the first ingredient plus rice for carbohydrate energy. It supports whole body health.

Key Benefits:

  • Real, high-quality lamb is the #1 ingredient
  • Contains rice for natural grain carbohydrate energy
  • Natural sources of glucosamine support joint health
  • Omega-6 fatty acids nourish skin and coat
  • No artificial colors, flavors or preservatives

Protein Sources: Real lamb, lamb meal, rice

Price: $

15. Holistic Select Natural Grain Free Dry Dog Food

This premium grain-free food from Holistic Select contains digestible lamb, chicken and fish protein, prebiotics, probiotics and natural ingredients for whole body wellness.

Key Benefits:

  • Quality grain-free nutrition
  • Digests protein sources for easy absorption
  • Contains probiotics and natural fiber for healthy digestion
  • No wheat, corn, soy, artificial colors or flavors
  • Supports digestive, immune and skin health

Protein Sources: Lamb, chicken, chicken liver, anchovy and sardine

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Price: $$$

What Should You Look for in a High Quality Dog Food?

There are certain key factors to look for when evaluating a dog food brand and specific formula to determine if it’s a high quality option veterinarians would recommend:

Animal-Based Proteins

Quality dog foods have animal-based proteins like chicken, beef, fish or eggs as the first or second ingredient. Meat meals like chicken meal or fish meal also provide highly concentrated sources of protein. Plant-based proteins like pea or potato protein are less bioavailable.

Limited Ingredients

Avoid dog foods with long lists of vague ingredients like “poultry fat” or “animal digest.” Limited ingredient, whole food recipes are optimal.

Whole Food Carbohydrates

Look for digestible whole food sources of carbs like brown rice, barley, sweet potatoes, peas or oatmeal. Avoid fillers like corn, wheat and soy.

Natural Vitamin and Mineral Blend

The food should contain a complete vitamin and mineral profile to avoid deficiencies. This includes calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, iron, zinc, copper, potassium, sodium, vitamins A, C, D, E, B12, and more.

Omega Fatty Acids

Omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids support skin/coat health and reduce inflammation. Look for foods with omega acids from fish, plant or animal sources.

No Artificial Additives

Avoid artificial preservatives like BHA, BHT or ethoxyquin as well as artificial colors and flavors. Look for all natural ingredients.

Answers to Frequently Asked Questions About the Best Dog Foods Vets Recommend

What dog food brands do most veterinarians recommend?

Veterinarians most often recommend and prescribe therapeutic veterinary formulas from Royal Canin, Hill’s Science Diet, Purina and Iams for dogs with specific health conditions. They also regularly suggest foods like Wellness Core, Blue Buffalo, Taste of the Wild, Nutro, American Journey, and Merrick to healthy dogs.

Is it worth paying more for premium dog food?

Yes, spending a little more on a high quality dog food made with premium, natural ingredients can pay off exponentially in significant health benefits. Lower quality foods can result in higher vet bills down the road.

What’s better – raw, wet, or dry dog food?

Each type has pros and cons. Raw diets are more natural but have a higher risk of bacterial contamination. Wet foods contain more moisture and are easier to eat for some dogs, but dry kibble is more budget-friendly and convenient while still providing complete nutrition. The best food depends on your dog’s needs and preferences.

Should I make my own dog food?

Making your own dog food can be risky since it’s challenging to formulate a complete and balanced diet on your own. Unless you consult a veterinary nutritionist, it’s safest to feed your dog a nutritionally complete commercial dog food that meets AAFCO standards.

How much should I feed my dog per day?

Check the feeding guidelines on your dog food’s packaging based on your dog’s weight and activity level. Puppies require 2-4 times more calories per pound than adult dogs. Senior dogs need 20% fewer calories. Adjust amounts based on whether your dog loses or gains weight.

How often should dogs eat?

Most healthy adult dogs eat twice per day – once in the morning and once at night. Puppies need 3-4 smaller meals throughout the day. Feed your dog at the same times daily and always provide access to fresh, clean water.

The Importance of Choosing the Right Dog Food

Feeding your dog an optimal diet lays the foundation for their health and quality of life. That’s why it’s so critical to select a high quality food formulated to meet your dog’s unique nutritional requirements. While price is always a consideration, investing in a premium food made with natural, wholesome ingredients will pay dividends in your dog’s wellbeing for years to come.

To choose the perfect food for your canine companion, consult your veterinarian and consider factors like your dog’s age, breed size, activity level and any medical conditions. Providing tailored nutrition through the right dog food gives your pup the best chance to live a long, happy and healthy life by your side.

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