Choosing the right dog food is one of the most important decisions a pet parent can make. The food you feed your furry friend impacts their health, energy levels, skin and coat condition, digestive health, weight management and more. With so many dog food options on the market, it can be overwhelming trying to decide which brand is truly the best for your pup.
That’s why consulting with veterinary nutrition experts is so valuable when selecting a dog food. Veterinarians and board-certified veterinary nutritionists are the most qualified to assess dog food quality, ingredients and formulation. They can provide science-backed recommendations tailored to your dog’s unique nutritional needs.
This comprehensive guide reviews the top dog food brands recommended by veterinarians in 2022. We’ll cover what veterinarians look for in a high quality dog food, break down the top picks for puppies and adult dogs, and summarize why these dog food brands are trusted by so many pet experts. Read on for the top veterinarian recommended picks to find the perfect dog food for your furry best friend!
What Do Veterinarians Look for in Dog Food?
When reviewing dog foods, veterinarians analyze several key factors to determine quality, nutritional value and safety:
- Whole meat, fish or poultry: Dogs thrive on high protein diets with quality animal-based proteins. Whole meats rather than by-products provide optimal amino acid nutrition.
- Digestible carbohydrates: Whole grains like brown rice and oatmeal are preferred over refined grains. Low glycemic veggies and fruits are also ideal.
- Healthy fats: Essential fatty acids from fish, flaxseed and other ingredients support skin, coat and overall health.
- Limited by-products: Occasional by-products are OK but shouldn’t be main ingredients.
- AAFCO feeding trials: Ensures the formula meets all canine nutritional needs when fed as sole diet.
- Species-appropriate: Matching a dog’s biological needs as carnivores. Higher protein, moderate fat, low carb.
- Life stage specific: Puppies, adults and seniors need tailored calorie, protein, fat, and micronutrient levels.
- Veterinary therapeutic diets: To help manage illnesses and conditions like obesity, kidney disease, food allergies, etc.
- Safety protocols: Rigorous supplier screening, testing for pathogens and toxins, sanitary facilities.
- Quality control: Regular lab testing to validate nutritional adequacy and product consistency.
- Scientific research: Developing formulas backed by clinical nutrition research trials.
- Expert formulations: Created with guidance from PhD nutritionists and veterinarians.
- Transparent sourcing: Disclosing where ingredients are sourced from for traceability.
Top Veterinarian Recommended Puppy Food Brands
Puppyhood is a time of rapid growth and development. Puppy foods provide the extra calories, protein, fat, and micronutrients growing pups need. Here are the top veterinarian recommended puppy food brands.
1. Royal Canin Puppy Food
Royal Canin crafts breed-size-and-life-stage-specific diets backed by research. Their puppy foods like Labrador Retriever Puppy and German Shepherd Puppy formulas are veterinarian trusted.
- Tailored calories and nutrients for each breed’s growth needs
- Proprietary complexes support immune system development
- Aids digestive health and reduces stool odor
- Excellent palatability for picky eaters
2. Hill’s Science Diet Puppy Food
This veterinarian-formulated brand meets strict quality standards. Hill’s Science Diet Puppy formulas provide precisely balanced nutrition.
- Clinically proven antioxidants for immune support
- Quality proteins for lean muscle growth
- Brain-boosting DHA from fish oil
- Proprietary blends for digestive and skin health
3. Purina Pro Plan Puppy Food
Backed by Purina’s extensive research, Pro Plan puppy diets deliver optimal protein and nutrients. Formulas meet nutritional levels established by the AAFCO Dog Food Nutrient Profiles.
- Real meat is the #1 ingredient
- Fortified with live probiotics for digestive health
- DHA from fish oil for brain, vision, and training
- Made without corn, wheat or soy fillers
4. Nutro Puppy Food
Nutro uses simple, non-GMO ingredients in their formulas. They have both grain-inclusive and grain-free puppy food recipes.
- High quality farm-raised chicken, lamb or salmon
- Natural sources of glucosamine and chondroitin for joint health
- Antioxidant-rich fruits and veggies
- Probiotics and digestive enzymes
5. Blue Buffalo Puppy Food
Blue Buffalo features wholesome ingredients and “LifeSource Bits” – a proprietary blend of antioxidants, vitamins and minerals. Their puppy foods support growth and Building Blocks for puppy development.
- Delicious, protein-packed recipes like Chicken & Rice and Lamb & Oatmeal
- Contains DHA and ARA for cognitive development
- Includes LifeSource Bits – antioxidant-rich granules with vitamins and minerals
- Natural ingredients with no poultry by-product meals
Top Veterinarian Recommended Dog Food Brands for Adults
Once pups reach adulthood, their nutritional needs change. Here are the top veterinarian recommended dog food brands for healthy adult dogs.
1. Royal Canin Adult Dog Food
Royal Canin creates precise formulas for a dog’s breed, size, age and specific health needs. Their highly palatable adult dog diets are vet recommended.
- Tailored calories and nutrients for each breed and size
- Aids digestive health with prebiotics and fiber
- Helps maintain ideal weight and body condition
- Supports joint health with EPA and glucosamine
2. Purina Pro Plan Adult Dog Food
With high protein and optimized amino acid ratios, Pro Plan fuels an active adult dog’s muscles and metabolism. Their formulas help maintain energy and an ideal weight.
- Real meat like chicken, salmon or lamb is the first ingredient
- Natural prebiotic fiber from wheat bran for digestive regularity
- Fortified with guaranteed live probiotics
- Made without corn, wheat, or soy fillers
3. Hill’s Science Diet Adult Dog Food
Clinically proven nutrition with quality ingredients back Hill’s Science Diet recipes. Their adult dog food provides balanced nutrition for dogs ages 1-6.
- Formulated by PhD nutritionists and veterinarians
- Lean proteins and natural fibers promote ideal weight
- Clinically tested antioxidants boost immunity
- Enhanced palatability for taste and enjoyment
4. Eukanuba Adult Dog Food
Eukanuba partners with nutrition experts and breeders to formulate breed-specific diets. Their adult dog recipes provide optimized protein and fat.
- Animal-based proteins deliver essential amino acids
- Breed-specific options available
- Natural sources of glucosamine and chondroitin
- Fortified with probiotics for digestion
5. Wellness Core Adult Dog Food
With grain-free options packed with meat and nutrients, Wellness CORE formulas are veterinarian approved. They’re a great choice for active dogs.
- Up to 90% more meat than typical dog food
- Grain-free, high protein recipes
- Contains probiotics and antioxidants
- Natural DHA for brain health
Why Veterinarians Recommend These Dog Food Brands
Veterinarians consider these brands among the highest quality dog foods because they offer:
- Strict quality control: Rigorously tested for nutrient levels and safety.
- Natural, wholesome ingredients: Premium proteins, digestible carbs and healthy fats.
- Species-appropriate nutrition: Formulated for a dog’s biological needs as carnivores.
- Life stage specific formulas: Tailored nutrition for puppies, adults and senior dogs.
- Therapeutic diet options: To help manage illness, obesity and other conditions.
- Research and trials backed: Developed alongside veterinary nutrition experts.
- Trusted brand reputation: Popular among veterinarians for consistent quality.
- Highly palatable taste: Supported by taste tests and feeding trials.
- Nutritional adequacy: Meets all complete and balanced nutritional standards through AAFCO feeding trials.
Finding the Best Dog Food for YOUR Pup
While these brands are top-rated across the board, every dog has individual nutritional needs. Be sure to:
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- Consult your veterinarian: Get diet advice tailored to your dog’s health status, body condition, activity level and lifestyle.
- Consider your dog’s preferences: Factor in food sensitivities, allergies, taste preferences, and chewing ability.
- Read labels carefully: Check ingredients, sourcing, nutrition analysis, calorie content.
- Transition slowly: Mix old and new food together over 5-7 days to ease digestion.
- Monitor your dog: Assess energy, appetite, weight, coat, allergies and digestive health. Adjust food as needed.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why is my veterinarian always recommending the big dog food brands?
Veterinarians frequently recommend brands like Royal Canin, Purina and Hill’s Science Diet because they have extensive quality control measures and conduct extensive feeding trials and research. This ensures optimal nutrition and safety. Large companies also employ PhD nutritionists and veterinarians to formulate their foods.
Are veterinarian-recommended dog foods more expensive?
They often cost more than grocery store brands, but for good reason. The rigorous testing, top-quality ingredients, palatability trials and nutritional research make them cost more to produce. But the recipes are highly concentrated to deliver complete nutrition in every bite.
Should I look for “natural” and grain-free dog foods?
Not necessarily. Those terms don’t guarantee higher quality. Veterinarians look beyond buzzwords to ensure the recipe delivers balanced nutrition. Whole grains like brown rice and oats are perfectly healthy for dogs. It’s best to focus on meat-first recipes with digestible carbs, not trendy labels.
Should I give my puppy a “large breed puppy” or regular puppy formula?
Talk to your vet, as recommendations vary. Some say large breed pups should be on adult food more quickly to control weight. Others prefer a puppy food formulated for larger breed growth rates. Get your vet’s advice based on your breed, growth rate and their experiences.
How important is it to feed a breed-specific formula?
Breed- and size-specific recipes can be beneficial, as different breeds have variations in metabolism, activity levels, skeletal growth rates and more. That said, a high quality food tailored for your dog’s life stage is most critical. Consult your vet on what’s best for your individual pup.
When should I switch from puppy to adult dog food?
Typically between 12-24 months old, depending on breed size. Very small dogs may transition earlier, while giant breeds need longer puppyhood nutrition. Get specific advice from your veterinarian, as the timing will depend on your dog’s growth, body condition and health.
The Takeaway: Choose a Veterinarian-Recommended Brand for Complete Nutrition
When it comes to dog food, you can feel confident feeding a trusted brand recommended by veterinarians. Royal Canin, Purina Pro Plan, Hill’s Science Diet, Eukanuba and other top choices deliver optimal nutrition backed by science. Partner with your vet to select the right formula. With a high quality veterinarian-approved food, you can give your furry friend the nutrition he needs to thrive.