How to choose the right food for your dog, according to veterinarians – New York Post

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Navigating the myriad options for your dog’s food, whether wet or dry, for large or small breeds, can be daunting. To clear the confusion, we consulted experts to clarify what to feed your fur baby. After all, they deserve the very best and the most thoughtful action we can take.

Dr. Hannah Hart, a veterinarian at Chewy with over six years of experience, emphasized the importance of starting with “reputable brands,” suggesting Purina, Hill’s, Iams, Royal Canin, and Eukanuba. These brands support their products with extensive science-backed research and lifelong trials.

RELATED: 15 best online pet stores for spoiling your pup

The traditional grain vs. grain-free diet is a hot-button topic in the vet world and one we discussed with our experts.

“The FDA is still investigating the link between feeding grain-free diets and heart disease in dogs, but it may be best to feed dogs grain-inclusive diets unless otherwise instructed by their veterinarian for other health reasons like allergies and food sensitivities,” said Dr. Hart, who specializes in food safety for animals.

We strongly urge you to consult your vet before switching your dog to a grain-free diet or the latest trend to ensure it will give it the nutrition it needs.

Post Wanted Picks

If you’re considering wet dog food, it’s a great option for dogs needing more water in their diet, “even if they are drinking well,” says Dr. Hart. Wet dog food is easier on the gums for dogs who can’t chew and beneficial for those with conditions like diarrhea, kidney disease, Cushing’s disease, diabetes, or urinary tract infections.

So, whether you are searching for the best puppy food for large-breed dogs, small breeds, or puppies, there is something here for you. To learn more skip to our FAQ for all things dog food and diets.

A bag of dog food


  • Non-GMO ingredients
  • Good for small and large breeds
  • Works for dogs with sensitive stomachs


  • Only four pouches come in a case

“I’ve been feeding Freshpet to my pups for years!” said Dr. Katy Nelson, a senior veterinarian at Chewy. “I love that the only preservative that they use is your refrigerator. Fresh, natural ingredients are used and they’re slowly steamed to preserve the maximum nutrient availability.”

This expert pick made the list, as this is what Dr. Nelson feeds her own furry family member. The Freshpet collection can be found on Chewy, including the chicken recipe pictured above.

Purina ONE +Plus High Protein Healthy Puppy Formula Dry Puppy Food, 31.1-lb bag


  • Great for all puppies
  • Includes DHA, protein, calcium, and more


  • None we can add

For strong skin, a radiant coat, and a healthy immune system, this 31.1-pound Purina One fits the bill, matching a wide array of suggestions from our vets. It includes DHA for brain development and calcium for healthy bones and joints. Plus, it’s a “trusted” brand by Dr. Mann that works closely with veterinary nutritionists. Suitable for large-breed puppies to small breeds.

Purina Pro Plan Puppy Sensitive Skin & Stomach Salmon & Rice Dry Dog Food


  • Top choice for sensitive skin and stomach
  • Combines both meat and grains


  • Only three sizes to choose from

This 16-pound bag, which comes in three sizes, is packed with probiotics and is filled with rich protein, salmon, and rice.

“Alternative protein sources for some dogs can be plant-based beans, corn, and whole grains, but very dog dependent and occasionally palatability can be an issue. Nutritionists often recommend diets with both animal and plant protein sources to maximize overall protein quality,” said Dr. Jessica Hockaday, a veterinarian from Chewy.

It’s a best-seller at Chewey for a reason: it’s created for sensitive stomachs that can’t process corn, wheat, or soy, yet it’s still high in protein.

Iams Advanced Health Skin & Coat Chicken & Salmon Recipe Adult Dry Dog Food


  • Promotes a healthy coat and skin
  • Lots of sizes to choose from


  • None we can find

Dr. Hockaday recommends protein sources that remain whole and “unaltered,” such as chicken meal, which is code for entire chicken or “whole grains,” etc. “Most animal proteins provide the range of amino acids that a large-breed dog needs to thrive.”

Rich in omega-6 and -3 fatty acids, this 13.5-pound bag of kibble provides essential nutrients to promote a healthy coat and skin.

Purina Pro Plan Specialized Shredded Blend Beef & Rice Formula High Protein Small Breed Dry Dog Food


  • Best overall for adult dogs
  • Includes calcium, phosphorus, and omega-6 fatty acids


  • Only two sizes are available

If your dog is in need of a high-protein diet, this formula is rich with beef as its number one ingredient for active dogs. Designed for adult dogs under 20 pounds, this 18-pound bag is rich in calcium, phosphorus, and omega-6 fatty acids for strong bones and a shiny coat.

Royal Canin Size Health Nutrition Small Puppy Dry Dog Food


  • Best for ages between two to ten months


  • Not created for all ages

This diet supports brain development, energy needs, and immune system health through antioxidants, all needed for a growing pup. It is best for pups ages between two to ten months, with an expected weight of nine to twenty-two pounds. Available in two sizes: 2.5-pound and 14-pound bags.

Hill's Science Diet Adult Small Mini Savory Stew Beef & Vegetable Wet Dog Food Trays


  • Best for small dogs
  • Packed with protein


  • Not created for large breed puppies

This savory beef and vegetable stew is packed with protein and grains, or you can order Hill’s chicken and vegetable flavor. It comes in a pack of 12, 3.5-ounce single-serve trays to ensure exact food portions for ways regulations. If you don’t want to give all of it at once, cover the tray and place it in the fridge. Your puppy will eagerly lap up the delicious chicken and rice blend, specially formulated with ample protein to promote lean muscle development.

A bag of dog food for dogs with allergies


  • Single source carbohydrate
  • Hydrolyzed Protein


  • First ingredient isn’t meat, but the second is hydrolyzed chicken liver

No one likes being itchy — even dogs. For Buddy’s allergies, go with Royal Canin. It has a Dermauxilium Complex for skin health, as well as highly hydrolyzed protein to promote better stools and digestion. The food also has a host of vitamins and minerals. Available in 8-25 pound bags.

VICTOR Purpose Senior Healthy Weight Dry Dog Food


  • Created for senior dogs and their decreased energy
  • Promotes a strong immune and healthy digestive system


  • None we can add

Joint health is crucial for your dear aged pup. “In general, [senior dogs] will have lower energy requirements, lower dietary phosphorus needs, we want to restrict dietary sodium, quality protein source (lower if kidney disease is an issue) and increase in fiber,” said Dr. Hockaday.

This 15-pound bag has prebiotics and probiotics to strengthen its immune and healthy digestive system and focuses on mineral complexes to regulate the metabolism. Dr. Hockaday said that “the prebiotic effects of grains in both diets are very beneficial to maintain healthy gut flora in large-breed dogs.”

Diamond Naturals Light Formula Dry Dog Food


  • Helps keep your dog lean


  • Not many portion sizes to choose from

According to Dr. Hockaday, roughly 20-60% of dogs in America are obese. “For large-breed dogs, a healthy weight and avoiding obesity in all life stages needs to be one of the most important goals to keep your dog healthy,” she said.

Although plenty of exercise and portion control contribute to an ideal weight, food can help.

The brand, Diamond, noted that this formula contains 15 percent fewer calories than the original Diamond Naturals Adult Dog Lamb Meal & Rice formula. It’ll help give your dog a boost in the right direction. Of course, if you can’t seem to say no to your pup, consider buying healthier low-calorie treats.


Thanks to Dr. Hannah Hart and her extensive expertise in food safety, animal welfare, public health, and dog and cat nutrition, we have compiled a well-informed list of answers.

What are the essential nutrients that dogs need in their diet?

Dogs need a balanced diet that includes proteins, fats, carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals, and water. Essential amino acids, specific fatty acids like linoleic acid, EPA, and DHA, along with key vitamins and minerals, are crucial. These nutrients support muscle development, joint health, brain and eye development, and maintaining a healthy skin and coat.

How do nutritional requirements vary based on age, size, breed, and activity level?

Nutritional needs change with age, size, breed, and activity level. Puppies and seniors need more protein; puppies need it for growth, and seniors need it to preserve muscle mass. Smaller dogs, with their faster metabolism, require more protein, fats, and carbohydrates per volume of food than larger dogs. While breed-specific needs exist, size and specific health issues often dictate dietary requirements. Active dogs need more protein to support lean muscle mass.

Are there specific dietary needs for dogs with health conditions?

Dogs with health conditions require specific dietary adjustments. For instance, dogs with sensitive stomachs benefit from prebiotic fiber and probiotics. Weight loss diets are low in calories and high in fiber. Dogs with kidney disease need diets low in protein, phosphorus, and sodium, supplemented with omega-3 fatty acids. Diabetic dogs require high-fiber, low-fat, low-carb diets with added L-carnitine.

Are there any ingredients that should be avoided or prioritized?

Avoid onions, garlic, dairy, raw meat, raw eggs, and bones. Prioritize high-quality protein sources listed early in the ingredient list. Include grains unless a grain-free diet is medically necessary. Always ensure the food has an AAFCO nutritional adequacy statement to guarantee balanced nutrition.

What nutritional requirements distinguish large-breed dogs from smaller breeds?

Large breed dogs have notably slower metabolic rates compared to smaller breeds, necessitating fewer calories per pound of body weight for maintaining their ideal weight as adults. While small dogs may require around 40 calories per pound, large breed dogs typically need approximately 22.5 calories per pound of body weight to support their nutritional needs effectively.

How important is protein content in small-breed dog food?

Protein is essential for small-breed dogs to build lean muscle mass and support overall health. Quality protein sources like fish, chicken, beef, and lamb are recommended, as they provide essential amino acids necessary for proper growth and development.

What are the benefits or drawbacks of grain-free versus grain-inclusive diets for dogs?

While grain-inclusive diets have gained popularity and are generally considered safe, recent concerns have arisen regarding grain-free diets and their potential link to heart issues. It’s essential to consult a veterinarian to determine the best dietary approach for your small-breed dog, considering factors like overall health and specific nutritional needs.

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