How to Choose the Best Dog Food

How to Choose the Best Dog Food header
14 November 2022

How to Choose the Best Dog Food

It is easy to become overwhelmed by the sheer variety of dog food available today, especially when you want to ensure that your dog has the best! 

At Pet Drugs Online, we care about your dog almost as much as you do. That’s why we’ve put together this helpful guide on how to choose the best possible dog food by taking into consideration a number of factors, including:

Diet-Specific Dog Food

We are going to start with the basics and look at the different types of diets available to your dog and the differences between them. 

Dry Dog Food

Dry dog food is probably the more popular option when it comes to a dog's diet because it’s so widely accessible, affordable, and also keeps for longer. Dry dog food is made by combining ingredients such as meat and grains, grinding them together and then baking to produce the kibble. This process makes the starches in the food easier for dogs to digest while also destroying any toxins in the ingredients. Dry dog food has a lower water content (about 10%) which is why it doesn’t need to be refrigerated, giving it a much longer shelf life. 

There are also a few other benefits for choosing dry dog food for your dog, including: 

  • Does not spoil — Can be left out all day for picky eaters.
  • Versatile — Can be used in puzzles and enrichment toys.
  • Encourages chewing for dogs that eat too quickly.

While some dogs may benefit from eating only wet, or a combination of wet and dry, dog food, dogs can live perfectly healthy lives on dry dog food alone. Plenty of big-name brands offer a range of dry dog foods including, Purina, Royal Canin, and more!

Wet Dog Food

Another option for your dog’s diet is to feed them wet dog food. Unlike dry food, wet dog food can have a moisture content of up to 78% depending on the brand. This is because wet dog food is made by grinding all the protein, or meat ingredients, together with a gravy that’s packed full of vitamins and minerals. Then grains are added to the mix before the food is cooked, sterilised and canned. 

There are a number of benefits to your dog living off of a wet food diet, including: 

  • Wet food is more appetising to your dog’s sense of smell and taste. 
  • Wet food is softer and easier to chew. 
  • Dogs eating wet dog food tend to feel fuller for longer.

While any dog can live off of a diet of wet food, it is especially good for older dogs or dogs with health issues or anomalies as it’s easier for them to chew. 

Mixed Dog Food

For some, the preferable option is to give their dog the best of both worlds with a mixed food diet. As the term suggests, a mixed food diet is when you mix both wet and dry food together. This way you can be sure that your dog is getting all the required nutrients, while also experiencing different tastes and textures. 

The mixed dog food diet is especially good for fussy eaters who need the aromas to coax them into eating, and for someone looking to transfer their dog from either wet or dry food to the other.

browse our full range of dog food

Breed-Specific Dog Food

There are a number of breeds of dogs in the world, and each one comes with their own characteristics. Your dog’s breed determines not only how your dog looks, but can also affect their temperament, how easy they are to train, what medical conditions they are more predisposed to, and so much more. This is why it’s always a good idea to consider if a breed-specific dog food would be a good choice for your dog.

Seeing as there are over almost two hundred different breeds of dog (excluding cross and mixed breeds), there isn’t a breed-specific food for every single one. That’s why we’ve chosen to focus on the needs and nutritional requirements of some of the most popular registered breeds in the UK. 

Labrador in the grass

Labrador Retriever 

Labrador Retrievers (commonly referred to just Labradors, or Labs) are a large breed that is friendly and high-spirited, making them a popular companion and family dog. They’re rather sturdily built and initially worked as duck retrievers and fisherman mates.

A typical lab can grow anywhere between 21.5 to 24.5 inches at the shoulder and weigh between 55 to 80 pounds. They have a dense coat that is either yellow, black, or chocolate in colour and they have a tapered ‘otter tail’, that seems to always be wagging. 

Labradors are extremely energetic and enthusiastic, so require a lot of exercise to keep them both physically and mentally fit.

As far as their health goes, Labradors can be prone to a number of issues, especially as they age. Hip and elbow dysplasia, bloat, and issues with their muscles and joints are the most common health risks. If you’re looking to keep your lab as healthy as possible, we’d recommend feeding your lab a specific labrador food like the Eukanuba Breed Specific Labrador Retriever dry food.

Cocker Spaniel in a flower patch

Cocker Spaniel  

The smallest of the sporting Spaniels, the Cocker Spaniel, is one of the world’s most loved dog breeds. They were initially developed as hunting dogs because of their sturdy, well-balanced body along with their speed and durability. 

Cocker Spaniels are known for their luscious ears and coat, which come in a wide variety of colours and markings. However, when in full coat, a Cocker will require some extra grooming to keep them looking prim and proper. Standing between 14-15 inches, a Cocker Spaniel is big enough to be sporty but small enough to be portable, which makes them a popular companion. They’re also eager playmates, so are the perfect choice for a family dog. 

Cocker Spaniels are a pretty healthy breed, so long as they are appropriately cared for. Their coats can be prone to matting, which may cause skin issues, and those big floppy ears also need to be cleaned regularly inside and out (speak to a vet on the proper cleaning procedure).

Cocker Spaniel-specific food, such as the Royal Canin Cocker Spaniel Adult Breed Health Nutrition Dog Food, has added nutrients to help keep your dog’s skin nourished and healthy including, borage oil, vitamin A, and Omega-3 fatty acids.

German Shepherd lying in the grass

German Shepherd

Another highly popular breed is the German Shepherd. Commonly used as a working dogs, these loyal dogs have high intelligence and are a popular companions for families and single owners alike. They stand between 22-26 inches high and can weigh anywhere from 65 to 80 pounds when fully grown. 

Their ability to learn a variety of commands makes them extremely popular as working dogs, including being a part of K9 Units and even mobility assistance jobs. Thanks to their active lifestyles, German Shepherds need the appropriate diet to keep them fit and healthy. The Eukanuba Breed Specific German Shepherd dry dog food is packed full of nutrients to help keep your dog happy, including glucosamine and chondroitin sulphate for healthy joints and mobility, as well as probiotics to promote optimal digestion as this breed is also prone to bloat.

Boxer in a field

Boxer

The Boxer has been a popular breed of dog for a long time thanks to their loyalty, affection and intelligence. Their patient and playful nature also make them good with children, so they make for a great family pet. Plus, these stunning dogs are very upbeat and will take their role as a family guardian ‌seriously. 

These stocky dogs can grow between 21-25 inches tall and weigh from 65 to 80 pounds. While they are a strong dog breed, they are predisposed to several health issues, including hip dysplasia, heart conditions, thyroid deficiency, degenerative myelopathy, and certain cancers. This is why it’s essential that you are feeding your Boxer the best possible diet to keep them happy and healthy throughout their lifestyle. 

If you are looking for a complete and balanced dog food for your Boxer, then we recommend the Royal Canin Boxer Adult Breed Health Nutrition Dog Food, which is tailor-made for Boxer’s short jaws and also encourages sufficient chewing. 

While there isn’t yet a breed-specific food for all the various dog breeds out there, that’s not to say you can’t still find a tailor-made diet that will suit your dog's needs. Some dog breeds will share some of the same health concerns as breeds that ‌have a specific food, or, you can choose to go for size-specific dog food. 

Size-Specific Dog Food

When it comes to size-specific food, you’ll find that there’s a lot more scope regarding which dogs they’re suitable for. Instead of singling out a single breed, size specific dog food can be given to any dog that fits within the parameters of that ‌size group, the key ones being small dogs, medium dogs, large dogs, and extra large or giant dogs. 

Small Dog Food 

Small dog food is predominantly intended for any dog breed that, when fully grown, is still under 20 pounds in weight. This included plenty of popular dog breeds, including Pugs, Chihuahuas, Pomeranians, and more. 

Small dog food is made in the same way as large breed food, but the kibble is made smaller and the wet food is more ground up to help their smaller mouths chew. Small dog breeds also have a much faster metabolism than bigger breeds, so small-breed dog food is much higher in calories, so they get all the nutrients and energy they need without increasing their serving or overfeeding. 

If you’re looking for a complete small dog breed-specific food, then the Purina Pro Plan OptiBalance Small & Mini Dog Food is a great choice. 

Medium Dog Food

A medium size specific dog food is a safe middle ground. It encompasses any dog between 21 and 50 pounds, including English Bulldogs, Border Collies, and even Greyhounds. 

Medium dog breeds don’t need any more or less nutrients than other breed sizes, so medium-sized dog food will offer your dog the perfect amount of nutrients for your dog’s size without affecting the amount they eat. 

We have found that a good all-around medium dog food is the Royal Canin Veterinary Health Nutrition Adult Medium Breed Dog Food.

Large Dog Food 

Large dog breed food is formulated for dog breeds that weigh between 51 and 100 pounds. Since these dog breeds tend to have much more growing to do, it’s packed with added nutrients to support healthy bones and joints, such as glucosamine chondroitin and MSM.

Large breed dog food is also made with a larger kibble to help encourage chewing for dogs that need encouragement to chew their food before swallowing. Many large dog breeds can also be predisposed to sensitive stomachs and bloat, which can have serious ramifications to their health if they’re properly cared for. 

Much like medium size dog breeds, there is a vast variety of large dog breeds, including Australian Shepherds, Golden Retrievers, and Doberman Pinschers. There are plenty of high-quality large dog breed foods offered by a range of manufacturers, like Hill's Science Plan Large Breed Adult Dog Food for Healthy Mobility.

Puppy and adult dog booping noses

Age-Specific Dog Food

Just like how dogs need different diets depending on their breed and size, they also have different nutritional requirements for each of their life stages. The general life stages for dogs are puppy, junior, adult, and senior. 

Puppy Food

During their earliest weeks, puppies need all the nutrients they can get in order to grow into healthy dogs. 

Up to 8 Weeks Old

From birth, puppies are raised on milk from their mother which has the exact nutritional composition to help them develop both physically and socially. 

The earliest a puppy should be separated from its mother is at 8 weeks old. This is typically the point where they’ve been weaned off of their mother’s milk and can go to their new homes. However, some specialists recommended puppies should stay with their mothers until they are 12 weeks old. 

There may be some instances where a puppy is left without a mother, or another can’t feed her large litter as effectively. This is where it may be necessary to use an appropriate dog milk substitute like this Royal Canin Baby Dog Milk

These substitutes are made with carefully selected and ultra-digestible proteins with a lactose content similar to that of a mother's milk. They’re also enriched with DHA to help the continuing nervous system development as well as vitamins E and C, lutein, and taurine to support their still-developing immune systems.

While dog milk substitutes are not as good as the real thing, puppies raised on a milk substitute can and do still grow up to be happy and healthy dogs. 

8-16 Weeks Old

By this time, puppies should be mostly weaned off of their mother’s milk or any milk substituted and should be eating solid foods designed to support skeletal growth. That means regulated amounts of calcium, phosphorus, and Vitamin D. Puppies at this age should be fed between 3-4 times per day to keep them satiated without overfeeding. 

At this stage, puppies can also be introduced to unmoistened dry food if that’s your preferred dog food, although wet puppy food may be easier to chew (even if it can get a little messy).

16 + Weeks Old 

At this age, a puppy is beginning to build up its body mass. It is important to note when feeding puppies you want to aim for optimal growth, over maximum growth. This means allowing your puppy to eat at scheduled times and not through free feeding. 

The number of times you feed your puppy at this age should have decreased and they should be eating food with plenty of high-quality protein that’s easy to digest, like the James Wellbeloved Puppy/Junior Grain Free Turkey Dog Food.

As your puppy continues on to adulthood, they still need additional support for their joints, especially large dog breeds, because as their muscles fill out, it can put pressure on their skeleton. 

browse our full range of puppy food

Adult Dog Food 

When a dog is considered an adult depends a lot on their breed. To be considered an adult, a dog’s body must have finished growing and completely matured. For some smaller breeds, this can happen as soon as seven months, whereas larger or giant breeds may not be fully grown until as late as 18 months. 

The key difference between adult and puppy food is a reduction in the number of calories. Adult dogs who stay too long on puppy food are at a much higher risk of becoming obese, which ‌can lead to health issues later on.

It’s also important that you remember not to switch your dog from puppy to adult food immediately, but to introduce the change gradually to avoid severe stomach upsets. This is why some owners choose to employ junior dog food.

Remember, when transitioning between foods, slight stomach and digestive upset is common and is not cause for concern. However, if you are ever worried about a dog's health or would like more advice on changing your dog’s diet, speak with your vet. 

Senior Dog Food

As with when transitioning from puppy to adult, the age at which a dog is considered senior will depend on their breed and size. Smaller dog breeds, while they grow quicker in their youth, actually have a longer lifespan than older breeds. So, while some large and giant dog breeds can be considered senior between 5-7 years old, smaller dog breeds may not be senior until they are 10-12 years old. 

As your dog ages, they may become more prone to certain health conditions and even allergies. The most common health concern is obesity, as older dogs tend not to move as much. As such, senior dog food has less fat in order to help them maintain a healthy weight and lean muscle mass. 

Some senior foods, like the Purina Pro Plan OptiAge Dog Food for medium and large dogs, have added nutrients, such as medium-chain triglycerides to aid brain function as well as vitamins to support immune systems and energy levels.

Condition-Specific Dog Food

No matter their breed or age, some dogs may develop — or even be born with — certain medical conditions that may affect what they need from their diet. This can be anything from a predisposition to obesity, or even allergies to certain ingredients in common dog food. 

That’s why there is also a range of condition-specific dog food available to buy to suit your dog’s needs. These foods are tailored for specific conditions, including, but not limited to:

  • Gastrointestinal issues
  • Chronic kidney disease
  • Urinary Tract Diseases
  • Joint Issues 
  • And more. 

These specific foods may even have been prescribed by your vet, along with certain supplements. 

Grain Free Dog Food 

Many dog foods contain grains such as wheat, corn, rye, oat, rice, or millet. While most dogs live perfectly healthy lives with grain in their diets, it is possible for a dog to have an allergy to these ingredients. Signs of allergies in your dog include: 

  • Itchiness
  • Excessive hair loss
  • Bald patches
  • Inflamed skin
  • Sores and scabs

In these instances, you may need to switch your dog to a grain-free or hypoallergenic dog food like the Royal Canin Hypoallergenic Veterinary Health Nutrition Dog Food.

Dog Food Brands

There are a number of high-quality dog food brands available on the market and from us here at Pet Drugs Online. These brands come highly recommended by vets and dog owners alike. 

Royal Canin

Originally founded in 1968, Royal Canin is one of the leading manufacturers of healthy pet food for dogs and cats. They strive for understanding the complete needs of both cats and dogs and creating nutritious foods to meet all of their needs. 

All of their research is pet focused and doesn’t follow trends in human nutrition or the preferences of the owners. This is how they can create a number of fantastic dog food formulas which cater for specific breeds and health condition requirements. Some of the breed-specific foods they offer include:

  • Beagle
  • Chihuahua
  • Dachshund
  • French Bulldog
  • Great Dane
  • Jack Russell Terrier
  • Shih Tzu
  • And more! 

As for conditions, they had taken dog health science research to whole new levels and offer condition-specific foods and supplements for:

  • Bone/joint support
  • Dental health
  • Liver health
  • Skin/coat
  • Sport/working
  • Urinary health
  • Heart health
  • And more! 

browse our range of royal canin

James Wellbeloved

James Wellbeloved has been keeping pets happy, healthy and full of life for thirty years, and they’re not looking to stop anytime soon. Their recipes are simple and full of goodness, offering your dog a complete and balanced meal from only the best that nature has to give. 

They offer a great range of free-from and grain-free dog foods, and all of their foods are made without the use of any dairy, soya, eggs, artificial preservatives or cheap bulking ingredients.

The James Wellbeloved dog food range is available for all breed sizes and ages and can be bought as either wet or dry food. Browse our full range of James Wellbeloved here. 

Hill’s Science Plan

Hill’s was founded by Dr Mark Morris, an exceptional vet who believed that we as owners should be taking as much care for our pet’s health as we do our own. Now, Hill’s are dedicated to pet health and ensuring we get to spend as much time as possible with our beloved pets. 

Hill’s offers an extensive range of dog foods which are full of science-led ingredients that are trusted by veterinarians. They even have their own range of prescription dog foods to aid the treatment of a variety of conditions, including: 

  • Weight management 
  • Kidney support
  • Digestive care
  • Skin and coat health
  • Urinary health

Browse our rang of hills food

Purina 

Purina is one of the most well-known names when it comes to pet food, and for good reason. They have worked hard to provide quality pet foods for all ages and lifestyles for over 125 years. 

They believe that quality nutrition should be available for all cats and dogs and that the basis of great nutrition starts with understanding nutrients, not ingredients. They recognise that the nutritional requirements for pets are unique and work hard to provide quality food for a number of conditions to help us better care for our pets. 

Not only does Purina dog food provide quality everyday food for your dog, but they also have their own range of veterinary dog food to aid dogs with:

  • Brain Function
  • Convalescence
  • Dermatosis
  • Diabetes
  • Joint Mobility
  • Renal Function
  • Liver Failure
  • Probiotic
  • And more! 

Browse our range of purina food

Burns 

Since they were founded in 1993 by pet food pioneer and veterinary surgeon, John Burns, Burns has been providing high-quality pet food specifically designed with natural ingredients to manage common health problems in both cats and dogs. 

Not only do they offer amazing pet food, but Burns also has their own pet rescue and fight to ensure that every pet gets to grow up happy, healthy, and well-cared for. All of their foods are vet developed, hypoallergenic and ethically sourced to ensure the health of pets and the planet. Burns dog food is available for all dog breed sizes and life stages and can be bought as wet food, dry food, and even treats. 

Arden Grange 

‘Nutrition without compromise’ has been the guiding philosophy for the family-run pet food brand, Arden Grange, since its creation in 1996. The two founders, Graham and Wendy Stephens, are experienced dog breeders who have been showing their highly acclaimed Ardenburg German Shepherds for years. They even have their own boarding kennels which cater for any dogs sized between 5’8” to 6’9”. 

Arden Grange dog food specialises in providing great quality for all dog breed sizes, life stages and even lifestyles with a range of foods specifically for: 

  • Pregnant and lactating Dogs
  • Show dogs
  • Working and sporting Dogs

They also offer a range of dog foods for those with allergies and sensitivities.

Dog Food FAQs

Q - What Should I Feed my Dog? 

A - This is a difficult question to answer because there is a lot that needs to be taken into account when choosing what food is best for your dog. Anything from your dog's breed, size, life stage, and lifestyle can affect what foods they should and should not be having. 

The best thing to do is to do as much research as possible and make yourself aware of the varieties of dog foods on the market. You should also make sure you are reading the labels of chosen food to make sure they’re suitable for your dog. It is also important to consult your vet before putting your dog on any speciality or health condition-specific food. 

Q - How Much Should I Feed my Dog? 

A - As with what dog food is best, the serving size you should be giving your dog is also dependent on their size, breed, age, and lifestyle. All packaged dog foods should come with a feeding guide on the packaging that will offer advice on serving sizes based on your dog's weight.  

If your dog has trouble managing their weight or has a pre-existing health condition, then it is important to consult your vet on the amount you should feed them as well as what food would be best.

Q - How Often Should I Feed My Dog? 

A - Once again, this will depend on your dog's size, breed, and most specifically, their age. As a general rule of thumb, healthy adult dogs should eat at least two meals per day approximately 12 hours apart. You can also choose to feed your dog on a breakfast, lunch, and dinner schedule if that suits you. 

Almost make sure no more than 12 hours pass between meals as this can lead to your dog’s stomach becoming hyper-acidic leading to nausea.

Q - When Should I Change My Dog’s Food?

A - There is no rule that your dog needs to be on the same diet their entire life. As well as switching your dog’s food as they enter new life stages, you may need to switch them to a different food for a variety of reasons, including helping with health issues and providing a better diet for them. 

There are a number of signs that you should consider changing your dog's food, including: 

  • Dull, flaky coat
  • Lethargy
  • Extra weight gain
  • Allergies
  • Digestive and gastrointestinal issues

If you are thinking of changing your dog’s food, make sure you speak with your vet beforehand for their recommendations and to rule out any underlying health issues. 

Make sure that you don’t change your dog’s food immediately as this can lead to stomach upsets. Introduce their new food gradually over a course of 5-7 days by mixing the new food in with the old.

Need More Advice?

If you have any more questions regarding your dog’s diet, or you need help choosing the right food for your dog, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with us here at Pet Drugs Online. Alternatively, speak with your vet and see what food they recommended.

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This post is an opinion and should only be used as a guide. You should discuss any change to your pet’s care or lifestyle thoroughly with your vet before starting any program or treatment.

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