By Emily Gantt
Published: 12/01/2021, edited: 12/01/2021
Save on pet insurance for your pet
You don't have to choose between your pet and your wallet when it comes to expensive vet visits. Prepare ahead of time for unexpected vet bills by finding the pawfect pet insurance.
Dog food manufacturers tailor adult formulas to the specific needs of adult dogs, which are very different from those of puppies, seniors, and pregnant or lactating dogs. That's not to say that any adult dog food will do for your pet, though.
When searching for the right food for your fur-baby, you need to consider your dog's individual nutritional needs and health factors. We'll walk you through the do's and don'ts when shopping for dog food and give you our recommendations for the top 5 adult dog foods on the market.
Low-calorie dog food
Many dog food formulas have more calories than a typical companion dog needs. Unless your dog is a canine athlete or working animal, experts advise you to steer clear of these calorie-dense diets. Consistently exceeding your pet's daily caloric requirements can lead to obesity and put them at risk of diabetes over time.
For this reason, it's a good idea to start your dog on a low-calorie diet in early adulthood. Restricting calories is difficult when you're feeding high-calorie dog food and can mean your dog gets smaller portions and leaves the dog bowl unsatisfied. To help satisfy your pup’s hunger and caloric needs, experts recommend picking a dog food that contains 350 calories or fewer per cup.
As you probably know, dogs need protein to maintain muscle mass, but that's just the tip of the iceberg. Protein is fundamental for natural healing processes and regulating hormones and enzymes. Your woofer requires 22 different amino acids for optimal health, and dogs derive 10 of those exclusively from their food (mainly animal protein).
Not all proteins are created equal, though. For instance, chicken meat is easier to digest and has a better nutrient profile than soy protein or bone meal. Moreover, plant-based proteins and bone meals may not provide dogs with enough of the amino acids they need. So how much protein do adult dogs need? According to the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) adult dog food should contain no less than 18% crude protein.
Vitamins and minerals are key for complete and balanced dog food. However, minerals by themselves aren't super bioavailable. For this reason, many pet food manufacturers add chelated minerals to their recipes.
During chelation, minerals adhere to proteins in order to make them easier for a dog's digestive tract to absorb. Experts are quick to point out that natural sources of vitamins and minerals are preferred, but chelated minerals can ensure your dog is getting what they need from their daily diet.
Avoid dog food with carrageenan in the ingredients list. This food-thickening agent has FDA approval for use in human and pet food and is especially common in wet dog food. Carrageenan doesn't become dangerous until it mixes with the acids in a dog's digestive tract.
Stomach acid changes the chemical composition of carrageenan and transforms it into poligeenan, a highly inflammatory substance and possible carcinogen in animals. Besides having the potential to cause cancer, studies link this food additive to ulcers and intestinal tumors.
BHA, BHT, and ethoxyquin
Other possible carcinogens commonly found in pet food are the artificial preservatives BHA, BHT, and ethoxyquin. Animal studies have shown a connection between BHT and BHA and tumors of the liver and stomach. Additional studies show that consuming large doses of ethoxyquin affects liver enzymes and can cause kidney damage.
MSG is a popular flavoring agent that gives food an appealing salty and savory taste. While we know MSG can make dog food more palatable, its use comes with risks.
Numerous studies have linked consumption of MSG to a variety of health conditions in rodents, from liver damage to diabetes. Though the FDA claims MSG "generally recognized as safe," it's best to avoid this unnecessary ingredient altogether.
Ideally, an adult dog food should contain:
Unfortunately, finding a food with all of these qualities can be tricky. Luckily, we've done the research for you! Here are 5 of the best high-quality foods for adult dogs.
Castor & Pollux ORGANIX Organic Chicken & Sweet Potato Recipe Grain-Free Dry Dog Food
Castor & Pollux ORGANIX adult dog food is a nutrient-dense and antioxidant-rich formula made with all organic ingredients. With organic chicken as the foremost ingredient and no grains or unhealthy fillers, ORGANIX makes an excellent adult dog food for pets with sensitive tummies.
In general, customers like that the formula is non-GMO and organic and say their pets enjoy the flavor. The main complaint about this brand is the high price tag. Be sure to ask your vet before switching your pooch to a grain-free diet.
Average cost: $20–$95
Orijen Orginal dog food is a grain-free formula for dogs of all life stages. One thing that sets this brand apart is that animal proteins constitute 85% of the entire formula. You won't see artificial preservatives or dyes in the ingredients list, but what you will find are probiotics, wholesome fruits and veggies, and an array of different meats.
The reviews for this brand are mostly positive, with many pet parents praising the liver-coated kibble for being appealing to picky eaters.
Average cost: $21–$91
Blue Buffalo Life Protection Formula Natural Adult Dry Dog Food
Looking for an additive-free pet food that doesn't omit the grains? Blue Buffalo Life Protection Formula could be worth a try! Chicken is the first ingredient on the nutrition label, but this food is also a significant source of fruits and veggies like blueberries, cranberries, and sweet potatoes.
Blue Buffalo fortifies its recipes with vitamins, chelated minerals, and glucosamine to protect dogs' joints as they age. This dog food has thousands of positive reviews, with many pet parents commenting that the food is easy on their dog's tummy.
Average cost: $24–$60
Nutro Natural Choice Adult Beef and Brown Rice Recipe
Nutro's Natural Choice Adult dog food is another great option if you're in the market for a high-protein formula that includes healthy grains. Rather than chemical preservatives, this brand uses vitamin C, vitamin E, and rosemary extract to keep food fresh from the factory to your dog's bowl.
This recipe is full of antioxidants and essential fatty acids to keep your pet looking and feeling great. Pet parents say this food is well-tolerated by picky eaters and is a good choice for dogs with sensitive stomachs and skin.
Average cost: $37–$69
Wellness Complete Health Dry Dog Food
Wellness Complete Health Dry Dog Food is a complete and nutritionally-balanced food explicitly developed for adult dogs. This food features real chicken meat as the first ingredient, fibrous whole grains, vitamin-packed veggies, and antioxidant-rich fruits. This product has tons of positive reviews, and many pet parents say that this food increases coat shine and overall energy.
Average cost: $17–$57
#1. Buy size-specific formulas.
Dog food brands include size recommendations on the label for a reason. Not only does the nutrient content differ between small and large dog recipes, but the morsels are sized specifically for those dogs as well. To ensure proper nutrition and palatability, choose a dog food that corresponds to your dog's size.
#2. Choose whole grains and veggies over empty-calorie fillers.
Many low-end kibble brands add fillers like corn, soy, and wheat to their recipes to bulk up the product. These ingredients are some of the most common canine food allergens. Avoid recipes with fillers listed in the first 3 ingredients when shopping for pet food, and pick up a wholesome blend of meat, whole grains, and veggies instead.
#3. Consider your dog's oral health.
You must also consider the condition of your dog's teeth when picking an adult dog food. Dogs with fragile teeth may have difficulty eating kibble and may be better suited for a wet food diet.
Most vets recommend dry food for dogs with healthy teeth since wet food can contribute to tartar buildup. On the other hand, the abrasive nature of crunchy kibble can actually combat plaque. Please remember that dry food is no replacement for regular brushing.
#4. Try before you buy.
Instead of buying a big, expensive bag of food that you're unsure if your dog will even like, see if the brand offers trial sizes or free samples — that way, you're not out 50 bucks if your dog turns their nose up at it.
#5. Switch up brands from time to time.
We're sure you'll agree eating the same thing all the time gets stale — and the same goes for your dog. That’s just one reason many vets recommend switching dog food brands every now and then. Some evidence suggests that feeding the same dog food recipes over and over can increase the risk of food allergies.
Finding the right food for your adult dog may take some trial and error, but if you follow these tips, you can rest easy knowing your pet is getting the quality nutrition they deserve. Do you have questions or concerns about your pet's diet? Click here to chat with a vet today!
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