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The Best Dog Food Brands Veterinarians Feed Their Own Pets

Veterinarians want the best for their dogs, of course, and so do you. What these vets feed their fur babies may surprise you.

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Golden Retriever, lay on the floor to eat dog foodchendongshan/Getty Images

The best dog food brands

Every dog has its own needs, and the best diet for dogs will vary depending on size, breed, and more. If you just got a new pup, or your dog is refusing to eat their dinner and you’re in the market for a new brand, check out the best dog food brands below. If you need to replace other items for your dog as well, like toys, treats, or accessories, make sure to check out the holiday sales.

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Lucky Dogvia

Best human-grade dog food: Lucky Dog

Lucky Dog is one of the best dog food brands for your pooch. Holistic house-call veterinarian Patrick Mahaney, VMD, fed his dog Cardiff, a Welsh terrier, Lucky Dog because he was seeking a human-grade, cooked, whole food option. Cardiff suffered from immune-mediated hemolytic anemia (IMHA) and passed on when he was 11 1/2 years old, but Dr. Mahaney says Cardiff had a better quality of life by eating Lucky Dog, saying that “Cardiff thrived and seemed to recover more rapidly than anticipated from his first and three subsequent IMHA episodes while eating Lucky Dog Cuisine.” Dr. Mahaney has seen significant improvements in his patients with various health conditions once they transition from processed dog food to Lucky Dog Cuisine. Here are some of the pet products vets never buy, so you shouldn’t either.

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Wellness Core Wholesome Grains Ocean Recipe Dog Foodvia

Best grain-free dog food: Wellness Natural Pet Food

Danielle Bernal, DVM, is an on-staff veterinarian for Wellness Natural, but even if she wasn’t, she would be feeding it to her 16-year-old Border Collie, Megs. Dr. Bernal credits Wellness CORE with significantly improving Megs’s canine atopic dermatitis, a condition that made her skin red and so itchy that she needed daily meds to control it. “The Wellness CORE Ocean formula helped her avoid key allergens like grains and allergenic proteins, but most importantly, because it provides rich sources of natural omega fatty acids from increased amounts of salmon, it helped her skin inflammation,” says Dr. Bernal. In just three months, Megs regained her soft coat and color and now only needs meds once a month for the occasional flare-up. Grain-free dog food has become a trend in recent years, and there are various opinions on whether or not it’s better for your pooch. Ask your vet if they recommend it for your pup. Here’s what to do if your dog won’t eat.

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Gather Endless Valley Vegan Dry Dog Foodvia

Best vegan dog food: GATHER Endless Valley

Jennifer Adolphe, who has a doctorate in companion animal nutrition from the Western College of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Saskatchewan, created GATHER Endless Valley with premium, certified ingredients and designed it for vegan consumers. “Consumers are not only interested in what they can personally do to promote more sustainable practices, but are actively seeking ways to can get their dog involved, too,” Dr. Adolphe says. Her 8-year-old Australian shepherd, Chip, eats up the protein-rich blend of peas, organic barley, organic oats, and lentils. “Additionally, Endless Valley provides another dietary option for people who have dogs that experience adverse food reactions and may benefit from a diet without meat,” she notes. Even if you’re feeding your dog the best dog food brands, you still want to avoid these foods that could give your dog heart disease.

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Nature's Blendvia

Best freeze-dried dog food: Nature’s Blend

Veterinarian Marty Goldstein, DVM, has his own furry entourage to display the benefits of the dog food he created. Dog food testers Joey, Tara, Redford, and Tilly are a healthy, energetic mix of breeds and ages that eat Nature’s Blend, a premium freeze-dried dog food Dr. Goldstein created after more than 40 years of studying pet nutrition. “Its ingredients are of the highest quality; it has zero negative additives, chemicals, preservatives, or fillers. It is predominantly high-quality whole meats, which is how they ate in the wild—not byproducts or synthetics,” says Dr. Goldstein. These are the 11 summer foods you should never share with your dog.

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Hill's Science Diet Adult Healthy Mobility Large Breed Dog Food via

Best dog food for larger breeds: Hill’s Science Diet Large Breed

Katharine Kancer, DVM, has a big mouth to feed. Her Bernese mountain dog, Ella, chows down on Hill’s Science Diet Large Breed. “This specific food is complete and balanced with the nutrients she needs at this point in her life stage and is formulated for large breed dogs, which have slightly different nutrient requirements,” says Dr. Kancer. For example, she says adult, large, and giant breed dogs benefit from having more glucosamine, chondroitin, and omega-3 fatty acids in their diets to help their joints. Don’t miss these 20 things you’re doing that vets probably wouldn’t.

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The Farmer's Dogvia

Best whole food diet dog food: The Farmer’s Dog

New York City veterinarian Jonathan Block, DVM, of the Worth Street Veterinarian Center feeds his elderly lab/golden mix Neshi, The Farmer’s Dog, a whole food diet crafted from human-grade ingredients. “The Farmer’s Dog has taken the extra measures to make sure all of their formulas are perfectly well-balanced according to AAFCO (Association of American Feed Control Officials), a non-profit group that sets standards for pet foods in the United States.” The improved nutrient bioavailability helps his aging dog’s energy levels, body conditions, mobility, and overall health. Don’t miss these 12 foods you never knew were toxic for dogs.

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Best dog food for dogs with dietary needs: Nutro

The pack of Los Angeles-based veterinarian Jeff Werber, DVM, includes four dogs with a variety of dietary needs, so he feeds them Nutro. “I like the brand because its varieties contain quality, real, recognizable ingredients that serve a purpose and meet my dogs’ nutritional needs,” says Dr. Werber. More importantly, Nutro satisfies all his dogs’ taste buds—not an easy feat when you have four pups to please. He uses the senior variety formula for Herbie and Pierce, Tommy eats the adult formula, and Denzel dines on the limited ingredient variety because he has a chicken sensitivity. Here are some of the things your dog wishes you knew.

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Best rigorously tested dog food: Ollie

New York City veterinarian Imogen Slome, DVM, believes natural and fresh diets are best for people and dogs, including her pit bull, Sosa. “As a vet, I’m also extremely cognizant about food safety! There are so many recalls in the pet food industry, so what I like about Ollie is the rigorous testing they do on every batch for food safety, as well as nutritional adequacy,” says Dr. Slome. Sosa, like many pit bulls, has sensitive skin and skin allergies, so Dr. Slome feeds her a single ingredient protein, Ollie Turkey, to keep skin issues under control. Ollie creates a personalized meal plan subscription for your pup based on a few simple questions to keep them in optimal health. Look out for these signs your healthy pooch is actually sick.

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The Honest Kitchen Human Grade Dehydrated Organic Grain Dog Foodvia

Best lightly cooked dog food: The Honest Kitchen

Sarah Wallace, DVM, a veterinarian and nutrition expert for Fuzzy Pet Health, adopted Birdie, a rat terrier mix, from a shelter. She was found half-starved, but luckily Birdie eats a high quality diet now. Dr. Wallace feeds her The Honest Kitchen because it is lightly cooked food. “I would never feed a raw food because I know how bad it feels to have food poisoning from bacterial contamination in my food; I want to minimize my dog’s chance of getting food poisoning by feeding her cooked food.” According to Dr. Wallace, lightly cooked dog food is more digestible than kibble, meaning it absorbs more vitamins, minerals, essential fats, proteins, and carbohydrates. Check out the 50 secrets your vet won’t tell you.

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Best big brand dog food: Beneful

Michael J. Anacker, DVM, a veterinarian at the Hodes Veterinary Group in Mine Hill, New Jersey, currently feeds Beneful to his two labs, Munch and Chewi. But he’s not loyal to just one brand. If there’s a good deal on a brand or a patient returns food to the clinic because the pet didn’t like it, then he’ll use that too, as long as the food is from a trusted dog food company. “My philosophy is that all of the major pet foods are good quality foods with only subtle differences,” he says. “The larger companies are forever improving their foods and trying to beat their competitors. Therefore, if there is something wrong with a competitors’ food they would call them out on it ASAP.”

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Hills Prescriptions Diet Jd Joint Care Dog Foodvia

Best dog food for those with joint problems: Hills J/D Mobility

If your dog has joint problems, this food is one of the best dog food brands for them. With a Master’s in animal science, focusing on animal nutrition, Andrea Antonelli (another veterinarian at Hodes Veterinary Group) has specific criteria when it comes to feeding her dogs. Some breeds are prone to joint problems, and the Hills J/D Mobility formula fits the bill for her three German Shepherds, Thor, Blitz, and Boris, along with her pitbull, Sylvia. “I will only feed my dogs food from companies that will give me a fed and dry matter percentage,” she says, meaning the moisture content (‘fed’) and the amount of nutrients minus moisture (‘dry’). “I want to know exactly what is going in my dog’s mouth.” We can all agree with the importance of that!

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Pet plate dog food servicevia

Best dog food for digestive problems: Pet Plate

Veterinary Nutritionist Dr. Renee Streeter, DVM, DACVN, believes that nutrition for pets is highly individualized, but Pet Plate, which she helped develop, is a win for many very picky dogs. “Some of my most difficult-to-feed patients will routinely eat Pet Plate very well,” she says. “These dogs also tend to have digestive issues and these are the same dogs that usually benefit from this type of highly digestible diet.” Pet Plate’s dog meals are made using fresh chef-cooked meals with high-quality, human-grade ingredients—including chicken, beef, lamb, lentils, sweet potatoes, and string beans—at a USDA-inspected facility that follows the same food safety protocols as Whole Foods. The meals are flash-frozen to preserve the nutrients, then shipped directly to your door. Pet Plate meals are personally tailored for each pooch (their age, weight, and breed), and arrive in a frozen, insulated box similar to Blue Apron.  Talk to your veterinarian or board-certified veterinary nutritionist to help determine the best foods for your fur baby. Next, read up on the longest-living dog breeds for long-lasting love, and the best probiotic dog foods for those with specific needs.

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Lisa Marie Conklin
Lisa Marie Conklin is a freelance writer covering pets, home improvement, and lifestyle. She loves that her workday is interrupted by muzzle snuggles and walks with Archer, her rescue pup. In her downtime, she's either studying for weekly trivia night, doing a jigsaw puzzle, or watching too much British TV.