Canned Dog Foods and Refrigerated or Frozen Cooked Foods
- Selecting the Best Commercial Foods
- Dry Dog Foods
- Dog Food Mixes
- Adding Fresh Foods to a Commercial Diet
There are several reasons why canned food may be a better choice than kibble if you are feeding your dog a commercial food. First, canned foods contain far fewer chemical additives than dry foods. Artificial colors and flavors are much less common, and preservatives are unnecessary due to the canning process itself (however, this also means that canned food will quickly spoil if left out at room temperature). Second, canned foods generally have much less grain than dry foods. Kibble must be at least 50% carbohydrates in order to be extruded without gumming up the machinery; canned foods have no such requirement. Fewer carbs also means more protein and fat, both of which are good for most dogs. And third, canned food has more moisture and is better for the kidneys, which makes it easier to digest -- you can achieve the same result with kibble by soaking it first, but remember that soaked kibble will also spoil quickly if left out at room temperature.
Here are some of the better canned foods that I have heard about. This is not a complete list of the high quality foods available, which is growing all the time. For a more detailed list, see the Whole Dog Journal, which publishes an article on the best canned foods every other January in odd-numbered years. You can also write to me for comments on any individual food you may be interested in (my email address is at the bottom of the page). I have added links to Amazon and other online sources for many of these foods if you are unable to find them locally, though shipping will add substantially to the cost.
Note there are some drawbacks to canned foods as well. Many canned foods use carrageenan as a thickening agent. Carrageenan has been associated with intestinal ulceration, inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), and acid reflux. Most cans are lined with Bisphenol-A (BPA), which has been associated with certain problems in humans, although at this time there does not appear to be a viable alternative. See the following for more infomation:
- Carrageenan Just Don't Do It
- What’s this ingredient in my pet’s food? Carrageenan?
- Review of Harmful Gastrointestinal Effects of Carrageenan in Animal Experiments
- The Controversy Over BPA-Free Dog Food Containers
Some of these companies offer vegetarian diets, but I do NOT recommend feeding your dog a vegetarian diet. See Don't Bite on the Veggie Dog and Vegetarian Diets for Dogs? for more information on this topic.
|Addiction||High quality ingredients. Grain-free, limited-ingredient diets that use mostly unusual proteins such as venison, rabbit, duck, buffalo, unagi [eel] and brushtail. Ideal for feeding to dogs with severe food allergies, but I would not recommend feeding exotic proteins to healthy dogs, as it's better to reserve them for future use in case your dog ever develops food allergies.|
|Artemis||Available in Europe and Asia, as well as the US. Human-grade, antibiotic- and hormone-free meats|
Blue recalled certain lots of its foods in October 2010 due to concern that these lots may contain higher levels of vitamin D than are specified, which can be life-threatening. The company was not as forthcoming as they should have been about the problem that led to this recall. See Another Blue Buffalo fail for more information. Another problem was found with the wrong food in a package in 2013, and once again, the company's attitude was poor; see Blue Buffalo Kibble Change? for more info.
|By Nature Organics
|Organic chicken and turkey formulas that look very good. Both are grain-free. Note that the 100% Organic Chicken and Turkey are NOT complete diets and are useful only for supplemental feeding. Their Naturals line of 95% Meat formulas are OK, but make no mention of using human-grade ingredients.|
|California Natural||See Natura below.|
|Canidae||Human-grade, hormone- and antibiotic-free ingredients. All ingredients are tested for melamine and cyanuric acid.|
|Castor & Pollux Organix||Over 70% certified organic ingredients. In addition, chicken and turkey are free-range. Products are tested for melamine and cyanuric acid. Natural Ultramix line also appears to be high-quality, though not organic and it's not clear whether ingredients are human-grade.|
|Chicken Soup for the Pet Lover's Soul||High quality, hormone- and antibiotic-free ingredients. Offers higher-protein senior diet.|
|Doctors Foster & Smith||High-quality ingredients, high meat content.|
|Dogswell||Uses antibiotic-free, cage-free chicken and duck. All canned foods are grain-free. Products are inspected for melamine. Note that the duck products contain other meats (chicken, salmon), so cannot be used as a novel protein for an elimination diet.|
|Eagle Pack Holistic Select and Super Premium||On the original web site, chicken and duck are listed as hormone- and antibiotic-free. Ingredients appear to be human-grade. Eagle Pack recently split off its Holistic Select label. The new Holistic Select web site has no specific information about ingredients. The following information appears on the original web site only, not on the Holistic Select web site: "Eagle Pack Super Premium formulas are nutritionally balanced so pet owners can mix up to 25% raw food with the Eagle Pack formulas." Eagle Pack and Wellness are now owned by the same company, called WellPet.|
|EVO||See Natura below.|
|Fromm Family Foods||Human-grade, USDA inspected meats, high-quality US-sourced ingredients. "We pay more for our fish, whitefish, and salmon to not be treated or preserved with ethoxyquin." Several varieties are limited-ingredient and grain-free, with unusual proteins, which can help dogs with food allergies. Fromm has replaced their canned foods in the Four Star Nutritionals line with Shredded Chicken, Shredded Pork, and Shredded Beef (as of 2/11), all grain-free. Their Gold Nutritionals line also includes canned foods.|
|Go! Natural (Petcurean)||Human-grade ingredients. Now available in Germany, Israel and several Asian countries.|
|Halo Spot's Stew||Human-grade ingredients. Note these foods are higher in moisture (broth) than many canned foods, meaning you'll probably have to feed more than you would of other foods.|
|Holistic Select||See Eagle Pack above.|
|Homestyle||See Nature's Variety below.|
|Innova||See Natura below.|
|Instinct||See Nature's Variety below.|
|Lotus||Human-grade ingredients. All ingredients are sourced in North America (USA and Canada) except for lamb and green mussel, which come from New Zealand. Fish is ethoxyquin-free. No gums (carrageenan, guar, or xantham) used as thickeners. Canned at their own facility. See An Admirable Model: Lotus Pet Foods and An Inside Look at How Canned Dog Food is Made for more information about this company and their facility.|
|Merrick||Offers several grain-free varieties in both their Classic and Grain Free (formerly Before Grain) lines, including a tripe variety.
Merrick has had treats recalled in 2010 due to salmonella contamination. While I don't consider salmonella to be a big concern and this doesn't affect their foods directly, the company's poor handling of the recall is an issue. See Friday-night dump-and-run recalls for more info.
|Natura: California Natural, EVO and Innova||
All foods are tested by an independent laboratory for melamine and cyanuric acid (see press release).
|Natural Balance||Human-grade ingredients. Products are tested for melamine and cyanuric acid. L.I.D. Limited Ingredient Diets are grain-free and may help dogs with food allergies; note that Potato and Duck formula replaced duck meal with potato protein in 2009, and so is very low in meat protein, which can lead to problems when fed long term. Also see the new Eatables line.
Natural Balance was bought by Del Monte in 2013.
|Nature's Variety Instinct, Prairie and Homestyle||Instinct is higher-protein, lower-carb and grain-free. Instinct now offers limited-ingredient diets for dogs with food allergies as well.
Homestyle is offering several new flavors that use unusual proteins (salmon, pork, bison), but they are mixed with more common proteins (chicken, turkey, beef), so not appropriate for dogs who need a limited-ingredient diet, and remember to save some of those exotic proteins for the future in case they're needed if your dog develops food allergies.
|Newman's Own Organics||Now offering grain-free Beef and Liver varieties that are 95% organic meat, with no carbs.|
|Party Animal "Organic" Gourmet Dog Food||Uses organic (hormone- and antibiotic-free) meats and other high-quality ingredients. Several varieties are grain-free.|
|Performatrin Ultra||Human-grade, hormone- and antibiotic-free ingredients.|
|Pet Promise||Hormone- and antibiotic-free ingredients from animals raised humanely on family farms.
Note the company that makes this food has discontinued the line as of January 2010, though you can still find it on shelves.
|Prairie||See Nature's Variety above.|
|Solid Gold||In addition to their regular canned foods, they also offer a Green Tripe canned dog food with very limited ingredients, which can help dogs with food allergies.|
|Spring Naturals||Products use meat (not meal) plus eggs, whole vegetables, fruits, and grains. Also offers grain-free and organic varieties. Grain-free dinners (not stews) are 95% meat. All ingredients are from the U.S.|
|Tiki Dog (Petropics)||Human-grade ingredients, most appear to be from Thailand. All foods include fish that is sustainably caught.|
|Timberwolf Organics||Offers four new canned foods, all high-protein and low-carbohydrate. Despite the name, these foods are not organic.|
|VeRUS Pet Foods||Human-grade ingredients. Chicken is antibiotic-free.|
|Vets Choice Holistic Health Extension||Human-grade ingredients, but no mention of antibiotics and hormones. I have been told third-hand that this company is privately owned in Long Island, NY. Limited availability.|
|Wellness||Human-grade ingredients. Products are tested for melamine and cyanuric acid. Now offering their high-protein, grain-free CORE formulas in two canned varieties. Also offers 95% Meat Formulas (see Mixers and Toppers category on their web site) that are not complete diets but can be used as a mixer, similar to adding plain meat. Eagle Pack and Wellness are now owned by the same company, called WellPet.|
|Weruva||Approved for human consumption. Chicken is antibiotic-free. Some varieties are grain-free. Non-Kobe varieties are very high moisture percentage (lots of water), so you will likely have to feed more than with other canned foods.|
|Wysong||Wysong also makes Au Jus all meat diets that are not complete diets but can be used as a mixer, similar to adding plain meat. They include some exotic proteins (duck, rabbit, venison) that can be used in an elimination diet to test for food allergies. Check out their new Uncanny dehydrated products, which are high-protein and low-carb, with low heat processing, but very expensive and designed for supplemental feeding only (not a complete diet).|
|ZiwiPeak||New Zealand food made from human-grade, free-range, antibiotic- and hormone-free meats. Products are 85% meat-based and grain-free. Limited ingredients, may be good for dogs with food allergies. Varieties include Lamb, Venison, and a mixture of those two meats with lamb and venison tripe. "Where to Buy" link indicates it is available at limited locations in the US, Canada, Europe, Asia, Australia and New Zealand.|
Allergies for more information on elimination diets.
All meat diets can also be used to supplement dry or canned dog food (as can fresh meat, cooked or raw). If you do this, I would stick to the more common meats rather than feeding exotic proteins, which should be reserved in case they are needed in the future for food allergies. See the section on Adding Fresh Foods for more info.
See Dog Food Mixes for mixes and supplements that can be used to balance an all-meat diet.
|100% organic canned all meat chicken and turkey varieties. They also offer these same meats combined with limited vegetables and supplements. The all meat diets are definitely not complete, and there is no mention of meeting AAFCO guidelines even on the varieties that have added veggies and supplements, though they may. These foods contain only 20 kcals per ounce, which is lower than most canned foods, so you'd have to feed more of them.|
|Canine Caviar||Makes a canned Beaver diet that is nothing but processed beaver meat (from animals harvested to control their population). This company also makes canned Duck (with sweet potato), Turkey and Venison Tripe all meat varieties with nothing else added. Beaver variety is available by the case at Whole Pet Foods.|
||100% Meat Classic and Game Meats lines.|
|Merrick||Grain-free varieties, including Tripe. Formerly called Before Grain.|
|PetKind||PetKind Venison, Duck and Salmon has fish oil added, but is still not a complete diet. Due to having three different proteins plus fish oil, it would not be a good choice to use to test for food allergies. There is no mention of using human-grade ingredients.|
|Tripett|| Offers canned beef and lamb tripe with very little added (just garlic and vegetable gum, plus fish oil and glucosamine/chondroitin in the lamb variety).
Warning: tripe smells awful, but dogs love it.
|Wellness||Makes 95% meat formulas designed to be added to kibble (they are not complete diets) -- see Mixers and Toppers category on their web site. They add natural flavors, cassia gum, and carrageenan, which should be avoided if you're trying to feed a true elimination diet to test for food allergies, but are otherwise OK. Varieties include chicken, beef, venison, salmon and turkey.|
|Wysong||See their Au Jus varieties.|
Country Pet Naturals is a frozen, cooked diet made from hearts, lungs, livers, kidney, meat and bone from range-raised lamb, beef, chicken and poultry, free of antibiotics and hormones. One variety has a small amount of veggies. No grains. Made in New Zealand and available at some retailers such as Whole Foods. Meets AAFCO guidelines for all life stages. Note that Country Pet is made by Canz, who also make Butch (New Zealand only) and Real Meat labels. The Real Meat line is now dehydrated.
freshfetch A relatively new company located in Southern California (cooking is done in Palm Springs; offices are in LA). They make complete diets that meet AAFCO and NRC guidelines. Options include Beef, Chicken, Turkey, Salmon, Lamb and Meatless (includes eggs, so is OK to feed). All varieties except meatless (which contains rice) are grain-free. Foods are lightly cooked. Can be shipped anywhere in the US and Canada. Shipping costs around $20 to Southern California; $20-$35 to adjacent areas (Arizona, Nevada, and as far north as Sacramento). Anything further must be shipped by air to ensure food stays cold, so it costs more, around $50+. Costs will vary depending on the amount purchased, but generally the more you buy, the less the cost per package. Add foods to your shopping cart and begin checkout process to see exact shipping charges (no registration required; costs will be shown before checkout is complete). If you live in Southern California, you can make arrangements to pick up the food locally.
Freshpet makes three fresh (not frozen) refrigerated products: Homestyle Select, Vital, and Deli Fresh. All are pasteurized and "gently cooked with minimal heat." Both Homestyle Select and Deli Fresh are made up of approximately 70% meat and 30% vegetables and grains. Deli Fresh contains a mix of fibers and prebiotics, which may be helpful for dogs with digestive issues. Vital is grain-free, with 80% or more poultry, meat or fish, with 20% or less vegetables and fruits. All ingredients are human-grade, but there's no mention of whether meat is hormone- and antibiotic-free. Homestyle Select is available at some Costco and grocery stores. Deli Fresh is available at Petco, PetSmart and other stores.
VibraPet makes a frozen, cooked product using human-grade ingredients that meets AAFCO guidelines. Delivery available and carried in a number of stores in the greater Sacramento CA area. Will ship to other areas, but shipping of frozen foods is generally prohibitively expensive.
My Perfect Pet makes frozen, cooked diets prepared with human-grade standards. Diets meet AAFCO guidelines, including some approved for puppies. Currently available only at stores in California, Arizona, and Colorado. Shipping is also available.
JustFoodForDogs makes frozen, cooked diets made with high-quality, human-grade ingredients. Each recipe uses its own customized supplement blend. The company also offers their JustDailyMeals supplement blends and recipes in JustDoItYourself kits so that you can make the food at home if you choose. All daily diets meet AAFCO guidelines, and two can be used for puppies (though their Fish recipe is quite low in fat for a puppy). The food is made in Southern California, where delivery is available, or it can be shipped anywhere in the U.S. This company also offers prescription JustVetSupportDiets and customized diets. Unfortunately, they do not offer JustDoItYourself kits for their prescription diets, but for their customized diets, you can choose to make them yourself or have the company make them for you. See my article, A Whole Foods Approach, which will be posted here in June 2014, for more information.
Rayne Clinical Nutrition makes a line of wet "peel and serve" and frozen limited-ingredient diets using exotic proteins. They come in two forms: an incomplete diet that consists of just one protein and one carbohydrate and nothing else, suitable for use as an elimination diet for diagnosing food allergies; and a complete form of those diets that add supplements. They also make treats using the same limited ingredients. These foods are very expensive (estimate $4-$11.50 per day for a 30-pound dog) plus shipping ($5.95 per case for "peel and serve;" frozen is more).
Update: One person reported that their two dogs experienced severe gastrointestinal upset from the Cod & Sweet Potato Maintenance diet. The food looked different than it had before, but the company told them that nothing had changed. Please let me know if anyone else experiences similar problems.
Evermore Pet Food offers a frozen, cooked complete diet in chicken and beef varieties using high-quality, human-grade, antibiotic- and hormone-free ingredients. No AAFCO statement on the website, but nutritional analyses indicate both foods meet AAFCO guidelines for adult dogs. Currently available only in the Northeast.
Frenchie's Kitchen offers frozen, cooked diets made in a USDA human food facility with 100 % USDA approved human grade ingredients. While the ingredients look very good, the company does not provide an AAFCO nutritional statement, and it appears these diets would not meet AAFCO guidelines without added supplementation. They would be fine to feed short-term, or as part of a complete diet, but I would not feed them exclusively. The company is located in Corpus Christie, Texas, with retailers in Texas, Southern California, Colorado, Louisiana, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Utah.