AvoDerm Review

(From $0.09 Best)

BEST DRY DOG FOOD. This brand of natural, dry dog food is gentle on the stomach and kind to the skin of a canine pet, and tasty to boot, owners say. AvoDerm boasts an impressive list of wholesome ingredients, such as high-protein chicken meal and salmon meal, and is free of preservatives, food coloring, and sweeteners.

For dogs with sensitive stomachs and skin, it's AvoDerm to the rescue, according to reviews. The Chicken Meal & Brown Rice Formula, for example, earns near perfect scores at several sites, including Amazon and Petco. Dog owners attest to the noticeable improvements in their pets' coats and skins and alleviation of allergies and stomach upsets on a diet of AvoDerm kibble. Speaking for their pets, they commend the taste and speaking as masters they laud the absence of wheat or corn, two ingredients that many animal experts say are associated with allergies and digestive problems. This brand provides what Daily Finance terms a "natural" diet with plenty of meat protein and no empty fillers at budget prices. The review further notes that pets tend to need less of such high-quality feed.

Some experts raise doubts about the inclusion of avocado in AvoDerm (starting at 9 cents/ounce, Amazon) kibbles due to concerns about possible toxicity, but others retort that avocado contains the fats, fiber, and vitamins critical to a dog's health, particularly its skin and coat. Given the positive effects noted in AvoDerm reviews -- no more flaking or itching; the appearance of softer, glossier coats -- pet owners clearly side with avocado's proponents.

AvoDerm dry dog food formulas contain choice ingredients. Good sources of protein -- chicken meal, salmon meal, and lamb meal (meal is a concentrated form of the animal protein) -- take star billing as the first or second ingredient in AvoDerm kibble formulas, some of which also contain additional protein sources, like herring and kelp meals. AvoDerm kibbles also include high quality carbohydrates, such as alfalfa meal, brown rice, oatmeal, and barley. Avocado is standard; ditto for the absence of meat by-products, wheat or corn, chemical preservatives, food colorings or sweeteners. AvoDerm produces a full line of dry and canned dog foods, with formulas geared to puppies and adults, as well as recipes that are grain-free. It offers a companion line of cat food.

After sifting through our research, AvoDerm clearly rose to the top of the dry dog food segment. The budget price combined with nutritious ingredients and glowing reports about its positive effect on dogs' skin and coats make this a hard-to-beat choice.

Canidae Life Stages Review

(From $0.15 Best)

BEST CANNED DOG FOOD. Improved skin, coat, and intestinal health come from Canidae Life Stages formulas, according to happy dog owners. Experts also like this canned variety, especially its choice ingredients.

Canidae Life Stages is a big hit with dogs and their owners. Reviews at Wag of the Lamb and Rice Formula as well as other taste combinations in the Life Stages line indicate that pets are wild about the taste of this canned food and their masters are thrilled with the quality and its contribution to the animals' overall health. One Canidae Life Stages reviewer who raises three dogs reports that all are prone to diarrhea when eating canned food, but this brand is an exception. Enthusiasm spills over at Chewy, where owners laud the taste and ingredients, in particular noting that the grain-free recipes are a boon to dogs with allergies. Several also report marked improvements in their pets' skin and coats.

Experts likewise give Canidae Life Stages a hearty endorsement: 4.5 stars at Dog Food Advisor and a "highly recommended" summation, primarily due to ingredients that include animal protein such as lamb and whitefish, sunflower oil (omega-6 fatty acids) and flaxseed oil (omega-3 fatty acids), and complex carbohydrates like brown rice.

Canidae Life Stages (starting at 15 cents/ounce, Amazon) comes in both canned and dry form, and includes different formulations for taste, animal age, and animal size. The Large Breed Adult recipe, for example, leads off with chicken, duck broth, duck, dried egg whites, and brown rice and also includes lentils and pea flour. Canidae dog foods are free of ingredients that experts frown upon, like wheat, corn, and soy, as well as artificial flavors, preservatives, hormones, and antibiotics. Canidae makes dog treats and snacks and a parallel line of foodstuffs for cats.

Many Canidae Life Stages reviews report using the canned varieties as a topper or mix-in with Canidae kibble. Alone or in combination, Canidae Life Stages is a line of natural dog food with top quality ingredients and lots of satisfied customers.

Fromm Classic Adult Review

(From $0.10 Good)

GOOD DRY DOG FOOD. A small family-owned maker of pet food, Fromm prides itself on kibble that's heavy on high-quality ingredients such as chicken and chicken meal. Reviewers often report improved stomach health for their pets.

Fromm Classic Adult formula reviews are generous with their praise. At Chewy, five stars are the norm, with a sprinkling of four stars just to keep things lively. What dog owners rave about in Fromm Classic Adult formula reviews is the reasonable price for a dog food made of top-quality ingredients (e.g., chicken, whole grains, egg, and plant-derived protein) that dogs seem to thrive on. One reviewer notes that her dog has completely recovered from intestinal and skin irritations since starting on Fromm Classic Adult formula, while others remark on the positive effect on dogs' coats, allergic scratching, and appetites. The fresh taste seems to appeal to one and all alike, making it possible to feed a multiple-dog household on just one kibble formula.

And yet, Dog Food Advisor's Fromm Classic Adult formula review awards it just 3.5 stars mainly because this expert considers the share of protein derived from animals to be a tad meager. The review does, however, extol the overall nutritional value of the ingredients, citing inputs such as chicken meal (more protein-dense than regular chicken), chicken fat (omega-6 fatty acids), fish meal, oatmeal (B vitamins and fiber), and flaxseed (omega-3 fatty acids and fiber).

Despite being described as a plant-based kibble by Dog Food Advisor, the first two ingredients in Fromm Classic Adult are chicken and chicken meal, two good sources of protein. Quality carbohydrates include brown rice and pearled barley, both recommended as excellent energy sources. The Classic Adult formula (starting at 10 cents/ounce, Amazon) also contains cheese, beet pulp, chicory root extract, and a variety of vitamins, minerals, and probiotics. There are no meat by-products, chemical preservatives, artificial food coloring, or sweeteners in any Fromm product. The company produces a varied lineup of dog and cat food, both dry and wet. Chow for dogs comes in three different formulas, each at a distinct price point; the Classic line sits at the budget end of the offerings.

We read a lot of positive comments about Fromm Classic Adult kibble. One thing we particularly like is the record of no recalls for products made by this small, family company, which stands in contrast to some of the bigger-name brands in the industry. Positive health effects are another mark in its favor.

Where to buy

amazon
$74.15
Chewy.com
$12.07
Chewy.com
$54.51
Chewy.com
$30.38
Shopping.com

Natural Balance Ultra Review

(From $0.17 Good)

GOOD CANNED DOG FOOD. The aroma of this canned dog food splits owners but not their pets, who apparently relish the taste and smell. The various Ultra formulas also seem to be good for the animals' overall health.

Healthy and tasty is the consensus view in Natural Balance Ultra reviews. Pet owners who posted at Chewy about the Lamb Formula in the Ultra line of canned dog food award it five stars, saying it helps reduce allergic reactions and keeps even finicky dogs energetic and satiated. Several owners report beefing up bowls of the company's (and sometimes competitors') dry dog food with spoonfuls of Natural Balance wet chow. Natural Balance Ultra Premium kibble likewise scores big with dogs and their owners. Facing a bowl mixed with another brand, writes a reviewer at Amazon, the animal picked out the Natural Balance bits and left the rest.

The few reviews of Natural Balance Original Ultra Premium at Wag are somewhat mixed about this variant on the Ultra theme. One pet owner raves about its healing effects on the skin of a rescue dog and in the appearance of its stools and another says the product pleases a fussy eater. A third, however, gripes about an off-putting smell and reports resistance, although ultimate surrender, by the pet.

Natural Balance Ultra (starting at 17 cents/ounce, Amazon) dog foods are packed with the kind of ingredients animal experts favor. The Original Ultra formula contains chicken, chicken liver, duck, lamb, and salmon as the top five solid ingredients, following chicken broth; healthy carbohydrates include oat bran and brown rice, as well as carrots and potatoes. The Liver Formula leads off with beef liver, followed by beef broth, beef, carrots, oat bran, brown rice, and potatoes. There are no artificial colors or flavors in the recipes. Other canned formulas from Natural Balance include "limited ingredient diets" and a vegetarian formulation. Dry kibble products likewise come in assorted variations, such as grain-free and organic and one for fat dogs. Owners can also choose food rolls, stews, and treats. A parallel line of cat formulas is available.

Natural Balance Ultra is a healthy food source for dogs. It contains a balanced mix of animal protein and quality carbohydrates. Owners like the effect on their dogs' skin and digestion, and user ratings for the Ultra product lineup (including kibble) are strong.

Purina Dog Chow Complete & Balanced Review

(From $0.04 Think Twice)

Some pet owners associate skin problems with Purina Dog Chow Complete & Balanced, while experts take issue with the lackluster ingredients in this dry kibble, such as whole grain corn (first ingredient), food coloring, and poultry byproducts. The taste, though, seems to please hungry dogs.

Purina Dog Chow Complete & Balanced garners surprisingly decent reviews at Petco, with the bulk of the comments focused on the low price and appealing taste. Some owners are not convinced, however. In a Purina Dog Chow Complete & Balanced review at Amazon, one asserts that it caused skin irritations and the dog's fur to fall out in clumps. Reviews of Purina Dog Chow Complete & Balanced slide downhill when the experts speak up. Dog Food Advisor grants this product one star and slaps it with a "not recommended" label based on the profusion of lesser quality ingredients.

For example, whole grain corn leads off the list of ingredients in Purina Dog Chow Complete & Balanced (starting at 4 cents/ounce, Amazon). Many animal experts consider this carbohydrate a useless filler, one that some dogs find hard to digest, and one that may be linked to allergies. Next on the ingredients label come poultry by-product meal and corn gluten meal, the former derived from assorted, leftover animal parts of unspecified fowl and the latter a lower-order plant protein that may set off allergies. Other less desirable ingredients include wheat, artificial coloring, and animal digest, which is sprayed on the kibble to enhance the taste.

Purina Dog Chow Complete & Balanced is one of several dry and wet dog food varieties formulated by Purina; among others are Beneful, One SmartBlend, and Veterinary Diets. The Dog Chow line comes in various iterations as well -- Puppy Chow, for example, and Healthy Morsels.

Despite dog owners' seeming enthusiasm for the price and taste of this product, we aren't sold. The ingredients list is far from ideal, and several reports about skin problems arising in dogs feeding on a Purina Dog Chow Complete & Balanced diet suggest it may make sense to step it up a notch with a recipe containing more nutritious inputs.

Pedigree Review

(From $0.10 Think Twice)

The taste of Pedigree wet dog food appeals, according to reviews, but this brand contains ingredients such as generic meat byproduct and added colors that fall short of experts' standards.

The taste of Pedigree Meaty Ground Dinner with Chunky Beef, Bacon & Cheese, one of the brand's many wet food choices, appeals to dogs and their masters, according to reviews. This despite the lackluster list of ingredients. Comments posted at Amazon typically mention taste and budget price in support of this particular blend. Pedigree Meaty Ground Dinner with Chopped Beef likewise racks up points for taste and texture in reviews at Petco. The expert site Dog Food Advisor, on the other hand, rips Pedigree wet dog food for poor quality ingredients.

Consider the Meaty Ground Dinner with Chopped Beef formula. From an ingredients standpoint, the list leaves much to be desired. Poultry by-products and meat by-products, considered low-quality inputs by many experts, are the first two solid ingredients (water heads the list, which is not uncommon in canned animal food) with generic poultry and beef following. Next come citrus pectin and guar gum; other add-ins like caramel coloring and sodium nitrite (retains color) are farther down on the list. A similar array holds for the Adult Complete Nutrition kibble, whose top five ingredients are ground whole corn, meat and bone meal, ground whole wheat, corn gluten meal, and animal fat. Some formulas include wheat gluten, ground wheat, and corn gluten, inputs that experts dismiss as low quality. Pedigree (starting at 10 cents/ounce, Amazon) offers a diverse lineup of dry and wet food, as well as treats, for dogs.

Online reviews indicate that dogs like Pedigree formulas, but that's about all the brand has to recommend it. For the money, you can feed your dog products that contain more animal protein and less filler and artificial ingredients.

Buying Guide

With at least one dog living in nearly half of U.S. households, it's no wonder the dog food industry is booming. And for thrifty masters, that means a determined hunt for the best cheap dog food, be it dry kibble or wet and canned. Figure on spending 5 to 10 cents an ounce for cheap kibble and 10 to 18 cents an ounce for cheap canned dog food. Although many big names in the industry command hefty prices for their products, some smaller companies with lower profiles offer top-quality dog food at comparatively budget rates. We identified several low-cost brands that deserve shelf space in your dog's larder.

Cheap Dog Food Buying Guide

AvoDerm, with formulas like Chicken Meal & Brown Rice (starting at 9 cents/ounce), lays claim to the best cheap dry dog food mantle. This lesser-known brand garners almost perfect scores from pet owners and experts largely due to the taste, beneficial effect on dogs' health, and high-quality "natural" ingredients, including chicken and avocado. Fromm Classic Adult (starting at 10 cents/ounce) is the runner-up in the kibble category and hails from a small family-owned business that produces a lineup of dog- (and cat-) food products; its Adult Classic earns commendations for flavor and quality components, such as chicken, whole grains, and cheese.

The two cheap wet/canned dog food brands we lapped up include Canidae, with products like All Life Stages Lamb and Rice formula (starting at 15 cents/ounce), and Natural Balance Ultra (starting at 17 cents/ounce). As with their dry counterparts, both win high praise for keeping dogs happy and healthy, largely due to their taste and roll of nutritious ingredients.

Two cheap dog foods we researched failed to measure up. Purina Dog Chow Complete & Balanced (starting at 4 cents/ounce) kibble and Pedigree canned formulas, such as Beef, Bacon, & Cheese (starting at 10 cents/ounce), are heavy on ingredients that prompt experts to turn up their noses, such as fillers and meat by-products. Reviews posted by pet owners, however, reveal that budget prices and good taste often trump the unimpressive inputs.

What We Looked For in the Ingredients

A Natural, High-Quality Protein Source Listed at the Top.

Ingredients are listed on the product label in order of relative weight. Dogs are natural hunters, so ideally, assert some experts, two of the top three ingredients should be animal protein. Chicken and chicken meal headline Fromm Classic Adult, for example, and chicken meal is input No. 1 in AvoDerm's Chicken Meal & Brown Rice recipe. By contrast, whole grain corn is first in the Purina kibble formula we researched. Chicken and chicken liver are listed second and third in Natural Balance Original Ultra canned formula, and lamb and lamb liver claim the first and third spots in cans of All Life Stages Lamb and Rice from Canidae. (Water or broth is often the primary ingredient in wet dog foods.)

Meat and/or Meat Meal, not Meat Byproducts.

Meat is a perfect source of protein that takes several forms in processed food. If the label simply lists chicken, lamb, or beef, count on it being the real thing. Meat meal is at least as good as, if not better than, whole meat because it's more protein-dense. The Dog Food Project recommends a kibble diet with at least one source of meat meal, like the offerings from AvoDerm, whose top input for most of its dry formulas is chicken meal.

The appearance of meat by-product of any type on the ingredients list is a signal to take a pass. Dog Food Advisor notes that meat by-product is what humans rarely eat: the remains of the source animal after the most nutritious parts have been removed. Chicken by-product is the first solid ingredient in the Pedigree canned meal with generic "meat" by-products as the third (chicken is second). The absence of any animal by-products in Canidae's Life Stages wet dog food lineup is one reason for very strong reviews at Chewy.

Minimal Carbohydrates/Fillers.

The presence of carbs in dog food is the source of some controversy. Some animal experts disdain carbs as mere filler and empty calories. Most others, such as Pet MD, take a more nuanced view, pointing out that quality carbohydrates are an important source of energy, dietary fiber, and feelings of fullness. Commercial dog foods inevitably contain carbs of some sort, but do choose a brand with the right kind -- e.g., oats, barley, brown rice, millet, peas, and sweet potatoes -- and spurn products with the wrong kind -- e.g., grain by-products, cereal food, starch, and soybean meal.

Corn and gluten also show up on many taboo lists, the former believed by some to be associated with allergies and the latter an elastic leftover once starch from the grain has been removed. Purina Dog Chow contains an assortment of lesser-quality carbs, including whole grain corn and soybean meal, as well as corn gluten meal, a protein sometimes used in weed control; the Pedigree canned dinner we researched contains wheat gluten and corn gluten meal. Our top picks have been spared such inputs.

No Artificial Ingredients.

Animal experts also rail against artificial ingredients like coloring and flavors, preservatives, and fillers, especially if they aren't approved for human consumption. Dog Health cautions against products with BHA, BHT, ethoxyquin, sucrose, high fructose corn syrup, and FD&C Red #3.

Dog Food Reviews, Wet vs. Dry Dog Food

It's clear from dog food reviews that pet owners are particular about the chow they serve. Their top two criteria are taste and the animal's well-being. Pet owners look for dog food that even the pickiest of eaters will gobble up. Formulas that alleviate stomach issues and skin allergies are also highly sought after.

Surprisingly, we saw few comments in dog food reviews about ingredients despite experts' recommendation to scrutinize the label. Experts, from on-the-ground veterinarians to cyberspace advice sites, talk up the relationship between animals' diets and their well-being. The consensus holds that a healthy diet contains a balanced mix of meat, minimally processed carbohydrates, few if any fillers, and no preservatives, food coloring, artificial flavors, or sweeteners; some also proscribe hormones and antibiotics. The paucity of review comments about inputs may explain why Pedigree canned dog food (starting at 10 cents/ounce) and Purina Dog Chow Complete & Balanced (starting at 4 cents/ounce) kibble, with their lower-quality components, attract decent reviews but landed in our reject pile.

Taste.

According to owners' dog food reviews, a tasty combination of ingredients is the top priority. AvoDerm Chicken Meal & Brown Rice Formula (starting at 9 cents/ounce) hits the bulls-eye here. One master crows in a post at Wag that his picky eater inhales this kibble and elsewhere one reports buying a special bowl to slow down his pup's over-enthusiastic chomping. Thumbs-up for taste likewise accompany dog food reviews at Chewy of Canidae All Life Stages Lamb & Rice Formula (starting at 15 cents/ounce), where one owner says this canned product enticed her dog off his hunger strike.

Health.

Dog food that alleviates health problems is in demand, according to our research. Among the reviews we read, pet owners often ascribe skin allergies, dull coats, and intestinal distress to the wrong dog food. A post at Petco, for example, tells of a Doberman suffering from flaky skin while on a diet of Purina Dog Chow that cleared up after switching to AvoDerm kibble. Similar comments pop up about the salutary effects of Natural Balance Original Ultra (starting at 17 cents/ounce); a dog food review of this canned variety at Chewy asserts it helped alleviate severe skin issues that were unresponsive to medication. Intestinal troubles, such as vomiting, diarrhea, and gas, may also be associated with food choices, and a reviewer at Amazon attributes her two dogs' relief from severe gas to the Fromm brand of kibble.

Wet vs. Dry Dog Food.

Of course, the best cheap food depends, in part, on your dog -- the breed, its age, its activity level, and its palate. But do you go wet or dry? Data posted by the Pet Food Institute show dry dog food to be more popular by far, although the resolution of this dilemma is particular to you and your dog -- but ultimately kind of obvious. That is, the animal's physical condition, the household's budget, and matters of convenience will push you in one direction or the other.

Dogs prone to dental disease, for example, generally benefit from a kibble diet, especially one formulated for this ailment, and dogs with recurrent urinary problems often do best on canned food with its higher water content. Dry food provides more energy (a plus for larger dogs) owing to the presence of more carbohydrates, while wet varieties often taste better and more closely replicate dogs' natural diet. Kibble is richer in protein and wet dog food is, well, wetter; water or broth often take first billing on the ingredients list. Dry dog food can be left in the bowl for days without spoiling while canned products must be used within a day or two of opening and leftovers stored in the fridge. And last but not least, dry dog food is considerably cheaper. If you and the dog are wavering, try topping off the kibble with a spot of wet grub.