Dogs are no different than humans in terms of their biological need for certain nutrients to maintain good health. Feeding your dog a healthy diet is essential for longevity, disease prevention, healthy joints, tissues, and organs, and for a good quality of life.
Just as humans who eat a lot of processed foods are at a higher risk of developing heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and other serious medical conditions, dogs that eat food with highly processed ingredients and harmful chemicals and preservatives are at a higher risk of obesity, arthritis, diabetes, periodontal disease, and cancer.
In searching for the best dry dog food, we scoured ingredients lists and chose Orijen brand foods for their complete nutrition, quality ingredients, and reasonable price. There are a few other dry foods available that are possibly better, but we discounted them for two reasons. First, they were prohibitively expensive, so much so that feeding your dog raw prime rib every day might be a cheaper alternative. Secondly, they feature “all-natural” and “organic” ingredients, but since those terms aren’t regulated at all when it comes to pet food, they’re widely used on the packaging of even the worst dog foods. Since there’s no way to determine the veracity of those claims, we discounted them.
The Worst Ingredients in Dry Dog Foods
The vast majority of us can’t afford to feed our dogs their ideal diet of raw meat and whole foods prepared in the kitchen. Heck, many of us can barely afford to feed our children a whole food-based, healthy diet. While high quality dry dog food can provide your dog with a perfectly healthy, nutritionally complete diet, cheap food usually contains a large number of nasty ingredients. Some of the worst ingredients include artificial colors, flavor enhancers, and chemical preservatives as well as corn and wheat gluten, which are used to increase the amount of protein to make the food look healthier than it is.
Seriously, folks, dogs eat poop. They eat their own vomit. They’re known to pull dirty diapers out of the trash and eat everything but the plastic shell. So it stands to reason that if a meat-based dog food is made of quality ingredients, added flavor is rather unnecessary.
Cheap foods usually contain rendered fat, a very popular flavoring agent, which is a source of microorganisms like salmonella, and it typically has high levels of toxins like heavy metals. Animal digest is a reduced broth made from various parts of unspecified animals, which can be obtained from any source and usually includes parts of “4-D” animals: Dead, Dying, Diseased, and Disabled. Yeah, really.
If a dog food is made from such cheap, flavorless ingredients that flavor enhancers are necessary to ensure that a dog will eat it, it’s probably best to leave it on the shelf.
Orijen dog food, for example, contains no flavoring agents, which are unnecessary due to the long list of quality meats in their mix.
Dog’s don’t see colors like we humans do. The colors of the rainbow appear to dogs as dark blue, light gray, light yellow, brownish yellow, and dark gray. Artificial colors are wholly unnecessary in dog food, and they’re terribly unhealthy to boot.
The most common food dyes used in dry dog foods are Blue 2, Red 40, and Yellow 5 and 6, all of which are potential allergens and known carcinogens. Caramel color, which contains 4-methylimidazole (4-MIE,) a known carcinogen to animals, is also a popular color in cheap dog food.
Respectable dog food producers know that dogs could care less what color the food is, and their dog food contains no artificial colors.
Chemical preservatives BHA and BHT are cheap and commonly found in poor quality dry dog foods. While most countries have banned these artificial preservatives for human consumption, the United States still allows them to be used in human-grade food, even though numerous studies on animals show that they’re both potent carcinogens.
Ethoxyquin is a chemical preservative that’s illegal in human food but permitted in pet foods. You typically won’t see it listed in the ingredients, because it’s added to dog food in the form of “fish meal.”
Ideally, dog food should be preserved naturally using Vitamins E and C, which are also important antioxidants. Orijen dog food and other high quality dog food contains no harmful artificial preservatives, instead using both Vitamins E and C as preservatives in their dry dog foods.
Corn and/or Wheat Gluten as Protein
The biological value (BV) of a protein is a measure of how beneficial it is to a dog and helps consumers determine whether certain proteins supply enough amino acids, particularly the ten essential amino acids required for optimum dog health. The near-perfect protein in chicken eggs makes them the ideal benchmark when talking about BV, and so chicken eggs score a perfect 100.
Although some people claim that corn and wheat gluten are great sources of protein in dog food, those folks usually have a vested interest in doing so. The fact is, corn is neither easily digestible by dogs nor an ideal source of protein for them. It’s very cheap, though, and while it increases the amount of protein that’s cited on the dog food packaging, the biological value of this protein is very low, coming in at just 54.
Wheat gluten is what’s left over from whole-grain wheat after the beneficial starchy carbohydrates have been stripped away. Although high in protein, this protein has very little biological value to dogs, scoring a dismal 40.
High-quality animal meats are the very best way to supply your dog with the protein and essential amino acids required for good health and longevity. Orijen’s adult dog food blend contains only high-quality animal proteins. The first 15 ingredients listed on this food are: Boneless chicken, chicken meal, chicken liver, whole herring, boneless turkey, turkey meal, turkey liver, whole eggs, boneless walleye, whole salmon, chicken heart, chicken cartilage, herring meal, salmon meal, and chicken liver oil.
The Bottom Line for Orijen Dry Dog Food – Our Highest Rated Dog Food
With no artificial colors, added flavors, chemical preservatives, or cheap fillers posing as protein, Orijen dry dog food appears from the get go to be a high quality food for your dog. But in addition to all that, Orijen also contains other highly beneficial ingredients.
Lentils, Chickpeas, and Peas
Cheaper dog foods use corn, wheat, and other grains to supply carbohydrates, but the fact is, dogs don’t need high levels of carbs, and while using low-quality carbohydrates in high quantities adds bulk to dog food, it also leads to obesity and poor health. Orijen dog food contains high quality carbohydrates in the form of red and green lentils, chickpeas, and peas, all of which are also high in fiber, vitamins, and minerals.
One major problem with the vast majority of dry dog foods, including more expensive brands, is that they’re cooked at high temperatures to kill bacteria, but in the process, beneficial enzymes are also killed. Orijen dog food includes probiotics that are added after cooking to replace those enzymes to enhance dogs’ digestive and immune systems.
Because protein is the basis for a healthy diet for dogs, Orijen also adds chelated minerals that are chemically attached to the proteins, making them easier to absorb.
Orijen dog food enjoys a number of five-star ratings and recommendations by veterinarians, and it’s not as expensive as many other high quality dog foods, making it an ideal dry dog food for your dog in whatever life stage he’s in.