The best dog and cat food: Select Pet Awards 2023 – NBC News

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Feeding your pet a balanced diet is one of the many roles that come with being a responsible pet owner — and it’s ultimately the key to promoting a health-conscious routine for your dog or cat. Whether they’re picky eaters or they swallow the contents of their bowl in seconds, your pet needs food that meets the daily nutritional standards set by the Association of American Feed Control Officials, which means it’s gone through thorough feed testing to ensure it’s nutritionally balanced. When looking at the best food for your pet, experts recommend companies that have at least one, if not many, board-certified veterinary nutritionists on staff.

Treats and dental chews are no different: You should consider dog and cat treats that are low-calorie to keep pets within their recommended daily nutritional intake. So, it’s okay to spoil your dog with treats in moderation as long as you’re not going over your pet’s daily calories (which can quickly add up to extra pounds).

SKIP AHEAD Dog Food | Cat Food | Food Bowls | Food & Treat Dispensers

We spoke to veterinarians about the best food and treats they recommend to win NBC Select’s Best for Your Pet Award. We also included our staff’s picks for pet food products, including food bowls and treat dispensers.

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Find even more Select Best for Your Pet Award winners in our play, care and cleaning categories, as well as winners sold on Amazon and under $25. To see a full list of our winners, visit Select’s Best for Your Pet Awards homepage.

How we chose our winners

To find our top products in the pet food category, our editors and staff reached out to medical professionals. We asked them for the food and treats that they recommend to their pet patients and then had editors and staff weigh in on the recommendations.

When we look at any products, especially pet items, we look at them comprehensively. To be our favorite in the pet care category required fulfilling a multitude of needs. We want to provide you with products that perform well, but we also want to share ones that allow you to upgrade your (pet’s) life. Among other things for this category, we specifically looked at price, ingredients and overall quality.

Select Best for Your Pet food winners

Dog food, according to experts

Royal Canin

Award: Best Dry Food | Pet Type: Dog

Royal Canin wins in the dry dog food category based on multiple veterinarians’ recommendations. Our experts highlighted that the brand has board-certified veterinary nutritionists on staff who ensure the food meets AAFCO standards. The brand offers a variety of dry dog food options depending on your dog’s size, breed and dietary restrictions, including food sensitivities and gastrointestinal issues.

The small-breed dry food formula from Royal Canin is a favorite among staffers: NBC Select’s updates editor Mili Godio feeds her 5-year-old, 16-pound Havachon, Bella, this kibble — formulated for small dogs from 10 months old to 8 years that weigh 9 pounds to 22 pounds — after it was recommended by her veterinarian. NBC Select’s manager of editorial operations Shari Uyehara has fed her 1-year-old cavalier King Charles spaniel this dry dog food since she first got him. “It was recommended to us by his breeder and he loves it — he eats all his kibble during mealtime,” she says.

Purina Pro Plan

Award: Best Wet Food | Pet Type: Dog

Similarly, the veterinarians we spoke to recommend Purina Pro Plan — which makes some of our favorite wet dog food — as an award winner and one of the best brands to consider for dog food, specifically because it employs veterinary nutritionists, uses feeding trials and performs regular quality testing. Purina Pro Plan offers food for dogs in a variety of life stages, including puppies and senior dogs (ages 7 years and up), breed sizes and certain health considerations, including weight management and sensitive skin and stomach.

“My dog is a picky eater and Purina does a great job of providing a variety of options,” says commerce analytics manager Amanda Smith, who feeds her 2-year-old, 27-pound rat terrier, Mac, the brand’s dry food and prepared meal stew. “I also love that they’re really intentional about the products they put out — you can find the food that’s best for your specific dog to help them in whatever stage of life they’re in.”

Hill’s Natural Baked Light Small Biscuits

Award: Best Treats | Pet Type: Dog

These chicken-flavored, low-calorie treats for dogs receive a stamp of approval from our veterinarians and the Best for Your Pet award for treats because they’re high quality, tasty and avoid adding extra calories to your pet’s diet. The experts we spoke to note that treats often contain a large amount of fat and salt because it makes them more palatable for dogs, which can add unnecessary calories and affect their health over time. Opting for low-calorie treats like these can keep your pet within the AAFCO-recommended daily nutrition intake, according to our experts. Hill’s Natural Baked Light Biscuits contain vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients and are free of corn and artificial colors and flavors, according to the brand. The brand offers these treats in small and medium biscuit sizes.

Cat food, according to experts

Purina ONE Indoor Advantage Adult Dry Cat Food

Award: Best Dry Food | Pet Type: Cat

Our veterinarians recommend Purina’s ONE Indoor Advantage as an award winner for the best dry cat food because it promotes healthy weight control — in fact, one veterinarian we spoke to feeds this formula to her own cat regularly. This formula contains natural fiber to help reduce your cat’s hairballs, as well as antioxidants to support their immune system, according to the brand. The food is available in turkey, salmon and chicken flavors, and you can choose between four bag sizes ranging from 3.5 pounds to 22 pounds.

Hill’s Science Diet

Award: Best Wet Food | Pet Type: Cat

Another brand chosen by our veterinarians also works with a team of veterinary nutritionists to ensure its food meets AAFCO standards, Hill’s Science Diet considers your pets’ weight, skin, stomach and more when formulating its food. The brand offers a range of wet cat food for a variety of feline sizes and ages, including kittens and senior cats (ages 7 years and up), as well as prescription options for dietary and health needs like sensitive skin and stomach, kidney care, weight management and urinary care. You’ll also find a variety of flavors, including poached salmon and spinach, roasted chicken and rice, and savory turkey.

Rebecca Rodriguez, NBC Select’s editorial projects associate, feeds both of her cats Hill’s Science Diet wet cat food and says they eat it quickly and consistently. “It also isn’t super smelly like other wet cat foods I’ve tried and the consistency is palatable for my cats,” she says.

Temptations Classic Crunchy and Soft Cat Treats

Award: Best Treats | Pet Type: Cat

NBC Select’s associate updates editor Zoe Malin feeds her three cats — Wanda, Gus and Zeke — these Temptations cat treats and considers them the perfect size and consistency to put in a treat dispenser like the Furbo and treat puzzles. “Since they’re crunchy on the outside yet soft on the inside, cats of all ages can easily chew them — Wanda could eat them when she had tiny baby teeth and Zeke, now that he’s 13 years old, can eat them even though his teeth have gotten weaker as he’s aged,” Malin says.

The veterinarians we spoke to also recommend Temptations — both the crunchy treats and the soft food pouches — because they’re highly palatable for cats. The treats are chicken-flavored and include a crunchy outside and a soft and creamy inside. They’re also packed with vitamins and taurine, which is an amino acid that helps support your cat’s overall health, according to the brand. You can purchase these in a variety of flavors, including salmon and shrimp, and in multiple packaging sizes ranging from 1.7-ounce to 48-ounce bags.

Food bowls

Fukumaru Elevated Cat Bowl

Award: Best Food Bowl | Pet Type: Cat

This set of two ceramic cat bowls sits snugly in a bamboo holder that’s elevated nearly 5 inches off the ground and slightly tilted 15 degrees to help reduce strain and pressure on your pet’s neck and avoid messes from the bowls slipping around the floor, according to the brand. Malin finds the stand to be very sturdy and says it doesn’t move around when her cats eat from it (though she did note that the height might be a little too tall for young kittens). She also likes that the cat bowls are easy to clean. “You can wipe off the bamboo stand with a gentle cleaning solution or damp cloth, and the ceramic bowls are smooth, making them easy to hand-wash,” Malin says.

Owala Pet Bowl

Award: Best Food Bowl | Pet Type: Dog

This stainless steel pet bowl from Owala has a nonslip, circular base and comes in two capacities: 3 cups and 6 cups. Godio considers the 3-cup size perfect for the amount of food Bella eats daily. She loves that the bowl has a minimalist, sleek design and that it’s taller than other options she’s tried in the past (nearly 3-inches-tall for the 3-cup size and 3.5-inches-tall for the 6-cup size), which prevents Bella — who is normally a messy eater — from spilling kibble while she eats.

“My favorite part about Owala’s Dog Bowl is the thick, silicone ring on the bottom that prevents it from slipping or moving while pets eat and drink from it — we put ours on tile and wood floors and it doesn’t move at all,” says Malin, who uses it primarily as a water bowl for her 10-year-old, 120-pound lab, Chance.

Food & treat dispensers

Wopet Automatic Pet Feeder

Award: Best Food Bowl | Type: Automatic

The Wopet Automatic Pet Feeder has a 7-liter tank capacity and a programmable timer that lets you schedule up to five meals per day with 10 grams per portion. “This automatic feeder has changed the game for us. We don’t have to worry about running home to feed the cats while we’re out,” Rodriguez says. “We set ours to go off four times a day — the only downside is that if you feed your cat wet food, you’ll have to do that separately.”

The feeder lets you record a customizable message to encourage your pet to approach it during their meal times, which Rodriguez says is her favorite feature. The lid locks into place, so you don’t run the risk of your pet breaking into the food bank. It also includes infrared detection to prevent food from spilling or getting stuck in the food outlet, according to the brand. Wopet recommends filling the tank with dry kibble between 2 and 15 millimeters in size.

Wild One Treat Pouch

Award: Best Treat Dispenser

Several NBC Select staffers call this Wild One Treat Bag “life-changing” and note it’s the perfect accessory for walks. “You can hold so much in the pouch-like your phone, keys and treats, and there are little dividers so you can keep treats away from your other items,” Malin says. “If you have this, you can keep your hands free and just hold your pet leash or carrier, or an umbrella if it’s rainy and you have to take your dog out.”

Godio loves the pouch’s magnetic opening, which she says makes it easy to quickly reach in and grab treats without needing to battle a zipper. “I used this treat pouch to train recall with Bella at the park and having easy access to treats while still being able to use my hands for commands makes the process so much easier,” she says.

What our badge means

When a product carries the Select badge, you can trust that our team of editors as shopping experts and professionals vetted the item thoroughly. We are journalists, first and foremost, which means we will always do our research and reporting.

Meet our experts

To ensure our product picks are more than just editor-approved, we used a panel of experts, including veterinarians, pet groomers and veterinary technicians to give buying advice for each category. When conferring with our experts, we asked them for advice they would give to their patients or clients. Some members of our expert panel recommended individual products. Other products we gave awards to are ones we use in our own lives.

  • Dr. Hannah Lau is a veterinarian at Bond Vet.
  • Dr. Nicole Savageau is a veterinarian with at-home pet care service The Vets.
  • Dr. Zach Coston is a veterinarian at online vet care service Dutch.

Catch up on Select’s in-depth coverage of personal finance, tech and tools, wellness and more, and follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to stay up to date.

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