Best Dog Food for Picky Eaters: Fresh, Wet, and Kibble
Do you have a picky eater on your hands? Or maybe your dog doesn’t seem interested in their food at all. Either way, finding the best dog food for picky eaters can be a challenge. At the pet store, you have the option of fresh dog food, canned wet food, or even dry dog food, but how do you know which one your dog will like?
Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered. In this article, we’ll list the best dog food for picky eaters and provide some tips on how to get your pup to chow down. Just like humans, many dogs develop a preference for unhealthy foods over healthy ones and they need some help getting back into healthy balanced eating habits.
As dog owners, we have to pay close attention to what our dogs are eating and how much of their daily caloric intake is nutritious, healthy food curated specifically for the canine species. Having a picky eater to contend with make our job even harder at times, so keep reading to find some helpful tips on how to get your picky eater to love its dog food.
Why is my dog suddenly picky?
Many dogs experience fluctuations in their appetite through different stages of their lives. Sometimes this is perfectly normal, and sometimes it is a symptom of an underlying medical condition.
If your dog’s appetite suddenly changes you should first talk with your veterinarian to ensure there are no immediate health concerns. If you have already ruled out any medical concerns then keep reading to see some of the other reasons your dog may have become picky.
Common reasons a dog may suddenly become picky
Many dog owners say they experience seeing a connection between the fluctuations in their dog’s appetites and their dog’s age, exercise level, and food quality.
Picky eaters can immerge when a puppy hits the 6-8 month mark as this is when they begin to lose their puppy teeth and their gums are sore from teething. This will cause a picky puppy to be less likely to gobble down dry kibble and they may begin to prefer softer, more palatable human food, turning their nose up entirely to what’s inside their bowl.
Another common reason a dog begins to turn their nose up at a full bowl of kibble is that your pup simply decided it no longer likes the taste or consistency of its food. Dogs that are fed table scraps or given large, delicious treats regularly can begin to skip meals in order to save their appetite waiting for something better to come along.
This is where you can implement a healthy feeding routine to get your dog back to enjoying its regular meals. Providing some structure around food can give finicky dogs the encouragement they need to get back on track.
What type of food is the best for picky dogs?
There is so much new information out there today about dog food that we didn’t know just a few years ago. For example, the dog food industry has very little regulation and because of this, we have to be very careful what we are placing in our dog’s bowl every day.
Recently, dry dog food (kibble) has been on the hot seat for being cooked at such high temperatures in order to be packaged to last months on the shelf, making this option one of the least healthy and least tasty ways to feed your pup. On the other hand, fresh food diets can become very expensive and are unrealistic for many dog owners’ budgets. So what is the best choice?
Let’s break down each type of dog food and take a look at the pros and cons of each one.
Dry dog food
- Better for your dog’s dental health than wet food as kibble will help break off plaque and tartar from teeth and gums
- Many dry kibbles can be topped with healthy human foods or dog-healthy supplements
- Easy to store, can last for months
- Easy to portion out
- Least expensive
- Cooked at extremely high temperatures (can contain unhealthy chemicals because of this)
- Can make your dog a picky eater over time, as many dogs may dislike the crunchy texture
- Just enough nutrients included to keep your dog alive
- Many nutrients are cooked out of the food and companies have to inject vitamins back into the kibble to meet the nutritional needs to be considered food
- In some rare cases, kibble can actually contribute to making your dog sick and cause unnecessary vet expenses
Canned wet dog food
- Canned dog food tastier to picky eaters
- Can contain more vitamins and minerals than kibble
- Easy to store, lasts months
- Better for dogs with sensitive gums or teeth
- Can be better for dogs with sensitive stomachs
- More expensive than dry kibble
- Harder to portion out (may need to refrigerate some)
- Very smelly
- Contains higher fat content
Fresh dog food (frozen or refrigerated)
- Many are considered human-grade dog foods (very healthy and nutritious)
- You can see the foods your dog is eating, real chicken, sweet potato, and more
- Even the pickiest eaters usually gobble down these foods
- Many owners say that fresh dog food cleared up allergy symptoms like scratching, licking, and ear infections.
- Great for a dog’s digestive health
- More expensive than canned dog food or dry kibble
- Harder to store (refrigerate or freeze)
- Having to heat up the meal beforehand
The raw food diet
- Many dog owners claim they feel their dog is healthiest when they eat raw (research does not back up this claim)
- Closer to a dog’s diet in the wild
- The most expensive dog food option
- High risk of food poisoning (salmonella and listeria are a few) to you and your dogs
- Can cause serious illness to humans in the home
- Hard to store, prepare, and keep fresh
- Kind of icky
Things to consider before switching your dog’s food
1) Is the picky eating a phase?
Although there are many benefits to changing up your dog’s food from time to time, you may not want to get caught up in a cycle of constantly switching things up to keep your dog happy.
You might be able to help your dog get over their picky eating habits by being very strict with how you approach this issue. If your dog has no medical concerns, then you can attempt to change your dog’s eating habits instead of changing its food.
2) Can you simply add a little something to make the food taste better?
Another popular option that is less expensive and time-consuming than switching dog foods is to simply add a little something to your dog’s dry food to make it enjoy its meals.
Many dogs will eat their kibble if you add a yummy food topper to the bowl, and even adding something as easy as a little warm water to your dog’s food can give the kibble a better flavor.
3) Does your dog have an allergy to any foods?
It is important to make sure that the dog food you are feeding to your dog does not contain any ingredients they may be allergic to eating. If your dog has a food allergy, it is best to consult with your vet before changing their diet and make sure that any new foods you are introducing are safe for them. It is believed that around 15% of dogs are allergic to the key dog food ingredient chicken, and many dogs suffer unknowingly from food allergies every day, causing them to become fussy eaters.
What is the best dog food for picky eaters?
Now that we have discussed many likely reasons your dog is a picky eater, we can discuss some of the best dog foods available today for your picky eater.
Top Fresh Dog Food Options
1) The Farmer’s Dog
The Farmer’s Dog is a human-grade dog food that includes many healthy ingredients, cooked in small batches and delivered fresh to your door. Though created for dogs food looks exactly like something pet parents would prepare for themselves.
One of many reasons The Farmer’s Dog is considered one of the best dog food brands today is because they have real people who try and test the food to ensure the highest quality. Picky eaters usually are hoping for more water in their food and fresh dog foods such as The Farmer’s Dog provide exactly what they are looking for.
Another benefit of this dog food option is that it doesn’t contain all the unhealthy by-products and food substitutes that many other dog food brands allow into their finished products. You’ll notice their ingredients are whole foods such as read beef and chicken.
First five ingredients of the beef recipe: Beef, Sweet Potatoes, Cooked Lentils, Carrots, Beef Liver
Other flavor options: Turkey, Pork, Chicken
Pros: Nutritious, high quality, human-grade dog food that your picky eater will love, easy to store and prepare, custom measured for your dog’s ideal weight, developed by real nutritionists
Cons: More expensive than kibble, cannot be found in stores, no puppy-specific formula available
2) Ollie Dog Food
Ollie dog food is another amazing fresh dog food brand that is made with real, human-grade ingredients and is considered to be a delicious food option for picky eaters. Their recipes are tailored to each individual pup and are optimized for ideal health and nutrition.
Ollie is another dog food subscription meaning the frozen meals are shipped to you monthly and you thaw and serve as needed. Though more expensive than other options, this dog food brand features highly sought-after ingredients such as real beef, chicken, turkey, or lamp options.
The company even offers a baked version of some of its recipes to compete more closely with the big kibble companies. This is a much healthier option compared to kibble but offers the same convenience of being able to store it at room temperature.
First five ingredients of the chicken recipe: Chicken, Carrots, Peas, Rice, Chicken Liver
Other recipe options: Fresh Beef, Fresh Chicken, Fresh Turkey, Fresh Lamb, Baked Beef, and Baked Chicken
Pros: Human-grade recipe that offers all the nutrition your pup needs, highly palatable so even picky eaters will enjoy it, customized meal options starting at $4 a day for small breeds
Cons: More expensive than dry kibble or wet food, not sold in stores
3) Nom Nom Dog Food
Nom Nom is another fresh dog food delivery service that specializes in healthy recipes for dogs of all sizes. They offer high-quality ingredients, no fillers or additives, and meals tailored to each individual pup’s nutritional needs.
Nom Nom’s recipes are created with the approval of two board-certified veterinary nutritionists and meet the standards of the AAFCO. Making this one of the best dog food brands for picky eaters.
First five ingredients: Ground Beef, Russet Potatoes, Eggs, Carrots, Peas
Other flavor options: Chicken, Pork, Turkey
Pros: High-quality ingredients, custom-formulated meals for each individual dog, no fillers, looks like something you would cook for yourself
Cons: Less convenient than dry food, not sold in stores: shipping only, no baked options
Best Canned Dog Food Options
1) Fresh Pet Select
Fresh Pet Select homecooked chicken recipe, is a canned dog food that offers balanced nutrition and fresh dog food at a better price than a dog food delivery service. It contains real meat as the first ingredient and no added fillers or by-products.
You can find Fresh Pet products in many local pet stores and even some grocery stores such as Target and Wal-Mart. This makes Fresh Pet a great option for pet parents who want to pick up their dog’s food locally.
First five ingredients in the homecooked chicken recipe: Chicken, Cranberries, Carrots, Pea Protein, Pea Fiber, Ground Oats
Other flavor options: Turkey, Beef, Grain-Free Chicken, Puppy Recipe
Pros: Real meat as the first ingredient, no added fillers or preservatives, no-by products, complete nutrition options for all life stages, found locally in grocery and pet stores
Cons: More expensive than other wet dog food, not shipped online
2) Hill’s Science Diet
Hill’s Science Diet is a canned dog food that is made with high-quality proteins and no added fillers. It is formulated by veterinarians to provide complete nutrition for all life stages, including picky puppy stages or sensitive stomachs.
Though the food is very smelly when opened, it allows for better convenience for pet parents to store and keep in the pantry. This dog food is less expensive than a fresh dog food delivery service and will provide many picky eaters with a delicious dog food option.
The main drawback to this wet food option is that the sixth ingredient is a by-product, making this a less healthy option than other brands.
First six ingredients of the chicken option: Water, Chicken, Pork Liver, Whole Grain Corn, Cracked Pearled Barley, Beef By-Products
Pros: High-quality ingredients, no added fillers, complete nutrition for all life stages
Cons: Smelly, contains by-products, grains, fillers
3) Royal Canin Digestive Care Loaf
Royal Canin Digestive Care Loadf is a canned wet dog food that provides complete nutrition for all life stages, including picky eaters. It contains healthy probiotics and nutrition to support dogs with sensitive stomachs, loose stool, and other digestive complications. Although this dog food is great quality for canned wet dog food, it still contains by-products and multiple protein sources. Check out the ingredient list below to learn more.
First five ingredients: Water, Chicken, Pork By-Products, Chicken By-Products, Pork Liver
Pros: Great for dogs with digestive complications or food sensitivities, complete nutrition option for all life stages, found in most pet stores and online retailers
Cons: Contains multiple by-products and fillers, more expensive than kibble
Top Dry Dog Food Options
1) Spot & Tangos Unkibble
Unkibble by Spot & Tangos is a dry dog food that is slow-cooked at lower temperatures to keep the food from becoming dried out. Unkibble is not fresh food and can be stored in a regular dog food vault at a shelf temperature for long periods of time. However, it isn’t quite exactly dry kibble either as it looks like real human food and doesn’t contain the harsh chemicals found in most kibbles. It provides complete nutrition for all life stages and features no added fillers or artificial preservatives.
First five ingredients: Beef, Barley, Flax, Carrots, Green Beans
Other flavor options: Chicken & Brown Rice, Cod & Salmon
Pros: Natural and organic ingredients, no added fillers or artificial preservatives, complete nutrition for all life stages, contains flax (a good source of omega fatty acids)
Cons: Expensive for dry food, but less expensive than fresh food
2) Rachael Ray Nutrish Zero Grain Dog Food
Rachael Ray Nutrish is a dry dog food that offers complete nutrition for all life stages, including picky eaters. It contains high-quality proteins and no added fillers or artificial preservatives and this recipe is gain-free, for the pups that cannot have grains in their diet.
First five ingredients: Turkey, Chicken Meal, Dried Potato, Sunflower Meal, Dried Peas
Other flavor options: Beef, Chicken, Turkey, Lamb, Zero-Grain Beef
Pros: High-quality ingredients, no added fillers or artificial preservatives, sold in local pet stores, great for picky eaters, above-average dry dog food brand
Cons: Not suited for dogs that need grain in their diet
Best Dog Food Topper Options
1) Stella & Chewy’s Meal Mixers
Stella & Chewy’s Meal Mixers are a freeze-dried raw dog food topper that is made with real, cage-free chicken as the first ingredient. It contains no grains or fillers and offers an excellent source of vitamins and minerals for optimal health and nutrition.
2) Pupper Fuel
Pupper Fuel is a healthy dog food topper that is packed with vitamins and minerals for optimal health. It contains no artificial preservatives, fillers, or grains and is made with real meat as the first ingredient.
3) Blue Buffalo Wilderness Trail Food Toppers
Blue Buffalo Wilderness Trail Food Toppers is a wet dog food topper that is made with real meat as the first ingredient. It contains no by-products and provides an excellent source of vitamins and minerals for optimal health and nutrition.
4) Healthy Homemade Food Toppers
Healthy Homemade Food Toppers are an affordable and easy way to provide your dog with high-quality nutrition. These homemade toppers can be customized to fit your pet’s individual dietary needs, and they are free of artificial preservatives, fillers, or grains.
What if my dog is used to table scraps?
It is best not to give your dog table scraps as they can easily become overweight if fed an unbalanced diet. If you are wanting your picky eaters to enjoy something healthy then the best thing to do is stop providing unhealthy options regularly.
Can I give my picky dog treats?
Yes, you can give your picky dog treats as long as they are healthy and not full of artificial preservatives or fillers. Look for treats that match your dog’s size, weight, and life stage. For example, if your picky eater is a 20lb puppy they may skip a meal if they are given a large beef stick or milk bone at lunchtime. If you are concerned about your furry friend being overweight then it is best to stick to a diet that doesn’t include junk food (dog treats) and provide a healthy balanced diet twice daily and plenty of exercise.
How can I get my dog on a feeding schedule?
Creating a feeding schedule for your dog is important to ensure they are getting the proper nutrition. Start by figuring out how much food your dog needs daily and splitting that in half. Provide two meals a day roughly 12 hours apart, and at the same time every day. For example, 7 am and 6 pm are great feeding times to provide your pet’s food and get them on a schedule. You can read more about changing your dog’s eating habits to help your picky eater get on a schedule.
Are human-grade dog foods better for my dog?
Human-grade dog foods are generally considered to be the highest quality and most nutritious for your pet. They typically contain all-natural ingredients with no added preservatives or filler products. Dog foods with high-quality ingredients are great for picky eaters as they provide more natural flavor and are typically more palatable for your dog.
What if my dog prefers to eat all day long?
If your dog prefers to eat all day long, it is important to provide them with healthy meals and snacks that are nutritionally balanced. It is not recommended to free-feed a picky dog as this makes it extremely difficult to keep track of their food intake and teaches them to enjoy eating their pet food.
Final thoughts on the best dog food for picky eaters
Picky eaters need a balanced diet that contains high-quality proteins, fats, carbohydrates, and vitamins. Look for foods that are free of artificial preservatives and fillers. Healthy homemade food toppers can also provide an excellent source of nutrition for your pet while providing variety to their meals. Finally, create a feeding schedule for your pet to ensure they are receiving the proper nutrition. With the right diet and plenty of exercise, you can keep your picky eater content and healthy.