Choosing the Best Dog Food for Koa

Koa is not food driven and a picky eater. Additionally, he has allergies! Thus, finding a brand of dog food Koa wants to eat is a challenge. I have spent many hours researching attempting to answer the question, what is the best dog food for Koa?

How I decide on the type of dog food

We live in NYC and space in our fridge and freeze is at a premium, thus I prefer to start with dry options. Additionally, it more convenient for traveling and when Koa needs to stay at a sitter.

I usually choose a fish and sweet potato flavors to stay away from thee 6 most common food allergens: beef, chicken, chicken eggs, dairy, soy and wheat gluten. We have tried vegetarian recipes, which Koa refuses to touch. Learn more about dog food allergies:

Based on Koa’s allergies, our vet suggested limited ingredient diets and hypoallergenic dog food. Limited ingredient dog food contains fewer items, which decreases the possibility of allergic reaction. Additionally, I like to believe that these recipes are healthier for Koa. Hypoallergenic dog foods are made with hydrolyzed protein which allows the ingested dog food “invisible” by the immune system and not react during digestion. 

Grains aren’t common allergens for pets and I don’t know if the complex carbohydrates (eg, grains, starchy vegetable) is an additional complication for Koa to digest, thus I choose the grain-free recipes. I noticed the grain-free prepared foods contain potatoes or legume flour (beans, lentils, or peas) as a carbohydrate source, rather than the corn, oats, rice or wheat.

There is still some debate about grain-free dog food’s effect on dog health. In 2018, the Food and Drug Administrations (FDA) announced an investigation into a possible link between grain-free pet food and a form of heart disease called dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM). The agency reported a 500% increase in cases of DCM from January 1, 2018, to April 30, 2019, compared with previous years. Despite a great deal of work on the part of numerous investigators, the specific cause of diet-associated DCM has not yet been identified and dogs continue to be diagnosed. There have been 7 peer reviewed articles on this matter, read the article for details and resources about grain-free dog food and possible link to DCM:


What I look for when choosing a brand of dog food

The FDA regulates ingredients and pet food labels. You can learn more about how the FDA regulates dog food on their website:

I look for a statement from the AAFCO (Association of American Feed Control Officials), a private organization that provides nutrition standards, label regulations, and more guidelines for state, federal, and international pet food regulators. Although the AAFCO isn’t a regulatory body, many states have adopted its standards, which are set with feed regulators, agriculture departments, and the FDA.

I do not let terms like “organic” and “gourmet” influence my choices as they are marketing jargon and no federal regulation for these words on pet food labels.

My favorite dog food review and ratings website is Dog Food Advisor, This website provides a rating based on the ingredients, nutrient profiles, and recipes. I recommend signing up for the recalls and warnings alerts.


Dog food reviews

Koa has tried over 50 flavors and brands of dog foods! Here are a few of the most recent reviewed based on Koa’s eating habits and allergies:

  • Royal Canin Veterinary Diet Hydrolyzed Protein HP Dry Dog Food
    • 3.7/5, ate for a few days, then stopped, no signs or symptoms of allergic reaction
  • Wellness CORE Digestive Health Wholesome Grains Whitefish & Brown Rice Recipe Dry Dog Food
    • 3.7/5, ate for a few weeks, then stopped, no signs or symptoms of allergic reaction
  • Tender & True Limited Ingredient Grain-Free Salmon & Sweet Potato Recipe Dry Dog Food
    • 3.6/5, ate for a few weeks, stopped due to allergies may or may not be correlated to food
  • Hill's Prescription Diet z/d Skin/Food Sensitivities Original Flavor Dry Dog Food
    • 3.4/5, indifferent to the taste, no signs or symptoms of allergic reaction
  • ORIJEN Six Fish Grain-Free Dry Dog Food
    • 3.1/5, ate for a few days, no signs or symptoms of allergic reaction
  • Taste of the Wild Pacific Stream Smoke-Flavored Salmon Grain-Free Dry Dog Food
    • 2.4/5, grazed for a few bites, overall did not enjoy, no signs or symptoms of allergic reaction
  • Instinct Limited Ingredient Diet Adult Grain-Free Real Lamb Recipe Dry Dog Food
    • 1.5/5, ate for a few days, stopped due to allergies (ears red and inflamed) ultimately leading to an ear infection
  • Purina Pro Plan Veterinary Diets HA Hydrolyzed Vegetarian Dry Dog Food
    • 0/5, refused to eat

Koa has tried various proteins duck, kangaroo, and bison; I have found Koa does best with fish as the main ingredient. I haven’t really seen a big difference using the hydrolyzed protein. Unfortunately, we haven’t settled on a brand; our struggles continue…


I would love to hear your opinions:

  • What dog food allergies does your pup have?
  • What brand does your pup love?
  • What’s your favorite dog food review website?


Please note:
*I am not a veterinarian; these are just my personal opinion based on my own research and experience
*My reviews are not sponsored by any company or brand
*Please consult your veterinarian for tailored advise for your pup


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