What Is WSAVA?
WSAVA stands for the World Small Animal Veterinary Association and was formed in 1961 when a group of Veterinary professionals chose to re-brand their existing group – the International Association of Small Animal Specialists (IASAS).
The organization currently has more than 200,000 members that are a part of 113 member organizations. Their goals include advancing companion animal welfare, creating industry guidelines providing education.
The group has a high reputation, and many veterinary professionals in the western world are supporters or members of the group.
What Are The WSAVA Guidelines?
The WSAVA has many guidelines for the wellbeing of pets, but their most well known and controversial are those on the topic of dog food.
The guidelines lay out some strict and challenging criteria, including the use of educated and established nutritionists, feeding trials, and nutritional analysis of the food.
If you are interested, the full WSAVA Guidelines document can be found here, and I highly recommend you check them out so you can better understand this topic. WSAVA has also produced an FAQ document which you can read here. This FAQ page discusses many “myths” around the topic of dog food.
The WSAVA guidelines have seen a surge in popularity and discussion since the concerning discovery of links between the consumption of legumes (like Peas, Lentils, and Chickpeas), other ingredients and an increased risk of Canine Heart Disease.
We’ve covered this topic in great detail on this site, and I recommend you check out our articles Best Dog Foods Without Peas & Peas, Pea Protein, Pea Flour, and Pea Fiber in Dog Food if you want to learn more about this subject.
Since this explosion in awareness around WSAVA guidelines, some brands have chosen to tackle the issue head-on and have pages on their websites discussing it. You can check one of these pages by the Brand Wellness here.
However, many other dog food brands disagree with the guidelines and have chosen not to attempt to meet them. Only time will tell whether this decision is wise or whether consumers move away from these brands.
Critics of WSAVA and its guidelines will point out that WSAVA is funded by many of the “big” dog food brands, including Purina, Hill’s, and Royal Canin.
Based on this sponsorship, they believe that their guidelines are tailor-made to promote these brands and their foods and dissuade consumers from considering smaller pet food brands.
However, supporters of WSAVA would argue that it makes perfect sense for these brands to support the association as they also want to promote their beliefs on testing, standards, and the use of nutritionists.
You can see all of WSAVA’s industry partners on this page.
Why Most Dog Food Brands Are Not WSAVA Compliant
The section of the guidelines that most dog food brands struggle with is the use of a full time qualified nutritionist, especially one with a Ph.D. in animal nutrition.
As you can imagine, for a lot of the smaller brands, this role would be challenging to fulfill, not to mention there is a minimal number of qualified nutritionists available, to begin with.
Many dog food brands do not do extensive feeding trials, and instead, choose to do smaller-scale trials. Feeding Trails can be a controversial subject, as many consumers are against animal testing, especially in an invasive or laboratory setting.
That being said, no brand can effectively argue that their foods do not need to be extensively tested, as this step is crucial to ensuring they are well suited.
However, while some of the WSAVA guidelines are not met by many brands, it is essential to point out that almost all dog food brands meet some of the guidelines. An example of this would be the section of the guidlines on nutrient analysis and quality control standards.
Pet food brands are mandated to produce this information on the packaging of commercially sold food in the United States.
Best WSAVA Approved Dog Food
Purina Pro Plan All Life Stages Performance 30/20 Chicken & Rice Review
Purina Pro Plan is the favorite brand of most WSAVA supporters. It has been a behemoth of the dog food industry for decades, and millions of dogs eat their food every day.
Purina Pro Plan has a broad range of recipes, including those for different life stages and sizes. However, some of Purina Pro Plan’s most popular recipes are those for dogs with a sensitive stomach.
Purina Pro Plan does not focus on breed-specific formulas as much as some of its competitors that we will discuss later on.
The above Performance recipe from Purina Pro Plan is one of their best and is best suited for very active dogs. It’s most abundant ingredient is Chicken, which can provide a suitable portion of animal-based protein and fat.
The other main ingredients in the recipe are a mix of Corn ingredients, Rice, and by-products. While many in the industry frown upon ingredients such as these, fans of Purina Pro Plan believe they are well suited to dogs.
They would argue that Corn is a nutritionally dense ingredient that can provide carbohydrates, protein, and select vitamins and minerals.
Hill’s Science Diet Adult Chicken & Barley
Hill’s Science Diet is another giant of the industry and a familiar sight on the shelves of pet food stores and veterinary offices. The brand has been in existence for over 100 years and was first founded in Kansas
Hill’s has a vast product range that includes many niche and specialty formulas. Examples of these include recipes for Sensitive Skin, Urinary Care, Weight Management, Joint Health, and more. These recipes are often recommended or prescribed by veterinary professionals to dogs with exceptional circumstances.
For obvious reasons, we can not recommend one of these specialized recipes to most dogs without knowing their circumstances, so we’ve gone with one of their more generic recipes as a safe bet.
Chicken is once again the core ingredient of the recipe thanks to its low price point and excellent nutrition. The Chicken used in this recipe is in its whole form and not Chicken Meal, which is popular among many other brands.
This recipe from Hills uses a mix of Barley, Wheat, Corn, Sorghum, and Soybean to provide carbohydrates. This is quite an extensive range of grain ingredients compared to many other brand’s recipes.
You can read more about some of these grain ingredients in the below articles.
Royal Canin Sporting Life Trail 4300
Royal Canin is the last of big three pet food brands found in almost all large pet food stores like Petsmart. Royal Canin is owned by Mars Petcare, which owns many other well-known brands. We will discuss some of these later, but others include Whiskas and Pedigree.
As with the previous two brands, Royal Canin’s product range is enormous and includes recipes for dogs of all shapes and sizes. However, as we mentioned earlier, Royal Canin is one of the brands focusing on breed-specific recipes.
This breed-specific focus means that as long as your dog isn’t a part of a very unusual breed, Royal Canin will have a recipe tailor-made for them. Examples include German Shepherds, Labrador Retrievers, Bulldog’s, Boxer’s, Yorkshire Terriers, and more.
We recommend you check out the full range of Royal Canin recipes here to see if there is one for your dog’s breed.
Alternatively, we’ve recommended one of our favorite Royal Canin generic recipes, which is best suited to working dogs or those that are very active.
This recipe includes a very high proportion of protein and fat thanks to a considerable portion of Chicken By-Product Meal.
Chicken By-Product Meal is made by taking some of the less desirable cuts and parts of a Chicken processing it to produce a nutritionally dense ingredient. While many disagree with its use, supporters of Royal Canin would argue that dogs would naturally eat food such as this.
The recipe also includes ingredients such as Brewers Rice, Corn, Wheat, and more. These grain ingredients are present to provide carbohydrates, fiber, and some vitamins and minerals.
We’ve discussed the controversial ingredient that is Brewers Rice in an in-depth article. You can find it here, and we recommend you check it out to learn more.
Eukanuba Premium Sport 28/18 Condition Adult
Eukanuba is not as large as the previous three brands, but it is still well known and established. It features on the shelves of most large pet food stores and is available online from the massive pet food websites like Chewy and Petflow.
They produce a mix of breed-specific recipes and generic formulas. Their recipes aimed at large breed dogs and puppies are incredibly popular among dog owners who want to ensure their dogs do not suffer from health issues.
If you want to read an in-depth discussion of Eukanuba, you can check our review of the brand here.
We’ve selected another high activity dog food recipe to feature in this article because of its superior nutrition. As the name gives away, the above recipe includes 28% protein and 18% fat, which is far above average for the industry.
This high proportion of protein is thanks to a mix of Chicken and Chicken By-Product Meal. The fact that these two ingredients are the first two listed shows that Chicken makes up the bulk of the recipe, which is a fantastic trait.
The recipe also includes Corn, Sorghum, Brewers Rice, and more. These provide carbohydrates, fiber, and select micronutrients. Once again, if you want to learn more about some of these ingredients, you can check our articles Brewers Rice In Dog Food & Sorghum In Dog Food.
Iams Proactive Health High Protein Chicken & Turkey Adult
While the previous four brands are those that many dog owners would have imagined following the WSAVA guidelines, Iams is one that most would miss or not immediately think of. Despite this, they meet the guidelines comfortably and so earn a deserved place on our list.
Iams is best known for featuring on the shelves of grocery stores rather than pet food stores. Walmart, in particular, is a massive seller of Iams products, which you would have seen if you’d browsed their pet food aisles.
Iams product range is far smaller than brands like Purina and Hills, but it includes some of the core niche product types like Puppy food.
Our favorite recipe from their range is the High Protein formula. This recipe contains the highest portion of meat, which translates into 30% protein and 18% fat. It is critical that dogs, regardless of activity level, consume a considerable portion of meat and fish ingredients.
This large portion of meat is a mix of Chicken and Turkey ingredients. These poultry ingredients are regularly combined and provide extremely comparable nutrition.
The recipe also includes grain ingredients like Sorghum and Corn. Another inclusion in the formula is Brewers Yeast, which we mentioned briefly earlier. It is included as it can provide some beneficial vitamins and minerals that many believe can improve a dog’s health and wellbeing.
You can learn about this in our article Brewers Yeast In Dog Food.