What Is the WSAVA Organization?
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 and 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.
However, until recently, the WSAVA was relatively unknown among pet owners and even among veterinary professionals and technicians.
With the recent controversies around pet food formulation and potential risks caused by ingredient selection, the WSAVA has been thrust into the limelight.
What Are The WSAVA Guidelines?
The WSAVA has many guidelines for the well-being of pets, but their most well-known and controversial are those on the topic of dog food.
The guidelines were first developed in 2011 and lay out some strict and challenging criteria for dog food brands to meet, 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.
One of the first pages produced by a pet food brand was by Wellness which you can find here. Since then, many others have followed suit, including Zignature, The Farmer’s Dog, and Freshpet.
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 will 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 guidelines 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.
They comfortably meet the WSAVA guidelines and have the strongest partnership with the organization.
In particular, they are a world leader in research and development and employ several veterinary nutritionists to formulate their foods, which you can find listed here.
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 sensitive stomachs.
Purina Pro Plan does not focus on breed-specific formulas as much as some of its competitors, which we will discuss later on.
If you’d like to learn more about Purina Pro Plan, including its choice of ingredients, nutritional profile, and recall history, check out our Purina Pro Plan Brand Review.
The above Performance recipe from Purina Pro Plan is one of their best and is best suited for very active dogs.
Its most abundant ingredient is Chicken, which can provide a suitable portion of animal-based protein and fat. In this recipe, Chicken helps to provide a minimum of 30% protein and 20% fat, as the recipe’s name gives away.
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.
Purina Pro Plan does not make use of some of the popular minor ingredients used in dog food in this recipe, such as Flaxseed, Beet Pulp, or Brewers Yeast.
If Purina Pro Plan’s dry dog food does not interest you, you may want to consider their wet/canned options, such as the one below.
Purina Pro Plan Focus Adult Sensitive Skin & Stomach Salmon & Rice Entree Review
This recipe focused on dogs with sensitive skin and stomachs is one of their most popular recipes and has been a staple of dog bowls for generations.
All of Purina’s vast and expansive research and development comes into its own with its recipes aimed at dogs with allergies, and you can be much more confident in results than other less-researched brands and formulas.
As you can imagine, based on the recipe’s name, Salmon is the primary ingredient in the recipe and is the bulk of its content.
Salmon is an excellent choice for dogs and can act as an abundant source of fish-based protein and fat and, in this case, provides a minimum of 7% protein and 5% fat.
In addition, Salmon is one of the best sources of the Omega 3 Fatty Acids, which are thought to provide several health benefits to dogs, especially those with skin issues or allergies.
The bulk of the remaining ingredients found in this recipe is Rice which is another grain ingredient heavily utilized by Purina Pro Plan.
There are also several ‘Gums’ and binding agents found in this recipe, such as Xanthan Gum and Guar Gum.
While these ingredients may concern some, they are used to hold the ingredients together in a consistent manner and not for their nutritional content.
Lastly, if you still want to feed a Purina recipe but aren’t sure about their Pro Plan options or their cost, we would highly recommend checking out their Purina Beyond sub-brand, including the below recipe.
Purina Beyond Simply Chicken & Whole Barley Recipe Review
Purina Beyond is a relatively new sub-brand from Purina, but that doesn’t mean it should be dismissed.
Beyond has hit the sweet spot between some of Purina’s low-cost brands like Alpo or Beneful and their higher-cost brands like Purina Pro Plan.
They do this by offering surprisingly impressive nutrition and ingredient quality at a moderate price point. For example, a 24-lb bag of some of their dry dog food recipes can comfortably cost under $40.
In addition, Purina Beyond has become one of a tiny number of brands offering organic dog food.
If you’d like to learn more about organic dog food, including why some find it controversial, head on over to our Best Organic Dog Food Guide.
The above Chicken recipe is one of their grain-inclusive offerings, but Beyond also has some grain-free formulas.
Chicken and Chicken Meal are the recipe’s primary sources of animal-based protein and fat and are present in a satisfactory proportion.
These Chicken ingredients sum to provide a minimum of 24% protein and 14% fat which is ideal for typical dogs who are not overactive.
Outside of this Chicken, the recipe uses a mix of Barley and other plant-based ingredients like Canola and Oat Meal to provide a considerable yet reasonable proportion of carbohydrates.
Unlike Purina Pro Plan, Purina Beyond recipes usually does not contain some of the minor ingredients like Flaxseed and Brewers Yeast which could make them advantageous to those who do not react well to these ingredients.
If you’d like to learn more about Purina Beyond, including information on its organic products, its ingredient selection, and recall history, be sure to check out our Purina Beyond Brand Review.
Hill’s Science Diet Adult Chicken & Barley Review
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.
They also have a close relationship with the WSAVA organization and are a leader in the research and development of dog food and canine nutrition.
While they do not list specific veterinary nutritionists on their website as Purina Pro Plan did, they still discuss their methodology and approach and claim to work with more than 220 veterinarians, qualified nutritionists, and food scientists.
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.
The best example of a dry dog food recipe for health issues from Hills is their Adult Sensitive Stomach & Skin Chicken Recipe.
However, it is worth noting that all of this research and development does come at a cost, and many of Hill’s Science Diet recipes are costly, especially in large quantities.
For more information on Hill’s Science Diet and its specialized recipes, check out our review of the brand here.
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.
However, as is the case with most Hill’s Science Diet recipes, they tend to provide lower levels of protein and fat, coming in at a minimum of 20% and 11.5%, which is noticeably lower than Purina Pro Plan and Royal Canin.
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 brands’ recipes.
You can read more about some of these grain ingredients in the below articles.
In addition to the above dry dog food recipe from Hill’s, we’d also recommend considering their wet/canned options, such as the one below.
Beef & Barley Entree Review
While their wet/canned range isn’t quite as large, there is still plenty of variety to choose from. The above Beef & Barley Entree recipe is a great all-around pick for dogs without specific health issues.
It utilizes a mix of Beef and Pork Liver as its two ingredients which are excellent high-quality meat ingredients.
In particular, Pork Liver isn’t just a source of protein and fat and is also sure to improve palatability and boost the levels of some beneficial minerals.
In total, the recipe can provide dogs with a minimum of 5% protein and 2.5% fat which, like their dry food, is lower than some other brands mentioned here.
Similar to Hill’s dry food recipes, this canned recipe includes a portion of two unique grain ingredients; Corn and Barley.
These contribute a moderate proportion of carbohydrates and some dietary fiber to the recipe.
If you are looking for some wet/canned options for specific health issues, such as sensitive skin or obesity, be sure to check out Hill’s Adult Sensitive Stomach & Skin Tender Turkey & Rice Stew or their Adult Perfect Weight Hearty Vegetable & Chicken Chew.
Royal Canin Size Health Nutrition Medium Adult Review
Royal Canin is the last of the ‘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.
You can learn the full history of Royal Canin, including details on when they were bought out by Mars Petcare, on our Royal Canin Review Page.
While Royal Canin may not be quite as vocal on their use of veterinary nutritionists to develop their recipes, we know for a fact that they utilize them and have an array of expertise on hand.
Their Nutritional Philosophy goes into detail about their approach to the development of their food and is a good read for anyone interested.
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.
Some of their most popular recipes include a German Shepherd Adult Recipe, Labrador Retriever Adult Recipe, and a Golden Retriever Adult Recipe.
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 medium-sized dogs.
Chicken By-Product Meal is utilized by this generic recipe as its primary source of animal-based content, and this provides a modest proportion of protein and fat at a minimum of 23% and 12%.
Chicken By-Product Meal is made by taking some of the less desirable cuts and parts of a Chicken and 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, Oats Groats, 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.
If your dog isn’t medium-sized, but this recipe still interests you, be sure to check out Royal Canin’s small breed formula or their large breed formula.
Eukanuba Premium Sport 28/18 Condition Adult Review
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 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 (which you can find here and here) are incredibly popular among dog owners who want to ensure their dogs do not suffer from health issues.
Despite their smaller size, they still manage to meet the WSAVA Guidelines thanks to focusing on science and experts.
While they may not have the army of veterinarians that a brand like Purina has, they still have several on staff to formulate their recipes, and you can see some of these on their Team Eukanuba page.
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.
Unlike Purina Pro Plan, Eukanuba does utilize some of the industry’s popular minor ingredients like Dried Beet Pulp and Brewers Yeast.
If you are interested in wet/canned food from Eukanuba, you will find that they have a far smaller range available compared to some others mentioned here, but they do have a few reliable recipes, including the one listed below.
Adult Beef & Vegetable Stew Review
The above recipe utilizes a dense mix of Chicken and Beef ingredients, including Beef Liver, to provide a large portion of animal-based content that is high in animal-based protein and fat.
As we’ve discussed before, the Beef Liver provides additional protein and fat along with high levels of some beneficial vitamins and minerals.
Outside of these Chicken and Beef ingredients, the recipe includes typical stew vegetables such as Tomatoes, Carrots, and Peas but also some other minor ingredients like Wheat, Powdered Cellulose, and Flaxseed.
The typical stew vegetables provide a moderate proportion of carbohydrates and fiber as well as an appealing texture and taste.
Powdered Cellulose can be a controversial addition to dog food recipes, with some claiming it provides no nutritional value, but others believe it is an acceptable addition.
Read more about Powdered Cellulose in our article Powdered Cellulose In Dog Food.
Iams Proactive Health High Protein Chicken & Turkey Adult Review
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.
They do not make public as much information on their nutritional approach or expertise as other brands listed here, but 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.
On a related note, Iams is also an extremely affordable brand and far more cost-effective than some of the others mentioned previously.
While some dog owners have excess money to spend on their canine friends, others do not and have to make their money go further.
To learn more about Iams, including their recall history, product range, and ingredient selection, visit our Iams Brand Review.
Iams’s 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 well-being. You can learn about this in our article Brewers Yeast In Dog Food.
Iams’ canned dog food recipes are some of the most affordable available in the United States, with a case of 12 13-oz cans costing under $20. The below Lamb and Rice Pate is a prime example of this.
Iams With Lamb And Rice Pate Review
The recipe includes an impressive amount of animal-based content for such an affordable formula.
This content includes Chicken, Chicken By-Products, and Lamb, which, when combined, help to contribute towards a minimum protein and fat proportion of 8% and 6%, respectively.
The includes of Lamb is notable and could be appealing to dogs whose diet does not usually venture outside of the core low-cost meat ingredients like Chicken, Turkey, and Beef.
Outside of this meat content, the recipe differs from its dry counterpart and includes a mix of Brown Rice and Brewers Rice.
Brown Rice is the preferred ingredient between the two and is the most abundant, but both of these rice-based ingredients provide a mixture of carbohydrates and fiber.
Any recommendations for non-Chicken based food?
These are the recommended foods? Why are the ingredients such low quality in your “recommended” foods. There are so many better options out there with vets and nutritionists on staff to make sure the food is properly formulated. This seems like you are really doing the pet clients a disservice by not providing the best options and only providing the options from the companies that contribute the most to your organization via the diamond sponsorship.
Your definition of what is considered quality is biased because you are a human and you are looking at the names of the products instead of nutritional value, digestibility, and biological suitability. Dog food does not need to be ‘human grade’ to be an excellent source of nutrition, and we have seen over the last several years how several of the boutique brand diets have contributed to the development of dilated cardiomyopathy in dogs who are not otherwise genetically disposed.
The foods on this list are formulated by post-graduate educated veterinary nutritionists whose job it is to create and produce balanced, biologically-appropriate diets with the goal of optimal health in pet and working dogs. The foods go through extensive feeding trials before being released to the market. Quality control is a high priority for the manufacturers. In other words, these foods meet WSAVA guidelines. Yes, there are others, but as the author wrote, this is only a small selection of the highlighted brands’ products the author feels are most suitable to the general pet population.
Chicken meal, for instance, is a nutrient-rich protein source and is also a cost-effective ingredient. Rice and sorghum both provide protein and dietary fiber. Several of these foods have close protein to fat ratios. Of note, you may notice that most of the foods have protein values under 30%, which is important for dogs who have histories of urinary crystals. Each ingredient is selected and utilized for a very specific reason. If they weren’t beneficial, they wouldn’t be in the food.
As the author recommended, please review the full document of WSAVA guidelines and research how the recommended foods are formulated, studies, and produced. You’ll find that only a small amount of companies are doing all the right things, and many have jumped on the bandwagon of tailoring their marketing to humans, ie. using buzzwords that appeal to the human eater rather than what is best for the dog consuming the food.
My dog can’t have chicken and every food listed here contains chicken. Do you have any recommendations for any others besides these?
Unfortunately, most vets are not specialists in proper, balanced pet nutrition. No thank you to any of these dog food recommendations.
Hey Sarah, we also have a dog that is allergic to chicken and it is very hard to find good alternatives. So many brands market their beef, salmon or whatever mix with a huge slab of meat on the bag but you read the ingredient list and the first or second ingredient is chicken, and/or the binder is chicken fat. There are a few brands out there with no chicken and we have been using Zignature for the past few years. Our dogs seem to love the taste and they have options including white fish, salmon, bison, lamb, kangaroo and others. We get ours from a local pet store as Zignature also has a loyalty program where you buy 12 bags your next is free. Hope that helps!
Can you please recommend a brand for our 10 month old pembroke corgi? Thank you!
We used to use Zignature, but it is strongly associated with DM-DCM so we switched off of it.
My dogs ate Zignature lost three to hearts disease
Have You ever heard of FROMM dog food? That is what our breeder gave our puppy and we continue to feed him that brand.
Fromm is on the list for DCM. Stick to Purina, Iams, Eukanuba or Royal Canin.
Fromm is on the list because of its grain-free offerings that were fed. You can buy varieties of Fromm with grain that have little to no legumes. In fact most of the brands on the list have formulas that are not legume heavy and would be perfectly safe to fed. The majority of offerings from Purina, Iams, Eukanuba and especially Royal Canin are really not the greatest.
My dog was just diagnosed with Canine Dilated Cardiomyopathy. He had been on grain free Kasiks dry food. I am looking for a new food for him and it has been tough and confusing, so far. What I am starting to realize is that people are confusing what is good for dogs because it is good for humans. I went to a local, more natural, pet store yesterday, and the girl helping me was proudly showing me some food that was high in quinoa. Quinoa is great for humans, but is it good for dogs? I don’t know, and I don’t think she knew either. The vet recommended that I avoid boutique brands, and I am leaning that way because a boutique brand is what go my dog in trouble in the first place. Wish it was clearer what is best for my dog.
Stay away from those “boutigue” dog foods. Best to go with a WSAVA approved food.
Thoughts on Costco dog food, specifically the salmon based.
Sarah my good can’t have chicken .. try Purina pro plan salmon & rice for sensitive stomach & skin.. it doesn’t have chicken .. my dog is doing outstanding since I starting feed this kibble
Devon- if it’s Natures domain from Costco, it’s on the DCM list.
Can anyone give me any info on EarthBorn? My Boston Terrier is eating a combination dry Earth Born Rabbit, Ocean Fish, and Lamb. Initially she was thought to have a possible food allergy, but it turned out to be seasonal allergy. It’s been difficult finding a food without some form of chicken, but Earth Born non-chicken foods have no chicken whatsoever.
Is “Purina Pro Plan Sensitive Skin & Stomach 7+ Salmon & Rice Formula Dry Dog Food” considered WSAVA approved?
yes all purina pro plan types are WSAVA approved.