Canstar Blue’s 2021 dog food review has compared Black Hawk, Coles, Supercoat, Royal Canin, ALDI Julius, My Dog, Pedigree, Hill’s Science Diet and Optimum on pet enjoyment, variety, packaging, value for money and overall satisfaction.
See our Ratings Methodology.
Some dogs like to eat pretty much everything, such as your new shoes or even the contents of a bin. So, is it really such a big deal which pet food they eat? And the answer is, yes ─ dogs do actually require particular dietary care. Whether it’s down to their breed, age, or health status, or whether they’re a fussy eater, there’s always more to pet food than cost and flavour. It’s also very important to have a chat with your vet to make sure your furry best friend is filling up on the right food.
To offer some guidance, Canstar Blue surveyed nearly 800 Aussie pet owners to find out how they and their four-legged pals rate the dog food they’ve purchased in the last three months. Respondents reviewed brands on pet enjoyment, range variety, packaging, value for money and overall satisfaction. Brands which received the minimum required survey sample size (30 responses) are compared in this report.
This year, it was Black Hawk and Coles sharing the top spot, rating five stars in multiple categories, including overall satisfaction.
Here are the best dog food brands in Australia, as rated by consumers in Canstar Blue’s 2021 review:
Black Hawk and Coles were both barking up the right tree when it came to digging up the paw-fect meal for Aussie pooches, earning five-star ratings in multiple categories, including overall satisfaction. Supercoat, Royal Canin and ALDI Julius were all rated four stars for overall satisfaction, while My Dog, Pedigree, Hill’s Science Diet and Optimum were all rated three stars.
While Black Hawk and Coles each scored multiple five star ratings, Royal Canin was the top dog for variety and range, with the only five star in the category. However, it was only these three brands who were rated five stars in any category, with all other brands sharing in four or three star ratings.
Read on for a brief overview of some of the major pet food brands available in Australia, before going into further detail about how to choose the right food for your dog.
We love our dogs, which is why it’s no surprise that there’s an incredibly long list of different dog food brands available here in Australia. Here, we cover the most prominent and widely available brands, but any brand’s exclusion from this list doesn’t indicate that it’s not worth looking into. Many brands are also produced by the same company, so we’ve mentioned the parent company for those. There’s quite a lot of diversity within each group, so each brand should be weighed up individually on its own terms.
Started by a breeder to produce a pet food solution that uses only nutritionally beneficial ingredients, Black Hawk claims to be part of the ‘real food movement’. The brand was founded in Australia and uses locally-made ingredients, without wheat, corn, soy, gluten, artificial preservatives and flavours, or unnecessary fillers. Uniquely, Black Hawk pet food contains emu oil which provides omega 3, 6 and 9. Its product range covers both puppy and adult dog food, and can be purchased from pet stores.
Your local Coles can offer some food types you might not find in every name-brand line – in addition to the expected dry food offerings. Coles covers tinned meals, as well as chewy treats and even dog rolls, with options for both adult dogs and small breed pups.
There’s plenty of flavour variety among these wet food options, with a number of different casserole and beef recipes. The dog rolls range covers chicken and rice as well as lamb and veggies. Canned varieties include beef or lamb pasta with vegetables. Buying dog food on a budget doesn’t have to be boring for your best bud!
One of the members of the Purina family, Supercoat offers dry dog food made from ‘wholesome, natural and well-balanced ingredients’ without the use of artificial colours or flavours, according to the brand. The range includes foods for puppies, adults, and mature dogs, as well as specialised options for active dogs, or targeting specific needs for sensitive skin and stomachs, and weight management. As well as dry food, there’s also a large range of wet food pouches, with recipes such as casserole, mince, and loaf.
Since 1968 Royal Canin has aimed to make nutrition a priority for both cats and dogs. You can categorise its ranges by breed, age, or size of your furry friend. Specialising in dry foods, Royal Canin also features products such as ‘Beauty Adults’, which are designed to support small dog breeds’ skin and coat health.
It also caters to puppies with a range of formulas claimed to help build their natural defences, and support healthy growth and digestive system development. The adult range is said to meet specific nutritional needs according to size, breed, and sensitivities while its mature range (7yrs+) features formulas tailored to meet the specific nutritional needs of mature dogs.
ALDI is well known for being budget-friendly with human food, but it also offers some cheap options for your pet. ALDI Julius dry dog food is Australian-made and is said to include natural prebiotics to help your dog’s digestion and immune system, along with high protein for healthy growth.
There’s also a Julius ‘Gold Puppy’ range available for dogs in their early stage of life, as well as Julius ‘Gold Lite’ for pets on a weight management program. You can also find Julius canned food, for those looking to buy wet meals for their dog.
International corporation Mars Petcare owns a huge range of pet food brands, including My Dog. Most of the range is focussed on wet meals, but there are four different dry dog food recipes on offer. The wet food range covers a staggering number of options, including beef and veal, chicken and turkey or country lamb and liver with special ranges for senior dogs and puppies also available. My Dog wet meals come in trays (sold individually and in multipacks) and cans. Its dry food varieties feature a roast chicken flavour as well as gourmet beef.
Owned by Mars Petcare, Pedigree is one of Australia’s longest-running major dog food brands and stands out on the shelf with its bright yellow packaging. The range covers dry and canned food for all life stages and breed sizes, as well as puppy milk, dental treats, and dry food for working dogs who need that extra boost of nutrition.
The wet food range covers multiple meat and veg combos in casserole, loaf, and other meals. There are also multiple flavours of dry food to choose from, to keep dinnertime even more exciting for your dog. This includes casserole with beef and gravy, loaf with five kinds of meat and homestyle with chicken, rice and veggies.
Hill’s Science Diet approaches pet food using biology-based nutrition. Similarly to other brands, it offers something to suit dogs of different sizes, ages and needs. The entire range includes a variety of can & tray meals, dry food, pouches, stews and treats. For specific health conditions, Hill’s Science Diet targets a large range of concerns. Some include digestive care, dental care, food sensitivity, glucose management, joint care, liver care, skin care and weight management.
A few of the flavours to expect include lamb meat & brown rice, chicken & barley, and savoury stew with chicken & vegetables.
Optimum – owned by Mars Petcare and endorsed by celebrity vet Dr. Chris Brown – offers a pretty wide range of nutrition solutions for puppies, adults, and senior dogs of all sizes. The menu covers a variety of different recipes for all categories, in dry, tinned, and tray serves.
Its adult range features grain-free options for dogs who aren’t at their very best when fed a grain-based diet. This range is available in a chicken & vegetable combo in 2.5kg, 6.5kg or beef & vegetables in 2.5kg. Wet foods are offered in 400g and 680g cans while dry food goes up to 15kg packs.
The brands featured in this year’s ratings aren’t the only ones worth considering. Here are a few more options you might want to check out.
Under the wide and wonderful Mars Petcare umbrella, Advance works hard to cater to Australian pets by taking into account the unique Aussie climate and lifestyle. The Advance dog food range covers both wet and dry varieties for puppies, adults and mature dogs. It also creates recipes targeting certain concerns, including weight control, sensitive skin and dental care.
Wet food comes in various tin sizes (400g to 700g), while dry food comes in bags of varying sizes, up to 8kg so you can keep well-stocked for a hungry dog. Flavour options include your standard chicken, lamb & turkey, plus seafood alternatives containing salmon and ocean fish.
One of the biggest players in the pet food market, Purina manufactures a wide variety of pet food ranges including Supercoat, Pro Plan and Bonnie just to name a few. Flavours include chicken, beef, lamb & pork as well as salmon and tuna for sensitive stomachs. Its Beyond range also features added vitamins, minerals and amino acids. There are also daily oral care dog treats designed to clean your dog’s teeth down to the gumline.
As each range manufactured by Purina has quite an extensive line-up within it, we thought to add an overview of each one:
Founded by a vet in New Jersey, USA, to help provide better nutrition to guide dogs suffering from severe kidney problems, Hill’s now is a major producer of specialised pet food for those suffering from injury or ailment. Hill’s started with its Prescription Diet product line, followed by the Science Diet range, with both options available in a choice of dry or canned food.
Hill’s Prescription Diet foods are targeted towards dogs managing or recovering from chronic or severe health issues, or recovering from surgery or any other medical intervention. Some of these include urinary tract care, brain aging care, liver care, weight loss, joint care, and weight reduction. The product range covers life stages from puppy through senior, with specialised options for different breed types, active dogs, mobility problems, weight management, and sensitive stomachs.
Nature’s Gift claims to offer food designed specifically for your dog’s health and wellbeing, using Australian meat as well as added vitamins and minerals. It offers a varied range of products including chilled deli rolls, easy-to-serve trays & cans, dry food, semi-moist dry food, plus treats, meaning your dog can get a variety of flavours and textures during mealtimes.
Some of the dry food combinations include kangaroo and mixed vegetables, chicken and fish or beef. For deli rolls expect combos like beef, potato, carrots and peas or kangaroo, sweet potato and peas just to name a few. You can find food for both pups and adult dogs with treats featuring a ‘Joint Care’ variety for your dog’s joint health and function.
Taking a simplicity-focussed approach, Applaws dog food is grain-free and claimed to use a minimum of 50% animal protein in every product. Applaws is stated to be free from artificial colours, flavours or preservatives, and promises to never use cheap and unnecessary fillers. The independent company produces a diverse range of recipes, in single-serve tins and pouches, as well as dry food. Recipes range from simple chicken breast pieces, to more complex dishes such as chicken with salmon and kelp.
Chum, with packaging featuring the iconic black Scottie dog, is an affordable favourite for canned dog food in lamb, chicken, three meats, and beef varieties. The brand is also owned by Mars Petcare and additionally offers dry food. You can sort the range by added health benefits including for dog’s skin, wellbeing, healthy development and for dogs who have active lifestyles. Canned varieties come in 700g cans with dry food available in 15kg bags.
Feeding our four-legged family members can take a hefty bite out of the ol’ wallet, with our research showing the average monthly spend on dog food increasing slightly from $94 to $99 in the past year.
And it looks like our pooches’ tastebuds are partly to blame. 44% of survey respondents have tried multiple brands of pet food, with 30% also buying different flavours, brands or types of food so their four-legged friends don’t get bored with the food. 12% of respondents generally buy the cheapest brand available, while 33% always buy the same.
Here’s how different drivers of customer satisfaction ranked in our survey:
Not all dog food is created equal – there can be a drastic difference between brands and their product lines. Unfortunately, it can be the case that cheaper dog food is riskier, as it may contain cheaper nutritionally-deficient fillers or it may not be compliant with Australian standards. This can happen at any end of the price range though, so it’s important to read the label.
The Australian pet food industry is largely self-regulated. In 2011, industry representatives, the RSPCA and various other relevant stakeholders developed the Australian Standard for the Manufacturing and Marketing of Pet Food (AS 5812-2011) which sets out the basic standards for pet food nutrition, safety and marketing. However, adherence to this standard is voluntary – so check the packaging to see whether or not it states to be compliant with AS 5812-2011. Also, according to the RSPCA, the regulation of ‘pet meat’ products is seriously lacking.
One longstanding issue with pet food safety in Australia is the use of sulphur dioxide, sodium sulphite, and potassium sulphite as food preservatives. These can cause potentially fatal thiamine (Vitamin B1) deficiencies in both cats and dogs. AS 5812 includes a requirement that any pet food product containing any of these preservatives must contain sufficient thiamine, to prevent a deficiency.
Dogs have different dietary needs at different stages in their life – that’s why you’ll see different foods labelled for different kinds of dogs.
There are also specialised food products available for dogs with particular needs. If your dog has any chronic health issues, you should consult your vet about the appropriate diet to keep them healthy and happy.
The following ingredients should be avoided in dog food products:
Unlike with cats, ‘fillers’ in dog food aren’t automatically bad – in fact, they’re nutritionally important (depending of course on the ingredients). For example, corn and rice are good, but corn syrup and MSG are bad. It’s also important to note that product names can be misleading. A product ‘with chicken’, for example, may contain chicken fat but no actual chicken meat. Reading the ingredients list is important to make the best choice for your dog. One useful thing to remember is that ingredients must be listed in order of the proportion present in the product – so look for dog foods with filler ingredients lower down on the list and real meat or other healthy ingredients listed first.
Wet food is commonly viewed as a treat, yet we don’t exactly know how good wet food is for dogs. In some circumstances, wet food can be a greater source of nutrition for dogs. The most common approach is to provide a mix of both wet and dry dog food – keeping dry food as the staple and wet food for a special meal once or twice per week. The ideal balance between the two varies depending on your dog’s age, health status, and preferences. Consult your vet for specific advice.
When asked what type of food they give their dogs, respondents to our survey said the following:
The two biggest benefits of dry dog food are simply its price and convenience. Generally, dry dog food is cheaper than wet dog foods, which can mean more money in the budget to buy treats and toys. It’s also very convenient because it stores well and can be more easily purchased in bulk. Unlike wet food, which spoils quickly after opening, dry dog food can be left out all day without compromising on safety. It can also be used with a timed automatic feeder device – handy for dog parents who sometimes aren’t home for every meal. Dry food is also good for teeth, as the shapes are designed to help clean the teeth as they’re chewed up.
Sometimes dogs can get fussy. That’s where wet dog food can come in handy. Dogs that are unwell, aging, or can’t smell very well may need a little extra help to get an appetite for dinner. Wet foods have a stronger smell (a very tasty smell to dogs) making them more appealing to eat, with wet food also easier to eat for dogs with teeth or jaw problems. In terms of nutrition, wet food can be a source of hydration for dogs that aren’t quite drinking enough water. It can also contain a higher proportion of animal protein and lower carbohydrate content.
However, wet food isn’t great for dogs prone to dental problems unless they’re given alternative dental care – such as cleaning those chompers yourself with a toothbrush. Wet food spoils very quickly once opened, and is generally more expensive to buy than dry food, with only smaller quantities available on supermarket shelves, making them ideal for the occasional meal rather than a dietary staple.
Dogs are actually omnivores, not carnivores – so it is quite possible for dogs to be vegetarian or vegan. That being said, as they have different dietary needs to us humans, you should take particular care to make sure that you meet their nutritional needs. It can be tricky, and not all dogs will take to it.
The easiest way to feed your dog a plant-based diet is by purchasing commercially produced vegetarian or vegan dog food. Be careful, however, that you choose a reputable brand that is vet-approved and compliant with nutrition standards. One example is Australian brand ‘Veganpet’, which meets AAFCO standards. You can also feed your dog food prepared yourself from vegetables – just make sure you choose suitably nutritious and safe veggies.
While the supermarket may naturally be considered the go-to for feeding your lovable pet, as it is for humans, you should consider going beyond supermarket shelves. As with many products, supermarkets don’t necessarily stock the highest end or even the greatest range, although it is convenient to do your dog’s grocery shopping at the same time as the human grocery shopping.
Dog food can be purchased from pet supply stores, online retailers, and sometimes direct from the manufacturers themselves. From our survey, 58% of respondents said they buy their pet food from the supermarket, while 34% buy from a pet store and 3% buy from their vet.
It can be cheaper in the long term to buy bulk dog food online, particularly if you’re buying from pricier brands. A fifth (20%) of pet owners said they generally buy the largest capacity of pet food available. Just make sure that you’re buying a reputable brand – do your research. If you’re considering an unfamiliar brand, it’s well worth your time looking for reviews and pet care forums to see what other dog carers’ experience has been with the product. After all, your pup’s health and wellbeing are well worth your time.
This report was written by Canstar Blue’s home & lifestyle journalist, Tahnee-Jae Lopez-Vito. She’s an expert on household appliances, grooming products and all things grocery and shopping. In addition to translating our expert research into consumer-friendly ratings reports, Tahnee spends her time helping consumers make better-informed purchase decisions on all manner of consumer goods and services, while highlighting the best deals and anything you need to be aware of.
Picture credits: Jaromir Chalabala/Shutterstock.com, Liliya Kulianionak/Shutterstock.com, Tyler Olson/Shutterstock.com, Pixel-Shot/Shutterstock.com, Irina Kozorog/Shutterstock.com, RossHelen/Shutterstock.com, Ezzolo/Shutterstock.com.
Canstar Blue surveyed more than 3,000 Australian adults across a range of categories to measure and track customer satisfaction, via ISO 26362 accredited research panels managed by Qualtrics. The outcomes reported are the results from customers within the survey group who have purchased food for their dog in the last three months – in this case, 784 people.
Brands must have received at least 30 responses to be included. Results are comparative and it should be noted that brands receiving three stars have still achieved a satisfaction measure of at least six out of 10. Not all brands available in the market have been compared in this survey. The ratings table is first sorted by star ratings and then by mean overall satisfaction. A rated brand may receive a ‘N/A’ (Not Applicable) rating if it does not receive the minimum number of responses for that criteria.
Here is the past winner from Canstar Blue’s dog food review: