Cocker Spaniel ready to eat his dog food

Best Dog Food for Cocker Spaniels: Top 10 Feeding Picks

The best dog food for Cocker Spaniels is the one that helps your dog feel their best and live a long, healthy life. It’s important to understand the characteristics and physical needs of your Cocker when introducing or switching to a new dog food.

Cockers have been a part of my life for over three decades, and I’m considered a pet product expert. From a breeding perspective, Cockers were bred to be sporting dogs and to hunt small game, especially birds. This is important because they need fuel aka food, to help sustain that level of energy.

There are thousands upon thousands of dog food selections available to pet parents. My Cockers have tried dozens and dozens of dog food varieties over the years. I’ve toured some of the well-known dog food manufacturing facilities and have investigated hundreds upon hundreds of pet foods over the years.

I’ll be sharing how to choose a high-quality diet to feed your Cocker Spaniel and why one food is not ideal for all dogs. All of these selections were compiled through years of feeding, research, talking to Cocker Spaniel breeders, and discussing what works and doesn’t with thousands of Cocker Spaniel moms and dads.

Dog Food: About Nutritional Needs of Cocker Spaniels

Cocker Spaniels are foodies and often dubbed ‘bottomless pits.’ Cockers will often act as if they have never been fed. Many will seek food from another family member in an attempt for a second meal. Because of this, they are prone to weight gain.

Cocker Spaniels are notorious for skin and systemic sensitivities and food allergies. By feeding the same protein repeatedly, you can make your dog become sensitive to it so he will itch, scratch, have loose stools, etc. Overall health starts in the gut.

Like all dogs, Cockers require a balanced diet of protein, carbohydrates, healthy fats, fatty acids, and essential nutrients like vitamins and minerals. Protein helps muscles grow, tissues heal, and provide overall development. Things like whole grains or brown rice provide a source of carbohydrates for digestion and energy.

Healthy fats come from salmon oil or flaxseed for brain function and healthy skin and coat. Fruits and vegetables provide essential vitamins and minerals to help the immune system and more. Natural preservatives are often used in dog food to preserve freshness.

What To Look For When Choosing Cocker Spaniel Dog Food

Cocker Spaniels are prone to skin issues, food and environmental allergies and sensitivities, sensitive stomachs, and sensitive immune systems. I’ve been through it all with my Cockers.

When choosing the best food for your American Cocker Spaniel or English Cocker Spaniel, consider the following:

  • Avoiding Common Allergens: Some common offenders include corn, wheat, chicken, and beef.
  • Age and Life Stage: Some dog foods are designed for puppies, senior dogs, or all life stages.
  • Digestibility: If dog food is harder to digest, your Cocker may experience gastric reflux, colitis, vomiting, diarrhea, or pancreatitis. Easier-to-digest dog food includes fresh dog food, rehydrated dog food with protein, or a home-cooked diet.
  • AAFCO Approved: This stands for Association of American Feed Control Officials. It is a non-profit organization that sets standards for pet food labels, nutritional content, and more. It means the dog food is complete and balanced for a particular life stage. It does not mean the food is the best choice.
  • Made in the USA: Make sure all the ingredients are American-sourced, too.
  • High-Quality Protein as First Ingredient: You want to avoid meat meals and meat by-products as much as possible. Proteins are the building blocks of life.
  • What Your Cocker Will Eat: It won’t matter how much money you spend on dog food if your Cocker doesn’t like it or won’t eat it.
  • Free of Unnecessary Ingredients: Your Cocker does not need artificial colors, flavors, preservatives, or GMOs.

Best Dog Food for Cocker Spaniels

Here’s our list of the best dog food for Cocker Spaniels in a variety of categories. Your Cocker’s age, weight, health issues, and energy level should all be considered when selecting a pet food.

Some of the links in this article are affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. I am also an Etsy and Chewy affiliate.

Best Overall Dog Food for Cocker Spaniels

Our choice: Dr. Harvey’s Veg-to-Bowl Fine Ground Dog Food

Veg to bowl after adding water to vegetables

Dr. Harvey’s offers a variety of dehydrated foods for dogs. My favorite varieties are the pre-mixes used to make your Cocker Spaniel balanced, homemade meals. You measure with the scoop provided, add warm water, and wait about 10 minutes. Add in your own home-cooked or raw protein and an oil and serve. That’s it.

My favorite Dr. Harvey’s formulas include: Canine Health, which includes grains; Paradigm, a low-carb diet; Raw Vibrance, which can be used with raw or cooked proteins; and Veg-to-Bowl dehydrated vegetable mix. I make enough base mix for three days and enough protein for five days and microwave a meal twice a day for Alvin.

Things I Like

  • Easy to prepare with warm water
  • My dog gets a fresh, whole, safe, delicious meal every time
  • I can prepare the mix and protein days in advance
  • All the nutritional work is done for you, so no wondering what to feed and how much
  • A variety of formulas
  • Made in the USA
  • No fillers, dyes, preservatives, etc.
  • Follows AAFCO feeding guidelines
  • Most formulas can be fed for all life stages

I called and spoke to Dr. Harvey (he’s real, I met him, and he is a wealth of knowledge who takes calls). He told me the best formulas for a Cocker Spaniel puppy are the Canine Health, Veg-to-Bowl, or Garden Veggies varieties. These formulas are higher in carbs than the others. Since puppies are active and need the extra energy, I opted to rotate between the three, sticking mostly to Canine Health.

Things to Consider

  • You need to add your own protein unless you choose the formulas with proteins (my dogs haven’t cared for those)
  • It is on the pricey side
  • Your dog may poop a bit more
  • A bit inconvenient when you travel (I used a microwave to reheat)

Best Dehydrated Dog Food with Protein for Cocker Spaniels

Our choice: The Honest Kitchen Grain-Free Turkey Recipe

best dog food for Cocker Spaniels dehydrated

My second Cocker Spaniel, Dexter, would often eat The Honest Kitchen’s dehydrated formulas with real beef, chicken, or turkey. Founded by Lucy Postins, an animal nutritionist, The Honest Kitchen recipes are human-grade. They only use ingredients pet parents can recognize and pronounce, and they use premium meats, grains in some formulas, and fruits and veggies.

Things I Like

  • Easy to prepare by adding warm water
  • Follows AAFCO feeding guidelines
  • Available with grains or without
  • No need to worry about adding a protein
  • Made with human-grade ingredients in a human food facility
  • Contains no by-products, preservatives, fillers, GMOs, corn, or soy
  • Most ingredients are USA-sourced
  • Ideal for all life stages

Things to Consider

  • A bit pricey
  • You may need to rotate to find the protein(s) your dog likes best
  • Dogs may poop more often

Best Air Dried Dog Food for Cocker Spaniels

Our choice: Ziwi Peak Grain-Free Beef Recipe

This isn’t your grandmother’s dog food. ZIWI is based in New Zealand and uses its process of air drying to naturally preserve meats. Their two-stage process eliminates pathogens and bacteria like salmonella and listeria so your Cocker gets all the benefits and taste.

Each air-dried recipe is composed of 96 percent meat, organs, and bones, along with 3 percent New Zealand Green Mussel for natural joint protection (glucosamine and chondroitin.) They tout it as a safe raw alternative because of the air-drying process. Many Cocker Spaniel friends feed ZIWI air-dried, and this is my favorite dog food for animal protein as its dominant source.

Things I Like

  • Several protein varieties so you can rotate if desired
  • Meats are from free-range and grass-fed cows on sustainable, ethical New Zealand farms
  • Contain no antibiotics, growth promoters, or added hormones
  • Contains more moisture than dry kibble
  • Minimal ingredients for easy digestion
  • High taurine levels for heart health
  • Natural and non-GMO
  • Good for all life stages

Things to Consider

  • Expensive
  • Some picky dogs may not care for the texture or flavor

Best Fresh Frozen Food For Cocker Spaniels

Our choice: JustFoodForDogs Fresh Frozen Dog Food

Just Food for Dogs for Cocker Spaniels

Cocker Spaniels are often fussy, which is why I’ve included this human-grade meal selection from Just Food For Dogs. Many of our Cocker Spaniel friends are happy with this diet for their dogs. The food will arrive frozen to your doorstep and can be frozen for up to one year without any preservatives. All you need to do is thaw and serve. The human-edible ingredients are made in small batches without any nasty chemicals, dyes, or additives.

Things I Like

  • Ease of feeding: No mixing, adding ingredients, or cooking required
  • Made in small batches by hand
  • Many proteins and selections available: From beef and russet potato to lamb and brown rice
  • Superior customer service if you have any questions
  • Ideal for Cockers with allergies or sensitivities due to real, pure ingredients
  • Meal packets are easy to store and use

Things to Consider

  • A bit expensive
  • Easiest to get on auto-delivery so you don’t ever run out

Best Dog Food for Cocker Spaniels with Allergies

Our choice: Dr. Harvey’s Raw Vibrance

Cocker Spaniel raw vibrance dog food

We rotate our Cocker Spaniel’s food with the Raw Vibrance diet by Dr. Harvey’s. You don’t have to be a raw feeder to use this, as I don’t feed raw food diet. It is a grain-free, holistic blend of 24 whole foods to which you add protein and oil. Your dog will enjoy everything from green-lipped mussels to raw goat’s milk, shitake mushrooms, and eggshell membrane in this formula. Dr. Harvey’s released this formula in the summer of 2018, and it has been a successful part of our feeding ever since.

Things I Like

  • Made in the United States without preservatives, additives, or chemicals
  • Easily rehydrates within 10 minutes by adding warm water
  • Ingredients may help support your Cocker Spaniel’s immune system
  • Dr. Harvey’s has never had a food recall
  • You control the protein whether raw or cooked
  • Looks and smells great, which Cockers find appealing

Things to Consider

  • The food is costly

Best Dry Dog Food for Cocker Spaniels

Our choice: Zignature Turkey Limited Ingredient Formula Dry Dog Food

Best dry food for Cocker Spaniels

Although I am not a proponent of dry dog food, many Cocker Spaniel owners have success with it. As long as you feed a high-quality kibble like Zignature’s turkey formula, you too, may find your dog is successful on it. We like that real turkey is the main ingredient (first) and that it is rich in riboblavin and selenium. Members in my Club Cocker Facebook group report their dogs devour the meal.

Zignature also offers other proteins like catfish, duck, kangaroo, and lamb. These are more novel proteins that many Cocker Spaniels with sensitivities and allergies do well on. Fortified with probiotics for gut health, this limited-ingredient dry dog food is worth considering.

Things I Like

  • Probiotics help promote proper digestion and gut health
  • Meat is the first ingredient
  • Contains omega (fatty acids) 3’s and 6’s for skin and coat health
  • Limited ingredients for sensitive Cockers
  • Complete and balanced for puppies to adult dogs

Things to Consider

  • Bag is not resealable, but we recommend storing kibble in a proper air-tight container
  • Consider adding Zignature’s wet food as a topper

Best Canned Dog Food for Cocker Spaniels

Our choice: ACANA Premium Chunks Wet Dog Food

Acana wet dog food for Cocker Spaniel dogs

Over and over, when I ask Cocker Spaniel owners what wet food they prefer, Acana comes up. Their premium chunks contain meat as the first ingredient. Acana makes other flavors, but the beef canned food contains eef, beef bone broth, lamb broth, sweet potatoes, beef liver, cranberries, carrots, bison, spinach, dried egg whites, dried egg product, and vitamins and minerals. It’s easy and transparent, and it looks like real meat because it is.

Things I Like

  • Grain-free recipe which can be fed alone or as a tasty topper
  • Contains no corn, wheat, soy, peas, or gluten
  • Made in the United States
  • Easier to digest
  • Infused with bone broth for increased palatability
  • Picky Cockers tend to prefer this flavor

Things to Consider

  • Some Cockers turned their noses up at this food

Best Freeze-Dried Raw Dog Food for Cocker Spaniels

Our choice: Stella & Chewy’s Super Beef Dinner Patties

Stella and Chewy dinner patties for Cocker Spaniels

When I polled my Club Cocker Facebook group of over 5,000 members for their favorite raw food, the overwhelming winner was Stella and Chewy’s freeze-dried dinner patties. Your Cocker Spaniel can enjoy meat, organs and bone thanks to one single source animal protein. Each patty can be served as is or rehydrated with water. Beef, Lamb and Venison are sourced from North America, Australia and New Zealand. They are grass-fed.

Things I Like

  • Complete and balanced nutrition is enhanced with probiotics to aid in healthy digestion
  • Made in the USA
  • Made with grass-fed beef raised without hormones or antibiotics and 100% organic-certified fruits and vegetables.
  • Stella & Chewy’s freeze-dried foods have an expiration date of 18 months past the date of production

Things to Consider

  •  Do not cook, heat, or microwave the product
  • Number of patties to feed each day based on a pet’s weight

Best Grain Free Dog Food for Cocker Spaniels

Our choice: VICTOR Purpose Ultra Pro Grain-Free Dry Dog Food

Dry kibble for Cocker Spaniel dog food

My favorite grain-free dog food is from Dr. Harvey’s, but if you prefer a grain-free kibble, consider VICTOR brand Grain-Free Ultra Pro. My Cocker, Alvin, was fed VICTOR Premium kibble by his breeder. Although we switched, many Cocker Spaniel dog show handlers and breeders swear by VICTOR dog food. Despite that meal is the first ingredient, this is the case with many kibble formulas. It is made in the USA and is very high in protein while remaining low in carbs.

Things I Like

  • Ideal for dogs of all life stages
  • 89 percent of the protein is from meat sources
  • Appropriate amount of vitamins, minerals, amino acids, essential fatty acids and protein
  • Many Cocker Spaniel owners report firm poops on this food
  • Contains prebiotics and probiotics

Things to Consider

  • May be too rich for some Cocker Spaniels
  • Some pet parents report diarrhea, so go slow in introducing this food and monitor after

Best Dog Food for Overweight Cocker Spaniels

Our choice: Dr Harveys Healthy Weight

Cocker Spaniel eating healthy dog food for weight loss

I helped my Cocker Spaniel, Dexter, lose weight with regular exercise, decreasing calories the right way, feeding fewer treats, and using Dr. Harvey’s Healthy Weight beef formula. Dexter lost two pounds in one month, which is ideal and what our veterinarian recommended. Like all Dr. Harvey’s dog food, you add warm water. This food comes with a protein, which includes chicken or beef. A prepared serving may seem like less food, but it is nutrient-dense and formulated to meet daily canine requirements. Read our full review on this Healthy Weight dog food.

Things I Like

  • Easy to make, and the protein is included
  • The meat is USDA antibiotic-free sourced in the United States
  • Chicken is free-range and US sourced
  • Can be used as a maintenance diet once your Cocker has achieved the desired weight
  • Smells like home-cooked food because it is, making it very palatable

Things to Consider

  • Cannot be fed to puppies
  • Very expensive
  • Only two proteins that tend to be the ones many Cockers are allergic to
  • Dogs tend to poop more on this formula

Cocker Spaniel Dog Food Buyer’s Guide

Choose food based on your Cocker’s individual needs. If you have 20 Cocker Spaniels in the room, it’s highly likely they each are on different diets.

We recommend you always look at buyer reviews from various sources, including Amazon and Chewy. Read what pet parents are saying and pay attention to the pros and cons. Every food on our list was carefully vetted.

Deciphering Dog Food Terminology

The pet industry likes to throw fancy terms around while using trendy-sounding words on packaging. Here are a few:

Human Grade Dog Food

 Human grade refers to a finished product that is deemed legally suitable, safe, and FDA-approved for consumption by a human.

Feed Grade Dog Food

Feed grade refers to the quality of a finished product that is not suitable for consumption by humans according to FDA standards. It is only legally allowed to be served to animals because of the ingredients it contains or how it has been processed. Further, it may include by-products, chemicals, fillers, and parts from “4D” meats: animals that are dying, diseased, disabled, or deceased. (re-read that last sentence very carefully. Did you shudder as we did?)

Made with Human-Grade Ingredients

Human-grade ingredients do NOT mean a finished product is actually legally human-grade. An ingredient might start off being fit for people to eat, but once it is shipped to a pet food plant and processed according to regulations for feed-grade products, the term “human grade” can no longer apply. By true definition, that ingredient is not human grade.

Now hold onto your hats, here comes the big news:  Dogs have no nutritional requirement for dietary carbohydrates, yet kibble has a very high percentage of carbs. It’s not easy to find the carb content in dog food because it isn’t required on the label. Fun times! 

Carbohydrate Calculation in Dog Food

To roughly calculate the percentage of carbohydrate in a dog food, look at the guaranteed analysis on the label and subtract the amount of protein, fat, moisture, and ash from 100 percent; the carb content is what’s left over. (You may have to contact the company to get the food’s ash content; it’s not required on the label, either.)

Not all carbs are bad, and we could write a mini-novel on the topic. Bottom line: the “ideal” carbohydrate amount a dog should consume varies by dog. Just like people! Carbs are not an enemy, but everything in moderation. Dogs with cancer should not be consuming large amounts of carbs or sugar, so there’s that.

We know this: Fresh, whole food is good for dogs. Kibble loaded with corn and other fillers/sugars can lead to problems in a dog.

Dog Food History

n the mid-1800s, the Pet Food Institute reports that as horses died (they were a form of transportation), people purchased horse meat for their dogs.

Fast forward to the Industrial Revolution and the middle class coming into their own in the mid-1800s, and dogs were sharing life with people rather than simply working for them. A wise businessman named James Spratt developed the first commercially prepared pet food in England around 1860.

He got the idea after seeing dogs being fed leftover biscuits from a ship. He concocted the very first dog biscuit using beef blood, beetroot, wheat meals, and vegetables. United States production of dog food began around 1890 when a British company took over Spratt’s formula.

Ken-L-Ration was the very first canned dog food to emerge in 1922 using, you guessed it, horsemeat. Meat was really expensive back during the Great Depression.

People were hungry, so feeding dogs a quality diet wasn’t high on the priority list. Even prior to that, dogs were given whatever their owners could muster up: everything from dangerous onions to potatoes or cabbage, bone knuckles and bread crusts.

So, where did kibble come from? Would it surprise you to learn that in the early 1950s, the Ralston Purina Company began experimenting with different dog kibble formulas from cereal extruders?!

The same Pet Food Institute devised a clever campaign in 1964 telling dog owners that this hard, crunchy stuff was what their dog needed to eat. Kibble began with and continues with advertising and marketing campaigns. When I read that, you could have knocked me over with a dog biscuit.

Bottom Line on Feeding Your Cocker Spaniel

Your best friend depends on you to decide what goes in their food bowl every day. Good health begins with meeting your Cocker’s specific needs. The right diet is the one that works for your dog and provides them with everything they need to live a long, healthy life.

What is the best dog food for Cocker Spaniels


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