Blue Buffalo Life Protection Dog Food earns the Advisor’s second-highest tier rating of 4 stars.
The Blue Buffalo Life Protection product line includes 21 dry dog foods, four claimed to meet AAFCO nutrient profiles for growth (Puppy) and 17 for adult maintenance.
The following is a list of recipes available at the time of this review.
- Blue Buffalo Lamb and Oatmeal Puppy
- Blue Buffalo Chicken and Brown Rice Adult
- Blue Buffalo Chicken and Brown Rice Small Bite
- Blue Buffalo Lamb and Brown Rice Adult (3.5 stars)
- Blue Buffalo Fish and Sweet Potato Adult (3.5 stars)
- Blue Buffalo Chicken and Brown Rice Senior (2 stars)
- Blue Buffalo Chicken and Brown Rice Puppy (4.5 stars)
- Blue Buffalo Healthy Weight Chicken Small Breed Adult
- Blue Buffalo Chicken and Brown Rice Large Breed Adult
- Blue Buffalo Chicken & Brown Rice Sm Bite Senior (2 stars)
- Blue Buffalo Natural Lamb and Brown Rice Small Breed Adult
- Blue Buffalo Healthy Weight Chicken and Brown Rice (3 stars)
- Blue Buffalo Fish and Brown Rice Small Breed Adult (4.5 stars)
- Blue Buffalo Chicken and Oatmeal Small Breed Puppy (5 stars)
- Blue Buffalo Chicken & Brown Rice Toy Breed Adult (4.5 stars)
- Blue Buffalo Healthy Weight Chicken Lg Breed Adult (3.5 stars)
- Blue Buffalo Chicken & Brown Rice Sm Breed Adult (4.5 stars)
- Blue Buffalo Natural Fish & Oatmeal Lg Breed Adult (4.5 stars)
- Blue Buffalo Chicken & Brown Rice Lg Breed Senior (3.5 stars)
- Blue Buffalo Chicken & Brown Rice Lg Breed Puppy (4.5 stars)
- Blue Buffalo Chicken & Brown Rice Sm Breed Senior (3.5 stars)
Blue Buffalo Chicken and Brown Rice Small Bite was selected to represent the other products in the line for this review.
Blue Buffalo Chicken and Brown Rice Small Bite
Dry Dog Food
Estimated Dry Matter Nutrient Content
Ingredients: Deboned chicken, chicken meal, whole ground brown rice, whole ground barley, oatmeal, chicken fat (preserved with mixed tocopherols), peas, tomato pomace (source of lycopene), natural chicken flavor, whole potatoes, flaxseed (source of omega 3 and 6 fatty acids), alfalfa meal, whole carrots, whole sweet potatoes, blueberries, cranberries, apples, blackberries, pomegranate, spinach, pumpkin, barley grass, dried parsley, garlic, dried kelp, Yucca schidigera extract, l-carnitine, l-lysine, glucosamine hydrochloride, turmeric, sunflower oil (source of omega 6 fatty acids), fish oil (source of omega 3 fatty acids), dried chicory root, oil of rosemary, beta carotene, vitamin A supplement, thiamine mononitrate (vitamin B1), riboflavin (vitamin B2), niacin (vitamin B3), d-calcium pantothenate (vitamin B5), pyridoxine hydrochloride (vitamin B6), biotin (vitamin B7), folic acid (vitamin B9), vitamin B12 supplement, calcium ascorbate (source of vitamin C), vitamin D3 supplement, vitamin E supplement, iron amino acid chelate, zinc amino acid chelate, manganese amino acid chelate, copper amino acid chelate, choline chloride, sodium selenite, calcium iodate, salt, caramel, potassium chloride, dicalcium phosphate, dried yeast (source of Saccharomyces cerevisiae), dried Lactobacillus acidophilus fermentation product, dried Bacillus subtilis fermentation product, dried Enterococcus faecium fermentation product
Fiber (estimated dry matter content) = 4.4%
Red items when present indicate controversial ingredients
|Estimated Nutrient Content|
|Dry Matter Basis||27%||16%||50%|
|Calorie Weighted Basis||23%||33%||44%|
The first ingredient in this dog food is chicken. Although it is a quality item, raw chicken contains about 80% water. After cooking, most of that moisture is lost, reducing the meat content to just a fraction of its original weight.
After processing, this item would probably account for a smaller part of the total content of the finished product.
The second ingredient is chicken meal. Chicken meal is considered a meat concentrate and contains nearly 300% more protein than fresh chicken.
The third ingredient is brown rice, a complex carbohydrate that (once cooked) can be fairly easy to digest. However, aside from its natural energy content, rice is of only modest nutritional value to a dog.
The fourth ingredient is barley. Barley is a starchy carbohydrate supplying fiber and other healthy nutrients. However, aside from its energy content, this cereal grain is of only modest nutritional value to a dog.
The fifth ingredient is oatmeal, a whole-grain product made from coarsely ground oats. Oatmeal is naturally rich in B-vitamins, dietary fiber and can be (depending upon its level of purity) gluten-free.
The sixth ingredient is chicken fat. Chicken fat is obtained from rendering chicken, a process similar to making soup in which the fat itself is skimmed from the surface of the liquid.
Chicken fat is high in linoleic acid, an omega-6 fatty acid essential for life. Although it doesn’t sound very appetizing, chicken fat is actually a quality ingredient.
The seventh ingredient is peas. Peas are a quality source of carbohydrates. And like all legumes, they’re rich in natural fiber.
However, peas contain about 25% protein, a factor that must be considered when judging the meat content of this dog food.
The eighth ingredient is tomato pomace. Tomato pomace is a controversial ingredient, a by-product remaining after processing tomatoes into juice, soup and ketchup.
Many praise tomato pomace for its high fiber and nutrient content, while others scorn it as an inexpensive pet food filler.
Just the same, there’s probably not enough tomato pomace here to make much of a difference.
After the natural chicken flavor, we find potato. Potatoes can be considered a gluten-free source of digestible carbohydrates. Yet with the exception of perhaps their caloric content, potatoes are of only modest nutritional value to a dog.
From here, the list goes on to include a number of other items.
But to be realistic, ingredients located this far down the list (other than nutritional supplements) are not likely to affect the overall rating of this product.
With six notable exceptions…
First, flaxseed is one of the best plant sources of healthy omega-3 fatty acids. Provided they’ve first been ground into a meal, flax seeds are also rich in soluble fiber.
However, flaxseed contains about 19% protein, a factor that must be considered when judging the actual meat content of this dog food.
Next, garlic can be a controversial item. Although most experts favor the ingredient for its numerous health benefits, garlic (in rare cases) has been linked to Heinz body anemia in dogs.1
However, the limited professional literature we surveyed provided no definitive warnings regarding the use of garlic — especially when used in small amounts (as it likely is here).
In addition, sunflower oil is nutritionally similar to safflower oil. Since these oils are high in omega-6 fatty acids and contain no omega-3′s, they’re considered less nutritious than canola or flaxseed oils.
Sunflower oil is notable for its resistance to heat damage during cooking.
There are several different types of sunflower oil, some better than others. Without knowing more, it’s impossible to judge the quality of this ingredient.
Next, chicory root is rich in inulin, a starch-like compound made up of repeating units of carbohydrates and found in certain roots and tubers.
Not only is inulin a natural source of soluble dietary fiber, it’s also a prebiotic used to promote the growth of healthy bacteria in a dog’s digestive tract.
We also note the inclusion of, caramel, a coloring agent made by caramelizing carbohydrates. It’s used by pet food manufacturers to impart a golden brown tint to the finished product.
Even though caramel is considered safe by the FDA, we’re always disappointed to find any added coloring in a pet food.
That’s because coloring is used to make the product more appealing to humans — not your dog. After all, do you really think your dog cares what color his food is?
And lastly, this food contains chelated minerals, minerals that have been chemically attached to protein. This makes them easier to absorb. Chelated minerals are usually found in better dog foods.
Blue Buffalo Life Protection Dog Food
The Bottom Line
Judging by its ingredients alone, Blue Buffalo Life Protection Dog Food looks like an above average dry product.
But ingredient quality by itself cannot tell the whole story. We still need to estimate the product’s meat content before determining a final rating.
As a group, the brand features an average protein content of 27% and a mean fat level of 13%. Together, these figures suggest a carbohydrate content of 52% for the overall product line.
And a fat-to-protein ratio of about 50%.
Near-average protein. Below-average fat. And above-average carbs when compared to a typical dry dog food.
Even when you consider the protein-boosting effects of the peas, flaxseed and alfalfa meal, this looks like the profile of a kibble containing a modest to moderate amount of meat.
Blue Buffalo Life Protection is a plant-based dry dog food using a modest to moderate amount of named meats or chicken meal as its main sources of animal protein, thus earning the brand 4 stars.
Please note certain recipes are sometimes given a higher or lower rating based upon our estimate of their total meat content.
Rice ingredients can sometimes contain arsenic. Until the US FDA establishes safe upper levels for arsenic content, pet owners may wish to limit the total amount of rice fed in a dog's daily diet.
A Final Word
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Notes and Updates
11/27/2009 Original review
04/14/2010 Review updated
10/12/2010 Recall alert added
11/14/2010 Review updated
04/25/2011 Recall alert removed
04/09/2012 Review updated
10/06/2013 Review updated
10/06/2013 Last Update
- Yamato et al, Heinz Body hemolytic anemia with eccentrocytosis from ingestion of Chinese chive (Allium tuberosum) and garlic (Allium sativum) in a dog, Journal of the American Animal Hospital Association 41:68-73 (2005) ↩