First Choice Dog Food (Dry)

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Rating: ★★½☆☆

First Choice Dog Food receives the Advisor’s second-lowest tier rating of 2.5 stars.

The First Choice Dog Food product line includes 11 dry recipes. Although each appears to be designed for a specific life stage, we were unable to find AAFCO nutritional profile recommendations for these dog foods on the product’s web page.

The following is a list of recipes available at the time of this review.

  • First Choice Senior Toy and Small Breeds
  • First Choice Adult Sensitive Skin and Coat
  • First Choice Adult All Breeds Hypoallergenic
  • First Choice Adult Medium and Large Breeds
  • First Choice Adult Toy and Small Breeds (4 stars)
  • First Choice Adult All Breeds Light/Healthy Weight
  • First Choice Puppy Toy and Small Breeds (4 stars)
  • First Choice Puppy Sensitive Skin and Coat (4 stars)
  • First Choice Puppy Medium and Large Breeds (4 stars)
  • First Choice Senior Medium and Large Breeds (2 stars)
  • First Choice Senior All Breeds Sensitive Skin and Coat (2 stars)

First Choice Adult Medium and Large Breeds was selected to represent the other products in the line for this review.

First Choice Adult Medium and Large Breeds

Dry Dog Food

Estimated Dry Matter Nutrient Content

Protein = 26% | Fat = 14% | Carbs = 52%

Ingredients: Chicken meal, brewer’s rice, pearled barley, oat groats, chicken fat naturally preserved with mixed tocopherols (a source of vitamin E), dried beet pulp, powdered cellulose, dried tomato pomace, chicken liver hydrolysate, whole flaxseed, lecithin, potassium chloride, choline chloride, salt, calcium propionate (as a preservative), yeast extract, ascorbic acid (vitamin C), taurine, chicory extract (a source of inulin), ferrous sulfate, glucosamine sulfate, zinc oxide, alpha-tocopherol acetate (a source of vitamin E), chondroitin sulfate, Yucca schidigera extract, collagen peptide, iron proteinate, zinc proteinate, sodium selenite, thiamine mononitrate, dried seaweed meal, green tea extract, dried spearmint, dried parsley, copper sulfate, calcium iodate, pyridoxine hydrochloride, manganous oxide, manganese proteinate, nicotinic acid, d‑calcium pantothenate, vitamin A supplement, copper proteinate, cholecalciferol (a source of vitamin D3), folic acid, riboflavin, menadione sodium bisulfite complex (a source of vitamin K3 activity), biotin, vitamin B12 supplement, cobalt carbonate

Fiber (estimated dry matter content) = 5%

Red items when present indicate controversial ingredients

Estimated Nutrient Content
MethodProteinFatCarbs
Guaranteed Analysis23%13%NA
Dry Matter Basis26%14%52%
Calorie Weighted Basis23%31%46%

The first ingredient in this dog food is chicken meal. Chicken meal is considered a meat concentrate and contains nearly 300% more protein than fresh chicken.

The second ingredient is brewers rice. Brewers rice is a cereal grain by-product consisting of the small fragments left over after milling whole rice. Aside from the caloric energy it contains, this item is of only modest nutritional value to a dog.

The third 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 fourth ingredient is oat groats, a whole grain, minimally processed form of oats. With the exception of their caloric content and the fact they’re also gluten free, oat groats can be considered average in nutritional value.

The fifth 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 sixth ingredient is beet pulp. Beet pulp is a controversial ingredient, a high fiber by-product of sugar beet processing.

Some denounce beet pulp as an inexpensive filler while others cite its outstanding intestinal health and blood sugar benefits.

We only call your attention here to the controversy and believe the inclusion of beet pulp in reasonable amounts in most dog foods is entirely acceptable.

The seventh ingredient is powdered cellulose, a non-digestible plant fiber usually made from the by-products of vegetable processing. Except for the usual benefits of fiber, powdered cellulose provides no nutritional value to a dog.

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.

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 four 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, chicory 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.

In addition, this food also 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.

And lastly, this food contains menadione, a controversial form of vitamin K linked to liver toxicity, allergies and the abnormal break-down of red blood cells.

Since vitamin K isn’t required by AAFCO in either of its dog food nutrient profiles, we question the use of this substance in any canine formulation.

First Choice Dog Food
The Bottom Line

Judging by its ingredients alone, First Choice Dog Food looks like a 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.

The dashboard displays a dry matter protein reading of 26%, a fat level of 14% and estimated carbohydrates of about 52%.

As a group, the brand features an average protein content of 25% and a mean fat level of 14%. Together, these figures suggest a carbohydrate content of 53% for the overall product line.

And a fat-to-protein ratio of about 56%.

Below-average protein. Below-average fat. And above-average carbs when compared to a typical dry dog food.

Even when you consider the protein-boosting effect of the flax seed, this looks like the profile of a kibble containing an average to below-average amount of meat.

However, it’s unfortunate the company chose to include menadione in its recipes. Without this controversial supplement, we would have been compelled to award this brand a higher rating.

Bottom line?

First Choice Dog Food is a plant-based kibble using a moderate amount of chicken or lamb meals and duck as its main sources of animal protein, thus earning the brand 2.5 stars.

Not recommended.

Please note certain recipes are sometimes given a higher or lower rating based upon our estimate of their total meat content.

Special Alert

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

The descriptions and analyses expressed in this and every article on this website represent the views and opinions of the author.

Although it's our goal to ensure all the information on this website is correct, we cannot guarantee its completeness or its accuracy; nor can we commit to ensuring all the material is kept up-to-date on a daily basis.

Each review is offered in good faith and has been designed to help you make a more informed decision when buying dog food.

However, our rating system is not intended to suggest feeding a particular product will result in specific health benefits for your pet.

For a better understanding of how we analyze each product, please read our article, "The Problem with Dog Food Reviews".

Remember, no dog food can possibly be appropriate for every life stage, lifestyle or health condition. So, choose wisely. And when in doubt, consult a qualified veterinary professional for help.

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Notes and Updates

05/07/2010 Original review
11/07/2010 Review updated
03/09/2012 Review updated, new recipes
09/16/2013 Review updated
09/16/2013 Last Update