FirstMate Dog Food receives the Advisor’s above-average tier rating of 4 stars.
The FirstMate product line includes four dry dog foods, two claimed to meet AAFCO nutrient profiles for all life stages and two for adult maintenance.
The following is a list of recipes available at the time of this review.
- FirstMate Maintenance/Adult Formula
- FirstMate High Performance/Puppy (5 stars)
- FirstMate Trim and Light Formula (2.5 stars)
- FirstMate Lamb Meal and Rice Formula (3 stars)
FirstMate Maintenance/Adult Formula was selected to represent the other products in the line for this review.
FirstMate Adult Maintenance Formula
Dry Dog Food
Estimated Dry Matter Nutrient Content
Ingredients: Chicken meal, pearled barley, oatmeal, brown rice, chicken fat (preserved with mixed tocopherols), pacific ocean fish meal, fish oil, potato flour, tomato pomace, dicalcium phosphate, cranberries, blueberries, raspberries, calcium propionate, sage extract, rosemary extract, garlic oil, minerals (zinc proteinate, iron proteinate, manganese proteinate, copper proteinate, iodine, cobalt, selenium), vitamins: (vitamin E supplement, vitamin C supplement, riboflavin, niacin, d-pantothenic acid, thiamine, vitamin A supplement, pyridoxine hydrochloride, folic acid, biotin, vitamin B12 supplement, vitamin D3 supplement), glucosamine hydrochloride
Fiber (estimated dry matter content) = 4.4%
Red items when present indicate controversial ingredients
|Estimated Nutrient Content|
|Dry Matter Basis||29%||17%||46%|
|Calorie Weighted Basis||25%||35%||40%|
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 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 third 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 fourth 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 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 pacific ocean fish meal, another protein-rich meat concentrate.
Fish meal is typically obtained from the “clean, dried, ground tissue of undecomposed whole fish and fish cuttings” of commercial fish operations.1
Unfortunately, this particular item is anonymous. Because various fish contain different types of fats, we would have preferred to have known the source species.
The seventh ingredient is fish oil. Fish oil is naturally rich in the prized EPA and DHA type of omega-3 fatty acids. These two high quality fats boast the highest bio-availability to dogs and humans.
Depending on its level of freshness and purity, fish oil should be considered a commendable addition.
The eighth ingredient is potato flour. Unlike potato starch, potato flour is made from the whole potato (even the skins). This item is considered a gluten-free source of digestible carbohydrates with only modest nutritional value.
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, 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.
Next, garlic oil may be a controversial item. We say “may be” here because we are not certain of the oil’s chemical relationship to raw garlic itself.
Although most experts favor the ingredient for its numerous health benefits, garlic (in rare cases) has been linked to Heinz body anemia in dogs.2
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, we find no mention of probiotics, friendly bacteria applied to the surface of the kibble after processing to help with digestion.
And lastly, 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.
FirstMate Dog Food
The Bottom Line
Judging by its ingredients alone, FirstMate 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 14%. Together, these figures suggest a carbohydrate content of 51% for the overall product line.
And a fat-to-protein ratio of about 53%.
Near-average protein. Below-average fat. And above-average carbs when compared to a typical dry dog food.
Free of any plant-based protein boosters, this looks like the profile of a kibble containing a moderate amount of meat.
FirstMate Dog Food is a plant-based kibble using a moderate amount of chicken or lamb meals 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.
We review the company’s FirstMate Grain-Free Dog Food line in a separate report.
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
05/09/2010 Original review
12/09/2010 Review updated
03/17/2014 Last Update