Life 4K9 Dog Food (Dry)

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Rating: ★★★½☆

Life 4K9 Dog Food receives the Advisor’s mid-tier rating of 3 stars.

The Life 4K9 product line includes two dry dog foods.

However, since we’re unable to locate AAFCO nutritional adequacy statements for these dog foods on the company’s website, it’s impossible for us to report specific life stage recommendations for these recipes.

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

  • Life 4K9 Lamb and Barley
  • Life 4K9 Chicken and Barley

Life 4K9 Chicken and Barley was selected to represent both products in the line for this review.

Life 4K9 Chicken and Barley

Dry Dog Food

Estimated Dry Matter Nutrient Content

Protein = 24% | Fat = 10% | Carbs = 58%

Ingredients: Chicken, chicken meal, barley, oats, whitefish meal, dicalcium phosphate, olive oil (preserved with mixed tocopherols), tomato pomace, calcium carbonate, vitamin E supplement, zinc proteinate, iron proteinate, vegetable oil (preserved with mixed tocopherols), vitamin E acetate, copper proteinate, manganese proteinate, vitamin B12 supplement, niacin supplement, sodium selenite, d-calcium pantothenate, folic acid, vitamin A acetate, riboflavin (source of vitamin B2), calcium iodate, thiamine mononitrate (source of vitamin B5), pyridoxine hydrochloride (source of vitamin B6), vitamin D3 supplement, flaxseed meal, sweet potatoes, avocado oil, rosemary, sage

Fiber (estimated dry matter content) = 4.5%

Red items when present indicate controversial ingredients

Estimated Nutrient Content
MethodProteinFatCarbs
Guaranteed Analysis21%9%NA
Dry Matter Basis24%10%58%
Calorie Weighted Basis22%23%54%

The first ingredient in this dog food is chicken. Chicken is considered “the clean combination of flesh and skin… derived from the parts or whole carcasses of chicken”.1

Chicken is naturally rich in the ten essential amino acids required by a dog to sustain life.

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 barley. Barley is a starchy carbohydrate supplying fiber and other healthy nutrients. Unlike grains with a higher glycemic index, barley can help support more stable blood sugar levels.

The fourth ingredient is oats. Oats are rich in B-vitamins, minerals and dietary fiber.

The fifth ingredient is whitefish 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

The sixth ingredient is dicalcium phosphate, likely used here as a dietary calcium supplement.

The seventh ingredient is olive oil. Olive oil contains oleic acid, a healthy monounsaturated fat. It’s also rich in natural antioxidants and carotenoids.

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 five notable exceptions

First, this recipe contains vegetable oil, a generic oil of unknown origin. The ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fats in any oil is nutritionally critical and can vary significantly (depending on the source).

Without knowing more, it’s impossible to judge the quality of an item so vaguely described. However, compared to a named animal fat, a generic vegetable oil cannot be considered a quality ingredient.

Next, flaxseed meal is one of the best plant-based sources of healthy omega-3 fatty acids. Flax meal is particularly 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.

In addition, we note that this product contains avocado oil. Avocado products can be somewhat controversial.

Supporters claim the ingredient to be nutrient rich and beneficial to a dog’s skin and coat — while others worry over what are mostly unsubstantiated concerns over potential toxicity.

These fears appear to originate from a 1984 study in which goats (not dogs) consumed the leaves (not the fruit) of the Guatemalan (not the Mexican) avocado and became ill.3

Based upon our own review of the literature, it is our opinion that the anxiety over avocado ingredients in dog food appears to be unjustified.

Next, 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.

Life 4K9 Dog Food
The Bottom Line

Judging by its ingredients alone, Life 4K9 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.

The dashboard displays a dry matter protein reading of 24%, a fat level of 10% and estimated carbohydrates of about 58%.

As a group, the brand features an average protein content of 24% and a mean fat level of 10%. Together, these figures suggest a carbohydrate content of 58% for the overall product line.

And a fat-to-protein ratio of about 43%.

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

When you consider the protein-boosting effect of the flaxseed meal, this looks like the profile of a kibble containing a modest amount of meat.

Bottom line?

Life 4K9 Dog Food is a plant-based kibble using a modest amount of chicken or lamb meals as its main sources of animal protein, thus earning the brand 3.5 stars.

Recommended.

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, due to the biological uniqueness of every animal, none of our ratings are intended to suggest feeding a particular product will result in a specific dietary response or health benefit 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.

In closing, we do not accept money, gifts or samples from pet food companies in exchange for special consideration in the preparation of our reviews or ratings.

To learn how we support the cost of operating this website, please visit our public Disclosure and Disclaimer page.

Have an opinion about this dog food? Or maybe the review itself? Please know we welcome your comments.

Other spellings: Life 4K9

Notes and Updates

07/09/2014 Last Update

  1. Association of American Feed Control Officials
  2. Association of American Feed Control Officials
  3. Craigmill AL, et al. Toxicity of avocado (Persea americana, Guatamalan variety) leaves: review and preliminary report, Vet Hum Toxicol 1984;26:381
  • Hound Dog Mom

    Yeah I agree, my dogs will stick with fish oil and coconut oil. :)

  • Shawna

    Although vegetable oil definitely IS an improvement over mineral oil — it isn’t a big one :).  Thanks for researching the food further!!!

  • Hound Dog Mom

    The website says it’s baked at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. So I’m thinking bye bye enzymes.

  • Hound Dog Mom

    This review may need to be updated. The website now lists vegetable oil instead of mineral oil and there’s no sodium bentonite crumble listed on the ingredients list. Doesn’t look like any positive improvements were made in terms of protein and fat though.

  • Shawna

    Truthfully, I don’t know the answer to that..  It would make sense that they are however.  I have heard that a few are baked at lower temps but they would have to be baked for much longer periods of time if that is the case.. 

    GOOD TO SEE YOU!!  I’VE MISSED YOU..  I tend to laugh a lot more when you’re posting :-)..

  • LabsRawesome

     Shawna, please correct me if I am wrong, but aren’t most baked kibbles cooked at 400 degrees or higher?

  • Shawna

    “and less need for added pro/prebiotics (since a lot of the naturally occurring enzymes aren’t destroyed in the cooking process”

    Brandon ~~ I’m a little confused by your post?  Enzymes are destroyed at temps as low as 115 degrees.  I’m guessing that most baked kibbles are baked at temps higher then 115 degrees. 

    I’m not sure at what temperature bacteria and yeast are damaged but as most probiotics require refrigeration I have to assume that baking is not so great for probiotics either. 

    This food is shamefully low in protein and then likely a significant portion of that already low protein is from the barley and oats.

    I’m also COMPLETELY turned off by the inclusion of “mineral oil” in the food..  Why on earth would they use mineral oil??  I avoid mineral oil in my personal care products, I sure as heck won’t ingest it or feed it to my family — 2 and 4 legged.

    Olive oil is certainly not a bad ingredient but it has no omega 6 or 3 — only omega 9.  Dogs have no known nutritional requirement for omega 9.  Because this food is “below average” (as compared to other foods) in fat AND some of that fat is a form they can’t use —- it is likely that the food has just barely enough omega 6 to be considered balanced and not much more.  And probably even less omega 3.

    In my opinion, Dr Mike was generous in his rating of this food. 

  • http://DogFoodAdvisor.com/ Mike Sagman

    Hi Brandon,

    How this food is prepared is only secondary to the fact the Guaranteed Analysis figures published by the company is indicative of a dog food containing only a below average amount of meat.

    As I concluded in this review:

    As a group, the brand features an average protein content of 24% and a mean fat level of 10%. Together, these figures suggest a carbohydrate content of 58% for the overall product line.

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

    Without significantly more meat, this recipe would not qualify for a higher rating.

    Hope this helps.

  • http://twitter.com/Ida_homie Brandon

    Do you differentiate between oven-baked and extruded dry foods?  Life 4K9 is baked, meaning less moisture loss in the fresh meat, and less need for added pro/prebiotics (since a lot of the naturally occurring enzymes aren’t destroyed in the cooking process.

    The review sounds like this is being analyzed as an extruded food.  If the ‘baked’ perspective is taken into account, I think it would go from 3.5 to 4.5 easily.

  • Tngrump

    Sandy….this sounds like you think irradiating is a good thing….and although Orijen is sold in many countries only Australia radiates it…fresh non frozen meats and veggies do not need the higher temps of frozen meats that some producers use.  I think there are many premium foods that cook at lower temps also, Fromm as an example…

  • Pingback: All Different Dog Food Brands & Types | My Blog

  • jane

    I was using for a few years than I found cellulose bristles and hair in the cans   They stink   I stopped using immediately

  • Anonymous

    Honestly I don’t know…maybe it comes from feeding trial results?  They measure stool output?  When I walk in the Petco, there will be this big sign comparing digestibility of “premium” foods and “nonpremium foods” and they’re essentially comparing stool output. Which makes sense.

  • Anonymous

    On a side note: How is digestibility measured? Do most premium dog food companies have this information if you email them?

  • Anonymous

    Droidzilla,

    Here’s another one…
    http://www.doctorsfinest.com/Premium_Dog_Food_Natural_Pet_Dog_Foods_Grain_Free_Food_s/1.htm

    I ordered this one myself.  I’m a rotator.

  • Anonymous

    Thanks for the replies! I’m off to research those.

  • Anonymous

    Orijen cooks at a low temp that it has to be irradiated to go to Austrailia I believe.

  • Anonymous

    Their site says 350F, so that seems pretty high. I know some companies do it at 190F to preserve some of the nutrients.

  • Anonymous

    Canine Caviar cooks their foods for 6 seconds. Not sure at what temperature. And their digestibilit is 91-93% according to their website.  Just putting it out their incase you like to rotate foods.

  • Anonymous

    One thing not taken into account here is how the food is processed. Our local shop told us this food was cooked at a lower temperature, so many of the nutrients are made more available and the food is more digestible. Our dogs have had better digestion on this than on foods like Taste of the Wild, but I would love to have confirmation of this facet.

  • Rob

    I had my dog Roy on Purina Pro Plan. His energy levels were wayyy low. It might have been the change in weather here in Atlanta, but for the last month or so he has been Life 4K9 and he literally is a different dog. He is a 10 year old beagle and last week end he and a buddy chased something up a tree – he was never a chaser – he let our a beagle howl like I hadn’t heard since he was literally 2-3 years old. Amazing. Again, don’t know if it was the weather or the dog food, but he is definately staying on the dog food – you can’t change the weather!

  • http://DogFoodAdvisor.com Mike Sagman

    Hi Rob… Great suggestion. Along with other minerals like calcium and phosphorus. Unfortunately, many companies do not make this information available on the label. So, it can frequently be somewhat challenging to obtain. Will keep it in mind for a future “dashboard” upgrade. Thanks again for the tip.

  • Rob

    Great site Mike – we need this source of information due to the unregulated nature of the business, except for Good Mfg Practices, mostly voluntary our course.

    I wonder if you can add something on Sodium content? My older dog is just developing some heart issues and have to watch sodium, suspect a lot of older dogs should also restrict sodium to a point. I have heard that “Low Sodium” should be something less than .38% , not sure if this is by weight or volume, but at least having a number to work with would be a help.

  • Laura Frizzell

    I tried the Lif 4K9 for my Parson Russell Terriers but little food monsters that they are, they won’t eat it unless I mix it in with another kibble of some sort. It seems like a decent kibble but nothing to write home about. Going back to Tast of the Wild. Thanks for your excellent site — I will be sharing it with friends!

  • http://DogFoodAdvisor.com Mike Sagman

    Hi Laurie… In most cases, any time you can add something closer to real meat to a kibble (especially one with a lower protein content), you’ll very likely be improving the nutritional value (as well as the palatability) of the food.

  • Laurie M.

    Due to the low protein level, is it recommended to add canned meat topper to this kibble?

    I like the size of the kibble. I use them for training treats.

  • Jonathan

    Sadie is enjoying this as it is mixed in. Not that I would expect anything less from my food-monster. So the current mix is Natural Balance Organic, Life4k9, and Earthborn Primitive Natural. When the EB is gone, we will try out one of the two new EB grain-free flavors. Probably Bison.

  • http://DogFoodAdvisor.com Mike Sagman

    Hi Jonathan… Yes, barley has a lower glycemic index (about 25 or so) compared to corn or wheat (approximately 55-60). But it is still a carb. And compared to meat (glycemic index close to zero), a 50% carb content (even with barley) should not automatically be assumed to have a low GI.

  • Jonathan

    This is a good example of what I was trying to express on NB… this is a “carb-heavy” food. But it’s main source of carbs is the barley, and you say…

    “Unlike grains with a higher glycemic index (like rice), barley can help support stable blood sugar levels in dogs.”

    So my assumption, as a consumer, would be that, while this is a carb-heavy food, it would still be a healthier alternative to a similarly carb-heavy food made from rice or corn for a normal, healthy dog. I guess that’s why you almost gave it 4-stars. :-)