FirstMate Dog Food (Dry)


Rating: ★★★★☆

FirstMate Dog Food receives the Advisor’s second-highest tier rating of 4 stars.

The FirstMate product line includes four dry dog foods.

Each recipe below includes its related AAFCO nutrient profile when available on the product’s official webpage: Growth, Maintenance, All Life Stages, Supplemental or Unspecified.

  • FirstMate High Performance (5 stars) [U]
  • FirstMate Maintenance All Life Stages [U]
  • FirstMate Trim and Light Formula (2 stars) [U]
  • FirstMate Lamb Meal and Rice Formula (3 stars) [U]

FirstMate Maintenance All Life Stages Formula was selected to represent the other products in the line for this review.

FirstMate Maintenance All Life Stages

Dry Dog Food

Estimated Dry Matter Nutrient Content

Protein = 29% | Fat = 17% | Carbs = 46%

Ingredients: Chicken meal, pearled barley, oatmeal, brown rice, chicken fat (preserved with mixed tocopherols), wild herring meal and/or wild sardine meal and/or wild anchovy meal, fish oil, potato flour, tomato pomace, dicalcium phosphate, cranberries, blueberries, raspberries, calcium propionate, calcium propionate, sage extract, rosemary extract, garlic oil, minerals (zinc proteinate, iron proteinate, manganese proteinate, copper proteinate, iodine, cobalt, selenium), vitamins (vitamin E, vitamin C, riboflavin, niacin, d-pantothenic acid, thiamine, vitamin A, pyridoxine, folic acid, biotin, vitamin B12, vitamin D3), glucosamine

Fiber (estimated dry matter content) = 4.4%

Red items indicate controversial ingredients

Estimated Nutrient Content
Guaranteed Analysis26%15%NA
Dry Matter Basis29%17%46%
Calorie Weighted Basis25%35%40%
Protein = 25% | Fat = 35% | Carbs = 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 includes wild herring meal and/or wild sardine meal and/or wild anchovy meal, all additional protein-rich meat concentrates.

Fish meal is typically obtained from the “clean, dried, ground tissue of undecomposed whole fish and fish cuttings” of commercial fish operations.1

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 can be a controversial item. Although many favor the ingredient for its claimed health benefits, garlic has been linked to Heinz body anemia in dogs.2

So, one must weigh the potential benefits of feeding garlic against its proven tendency to cause subclinical damage to the red blood cells of the animal.

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 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.

The dashboard displays a dry matter protein reading of 29%, a fat level of 17% and estimated carbohydrates of about 46%.

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.

Bottom line?

FirstMate is a plant-based dry dog food using a moderate amount of named meats as its main sources of animal protein, thus earning the brand 4 stars.

Highly recommended.

Please note certain recipes are sometimes given a higher or lower rating based upon our estimate of their total meat content and (when appropriate) their fat-to-protein ratios.

We review the company’s FirstMate Grain-Free Dog Food line in a separate report.

FirstMate Dog Food
Recall History

The following list (if present) includes all dog food recalls since 2009 directly related to this product line. If there are no recalls listed in this section, we have not yet reported any events.

You can view a complete list of all dog food recalls sorted by date. Or view the same list sorted alphabetically by brand.

To learn why our ratings have nothing to do with a product’s recall history, please visit our Dog Food Recalls FAQ page.

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A Final Word

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

The Dog Food Advisor does not test dog food products.

We rely entirely on the integrity of the information provided by each company. As such, the accuracy of every review is directly dependent upon the specific data a company chooses to share.

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.

We rely on tips from readers. To report a product change or request an update of any review, please contact us using this form.

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.

However, we do receive a fee from for each purchase made as a direct result of a referral from our website. This fee is a fixed dollar amount and has nothing to do with the size of an order or the brand selected for purchase.

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

Notes and Updates

03/13/2017 Last Update

  1. Association of American Feed Control Officials
  2. 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)
  • Trudi johnston

    Agreed. I will send them an email. It is important to have the correct amt on the bags. We have to rely on that and I really would rather not switch. We used to use Cani-cru and smack and my older dog stopped eating so we loved the fact she liked this food

  • haleycookie

    Hm that is quite strange. I looked at a couple other foods. This food is very low for that weight of puppy and adult dog. Canidae life stages for instance is more along the lines of what you’re feeding. About a 1/2 a day for a 8lbs puppy. See if you can give them a call or shoot them an email to tell this to them as I feel they should know and should correct that cus that is really low.

  • Trudi johnston

    The 6 mth old weighs about 8 lbs and the 15 mth around 13. Both are a good weight. The puppy is still a bit thin so I increased her slightly. They each get fed 2 x day with 1/4 each time and very healthy training treats as well. I think the company should be more accurate about ants. If I had of stick to their suggestion my puppy would have starved

  • Trudi johnston

    The 6 mth old weighs about 7 pounds and the older one about 13. They each get 1/4 c twice a day and healthy snacks throughout. The older one is very solid and has great muscle and the puppy is also doing well. I don’t want to switch since they both enjoy this food but perhaps the amounts they say should be increased.

  • haleycookie

    Out of curiosity how much do they weigh? If you’re giving them both a half cup a day then I’m guessing they’re both in the 15 lbs range? From what I can see that’s what they recommend to a 15 lbs dog. About 1/2 cup a day. I’m guessing your dogs weigh less then that though am I correct seeing as how you feel they’re eating twice the recommended? Do you feed them in the morning and night? So a 1/4 cup in morning and one at night? Spreading it out might help with their hunger. If not then you might just look around for a food with a higher calorie that they’ll enjoy or consider adding toppers to help curb their hunger better.

  • Trudi johnston

    I have two Border terriers that love the first mate chicken and blueberry and lamb. My only complaint is I need to feed them double the recommended serving. And they are tiny pups(6 mths and 15 mths). I give them both 1/2 c daily

  • Barry

    First Mate has been a good diet for our golden doodle. The chicken and blueberries was a great food for her early on. We did have some problems with inconsistency in color,size of food. Also she was getting sick on chicken and blueberries . We tried a different lot and it seem to settle with her. Once she turned 71/2 years old we switched to first mate fish senior food. We noticed her coat turned shinny and she really liked the food. Our second bag however she turned sick. We returned the bag for another of the same and she would not touch it. We are now back with chicken and blueberries until we figure out the best senior food for her. I only wonder if bad lots of dog food happen often , and if anyone has experienced the same as we have.

  • sharron

    ok thanks

  • InkedMarie

    The foods are two different foods…you’d have to ask each company why the food is “X” amount of calories.

  • sharron

    hi – why is first mate dry dog food higher in calories compared to orijen (canada)

  • Rochelle @ Newmac

    I agree that it sounds like a food intolerance. Chicken is one of the most common allergies for dogs, besides grain ingredients so it’s definitely a possibility. If you changed the protein source and it cleared up, I would guess that your dog has an allergy/intolerance to chicken.

  • Rochelle @ Newmac

    I don’t think it’s been proven to be safe or unsafe for your dog, but it is a chemical preservative and considered potentially carcinogenic (cancer causing). A few things I have read say to avoid it. I haven’t seen any concrete evidence either way, though. What are you feeding now? If First Mate is better quality in other aspects, I would definitely consider switching. If you are already feeding a good food, I would do more research and make a decision from there if I were you.

  • WandaSteeves

    Hello Annie, Lelo loves her first mate, I just had her teeth done, so I’m waiting for her to heal. But her hair, nails, eyes r all growing and well. I’m am not sure on what Calicum propionate is, I too shall look into it. It’s been about a year now, she does have more tearing but she’s 9 🙁 now, so that’s expected!

  • annie

    is calcium propionate a safe preservative? i m considering switch to firstmate but i saw the ingredient i don’t know from their web. is it safe for dog ?

  • WandaSteeves

    No her name is LELO, she’s a bichapoo!

  • ozzy

    You said Leo, is that the name of your dog or are you referring to a Leonberger? I am asking because I have a new Leo pup who too is on First Mate puppy food.

  • Pattyvaughn

    Sounds like it could be a food intolerance to one of the ingredients in the food. Compare its ingredient list to whatever you were feeding before and what you are feeding now to get an idea what it could be.

  • WandaSteeves

    What were u feeding her before,.? My Lelo has been on it for 1.5 years and is doing great. We do change her food, she’s 9 now and is as playful as ever!

  • BJ ours

    My dog loves the First Mate Chicken w/blueberries formula but soon noticed some “balding” spots on her skin….did help cut down the runny eyes but had to stop feeding this to her an it’s now been 3 weeks, feeding another grain free brand and the balding spots are clearing up???? Any other comments in regard to this…..

  • wgallamore

    Hoping this food might help with my dog’s anal-gland issues, given it’s high-fiber content.

  • Wickedwanda

    My dog is very fussy, and I am greatful to have found a dog food that is sourced here in Canada, she loves the grain free chicken/blueberries

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  • Muddie

    The reason that First Mate’s minerals are not chelated is because they use vacuum infusion to add them fresh to the product after it is already cooked. Vacuum infused vitamins and minerals are considered to be higher quality and more easily digestible than chelated minerals. Another point that you failed to mention is that they do all of their processing in their own processing facility, something that is extremely rare in the pet food industry today. Due to owning their own facility they have also not had any recalls to date. Since they are based in Canada they have to follow the British standards of food processing, which are much higher than the American standards of food processing. They also boast that all of their ingredients are locally sourced and the fish in their fish formula is caught in the Pacific Ocean.
    –Been in the pet food industry a few years.

  • Hi Cali,

    Thanks for the suggestion. I’ve added the grain-free product line to my To Do list.

    However, Sandy and I are in the midst of updating hundreds of reviews. So, for the near future, we may be slowing down a bit on our new reviews.

    Thanks again for the suggestion – and your patience.

  • cali

    any reviews of their grain free line?  firstmate is a really popular food in my area, but I have never even seen this “classic” line reviewed here.. only their large line of grain free’s which have been around for many many years

  • Liisa

    Is this the same as Dog Mate?