Freshpet Vital Grain Free Complete Meals (Pouch)

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Rating: ★★★★½

Freshpet Vital Grain Free Dog Food in pouches receives the Advisor’s second-highest tier rating of 4.5 stars.

The Freshpet Vital Grain Free product line includes 2 pouched 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.

Important: Because many websites do not reliably specify which Growth or All Life Stages recipes are safe for large breed puppies, we do not include that data in this report. Be sure to check actual packaging for that information.

  • Vital Grain Free Small Breed [A]
  • Vital Grain Free Complete Meals Beef Recipe with Lamb (4 stars) [A]

Freshpet Vital Grain Free Small Breed was selected to represent both products in the line for this review.

Freshpet Vital Grain Free Small Breed Recipe

Canned Dog Food

Estimated Dry Matter Nutrient Content

Protein = 43% | Fat = 32% | Carbs = 16%

Ingredients: Chicken, chicken liver, carrots, sweet potato, pea protein, egg, cranberries, pea fiber, natural flavor, garlic powder, ocean whitefish, salt, vinegar, dicalcium phosphate, spinach, inulin, beta carotene, green tea extract, celery powder, vitamins: choline chloride, vitamin E supplement, niacin, calcium pantothenate, biotin, riboflavin, thiamine mononitrate, vitamin B12 supplement, vitamin D3 supplement, pyridoxine hydrochloride, folic acid, minerals: potassium chloride, zinc proteinate, iron proteinate, manganese proteinate, copper proteinate, sodium selenite, calcium iodate

Fiber (estimated dry matter content) = 4.1%

Red items indicate controversial ingredients

Estimated Nutrient Content
MethodProteinFatCarbs
Guaranteed Analysis16%12%NA
Dry Matter Basis43%32%16%
Calorie Weighted Basis31%57%12%
Protein = 31% | Fat = 57% | Carbs = 12%

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 liver. This is an organ meat sourced from a named animal and thus considered a beneficial component.

The third ingredient includes carrots. Carrots are rich in beta-carotene, minerals and dietary fiber.

The fourth ingredient is sweet potato. Sweet potatoes are a gluten-free source of complex carbohydrates in a dog food. They are naturally rich in dietary fiber and beta carotene.

The fifth ingredient is pea protein, what remains of a pea after removing the starchy part of the vegetable.

Even though it contains over 80% protein, this ingredient would be expected to have a lower biological value than meat.

And less costly plant-based products like this can notably boost the total protein reported on the label — a factor that must be considered when judging the meat content of this dog food.

The sixth ingredient lists eggs. Eggs are easy to digest and have an exceptionally high biological value.

The seventh ingredient includes cranberries, a nutrient-rich fruit that’s also high in fiber.

The eighth ingredient is pea fiber, a mixture of both soluble and insoluble dietary fiber derived from pea hulls. Aside from the usual benefits of fiber, this agricultural by-product provides no other 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 three notable exceptions

First, 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.

Next, we find inulin, a starch-like compound made up of repeating units of carbohydrates and typically sourced from chicory root.

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.

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.

Freshpet Vital Grain Free Pouched Dog Food
The Bottom Line

Judging by its ingredients alone, Freshpet Vital Grain Free looks like an above-average pouched dog food.

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 43%, a fat level of 32% and estimated carbohydrates of about 16%.

As a group, the brand features an average protein content of 40% and a mean fat level of 31%. Together, these figures suggest a carbohydrate content of 21% for the overall product line.

And a fat-to-protein ratio of about 76%.

Near-average protein. Above-average fat. And below-average carbs when compared to a typical moist dog food.

Even when you consider the protein-boosting effect of the pea protein, this looks like the profile of a moist product containing a notable amount of meat.

However, with 57% of the total calories in our example coming from fat versus just 31% from protein, some recipes may not be suitable for every animal.

Bottom line?

Freshpet Vital Grain Free is a meat-based pouched dog food using a notable amount of named meats as its main sources of animal protein, thus earning the brand 4.5 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.

Freshpet 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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Dog Food Coupons
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Special FDA Alert

The FDA has announced it is investigating a potential connection between grain-free diets and a type of canine heart disease known as dilated cardiomyopathy. Click here for details.

A Final Word

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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.

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Notes and Updates

07/13/2018 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)