WholeHearted Grain Free (Dry)

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Rating: ★★★★☆

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

The WholeHearted Grain Free product line includes six 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.

  • WholeHearted All Life Stages Salmon and Pea [A]
  • WholeHearted All Life Stages Chicken and Pea [A]
  • WholeHearted Puppy Chicken and Pea (4.5 stars) [A]
  • WholeHearted Large Breed Adult Chicken and Pea [M]
  • WholeHearted Small Breed Adult Chicken and Pea [M]
  • WholeHearted All Life Stages Beef and Pea (3.5 stars) [A]

WholeHearted All Life Stages Salmon and Pea was selected to represent the other products in the line for this review.

WholeHearted All Life Stages Salmon and Pea

Dry Dog Food

Estimated Dry Matter Nutrient Content

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

Ingredients: Salmon, salmon meal, lentils, pea flour, chickpeas, peas, canola oil (preserved with mixed tocopherols), tomato pomace, sweet potatoes, flaxseed, natural flavor, salmon oil, salt, choline chloride, dried chicory root, Yucca schidigera extract, dried Lactobacillus acidophilus fermentation product, dried Bifidobacterium animalis fermentation product, dried Lactobacillus reuteri fermentation product, vitamin E supplement, iron proteinate, zinc proteinate, copper proteinate, ferrous sulfate, zinc sulfate, copper sulfate, potassium iodide, thiamine mononitrate (source of vitamin B1), manganese proteinate, manganous oxide, ascorbic acid (preservative), vitamin A supplement, biotin, niacin, calcium pantothenate, manganese sulfate, sodium selenite, pyridoxine hydrochloride (source of vitamin B6), vitamin B12 supplement, riboflavin (vitamin B2), vitamin D3 supplement, folic acid

Fiber (estimated dry matter content) = 5.6%

Red items indicate controversial ingredients

Estimated Nutrient Content
MethodProteinFatCarbs
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 salmon. Although it is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, raw salmon contains about 80% water. After cooking, most of that moisture is lost, reducing the meat content to just a fraction of its original weight.

After processing, this item would probably account for a smaller part of the total content of the finished product.

The second ingredient is salmon meal. Because it is considered a meat concentrate, fish meal contains almost 300% more protein than fresh fish itself.

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

The third ingredient includes lentils. Lentils are a quality source of carbohydrates. Plus (like all legumes) they’re rich in natural fiber.

However, lentils contain about 25% protein, a factor that must be considered when judging the actual meat content of this dog food.

The fourth ingredient is pea flour, a powder made from roasted yellow peas. Pea flour contains as much as 25% protein, a factor that must be considered when judging the meat content of this dog food.

The fifth ingredient includes chickpeas, also known as garbanzo beans. Like peas, bean and lentils, the chickpea is a nutritious member of the fiber-rich legume (or pulse) family of vegetables.

However, chickpeas contain about 22% protein, a factor that must be considered when judging the actual meat content of this dog food.

The sixth ingredient lists peas. Peas are a quality source of carbohydrates. And like all legumes, they’re rich in natural fiber.

However, peas contain about 25% protein, a factor that must be considered when judging the meat content of this dog food.

It’s important to note that a number of ingredients included in this recipe are each a type of legume:

  • Lentils
  • Pea flour
  • Chickpeas
  • Peas

Although they’re a mixture of quality plant ingredients, there’s an important issue to consider here. And that’s the recipe design practice known as ingredient splitting.

You see, if we were to combine all these individual items together and report them as one, that newer combination would almost certainly occupy a higher position on the list — possibly making legumes (not meat) the predominant ingredient in this recipe.

The seventh ingredient is canola oil. Unfortunately, canola can be a controversial item. That’s because it can sometimes (but not always) be derived from genetically modified rapeseed.

Yet others cite the fact canola oil can be a significant source of essential omega-3 fatty acids.

In any case, plant-based oils like canola are less biologically available to a dog than fish oil as a source of quality omega-3 fats.

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.

The ninth 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.

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, salmon 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, salmon oil should be considered a commendable addition.

In addition, chicory root 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.

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.

WholeHearted Grain Free Dog Food
The Bottom Line

Judging by its ingredients alone, WholeHearted Grain Free 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 29% and a mean fat level of 17%. Together, these figures suggest a carbohydrate content of 46% for the overall product line.

And a fat-to-protein ratio of about 59%.

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

When you consider the protein-boosting effect of the lentils, chickpeas, pea products and flaxseed, this looks like the profile of a kibble containing a moderate amount of meat.

Bottom line?

WholeHearted Grain Free is a plant-based dry dog food using a moderate amount of salmon, chicken or beef meals as its main sources of animal protein, thus earning the brand 4 stars.

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.

WholeHearted 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

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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".

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

Notes and Updates

09/19/2016 Last Update

  1. Association of American Feed Control Officials
  • anon101

    Go to the vet for a thorough workup.
    (exam, labs, x-rays, if indicated)
    Eating grass is not normal and a symptom of gastrointestinal distress.
    Eating feces is a nasty habit that some dogs have. The only thing I have found to work is to follow them around when you think they are due for a bowel movement, scoop and discard immediately.

  • Jackie

    Have you tried mixing some canned pumpkin or pineapple with her food? I had a Scottie that was fixed on eating his own pooh and both of those worked to curb his taste for pooh.

  • Hello everyone!
    When I first rescued my pit mix Fiona from the pound, I took her to Petco and they gave me a free bag of Wholehearted. I went with the beef and she chose it down like she never ate a day in her life. She didn’t have any problems regarding digestion, but I did notice that she started eating grass and eventually her own feces if I didn’t pick it up right away. This had me concerned, so I picked up a brand I used to give the pit I had previously called Taste of the Wild. I did what everyone should do when switching food, but Taste of the Wild just didn’t agree with her stomach. I made the switch back and still, Fiona eats grass and attempts to eat her own poop. Any suggestions?

  • Julie Seidman

    Awesome! This really excites me! (Its the little things in life! Haha) i got a free bag from petco, and won’t use anything else now!

  • haleycookie

    I’m glad to hear that 😀 wholehearted is expanding and there is a whole new line coming out with different flavors and targeted formulas for skin and digestion as well as weight loss so be on the look out for those as well in the near future.

  • Julie Seidman

    Switched my puppy to wholehearted salmon and pea after he had reactions to Merrick puppy and Blue Wilderness. No more stomach issues for him, and it’s affordable for me! Loving Wholehearted 🙂

  • Isabella Santana
  • Christina Moore Ryder

    I just talked with a representative and they told me other products come from Canada and Australia. Nothing from China

  • Brandon S. Doyle
  • Jake

    Thank you. Did the happen to say what is meant by ‘Globally Sourced Ingredients’? I mean, what is from where? J.

  • Kindra

    Petco says that they source it from Drs. Foster & Smith, and I believe Foster & Smith brand foods are from the Co-Packer CJ Foods

  • Kerry

    My 1 1/2yr old German shepherd mix, Nani, seems to really like this brand. I had her on a raw diet when I first got her, but that quickly became too much to handle and I was concerned about getting the ratios right. I had a coupon for a free bag of this stuff, so I picked up the chicken — for months, she had no problems with it. When I started running out, petco was out of that particular flavor so I got the beef and started mixing it in… bad move. She definitely cannot tolerate the beef and pea variety, and the carpet couldn’t handle it much longer either. Diarrhea, vomiting, the whole mix. Once she went back on the chicken, she was fine. Tried out the salmon next, and she loves that even more — she seems even healthier and has more energy, too. Overall, I recommend the chicken and especially the salmon varieties of this brand, but I would not recommend the beef at all.

  • Jake

    Thanks Krista. I’ve seen it there and when I ask the associate where it’s made, no one seems to know. Leaves me wondering a bit.

  • Krista Hooper

    Petco sells it

  • Jake

    Does anyone know where Whole Hearted is made and what is meant where is says on the bag ‘Globally Sourced Ingredients?’

  • M. Oexmann

    Our 8 year old German Shepherd began having diarrhea on the third
    day we switched her food from Proplan to Wholehearted. We mixed

    The two foods at first for the transition. I added some browned
    Ground chuck and cooked white rice (no butter) today. She is continuing with total liquid stools tonight 6 hours after eating
    The food mixed with rice / beef old fashioned remedy for
    K9 diarrhea. We will return to Proplan tomorrow. Have
    Considered all non food related possible causes.

  • Alfonso Machete Guevara

    After reading the reviews I decided to take the plunge and buy the food for my pup Max. He LOVES the food. I actually started him on Fromm, it was quite expensive. My oldest dog Forrest eats Victor and he loves it too. Max wasn’t too fond of eating Fromm, when I made the switch to Wholehearted, it took him about two days two really start eating it. He will devour the food. No tummy problems, no diarrhea, or anything else that I can see. Although I try to feed them quality food, I don’t split atoms about it either. Growing up our dogs lived long and ate scraps. It is amazing to see how much attention we pay to where ingredients for dog food comes from, but we don’t do the same with human food. Until he reaches 18 mos, I will keep him on this. Best of luck to those of you considering the decision. ,

  • Amber Johnson

    I’ve been feeding it to my younger dog and my older dog and more recently my younger dog began throwing up. first I thought he got a hold of something as well, but he didn’t. I’m now sure that it has to be the dog food because that’s the only thing that he eats because he has a sensitive stomach. I’m going to stop giving it to him and see if he stops vomiting. My older dog doesn’t have any issues that I can see, but he also has a stomach of Steel, and just because he’s not throwing up I’m not going to continue giving it to him either. They eat WhloeHearted wet and dry salmon, chicken, fish, Turkey and beef. So I can’t pinpoint which one it is specifically. But we use all of the different kinds.

  • Jim Martin

    If it smells like a duck and sounds like a duck, it’s usually a duck. Or a paid poster.

  • Gloria

    Dee: Did you make the switch slowly, or did you change them directly to this food, without mixing with previous food?

  • Amy Hansen

    I actually called Petco at the number listed on the food bag trying to find out where exactly the other ingredients came from. They said that they were unable to locate that information. Seems very sketchy to me… Definitely not making the switch to this food as I was hoping :/

  • Denise Benson

    Interesting, Dee. Did you try to post an online review on Petco.com? I gave them a 3 star review and it is not there. The only thing they have are the 5 star ones.

  • Dee

    I have 4 dogs. 3 of them are large mixed breed dogs and one is a small Shih Tzu Poodle mix. I feed my smaller breed toy dog a more expensive raw freeze dried diet by Stella & Chewey’s mixed with Merrick Back Country because it is more affordable for him. Since my other dogs are very large, I was looking for a good quality, cost effective, grain free kibble.

    I decided to give this food a try. Not long after purchasing this food my 3 dogs were vomiting and had bloody diarrhea. Since a large bag only lasts me 5 or 6 days, I purchased another when I ran out and noticed that my 3 dogs were vomiting even more severely with more blood streaked diarrhea. I stopped giving them this food right away, and the vomiting subsided. My small breed dog who does not eat this food was fine.

    I really feel there is something wrong with this food. Upon further investigation I found out that some of the ingredients do not come from America. If you look at the label, it makes mention that some of the ingredients are internationally sourced. I have a feeling that there could be dangerous China based ingredients or Chinese vitamins added to the mix. This food is not recommended at all! What a shame because it is so affordable.

  • Denise Benson

    I meant emails have been unanswered.

  • Denise Benson

    I have made several attempts to contact Petco to get more detailed nutritional analysis. Specifically, I want to know phosphorous levels. No one I talked to seems to know anything about it and my emails have gone answered.

  • Storm’s Mom

    The protein’s a bit low for my liking, so I would add a canned topper to it when I feed it…although I’ll have to see if it’s available here in Canada. I’m glad to see another decent kibble without alfalfa, too! 🙂

  • Diane Garduno

    Happy to see this review up so quickly. I’m constantly on the lookout for new affordable quality foods to add to our rotation. I’ll still have to compare the individual recipes to the levels I look for but it looks promising so far.