Finding a more affordable dog food

Dog Food Advisor Forums Diet and Health Finding a more affordable dog food

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  • #123223 Report Abuse
    Atlas T

    Hi everyone,
    The good news is that my dog finally found a dog food he can tolerate: Natural Balance LID (both fish & sweet potato and duck & potato, haven’t tried any others). He’s been on this for more than six months now and his poop is a great consistency. However, in an ideal world, I’d like to move him over to another food for two main reasons: 1. Price! (yes, it’s not the most expensive, but it is more than I want to spend) and 2. Rating (only 3 stars on dog food advisor).

    Here’s the challenge: every time I transition him to a new food, his stool goes soft. I do it EXTREMELY slowly, and yet every time I hit about half a cup per day, I have to stop because of his stool. That all leads to another problem, which is that he starts obsessively licking his butt, which I think means that his anal glands aren’t being expressed with the soft stools. So then I go back to Natural Balance for a few weeks and starts again with a new food. I was hoping to have him be on either the Costco Natural Domain or there regular dog food, but no such luck. I’ve tried lots and lots of different brands with no luck. The only one he seemed to do somewhat alright on was the American Journey LID salmon and sweet potato.

    I’m hoping someone here can help me with a strategy for how to find the right food. I’ve tried shopping by protein (since he seems to be fine with at least fish and duck, thought probably with most others as well), by grain free, by things without legumes. Maybe I need to focus on fiber content? Or fat content? Or something I’m not thinking of altogether?

    I was also wondering if I should just buy some psyllium husks to add into his food to make his poop harder?

    And while I have lots of respect for folks who feed raw, that’s not a path we’ll be pursuing, so please give me other suggestions. Thanks so much!

    #123224 Report Abuse
    One of my dogs does well on this food. Very reasonable.

    My other dog that has allergies and is under the care of a dermatologist does best on a fish based food, in fact I am going to put her back on Zignature Whitefish kibble as a base.

    “He’s been on this for more than six months now and his poop is a great consistency. However, in an ideal world, I’d like to move him over to another food for two main reasons: 1. Price! (yes, it’s not the most expensive, but it is more than I want to spend) and 2. Rating (only 3 stars on dog food advisor)”

    If your dog is doing well on this food I would not switch to a cheaper food just to save a few bucks, you may end up spending your so called savings and more at the vet.

    PS: Ratings on dog food sites mean sheet. Just my opinion.

    #123225 Report Abuse

    I would look at Under the Sun or Whole Earth Farms. WEF has a fish and they also have a duck based food. I think Under the Sun has a whitefish. Both are fairly reasonable foods that I’ve heard good things about. I also like Fromm and they do have a fish and they have a duck in their 4-star line, but I think the price would be about on par with Natural Balance, though the bags may be larger…

    #123227 Report Abuse

    Good to see you post again. Another post made me think about Atlas the other day and I was wondering how he was doing. DFA rates foods by the amount of protein, and because the NB LID formulas are lower protein, that is why they get a 3 star rating not because they are not a good food.

    “Maybe I need to focus on fiber content? Or fat content? Or something I’m not thinking of altogether?”

    The issue still lies in his gut bacteria. Amercian Journey is higher fiber, higher fat, contains peas and chickpeas, but it also has fructooligosaccharides (FOS) which is a good prebiotic plus a probiotic. As I mentioned before Natural Balance does not contain prebiotics or probiotics, and in my experience does not have the necessary components to build gut health even though it is easily digestible.

    Have you compared the ingredient lists between the other foods you tried? Did any of the others contain a prebiotic and probiotics, specifically FOS? Since you mentioned he did better with AJ than the other foods, then gradually adding a food that contains FOS for several months would be my next move. I personally don’t think that adding psyllium husks will help. There are several brands of kibble that contain FOS if you do not want to use AJ because of the legumes.

    #123262 Report Abuse
    Atlas T

    Thanks, all, for your recommendations of things to try.

    Cockaliermom, thanks for remembering us and thinking about us 🙂 I looked at the American Journey ingredients list and don’t see FOS listed. Do they use a different name for them? Or, what should I look for on the labels of other foods to see if they have pre/probiotics? And what are those other brands that have FOS that aren’t AJ (preferably limited ingredient ones)? I’m also open to supplementing pre and probiotics if you think that may work better?


    #123265 Report Abuse

    Hi Atlas,
    Sorry another long post I keep thinking of stuff to write lol,
    It’s good you have FINALLY found a dry food that’s working for your Lab, the Natural Balance Potato & Duck formula is low fiber 3%max & the N/B fish formula is 5%max fiber, both formula’s have “NO peas” & both formula’s have “NO probiotics”, both have VERY Limited Ingredients, just 1 single meat protein & potatoes or sweet potatoes as the carb…
    Make sure you look for LID, fiber under 5% & it has to have Potatoes or sweet potatoes, not too many ingredients..

    Go onto the Natural Balance LID site & look at the Duck formula & Fish formula ingredients that your dog does well on, then try & find a cheaper food with similar ingredients, write down the foods you have tried & he did sloppy poos & obsessively licking his butt, rubbing bum on ground & licking bum can also be from food sensitivities, my boy does it when he’s sensitive to an ingredient in a dry grain kibble…

    If you want to give your dog probiotics, your better off buying a probiotic powder or Kefir, add 10-15ml water to the probiotic powder in a small bowl swirl & mix probiotic powder then let your dog drink it as a treat, best to give probiotic inbetween meals on an empty stomach when stomach acids are low not with food, the probiotic works better, give same time every day..

    Did you ever try
    “4Health”Sensitive stomach” formula, sold Tractor Supply, it is Potato & Egg, No Peas, the fiber is low 3%max & has similar ingredients to the Natural Balance Potato & Duck & the Sweet potato & fish formula’s, if its cheaper maybe you can add with the N/B formula to make the N/B kibble last longer.. also adding fresh ingredients, left overs after you have cooked, feed some to dog & dont add 1 cup of kibble, feed 1/2 cooked food say Potato & a meat & 1/2 his N/B kibble he does well on..

    I feed “Wellness Core” Large Breed, its Chicken, Turkey, Potato & Peas I buy when on special or has 25% off the online pet food shops always send out emails with 25%-30% off.
    I have just finished feeding “Nutra Gold” Turkey & Sweet Potato formula & it had Garbanzo beans, Patch normally farts when he eats Garbanzo beans but not with this Nutra Gold grain free formula, Patches poos were smaller & firmer then when he eats the Wellness Core formula & the Nutra Gold is cheaper then the Wellness Core. Here’s teh Whitefish & Sweet Potato formula, I’d give it a go just buy a small bag.

    Also about the Bravecto chews, can you sell them singley to someone who uses Bravecto, I’d ring the the place your bought the Bravecto chews from or ring/email Bravecto company & I’d say my dog became very unwell & vomited bits of teh chew back up after he ate the Bravecto chew & you “do not” want to use the rest of the 5 x Bravecto chews again as you’re very worried your dog will become unwell again & die & you just bought a 6 pack & have only used 1 chew & I just want a refund….
    also thru the Winter months do not give any Bravecto chews, I remember reading 1 dog that became very ill having seizure had his blood tested 9 months later he still had the Bravecto nerve drug in his system, so if you can not get a refund then just give 1 x Bravecto chew in Spring before the flea season starts & that 1 Bravecto chew should last thru Spring/Summer/Autumn months, Bravecto might give you a refund they’d get alot of complaints..
    Do you live in a high flea/tick area? I do not use any toxins on Patch he reacts to everything….

    #123275 Report Abuse
    joanne l

    If you can keep him on what is working, I know you need something cheaper, but if your dog doesn’t respond well you are doing more harm than good, and then may need to spend even more money. I don’t know your situation, money wise, but if you can stretch it a bit to keep him on what works would be best. I am just trying to keep it simple. As far as ratings go on this site, I would not be too concerned about it, what works for your dog is more important. However, if you can stay away from grocery store brands, some people have luck with them and some don’t. The ones that didn’t have any luck had dogs pooping blood or getting really sick. That’s what I heard. So I wouldn’t take a chance. I hope you find a budget that you can keep buying what he is eating now.

    • This reply was modified 5 years, 4 months ago by joanne l.
    • This reply was modified 5 years, 4 months ago by joanne l.
    #123286 Report Abuse

    The full name for FOS is fructooligosaccharides which is what AJ identifies it by. Other common ingredients that are prebiotics are inulin (chicory root) and beet pulp. Some dogs with gut issues seem to do better with FOS than inulin or beet pulp and that is why I asked about the other foods you tried.
    When you see an ingredient that ends in “fermentation product” it is a probiotic. Whatever proceeds that is the particular strain of bacteria. Some foods might have 1 strain whereas others may have 5 or 6 or more. The different strains of bacteria have separate functions in the gut. Right now Atlas only has the strains of bacteria in his gut to handle what he is eating and when you add the new food that is why his poo gets soft.
    I think it would help to supplement with a probiotic that contains prebiotics when you start adding new food, but not while Atlas is just eating the NB. I don’t remember if I mentioned this before or not, but when I was feeding my girls NB, one was getting probiotics everyday along with her food, but when NB discontinued the formula I was feeding, I could not add 4 kibbles of a new food without it giving her diarrhea. I ended up putting her on kefir and some fresh food in addition to the probiotic. My other girl I had to add a prebioitic/probiotic combination in addition to the new kibble with probiotics. Neither one of the girls had trouble transitioning to new foods prior to feeding the NB for several months. This is why I said that I don’t think it has the right components to build a healthy gut.

    I’ll go through some ingredient lists and get back with you on the brands. I don’t know that any of the limited ingredients foods are going to be any cheaper, but I do think you need to add another food to help build his gut bacteria.

    #123295 Report Abuse
    Atlas T

    Thanks for the input.

    Cockaliermom and Susan, I just accidentally came across Diamond Naturals Grain-Free Whitefish & Sweet Potato Formula Dry Dog Food and it seems like that one has lots of different strains of probiotics, do you think that would be a good one to try? It’s not a limited ingredient diet though…

    Atlas does get some yogurt and kefir, and I’ll continue to do that.

    As to “4Health”Sensitive stomach” – I haven’t tried that yet. Does that one have probiotics? I have some hesitation around the fact that the first ingredient is potatoes and not a protein, but can be convinced that that’s not an issue 🙂

    With the recent news from the FDA, I’m also concerned about keeping him long term on a grain free, potato-based diet…that also makes me want to make the switch to something better.

    The local pet store recommended I try Pulsar food….they say it’s branded as a limited ingredient diet, but has pretty limited ingredients. It does have lentils and peas though, as well as FOS…so I’m not sure if that would ultimately be good or bad for him. I wonder….if I just try feeding Atlas homemade legumes (peas, chickpeas, lentils, etc.) will that give me a good sense of whether he can tolerate them? Or is it such a different processing in kibble that it doesn’t really matter if he can tolerate them if cooked at home?


    #123296 Report Abuse

    I looked at the Diamond Naturals, and I personally think lentils are as much or more of a problem than peas. The 4 Health Salmon & Potato (also has barley and millet) seems like a better food to me. The 4 Health Whitefish & Potato Grain Free has more peas than American Journey. I just noticed that AJ has beet pulp and FOS for prebiotics, so that could be another reason Atlas did better with it. All the 4 Health foods have pre/probiotics. I believe I saw on the Reviews side that Diamond manufactures the 4 Health food for TSC. Also, Diamond has a sensitive food like the 4 Health–it may be the same one.

    I did look at the limited ingredient foods, and all the ones I found were basically as high as NB or higher.

    I too am concerned with the FDA warning and think it needs to be taken very seriously. There is a lady on DFA who was feeding her pup Zignature Zssentials and its taurine level was below critical. I now have my allergy girl on a grain inclusive food, and I am going to start working on trying to find a food for the other one. I am thinking of trying ProPlan or 4 Health for her.

    Cooking legumes at home is a different process and that will not help as to whether he can handle them in a kibble. I personally would go with a food that has no more than one legume, and you may want to consider a grain inclusive food. His gut is in a different place now than when you had all the trouble previously. When you do start to transition again, if he starts to get soft, I would also add a good pet probiotic with prebiotics and see if that makes any difference.

    #123297 Report Abuse

    The dry foods you mentioned have lentils in the first 4 ingredients, I’d avoid Lentils, peas would be a better choice like Cockermon said..

    Yes cooking & introducing 1 ingredient might work to find out if your dog can eat & handle this ingredient & check out his poo & see is it firmer or sloppier, I did this when I thought Patch couldn’t eat potato, he reacted to ingredient in a LID vet diet Potato & Fish & the vet said it must be the potatoes, so for 1 & 1/2 yrs I thought he cant have potato & most g/f formula back 2014 had potato, so I started adding 1 spoon cooked potato & he was fine then I added 2 spoons of boiled potato & poos were firmer 🙂

    Cheaper foods that might work??

    Have a look at

    “Whole Earth Farms”
    Grain Free Recipe with Pork, Beef & Lamb (Poultry-Free)
    For All Breeds & Life Stages

    Whole Earth farms – Grain Free Recipe with Chicken & Turkey

    Whole Earth Farms – Grain-Free Salmon & Whitefish Dry Dog but has MORE ingredients

    Also look at “Victor Select” formula’s
    there’s “Oceanfish Select Formula” or a “Lamb Meal & Rice Select formula” it has Probiotics & Prebiotics

    I’ve read alot of people who have dogs with sensitive stomach/bowel seem to do well on Victor dry food, just need to find the right formula & the Select formula’s have least ingredients to start with..

    Pro Pac Ultimates
    grains & grain free only has prebiotics

    #123338 Report Abuse
    Atlas T

    Thanks to both of you for the additional suggestions.

    The 4health foods seem like they could work but are concerning from the perspective of the FDA warning. They have grains, but they are also high in potato and legumes (and some say fish is a “novel protein” so to stay away. I feel like all the recommendations are contradicting!

    Someone in another group suggested Pro Plan Select Adult Sensitive Skin and Stomach, which is salmon based and includes grains (with minimal legumes and potato to avoid DCM issues). It feels like maybe it’s worth trying, but it’s definitely not a LID. Also my impression is that it has prebiotics but not probiotics, is that right?

    #123341 Report Abuse

    I agree with you that 4 Health is high in potato and peas, and definitely not limited ingredient, but it is kind of a middle ground with what you are currently feeding. Fish meal is in a lot of foods now, so fish is only novel if your dog has neve been exposed to any form of it. To me, the bigger concern about fish is the number of containments it has. After you get Atlas onto another food, then try other proteins.
    A lot of people have good success with ProPlan and that is why I am considering it. The Focus Sensitive Skin and Stomach (I think that is the one you are referring to) is basically fish and grains, so it is more of a limited ingredient food than 4 Health. You are correct, it has prebiotics and no probiotics. If you go with ProPlan buy a probiotic to supplement with. I prefer the ones that come in powder form rather than capsules.

    #124539 Report Abuse
    Atlas T

    Alright, I’m going to throw another wrench in the works.
    What might be the best bet in terms of relatively limited ingredients, but low on legumes and potatoes? I’m really concerned about the FDA warning around boutique foods and DCM so would like to find a combo that could work.

    The Focus Sensitive Skin and Stomach is on my list, but anything else folks would recommend?

    #124541 Report Abuse

    Unfortunately, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) unwittingly prompted these articles to be written when it recently gave a warning about a possible connection. Since then, the FDA has “elucidated its initial warning” and stated, “At this time, we are not advising dietary changes based solely on the information we have gathered so far. If you have questions or concerns about your dog’s health or its diet, we suggest that you consult your veterinarian for individualized advice that takes into account your dog’s specific needs and medical history.”
    here’s the link-

    Atlas has sensitive stomach/bowel, I would first try & find a dry diet that agrees with Atlas & take it from there, I still feed Patch his “Wellness Core” large breed Adult dry g/f & I rotate with “NutraGold” Turkey & Sweet Potatoes g/f & next bag of Kibble I’m buying his Canidae Pure Meadow Senior g/f, I know he does well on these 3 dry formula’s…

    In Australia vets were not concerned when FDA released warning about Low Taurine grain free dry foods, when I asked Patches vet she said, until we get more research just leave Patch on his grain free potato formula’s that he’s doing well on, We dont want him having a IBD flare.. he doesnt do well on grain dry foods 🙁

    Check & google *** when they test products & screened over 130 toxins including heavy metals, BPA, … Out of 299 dry dog foods tested, the bottom five, on average, contain the highest …
    Purina Focus Sensitive Stomach and Skin formula gets only 1 star & has been on the 1 star high heavy metals & toxins list every 3 months when *** test these popular dog foods, if you look at 5 star foods
    Purina One Smart Blend True Instinct Turkey and Venison Dry Dog Food..
    Purina Beyond Salmon & Egg really well when tested & get 5 stars, so you might be better off trying a different Purina formula & willprobably be a little cheaper with cleaner ingredients.
    “Eagle Pack” Large/giant breed Natural Dry formula does very well when tested & is also a good price.
    But will grain formula’s agree with Atlas or does he do better on a grain free potato dry food?..

    #124564 Report Abuse

    Hi Atlas-
    In my opinion, your instincts are correct. You should be avoiding legumes and potatoes at least until the research is over. Here is the FDA’s second bulletin:

    The link that Susan provided is not by a veterinarian nutritionist and is also the founder of a bogus $300 allergy test. I wouldn’t pay attention to it.

    Join the Taurine-Deficient Cardiomyopathy FB group for more information. It is supported by 4 or 5 vets, including Joshua Stern. He is the UCDavis cardiologist who is leading the investigation.

    They are recommending to feed food from a large company who employs full time veterinary nutritionists, who regularly tests their food, does research and feeding trials. Some of the companies that fit most of the criteria that Ive found so far are: Royal Canin, Eukanuba, Iams, Purina, Hills, Annamaet, and Farmina.

    I have switched my dogs to Purina Pro Plan. Their stools were soft at first, but are getting better and better. I’d rather have soft stools than an enlarged heart. However, my dogs are Golden and Lab mix, two breeds that seem to be more affected by this issue. But, other breeds are starting to show up too.

    There are supplements that you can buy that may help with the anal gland issue. They usually contain probiotics and fiber. You may want to talk to your vet about using one until your dog’s system gets used to the different type of fiber in food with grain. We use Forti Flora probiotic. It is awesome! Hope this helps. Good luck!

    #124565 Report Abuse
    Member (excerpt below,click on link for full article and comments)

    I have written about Dr. Dodds before. (1, 2). She is a prime example of a variety of the ailment sometimes called the Nobel Disease. She is obviously a smart and confident person who has made real contributions to veterinary medicine outside of the conventional academic career path. Unfortunately, she has come to embrace a variety of pseudoscientific views, and she has such confidence in her own talents and beliefs that she does not feel obligated to subject her own theories to the usual sort of scientific testing and critique. Her ideas about allergies, thyroid disease and, as we shall see, nutrition, are widely viewed as unproven, unlikely, or outright factually incorrect by experts in these fields, but Dr. Dodds has moved forward with not only books of advice but commercial diagnostic tests without apparently feeling any need to demonstrate her ideas are correct through scientific research.

    #124575 Report Abuse


    Dr W. Jean Dodds, DVM = Doctor of Veterinary Medicine, Dr Jean Dodds is a well known respected DVM in the US.. She is considered one of the foremost experts in pet healthcare, Dr. Dodds focuses on vaccination protocols, nutrition & she is best known for her work in thyroid disease, Hypothyroidism….

    FDA writes

    14. Do I need to change my dog’s diet?

    At this time, “we are not advising dietary changes based solely on the information we have gathered so far”. If you have questions or concerns about your dog’s health or its diet, we suggest that you consult your veterinarian for individualized advice that takes into account your dog’s “specific needs and medical history”.

    #124577 Report Abuse

    @ Atlas
    You make up your own mind up whats best for Atlas.. you have enough advice from DFA posters….
    all I know is when I kept mentioning the low taurine in dogs after they ate these newer grain free food brands when I asked Australian vets, Patches American vet, our Australian Dog Food Advisor (Pet Food Reviews- Australia) he would NOT post the FDA link, I asked him why are you not warning people about feeding these high legumes g/f diets on his f/b site, when I spoke with pet food companies, I spoke with Hills vet nutritionist & R/C vet nutritionist whoever I could discuss taurine being blocked & get some answers, some people told me, there is NOT enough proof, some people wanted me to show a link with evidence that Legume & Potatoes are blocking the taurine & causing heart problems, I couldnt find any research as it hasnt been done yet, all I found was 1 vet an older vet, said do not feed no more then 20% legumes in a dog diet…
    This is when I thought to myself hey I’m the only Nut that seems to think there’s a problem here & if Patches both vets are telling me to continue feeding him his Grain Free Wellness Core Large Breed food that has Potatoes in it then I’m listening to them, they’d know more then me, it wasnt one person I’ve had these disscussions with..

    Just remember Atlas has Intestinal problems but Atlas probably isn’t as bad as Patch yet, Patch was a rescue who I rescued on his 4th birthday, the damage was already done with Patch, I thought I could fix Patches IBD but it was too late for him he was probably feed a diet that keep making his poos sloppy/diarrhea….

    Atlas may not do great on a grain diet unless you can find a dry food that has grains & potatoes or sweet potatoes further down the ingredient list maybe that will work for Atlas?..
    I tried this with Patch, “Canidae All Life Stages Platinum” formula & Patch was doing BIG sloppy yellow cow patties, I tried Purina Pro Plan OptiDerma formula, it helped his itchy skin but made IBD worse…. Canidae & Purina both refunded money or offered to give a voucher…

    When you do find a cheaper medium priced dry food that agrees with Atlas then you’ll have another dry food you can rotate with..
    Try to not irritate Atlas bowel, you do not want your dog diagnosed with IBD when he’s around 4yrs old…. IBD isnt a nice disease, once the damage is done there’s no going back..
    Thickening of the bowel, the cause – the dog continues doing sloppy poos & owner continues to feed food that is irritating the stomach/bowel..
    You can not reverse thickening of the bowel with a probiotic, pumkin or other supplements..
    Atlas is young & hopefully his bowel has healed & he still has a healthy bowel, i’d feed him dry foods he has done best on…& see a good vet yearly….

    #124597 Report Abuse

    The FDA cannot recommend a diet switch at this time for a couple of reasons: 1.) They have not examined or know your dog. 2.) Also, there has not been a specific causation yet only a very strong correlation. They are not sure yet if it is due to ingredient interactions or some sort of contamination in the ingredients.

    It is too bad the word seems to be getting out slowly. This new grain free fad is sacrificing nutritional value for better “looking” ingredients. Many of us are falling for it, including myself. I’m sticking to the bigger established companies that do research and feeding trials from now on. I do not want my dogs in a sense to be the ones doing the feeding trials.

    Here is a current interview with Dr. Martine Hartogensis, the Deputy Director at the US Food & Drug Associations Center for Veterinary Medicine’s Office of Surveillance & Compliance. She says there have now been about 200 dogs diagnosed with DCM do to the food they are eating. I can imagine there will only be more as the word gets out.

    I’m certainly not taking the risk. If they find in the end there is no causation after all, there is no harm done. Just a diet switch. But, if they turn out to be right, your dog could have a “broken” heart.

    If concerned about transitioning to a new food, a very helpful vet has recommended feeding a prescription diet to aid in the transition to a new diet. The type of fiber between a food with legumes and potatoes is different than one without and sometimes can be rough. Hope this is helpful!

    #125622 Report Abuse

    If Atlas is doing well on Natural Balance L.I.D., I’d trynot to fix what ain’t broke, so to speak. By the time you switch to some other “better” food for him, then play around with this supplement ($$$) and that supplement ($$$) you’ll probably have spent more overall by messing around, and then caused belly misery while you’re trying to find something “better.” (Been there, done that, awfully sorry to my dogs for doing that to them!)

    Also, having 2 sensitive stomach dogs, and a chicken allergy with one of those dogs, feeding a “2 star” food for her (Natural Balance sweet potato/fish) has been an absolute MIRACLE. She’s no longer miserable. No more diarrhea or inconsistent stool, no more wicked itching and scratching, rubbing face on the carpet, rolling around on the carpet, moaning and groaning the whole time…

    I tried a lot of the 4-5 star foods because ‘everyone’ says they’re so much better, but they weren’t for her. Simple is better. Good luck with your pup.

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