I have been to the Dog Food Advisor website many, many times over the last year or so, and recently decided to post a forum so I could get some personal insight regarding my issue. I have a 3 year-old Doberman who has been getting fed Infinia Holistic Salmon and Sweet Potato for quite some time. I also give her fish oil, yogurt, eggs, pumpkin, various fruits and veggies, and recently started adding wet food to the dry food based on many suggestions to vary a dog’s food.
When I first got my dog, she was the runt of the litter. She had horrible skin, recurring UTIs, recurring issues with digestive upset (vomiting, diarrhea, constipation), etc. I tried a lot of different foods to no avail before I realized she likely has an allergy to poultry. I switched her over to the Infinia dog food and she has done great ever since. People always talk about how beautiful and shiny her coat is, how healthy she looks, etc. But I’ve noticed that, for the amount of food she eats per day, her stools are REALLY big and I feel like she goes way too often, which makes me worried that she’s not getting all of the benefits from the food that she should be getting. She also has gas ALL THE TIME. I thought it may have been the yogurt, so I’ve been giving her probiotic chews, but it’s still horrible.
I’ve really been spending time the past few weeks researching, and I feel like the Infinia has too low of protein for her (22%) and does not have enough animal/fish protein. I don’t know if having more animal protein versus plant protein would help her digest the nutrients and poop/have gas less? Anywas, I thought Canidae Pure Sea would be a good first change-up, so I started to transition her EXTREMELY slowly, and she still ended up getting sick. I have her back on her normal food while I figure out what I want to switch her too. Candiae isn’t completely out (I could need to transition her even more slowly than I did, who knows).
So, after all of my research on this website I found 9 other dog foods that seem to be high-quality and offer higher protein contents. I also have to take cost into consideration, because I’m a college student and can’t afford food like Orijen. So, here is my list of foods that I’ve found and like. If anyone could give me advice or suggestions about what food(s) would be best or personal stories, I would really appreciate it. And I’m sorry for the long rant!
1) Sammy Snacks Ancestry Salmon and Sweet Potato
2) Wellness CORE Ocean Formula
3) Horizon Legacy Fish
4) Innova Nature’s Table Cold Water Salmon and Wild Herring
5) Zignature Trout and Salmon Meal
6) Earthborn Holistic Grain Free Coastal Catch
7) Horizon Pulsar Fish Formula
The Sammy Snacks Ancestry is my favorite so far that I’ve researched, but I wondered if ethoxyquin was present. Also, once I get her comfortable with a higher-protein fish food, I will start introducing different protein sources, like beef and possibly bison, as well as adding canned sardines, salmon, and other “raw” foods.
Of the foods you’ve listed, I regular use Wellness CORE, of all varieties, and usually the puppy food. My guys love all of them, and I’m very happy with the company.
The only one I personally would not feed on your list is Innova (and their other brands, EVO and California Natural). They use to be owned by Natura, which was a great company, then they sold out to P&G, where they promptly had a major recall when their 3 year contract to keep the recipes the same ran out, and now just recently, they have been sold to Mars. Mars makes foods such as Iams, Goodlife, and Pedigree, and of course they make candy. I’ve already noticed the recipes of EVO have dropped their protein levels by about 10%, and have loaded them up with more legumes.
I think all of the foods that you listed look good. However, I have not heard of the Sammy Snacks. I’m not sure I’ve ever heard anyone say anything bad about Wellness. I have also heard good reviews on Earthborn and Horizon. I’ve not fed any of these to my dogs yet, but I regularly feed both dry and canned Wellness to my cats.
I have been feeding grain free California Natural with pork and peas to my dogs with touchy digestive systems. I know it is not a highly recommended food since the buy out. However, it is working very well for my dogs. It has limited ingredients and a little lower in fat than most while maintaining a decent protein level.
Sounds like you will have to transition very slowly when you first start feeding the new food. Good luck, it sounds like you’ve had quite a few obstacles to overcome. I hope you find something that works!
First of all, can I just say what an impressive amount of thoughtful research and care you’ve provided for your dog? Honestly, wtg! Your dog is very, very lucky to have such an obviously caring owner.
I think nearly all the brands you’ve listed are really good choices made by reputable trustworthy companies, with the exception of Innova, a Proctor and Gamble product. I agree with Akari and would avoid Proctor and Gamble brands, just as I avoid Mars/Purina/Nestle/etc. and Diamond manufactured brands. P&G brands bought out from Natura include Innova, Evo, California Natural, Karma, and Mother Nature treats.
I am not familiar with Sammy Snacks Ancestry and so cannot recommend it before knowing more about the company and its history. I would advise caution with newer/less familiar brands until you have some good information beyond just ingredient labels and guaranteed analyses. This company could be great, however!
If you want to know more information about Horizon, Zignature, Earthborn, and Wellness, I am really familiar with these brands & and would be happy to share what I know.
Of those, I think the Horizon Legacy Fish and Zignature Trout & Salmon would be my first choices. And not only do they both have excellent amounts of Omega 3 (and Omega 3 to 6 ratio) from exclusively wild caught fish, and the Omega 3 is not derived from plant oils (which are unlikely to be absorbed), both are ethoxyquin-free.
I appreciate that these brands you mention are available at lower price points. I’m on a small budget too! Remember, just because a more expensive brand exists, it doesn’t always make it a better food from a better company. Ditto for who has the best marketing vs. makes excellent food with high quality ingredient & processing standards.
But you started this with a concern for digestibility, good absorption of nutrients, stool size, and gas. So I wanted to comment on that.
“I don’t know if having more animal protein versus plant protein would help her digest the nutrients and poop/have gas less?”
In short, no. It is the quality of the individual ingredients, what they are and their grade, that affect digestibility as they go into a formula. You’re also playing a balancing game with some ingredients, between rich in nutrients and greater digestibility. From there, processing matters. It can affect overall digestibility and preservation of nutrients. Finally freshness of ingredients going into the formula and from date of manufacture to purchase and use are very important.
I would highly recommend calling the company of the the foods you’re considering, as well as the one you’ve been feeding (Infinia) and asking for Total Dry Matter Digestibility, plus digestibility of protein, fat, and carbs.
The Infinia is rather low in protein, lower than I personally would feel comfortable feeding. But that isn’t the problem when looking at nutrient absorption and digestibility. But when the protein IS very low, then it becomes even more critical to ensure that it is very high quality and highly digested.
Since Infinia Holistic Salmon & Sweet Potato’s primary ingredients are ones that look good and CAN be highly digestible . . .
Salmon, Menhaden fish meal, sweet potatoes, potatoes
it may the grade of ingredients and/or processing that is problematic.
Fish meal, for example, comes in MANY different grades at VERY different price points to pet food companies. It can be very high ash & bones, leftover carcass material or low ash/high protein & high digestibility and come from good cuts included or whole fish with most bone filtered out, which costs the company considerably more and is harder to source. It also, by AAFCO definition, can be stripped of its oil (which is sold separately at profit, rather than going into the food) or have those precious Omega 3s left in. This formula appears to be very low in Omega 3, particularly for a fish formula, and even though it has been already boosted by plant oil (Canola). Reasons for fish formulas to be low in Omega 3 tend to be the meal has been stripped of its oils and/or use of farmed salmon. Salmon varieties also range greatly in Omega 3 content!
Canola oil is not going to be as digestible and its nutrients absorbed well in order to be used by your dog vs., say, salmon oil or an animal fat. (I personally don’t like canola oil anyway, as it’s not a very clean ingredient. In commercial use, it is generally high heat and chemical processed, damaged, and and contaminated.) Potatoes, sweet potatoes can include skins or not, etc. affecting digestibility and stool volume.
Foods cooked for less time and at lower temperatures preserve more nutrients. And gentle cooking both increases digestibility and nutrient absorbability in ingredients and nutrients AND decreases them compared to raw, depending on the ingredient or nutrient.
Consider how fresh the ingredients are, how fresh from date of manufacture, how it was stored and transported prior to getting to you, and how properly sealed the bags are. (From there, you must also store foods properly.) Actually smell the food.
But just to give you an example of how you can never tell with things like digestibility from the price and marketing/popularity of a product or just looking at the ingredient list of a “better” brand — Orijen’s 6 Fish formula has a pretty poor overall dry matter digestibility for a premium brand and is in fact the lowest among their formulas. It’s also lower than the cheap bulk bags from Costco, Nature’s Domain (by Diamond).
Hi Meghan, My 3 dogs do very well on Victor dog food. It gets a 5 star rating on DFA. If you can buy it locally, it’s a great food at a great price. I pay under $45 for 30lbs of Yukon River. Here’s Victor’s site. Click their find a dealer for stores in your area. 😀 http://www.victordogfood.com/
Labs, we are all so jealous of the availability & price point of Victor in your area! LOL. You are very lucky. I cannot find it here anywhere and not online at that kind of price.
Meghan, just wanted to add that I agree with Labs that Victor is also a great choice.
Meghan (and everyone),
Welcome to DFA!
I second everyone’s recommendations, and I can attest to the quality of Wellness CORE (I have the Ocean formula lined up to feed in the next few months), and I have fed Earthborn Holistic Coastal Catch and Victor Yukon Salmon with great success – my Bruno was full of energy, shiny smooth coat, etc. If your dog is allergic to poultry, try adding some variety as much as you can. Many of Victor’s foods are beef-based. Earthborn also has a bison and lamb meal-based formula, but it may or may not have chicken fat in it, not sure. Dr. Tim’s (another affordable option) has a pork and salmon-based formula as well.
As a fellow college (does Grad school count?) student on a budget, I understand your struggle, but it is possible to feed good food for less – just try to find online and in-store sales and coupons and see what happens! Wellness often emails coupons once you sign up for their mailing list.
Thank you all so much for the help! I’ll look into victor, and Wellness was my #2 pick anyways, so I’ll more than likely buy that first and see how she does on it. If anyone has any other suggestions based on my original post feel free to let me know!
I hadn’t suggested any because I already thought you had quite a good list of foods you found on your own and didn’t need one!
But I will add Timberwolf Organics, a 5 star food here. http://www.timberwolforganics.com/ They make a Platinum line and a Classic line.
The all fish formula (since you wanted to start with just fish) is available in high protein and moderate protein formulas, Platinum and Classic, and both are grain free: Ocean Blue.
I absolutely love their formulas, particularly the Wilderness Elk & Salmon, Lamb & Apples, and Ocean Blue. I’ve fed all except the chicken formulas. The bison formula was the last to be reformulated for the newer Platinum (higher protein) line, an exclusively GF line, and so I have not tried the new version.
The way I get excellent prices is ordering two large bags at a time (discounted), free shipping + no tax, and taking advantage of “earned points” discounts and sales. Timberwolf gave me $10 off my last order (entirely earned by my previous purchase!), on top of the other discounts. Two large bags of Classic (48 lbs total) cost $89, while Platinum would be $105 (48 lbs total). (Or, in your case with 2 dogs, you could order the 45 lb bags, also discounted.)
It takes 1 week to free ship across country, unless the item is sold out and out of stock in which case it is sold as a pre-order 3-5 weeks in advance. This food is made & shipped very fresh in small batches.
- This reply was modified 4 years, 7 months ago by GSDsForever.
FWIW, to all following this thread . . .
I spoke to (Sammy Snacks) Ancestry and was impressed that this is a good small company making good foods. They gave great answers to the questions I asked and were very kind.
I would absolutely place trust in this company and will be adding their food line to what I would feed/recommend in the future.
- This reply was modified 4 years, 7 months ago by GSDsForever.
To second GSDsForever, I emailed Sammy Snacks asking about ethoxyquin and here is the response I got:
“Thank you for your interest in our products. We pride ourselves on providing the highest quality of pet food and treats available on the market at an affordable price. As part of that we hold all of our mills to higher standard than most brands. We provide all of them with clear and concise list of what ingredients are not allowed in our products (of which ethoxyquin is one). We also provide them with a list of suppliers that we don’t allow to sell them ingredient that are included in our products. All of them must agree to these requirements or they would no longer make our products. I also don’t trust anyone else when it comes to the Sammy Snacks and Ancestry brand, that is why we order tests on all of our product. One of the many things that is tested for is ethoxyquin. All of our proteins and fats are preserved with vitamin E (sometimes called tocopherols).
I hope this helps and please feel free to contact us with any more questions.
Sammy Snacks Inc.”
I may eventually add this food to my rotation. The only issue I had is the amount of Omega 3s listed. Her current food (Infinia) has a minimum of 0.3%, while the Ancestry has only 0.4%. I’m not sure if that makes it a lower-quality food compared to some of the others, but I did note the other brands had much higher levels: Zignature at 1.0%, Wellness CORE at 0.8%, Victor at 0.7%, and Legacy at 1.4%.
I also looked up Timberwolf’s dog food, and really liked the Wilderness Elk Platinum, the Black Forest Platinum Grain Free, the Ocean Blue Platinum Grain Free, and the Lamb & Apples Platinum Grain Free. I hadn’t heard of this brand before, so I’m glad I was introduced to it!
I found a store nearby that sells Victor, so I think I will start with this food based on the recommendations, along with the fact that it is the lowest protein level out of my top 3 favorites. As long as my dog does well on this for awhile, I’ll see how she does with Wellness CORE, Legacy, and possibly Zignature.
I did have a question, either specifically for GSDsForever, or for anyone who can provide input. You talked earlier about how processing is imperative for digestibility and nutrient preservation. Do you know of any dog foods (either that I have already listed, or outside brands we haven’t discussed) that have good processing techniques and gentle cooking methods?
Again, thank you all so much for your input! I feel a lot more confident about my choices – it is still overwhelming though, because there are so many options! I’m just glad that I’ve narrowed the options down to a few, and I guess now it is just a process of elimination to see how she reacts with some foods versus others.
Hey, Meghan, I think you definitely have a pretty good list going on there. I can’t help with the cooking methods/processing question, but I’d just like to throw in there, you don’t necessarily have to eliminate foods unless your dog actually doesn’t do well on them – if she likes a does well on some foods, just keep rotating them. Diet rotation is very good for dogs, so just experiment, take note on how she does on various brands and recipes within the brands, and keep switching them up! 🙂
Oops, sorry I worded that wrong! I will definitely try a lot of these brands and rotate them as long as she doesn’t get sick on them, or I notice any negative side effects. I just got some of the Victor dog food, so fingers crossed!
Also – very random side note – I had ordered 3 smaller bags of dog food online at Chewy, and decided I didn’t want 2 of them, so I asked if I could return them (unopened), the employee there credited my account, but said not to even worry about returning the food, that they just ask that I give it to a local shelter. I thought that was so awesome! I’m really impressed with their company.
I came to this discussion in my search for a quality grain-free fish-based dry food but it raised even more questions.
Specifically I have a question for GSDsForever.
Can you please explain why you say “Orijen’s 6 Fish formula has a pretty poor overall dry matter digestibility”? I looked at the ingredients list and I don’t see any red flags.
Also, Wellness Core Ocean has a very low Omega-3 content for fish-based food; only 0.8% even though it has Canola Oil and Flaxseed Omega-3 fillers.
Orijen has 2.2% Omega-3 with no additional Omega-3 supplements.
Should this lead to conclusion that Wellness Ocean uses less fish and/or lower quality of fish that was de-oiled?
Low percentage of Omega-3 can also be found in these well-reviewed fish products: Hi-Tek Naturals Grain Free Alaskan Fish, Earthborn Holistic Coastal Catch Grain-Free Natural Dry and Merrick Backcountry Raw Infused Pacific Catch Recipe.
With a current fish over-harvesting and fish prices going through the roof, food processing companies seem to compromise on fish quality to keep product price lower.
So I wonder if I should go with a quality meat-based feed and to use a fish-oil supplement instead.
Hi Meghan –
Try to keep in mind that foods that have salmon are usually using farm-raised fish, which don’t have the same nutritional value as wild-caught fish. If you contact Verus pet foods – a company that’s never had a recall! – they’ll send you free samples!
I tried Victor last summer in hopes of supporting a semi-local business. Their food smelled like all the other commercial dog foods I’d tried. To put it simply, Verus has spoiled me. their food smells fresh – not like ground up, burned hair & bones or not like old tuna. They have 2 formulas that utilize fish as the #1 ingredient. The fish is something called menhaden. I did research and found that menhaden is a small fish that breeds like fleas (so they’ll never be over-fished). They are a cold-water, wild-caught fish that is high in Omega-3. If you do a google search for verus pet foods, you’ll find a lot more info on their food on their website. Contact them & they’ll contact you back – by a human! – and send you samples! It’s definitely worth a try since it won’t cost you anything but a few minutes of your time.
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