I hesitated to write a dog food review, not only because it is such a broad/controversial topic, but also because I've switched our dog's food so many times in the year that we've had him and I figured we'd have to switch him again. However, this food is just too good not to review and spread the word about. In my opinion, it is the best kept secret in the world of dry dog food.
A disclaimer: I do not claim to be a pet nutrition expert, nor do I claim to be a dog food expert. However, as a concerned pet owner who has spent hours upon hours reading and analyzing all the information I could get my hands on, I feel confident that this review is well-informed and will hopefully save you the trouble of going through what we went through in finding the right dog food.
My husband and I brought home a puppy just about one year ago, and the little guy is now one year old. This being our first dog, I just assumed I'd do what my parents did and feed him Iams or a similar comparable product. What I didn't know was that the journey would be much more complicated than that!
When our pup arrived he'd been fed Dave's Naturals, which apparently is a locally made food in MA where he was bred. The food was imposible to get where we live, and I wasn't about to mail order his food every month--too expensive. The breeder explicitly warned again Iams/grocery store foods and made a few recommendations, so we figured we'd start there. Our initial choices were: Evolve, Wellness, Merrick, Innova, and California Natural.
I spent hour after hour on dog food analysis web sites, online forums, chat rooms, etc. trying to get a good read on the best foods. I lost sleep over this decision: what if we didn't give him the best our money could buy? Like most things in life, the decision naturally worked itself out. Evolve apparently stopped production, so there went that idea. I called about 10 stores looking for it! Merrick looked good and the price was right. Wellness was a bit pricey, but a possible back up. Innova was WAY too expensive so we scratched that one. California Natural was very difficult to find, so we decided against it, too.
So, we started him on Merrick Puppy Plate, gradually making the trasition from Dave's to Merrick over the span of one week. By the end of the week our puppy's diarrhea was so bad that we had to put him on straight chicken and rice for 2 weeks!
Once his tummy calmed down, we tried again, this time with Wellness Just for Puppy. He seemed to do well on it, and the trasition was smoothe. He had very loose stool from time to time, but puppy food is richer than adult food, so we figured this problem was temporary.
He began eating Wellness Super5Mix (adult dog food) at 6 months old, and a constant pattern of diarrhea ensued for several months. By the time he turned 10 months old, I'd had it. Every few weeks I'd have to boil up some chicken and rice to calm his stomach down before gradually working in the kibble again. It was just too much of a hassle--dry kibble is supposed to be convenient! Factor in the high cost of Wellness + chicken breast every few weeks and the dog started eating better than we did.
I was back to the web sites, forums, and chat rooms. Once again, panic mode. What am I going to feed this dog???
Wouldn't you know it, life happened. I went into our favorite feed store to get some new toys for our dog. I figured, hey, why not ask an associate about their take on this situation. It was like talking to a shrink. The young woman who helped me had been in the pet food business for 10 years and seemed to be an expert on the topic. She understood my plight, smiled, and asked me what I was looking for in a dog food.
Here were my criteria:
1) natural, holistic: good mix of proteins, high quality oils, carbs, and veggies
2) made in the USA
3) no by-products, minimal to no fillers
4) good price tag
5) a food that's not too rich, since my dog wasn't doing well with the more well-known holistic foods
Immediately she recommended 2 foods: Canidae and Chicken Soup. I'd heard about Canidae switching their formula recently. Which wouldn't have been a big deal, except they didn't let their customers know, so it came as a shock to all and doggies got upset tummies. Didn't really like that.
So, that left one more food: Chicken Soup. It had all the ingredients I was looking for, and just one or two non-controversial fillers: egg product and tomato pomace. No biggie. The price was right: $40.99 for a 35 pound bag (compared to $55 for a 30 lb. bag of Wellness). I bought a small bag and geared up for yet another food transition.
Now, my dog is not a picky eater. He'll eat anything (and since he's a Lab mix he usually eats EVERYTHING!), so I wasn't concerned about him not liking it. I will say that he's liked every food we've ever given him. That being said, our dog didn't just like this food, he LOVED it. From the moment I opened the bag, I immediately noticed that it smelled different. It smelled like meat and fish, not like dog food. I've never smelled dog food that smelled like this. Apparently, neither did my dog. And he went crazy for it! Gobbled it right up.
Within 1 week, my dog's stools looked (and I feel silly for saying this but...) perfect! For anyone who's struggled with a dog who has a sensitive stomach, this is like winning the lottery. My dog has been eating Chicken Soup for a month now, and only had diarhhea a couple of days and this was from eating some nasty stuff outside, not to mention a rubber floor mat! Once that situation cleared up, he was right back to normal. For the first time in his one year of life, my dog goes to the bathroom regularly and comfortably. He goes twice a day like clockwork (instead of 5!) and his stools are completely normal. I cannot express how wonderful this is, even though it might sound silly to some!
Chicken Soup for the Dog Lover's Soul is manufactured by Diamond Pet Foods and is made in the USA. It is recommended by well-known pet journals and various web sites that analyze dog food. It has the natural and holistic nutrition I look for in dog food, a great price, and is easy on the digestive system. As long as they keep manufacturing it, I'll keep buying it, and my dog will keep eating it. I hope that, if you decide to try it, you'll have the same success with it as we did.
Chicken, turkey, chicken meal, ocean fish meal, cracked pearled barley, whole grain brown rice, oatmeal, millet, white rice, chicken fat (preserved with mixed tocopherols), potatoes, egg product, tomato pomace, duck, salmon, flaxseed, natural chicken flavor, choline chloride, dried chicory root, kelp, carrots, peas, apples, tomatoes, blueberries, spinach, dried skim milk, cranberry powder, rosemary extract, parsley flake, yucca schidigera extract, L-carnitine, Enterococcus faecieum, Lactobacillus casei, Lactobacillus acidophilus, Saccharomyces cerevesiae fermentation solubles, dried Aspergillus oryzae fermentation extract, vitamin E supplement, iron proteinate, zinc proteinate, copper proteinate, ferrous sulfate, zinc sulfate, copper sulfate, potassium iodide, thiamine mononitrate, manganese proteinate, manganous oxide, ascorbic acid, vitamin A supplement, biotin, calcium pantothenate, manganese sulfate, sodium selenite, pyridoxine hydrochloride (vitamin B6), vitamin B12 supplement, riboflavin, vitamin D supplement, folic acid.
Crude Protein 24.0% Minimum
Crude Fat 14.0% Minimum
Crude Fiber 3.0% Maximum
Moisture 10.0% Maximum
Sodium 0.3% Maximum
Zinc 150 mg/kg Minimum
Selenium 0.4 mg/kg Minimum
Vitamin E 300 IU/kg Minimum
Omega-6 Fatty Acids * 2.2% Minimum
Omega-3 Fatty Acids * 0.4% Minimum
The fish meal is naturally preserved and ethoxyquin-free. For those who do not know about this, ethoxyquin is a preservative that is carcinogenic (or believed to be). So it's good that the company recognizes this and does NOT use it in their dog food. Not many companies can make this claim.
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