Pros: Cheap, very palatable
Cons: A total nutritional void
Several months back, a good friend of mine had to go home for a family emergency for a few weeks. Since her dog has a separation anxiety problem, she left her with a neighbor while she was gone. Her dog, Circe, had been eating Purina Pro Plan for several years. Circe has always been an indifferent eater, but was robustly healthy. The vet told my friend that some dogs eat better than others, and since Circe was in the correct weight range, and was healthy, not to worry about her eating habits.
When my friend, Sheila, got home, her neighbor told her that Circe just could not be kept away from his dogs food. Circe ate it up, she just loved it. She couldn't get enough of it. What was this tasty wonder food, the food that Circe, Miss Finicky herself, adored? It was...
If you read the reviews of Gravy Train here on Epinions, you will find that almost every reviewer says the same thing; my dog loves it; just gobbles it up. This is obviously a tasty food that appeals to dogs.
Sheila was really thrilled that she had stumbled onto something that Circe actually liked. Although she had mainly fed Pro Plan, she had tried other things over the years (Circe is five), but Circe had been equally unenthusiastic. Sheila was also thrilled that at $13.99 for a 35 pound bag, Gravy Train was considerably less expensive than Pro Plan, $22.99 for the same 35 pounds. Since Circe ate about a bag and a half a month, switching to Gravy Train would save her almost $200 a year. Since Sheila and her husband have three children, this $200 could come in handy.
WAS IT WORTH IT?
While eating Gravy Train, Circe ate more. Much more. She went up to over two bags a month, which pretty much negated the savings. But that was okay, she really liked it. She got all excited at meal time, doing the 'circle dance' all dog owners know.
Circe also went to the bathroom much more. In fact, she went to the bathroom so much, she had 'solid' accidents in the house, something she hadn't done since she was a puppy. Sheilas son, whose job it is to clean the yard up after Circe, demanded an increase in his allowance. His job, which used to take an hour a week, now took two. It was also 'ickier', since, in his words, now Circes mess was squishier.
Circes coat started losing its shine, she had a great deal of gas, and slept more, played less, than she used to do. Sheila was worried; maybe Circe was sick. She took her to the vet ($45), and the first question the vet asked was:
"Did you change her food?"
SO WHAT'S IN THIS FOOD?
The first five ingredients are: corn, soybean meal, meat and bone meal, animal fat (preserved with BHA, BHT and Citric acid) and animal digest.
Corn is a filler, soybean meal is a filler, meat and bone meal comes from the Lord only knows what animal (a mink? a horse? a cat? another dog?). Animal fat could come from any animal, or many, and BHT and BHA are chemical preservatives linked to cancer. Animal digest is (and I quote AAFCO, the privately run agency that 'regulates' pet food labeling): Digest: An animal feed-grade ingredient that must be made
soluble with the use of heat and moisture. Since these
ingredients are not soluble in their natural state they require
this manufacturing process before they can be put into pet
food. An example of this would be the feet of poultry. When a pet food label shows "Poultry Digest" as an
ingredient this could be what is in the food.. Again, since this says "Animal" digest, this mystery ingredient could come from just about any animal, and just about any part of that animal.
In the entire list of 42 ingredients, a recognizable meat source does not show up until #37, beef stock. This is dried beef flavoring, which is the ingredient that makes the gravy. It is basically boullion. It is probably the most wholesome ingredient in the list. The ingredients also contain four separate dyes and two preservatives other than BHA, BHT and citric acid.
A NUTRITIONAL VOID
This food was certainly tasty; Circe liked it a lot. When I was a kid, I liked Twinkies, Milky Way bars and Cheese Doodles a lot, too. Still do. But if I made them the staple of my diet, I would probably experience the same problems Circe did. Tummy aches, bathroom problems, lethargy and dull skin and hair. Although it hurt Sheila to do it, because Circe enjoyed Gravy Train so much, she put her back on Pro Plan. In a matter of weeks, her digestion was back to normal, her energy was up and her blown coat started coming back.
Good health for any species requires a diet appropriate to that species. Dogs, while somewhat omnivorous, are primarily carnivorous. They require meat. There is no real meat in this food, except for the vague meat and bone meal. This food consists of filler and good taste. Hmmm, sounds just like...Twinkies.
There are vitamin additives in the ingredients, but as your own doctor will tell you, vitamins derived from food sources are superior to additives, for dogs as well as people.
This is the first review I have ever written where I have had no personal experience of the product, other than seeing its effects. I saw a happy healthy Doberman turn into a lethargic couch potato with dandruff, gas and the runs. I have never bought this product, and I never will. If you buy this product, take a good hard look at the list of ingredients. Your dog may like it, but it really is far from the best food available. Dogs need meat, and meat is not to be found in Gravy Train.