Pros: Oscar likes the taste, it is very healthy and has a low moisture content.
Oscar will be seven years old on June 6th. He?s not even close to old ? in fact he?s still more puppy than dog. Since cocker spaniels are considered a small-to-medium sized breed, he?ll live longer than many large breed dogs. So seven really doesn?t make Oscar an ?old man.?
However, at seven his metabolism has slowed down a bit. He gains weight a bit easier, and frankly he?s not running around the house at warp speed every twenty seconds when a leaf blows by the window.
My vet suggested at Oscar?s last checkup that perhaps it is time to consider a different dog food. She suggested something higher in protein, lower in fat, and with as little corn or corn meal as possible. Her reasoning was that as dogs age, they need more protein in their diet. She also told me that dogs have a hard time digesting corn, and as they get older, it puts more stress on their digestive system. She indicated to me that while Oscar isn?t an old dog in any sense of the word, it was time to change his diet and consider a senior dog food, as this would provide the balance that he needs.
I?ll admit that I didn?t like the idea one bit. I don?t want to hear that Oscar?s needs are changing and that I need to start shopping for ?old dog? food. However, I want Oscar to continue to lead a happy and healthy life. I also want him around forever. So, that afternoon, I went to my favorite pet store (Petco) and started some research.
I?ve always fed Oscar either Purina ProPlan or Hill?s Science Diet. Naturally, these were the first brands I looked at. I believe in feeding Oscar the best brands of food, no matter what the cost. Needless to say the dog eats healthier and better than I do.
The Problem with Hill?s Science Diet and ProPlan
When it came to adult dog food or even puppy food, nothing in the world seemed to beat these two brands. Oscar loved the taste, and it was the healthiest diet available. I usually went with the lamb and rice or turkey and barley combinations because they were even at the healthier end of the spectrum.
But the Hill?s Science Diet Senior Formula?s first ingredient in their senior food is ground corn. The second ingredient is chicken by-product. It has 15.5% protein. That protein count isn?t exactly something to write home about, and the vet told me to avoid a food with corn if at all possible.
And ProPlan Senior Formula?s main ingredient is chicken, followed by chicken by-product, and then corn meal. It does, however, have a 27% crude protein rating though. While the protein is high, I?m not big on that chicken by-product listing and definitely uninterested in the corn meal.
So I Continued Shopping?
There are a few other brands that are considered to be high-quality feed. The next brand, Eukanuba came to mind. The protein count was good ? 26%. They even provide some antioxidants such as Vitamin E and Beta-Carotene. But I then got to the ingredient list -- Ingredient One: Chicken by-products. Ingredient Two: Corn meal. So, Eukanuba Senior was out of the running.
Iams also makes excellent dog food. I took a look at their bag. This was a bit distressing. The main ingredient is corn meal. The second ingredient is chicken by-product. It did, however, have a 24% crude protein rating. Iams Senior was left on the shelf as well.
I stumbled across a brand called Nature?s Recipe Senior Dog Food. The ingredients listed didn?t include chicken by-products and it didn?t include corn or corn meal. I was initially happy, thinking that I found a good food for Oscar. However, the protein level was at a measly 16%! The ingredients were better than Hill?s Science Diet, but the protein was almost as low.
Then, it Stood Out in Neon?
Well okay there wasn?t any neon lights. But there was a bag of Nutro Natural Choice Senior, and the Nutro brand is packaged in lots of neon colors, like fluorescent green, pink, gold and silver.
I flipped over the bag and checked out the ingredients. Ingredient number one was ground rice. Ingredient number two was chicken meal. Ingredient number three was rice bran. The list continued, and at no point did I see anything resembling corn or chicken by-products.
But I kept reading the ingredient list and saw something interesting. Like Eukanuba, it contained antioxidants and vitamins such as Vitamin E, Vitamin C, Vitamin A, Vitamin B12, Vitamin D3, Vitamin B2, Vitamin B1 and Vitamin K.
The supplements didn?t stop. What I found next was very interesting. Glucosamine hydrochloride and chondroitin sulfate were both listed on the ingredient list.
I take Glucosamine Chondroitin daily. It helps stave off and even fights arthritis. It helps to rebuild worn joints and helps prevent good joints from wearing down. I went back and looked at ProPlan, Hill?s, Eukanuba and Iams. None of them offered Glucosamine Chondroitin as ingredients.
The protein level was at 20%. It?s not the greatest of the bunch, but was in the middle of all the other brands compared.
The Downside to Nutro Natural Choice Senior
Nothing in this world is perfect ? not even my dog. And, I suppose, it?s only natural that this dog food doesn?t come without faults.
The Nutro Natural Choice is pricey. It set me back $29.99 for a 30-pound bag of food. In comparison, Nature?s Recipe costs $29.99 for a 40-pound bag. So does Iams. Hill?s Science Diet runs $28.99 for a 40-pound bag. Only Eukanuba charged the same amount as Nutro pound-for-pound. Or did it?
I then looked at the moisture level of the Nutro Natural Choice. It has the lowest moisture level of all the foods at only 4%. Nature?s Recipe has a 10% moisture level. So do Iams, Hill?s Science Diet and Eukanuba. ProPlan has a 12% moisture rating. All that added moisture leads to a lot of money being paid for water content ? all of which can be supplemented by my making sure Oscar has plenty of fresh water available at all times.
So, aside from having a better product than the Eukanuba line, you get more for your money with the Nutra Natural Choice brand of dog food. I don?t need to pay additional money for water content.
Where?s the Beef?
Okay. So the dog food is healthy, a bit pricey, and has what the vet ordered. That?s all nice and good until you bring the bag home and open it up and feed the dog. If the dog doesn?t eat the food, then all those vitamins, minerals, supplements and ingredients are worthless.
I had a thought since I had some of the ProPlan left over. I?d give Oscar a 50/50 mix in his next feeding.
Oscar ate the Nutro Natural Choice immediately. He left the ProPlan in the bowl and came back later when he was hungrier and realized that he wasn?t getting another feeding until he finished all the food in his bowl. I can tell the difference because the two foods are shaped differently and have a different color.
I then cut it to about a 25% ProPlan and 75% Nutra Natural Choice mix. Each time, no matter how I mixed it, the Nutra Natural Choice was gone in a minute and there was always some ProPlan kibble left in the bowl until later.
Finally, I ran out of the ProPlan. Oscar still inhales his food immediately and seems to really enjoy it.
He does drink more water than usual, and I suppose that is directly attributed to the low moisture content of the food. However, I consider this a plus and not a deduction against the Nutra Natural Choice. I?d rather have Oscar drink more fresh, clean water than have him get water that has been sitting in a bag for God knows how long. It seems healthier that way.
Conclusion and Recommendation
Nutra Natural Choice has all the ingredients (or lack thereof) that my vet recommended. It has definite nutritional value that other premium dog foods don?t have. It has lower moisture content, so it costs less than others of the same size. It is easier for my dog to digest, which in turn leads to smaller stools.
More importantly, Oscar likes the taste.
So, while this is probably one of the most expensive dog foods when you compare prices, I think you get more value for your money than with other premium brands of dog food. I would definitely recommend Nutra Natural Choice Senior if you have an older dog ready for a change in his or her diet.
I have some $3.00 coupons for Science Diet and ProPlan if anyone wants them?