Saturday, February 21, 2015

Comparing Mainstream and Specialty Dog Foods

Feeding your dog a healthy and balanced diet is important. It may be more convenient to take a stroll down the pet food aisle at the local grocery store and buy whatever is on sale but that's not the healthiest option. Grocery stores don't carry specialty brand dog foods that offer natural ingredients.

Most mainstream brand dog foods you find at Tops or Walmart contain cheap by-products and fillers. Meat is rarely the first ingredient on the label. 

Meats and vegetables are always the main ingredient in specialty brands. Dogs need a food filled with wholesome products for a good source of protein and carbohydrates.

In addition, dogs should be consuming a diet that tailors to their specific needs. As a dog ages, they require more supplements and vitamins. Mainstream brands don't add these extras in their foods. They typically don't offer grain free options for dogs with allergies either.

However, specialty brands come in a variety of options for dogs accommodating all different life stages. For example, my 10-year-old pug, Otis, eats a holistic food made for small breed senior dogs. On the other hand, my 2-year-old pit bull, Brody, eats a grain free food made for large breed adult dogs. 

To compare ingredients in mainstream brands with specialty brands, I decided to take a trip to Walmart and Petco. I found one brand of dog food from each store and compared the ingredients listed on their labels. I chose to focus on the brands Gravy Train and Blue Buffalo.

Gravy Train is a common brand you can find at any general store like Walmart. The brand is also known for the many fillers they put in their food. 

Dog Food Advisor, a team of experts who rate dog food, only gave Gravy Train 1 out of 5 stars. They analyzed the ingredients in the beef flavored brand. The first six ingredients were corn, soybean meal, meat and bone meal, wheat middlings, animal fat and animal digest. All of these ingredients are considered controversial because of their low-grade and limited digestibility. The only ingredients that are not questionable on the label are the minimal vitamin supplements towards the end of the list.

Due to the generic ingredients, a 4 lb. bag only costs about $3.00.

Overall, the food is plant based and contains little meat. Dog Food Advisor doesn't recommend the brand.

Gravy Train can be found at any grocery store or superstore.

The first few ingredients on the label are mainly what the food consists of. Corn is an inexpensive ingredient and has little nutritional value.

After going to Walmart, I headed over to Petco to check out Blue Buffalo.  

According to Dog Food Advisor, Blue Buffalo's Life Protection line received 4 out of 5 stars. To examine the ingredients, the experts chose to focus on the chicken and brown rice flavor for small breeds. The first seven ingredients included deboned chicken, chicken meal, brown rice, barley, oatmeal, chicken fat and peas. These ingredients all have a fair amount of nutritional value for dogs in terms of protein, carbohydrates and B-vitamins.

Out of the entire list, only five ingredients proved to be controversial. These were tomato pomance, alfalfa meal, garlic, caramel and dried yeast. Tomato pomance is a tomato by-product. However, the controversial ingredients are farther down the list therefore the affect they have on the product is minimal. 

Overall, the food contains a moderate amount of meat but is heavily plant based. 

Dog Food Advisor recommends the brand for it's wholesome vegetables. I have bought this brand for my dogs several times and recommend it as well. After a week, I noticed my dog's coat was shiner than normal. He also had less ear and eye discharge. 

One disadvantage is the price. At Petco, a 6 lb. bag cost $21.99. I have seen the lamb and rice formula was on sale for $17.99.

Blue Buffalo can be found at any pet specialty store.

Some of the first ingredients like deboned chicken, chicken meal and rice have modest nutritional value to dogs.

In my opinion, I would choose to pay more for the Blue Buffalo to ensure my dog has a healthier diet. 

However, there are many options out there. The most important lesson to learn when choosing a dog food is to look at the ingredients. If you don't understand the ingredients on the label, you probably shouldn't feed it to your dog. 


  1. This is a very good blog on dog nutrient and it's important what you feed your dog and this is correct many supermarket store brands have low quality dog food and please stay away from the dollar store brands.
    Meat ingredients are the initial ingredients that one wants to see chicken, beef, turkey, lamb.
    The now controversial BENEFUL where there is a class action law-suit on CNN News reported by consumers that their dogs have either died or gotten sick from this product. I have a friend where his dog was having seizures and after we shared on good nutrition he switched to Blue Buffalo 3 years ago and the dog hasn't had any seizures since.
    For example Beneful has a component called Propylene Glycol that is used in car anti-freeze so why even feed this to your dog and it's 1st ingredient is Ground Yellow Corn, meat by products can be beak, toe legs, and even waste. Propylene Glycol is found in Beggin Bacon treat sticks as well.
    There are many dogs that have allergies as well like mind that has skin allergies and vets have recommended a Salmon Fish Diet as they do better. Pitbull breeds and White Boxers are known for their skin allergies and some may break out in hives as mind did once since I got him on a better diet he does much better.
    Now, I was able to ask Wegmans Supermarket that consumers wanted to see a quality dog food in their stores it took Wegmans a year and they put out Wegmans Simply by Nature which has been rated 4.0 stars out of 5 stars by Dog Food Advisor.
    Kim R. Ayles, Consumer Services Specialist has made this announcement that the Simply By Nature is rolled out at all their stores.
    Dog Food Advisor rating on Wegmans Simply By Nature and these products are a little less expensive with quality ingredients as in Blue Buffalo. The lamb gets 3.5 stars out of 5.
    Wegmans Simply from Nature Chicken & Brown Rice
    Wegmans Simply from Nature Grain Free Turkey & Pea
    Wegmans Simply from Nature Lamb & Brown Rice (3.5 stars)
    The can Organic Simply by Nature gets 4.5 Stars out of 5 and the Prime Chicken Cuts gets 4.0 Stars from Dog Food Advisor.
    This is their website on Wegmans Simply By Nature, I mention this because there are some folks that are on limited budget and can't afford the higher prices and with Wegmans Simply By Nature it's the same quality ingredients, they also carry Paul Newmans Organic which has quality ingredients.
    But, specialty stores like Petsavers have a broad range of dog foods that would tailor to your dogs health, always ask your vet as well as they are the ones that exam your dog.
    Very well blog on dog nutrition.

  2. Dog Food Advisor website:

    1. Thanks for your input Eddie! I have feed Wegmans Simply By Nature to my dogs as well. My dogs really seemed to like the lamb and brown rice flavor. I have heard fish is good for dogs with allergies too. Brody, my family's pit bull can only eat grain free food or he breaks out in a rash.

  3. It's hard to ignore the disproportionate number of Border Collies guardians who commiserate in many of the reactive dog groups I belong to. Pit bulls