Should my puppy eat Blue Buffalo, Science Diet or Wellness?
May 5, 2011 10:01 PM   Subscribe

Hello! We are getting a Maltese puppy (12 weeks old) soon and I want to give him the best dog food there is. I've heard about Blue Buffalo, Science Diet and Wellness.

I know real meat is important instead of a corn filler, or wheat filler, and some brands have DHA in them now, I'm totally confused. Money is not an issue, as I want what is best.

Websites often say that vets are not fully taught about pet food and so they just tell people to buy what they have in stock at their clinic. I find that hard to believe. But help me out you guys.

posted by lynnie-the-pooh to Pets & Animals (36 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
i'll spare the more technical answers for other posters. i did a lot of research when i first got my dog. i fed my dog innova for the first five years of his life. they were recently bought out by proctor & gamble so, on recommendations from a few dog-owner friends, switched over to orijen. my dog gobbles it down like nobody's business.

ps: science diet is pretty crap.
posted by violetk at 10:10 PM on May 5, 2011 [2 favorites]

We really like Orijen too and we did the same thing as violetk, switching from innova when they sold out.
posted by jamaro at 10:12 PM on May 5, 2011

I fed Innova Large Breed Puppy when my dogs were young and feed Wellness to my adult dogs. Make sure whatever you choose is formulated for puppies or dogs of all ages (for example, Wellness Core says that it's for dogs 1 year and up).
posted by cecic at 10:15 PM on May 5, 2011

Oddly, most of the pet foods I mention in an earlier thread about cats and food carry both dog and cat food. (Canidae instead of Felidae, etc etc.) Substitute the cat-specific stuff with a similar dog-related thing and you've got your advice from me. I made mention later in the thread about Nature's Variety which I'll point out specifically because of their wet, dry, and raw lines. I'm a big fan of their stuff.

One difference with dogs is a bit of grain and vegetable matter is a bit more useful than with cats, so some of the cat advice along those lines are pretty dismissable.

If you have pics of the soon to be puppy-the-pooh, post a couple!
posted by Heretical at 10:28 PM on May 5, 2011

Make sure whatever you choose is formulated for puppies or dogs of all ages (for example, Wellness Core says that it's for dogs 1 year and up).

not necessary. i fed my dog innova adult formula from the time he was a puppy till i switched to orijen last fall.
posted by violetk at 10:32 PM on May 5, 2011

I always recommend Newman's Own Organics, the canned version, with the chicken and brown rice. I adopted a 12-13 year old maltese about a year and a half ago. When she first arrived in my home, she would shake and had trouble climbing stairs most days. The Newman's helped her get her strength back. Her coat has also grown back thicker. Heck, she eats better than I do! Paul would never steer me wrong.
posted by mochapickle at 10:44 PM on May 5, 2011

We used Innova until we accidentally switched (vacation, forgot the food, found a store that didn't carry it but asked for something similar) to Wellness and have been very happy with it. Corgi, ymmv.

In my experience, hard as it may be to believe, it is absolutely the case that vets are not a source of useful information about pet food.
posted by staggernation at 10:48 PM on May 5, 2011

Make sure whatever you choose is formulated for puppies or dogs of all ages (for example, Wellness Core says that it's for dogs 1 year and up).

not necessary. i fed my dog innova adult formula from the time he was a puppy till i switched to orijen last fall.

I think my point wasn't made well - what I meant to say was that some of the grain-free foods like Wellness Core are not suitable for puppies according to the manufacturer. I didn't mean that all puppies need to eat puppy food.
posted by cecic at 10:49 PM on May 5, 2011

I really like Instinct. And so does my Australian Shepherd. But a little goes a long day -- my 35-40 lb Aussie gets a 1/2 cup only in AM, another in PM.
posted by bearwife at 10:50 PM on May 5, 2011

After I adopted my dog this winter, I spent a lot of time comparing info at which is very science-y and the forums at which is very opinion-y. I tried Blue Buffalo first because it seemed like the best of the overwhelming options at the chain pet store next to the humane society when I got her. It wasn't grain-free and seemed to upset my pup's stomach, so I did the research. We switched to Taste of the Wild and my high energy Australian Kelpie mix is very happy and healthy on it.

My dog is 3, though, not a puppy so the specifics probably aren't as helpful as the message that you should look into quality/ingredients but first and foremost find something that your particular dog thinks tastes delicious and works for his/her system. You may have to try a couple of options to find a formula that works best for your dog. Some dogs just have sensitivities to certain ingredients, regardless of quality.
posted by Atalanta at 11:01 PM on May 5, 2011

I have a dog with some sort of grain intolerance, so we've always fed both our dogs limited ingredient diets in order to avoid unpleasant intestinal situations. For the first year or so we had him, he ate Natural Balance Potato and Duck, but they changed their formula in the fall which gave both dogs bad tummy trouble for weeks. We finally decided it wasn't just adjustment issues, it was that they really couldn't handle whatever the change was, and now they're eating Taste of the Wild.

I guess the point of my story is that you never know what's going to happen with your food. Even if it's great for your dog now, they change things out all the time, especially if it's a small company without a lot of supplier leverage compared with the big guys.
posted by troublesome at 11:32 PM on May 5, 2011

We used Innova and then switched to Evo - a higher end product from the same company. When we transitioned to Evo, we offered our dog a mix of the two brands. He clearly picked out all the Evo first and then left the Innova for later. Pretty clear which one he liked better.
posted by metahawk at 11:57 PM on May 5, 2011

We've been grain free for a few years and it's great. One thing to keep in mind: the grain-free foods usually have pretty high protein content. This is great in many ways, but it can also give your dog A LOT OF ENERGY. For big "working" dogs who get a lot of exercise, great. For smaller "inside" dogs, it's possible to give your dog more energy than he can reasonably work off. Energy = good; too much energy = frustrating for you and for your dog.

The good news is that there are now several great grain-free brands, so you can take a look at the protein percentage content and pick a food with the content appropriate to your dog's situation. We switched from Orijen (40% protein content) to Now! (28% protein) to "tune" our dog's protein intake according to his activity level.
posted by woot at 3:07 AM on May 6, 2011

We had our dogs (Maltipoo adult and Shiba Inu puppy) on Evo but found that the near 50% protein content gave them incredibly smelly stool and near constant gas. They are both very active, but we switched them to Blue Buffalo Adult Lamb and Rice formula which has about half of the protein content. We've all been very happy with it.

Our animals (four cats as well as the dogs) were on Wellness before the Evo and we switched when they were bought out and their ingredients changed.
posted by InsanePenguin at 4:13 AM on May 6, 2011

We adopted a 3 year old yellow lab a few months ago and switched him to Taste of the Wild (which is grain-free) and he loves it. I noticed a change in his digestive system within a few days and he definitely seems healthier and happier! It's more expensive, but as noted above, a little goes a long way. I'll never go back to "regular" dog.

Agreed that Science Diet is crap.
posted by Nutritionista at 4:15 AM on May 6, 2011

We feed our lab/dalmation mix Eukanuba Lamb and Rice. He's a large dog - 90 lbs, in good shape (never was 'fat') and always had a sensitive stomach to most dog foods. But this stuff worked for him.

He's going on 16 years old. So I'm sufficiently impressed to credit some of his continuing health to his diet. His back legs just started getting arthritic around 14 1/2.
posted by rich at 4:35 AM on May 6, 2011

Just wanted to chime in here to say that I also feel my 13 month old German Shepherd Taste of the Wild. It has done wonders for her digestive system (and her coat!) and she absolutely loves it. It's pricey, but I've found a little goes a long way.
posted by LittleKnitting at 4:39 AM on May 6, 2011

My little (9 mo.) Boston Terrier has been a Taste of the Wild (Lamb and Potato) guy for the past 4 months and its done wonders for us. He loves the taste, and I love the solid poops. He has a really sensitive digestion system, and it was a struggle getting the right food for him. He was on Blue Buffalo and Eukanuba for awhile, which were ok, but I put him on TotW and the results were immediate. Barring extenuating circumstances I will never put him back on a chicken and grain feed.

One other thing to watch out for are edible chews. It took me longer to realize than it should have that they were likely the main culprit in his digestive problems, because most of them are just pressed sticks of chicken byproduct and wheat gluten. They made him literally explosive. Now he just gets bully sticks/tendons (not rawhide!), which are much longer lasting and don't have much of an effect on his GI system at all.
posted by greasy_skillet at 5:35 AM on May 6, 2011

Whole Dog Journal has a series of "How to pick dog food" articles, and offers a list of approved foods behind a paywall.

I wouldn't think so hard about feeding THE BEST. There are lots of very good foods out there, and the one that's actually the best for your dog might not be the one that's THE BEST.

Science Diet isn't a particularly good food. Used to be, many moons ago.

Veterinarians aren't trained in nutrition and can offer little useful help on the subject. Likewise, vets are not trained in behavior control.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 5:45 AM on May 6, 2011

Another good site to check out is Dog Food Advisor. They go into detail about each ingredient on the ingredient list for each food, and I feel like I learned a lot in general about dog foods and what should be in them. I was also shocked to see how crappy even some of the specialty brands are--Science Diet, for instance, is a one-star food. The site helped us select Canidae's limited ingredient Salmon and Potato formula for our 7 year old beagle. For treats, we use Natural Balances Limited Ingredient Sweet Potato and Chicken formula. The dog loves both, and he is doing really well on them.
posted by catwoman429 at 6:06 AM on May 6, 2011 [1 favorite]

We use Orijen for our pup as well.
posted by ghharr at 6:06 AM on May 6, 2011

Nthing Taste of the Wild. We also had good results with Canidae.
posted by gnutron at 6:40 AM on May 6, 2011

Oh, and Science Diet was once described to me as "the mcdonalds of dog food" by someone at our adoption agency. That is, many dogs love it, but it's low quality and loaded with filler.
posted by gnutron at 6:43 AM on May 6, 2011

My pugs get brown rice, ground up carrots (or squash or whatever), yogurt, and beef (usually chuck) that has been cooked and then defatted by flooding the pot with water so that the fat rises to the top & solidifies (and then I remove it). I add some bone calcium to balance the Ca/P ratio. I like Dr. Pitcairn's book up to a point. I don't think raw is a really good idea, but he has other useful thoughts on canine nutrition.

A thought for the other posters: many vets are not trained in nutrition and/or behavior, but some are. (beware the blanket statement)
posted by bolognius maximus at 6:44 AM on May 6, 2011 [1 favorite]

Forgot to add: all of my pugs are very healthy and at good weights, and my 16-year-old pug is energetic and still enjoys going for walks. I like to think their diet plays a role.
posted by bolognius maximus at 6:46 AM on May 6, 2011

I went to Orijen on a MeFi recommendation (he knew a lot about dog food and was a great guide) and it was a great switch (previously using Halo) - switched my parents' dog too, and they're really happy, and in the older dog we saw general health improvement (he was not sick to start with, but we noticed he was perkier, coat was softer, he seemed more alert, etc). That was two years ago or so.

The dogs love it to the point that they would probably eat it non-stop if they could, so watch out for that. Their poop smells a little when I bend down to pick it up on a walk, but it's not unbearable, and they have very occasional gas (no more frequent than with previous food, but it is a little stinkier).

My vet and my parents' specialty vet knew almost nothing about dog food beyond the very basics - my vet said as much.

If you have an independent dog food store near you, not a farm store or chain store, mine almost always has smaller bags that you can buy to try out.
posted by mrs. taters at 7:15 AM on May 6, 2011

I should add that I'm not super strict on grain free, I went for what I thought was the best. I still will feed them treats that have grains, homemade or otherwise
posted by mrs. taters at 7:18 AM on May 6, 2011

Nthing Orijen.

Really, just feed something that has an ingredient list heavy in named meats, and more importantly named meals. Raw meat is mostly water, and ingredients are listed by weight -- so keep in mind that some meat up front followed immediately by lots of grain byproducts is very likely not-so-great. Meals are rendered/cooked already and will be relatively proportionally represented in the final food.

Don't feel that you have to feed grain-free or anything, just choose something that isn't basically grain + flavoring.

(i.e. By named I mean: "Lamb meal/meat" is good, "Animal meal/meat" is not)
posted by wrok at 7:25 AM on May 6, 2011

I can tell you that from a vet's perspective, we learn a lot about nutrition. The challenge can be translating that information into a recommendation by reading bags instead of advertising. I have noticed a trend in more discussion of commercial foods at conferences, and in industry magazines. There are vets who look at food as another profit center opportunity, and there are vets who have no interest in selling food. We stopped selling food after the Science Diet scandal a few years ago, and I'm awfully glad, it always felt a bit awkward for me.

I often recommend the Solid Gold "just a wee bit" bison food for toy breeds. Although I am not a nutrition expert, like the results I've seen in my patients. I would rather see a client spend less money on a name like Purina (that spends more $$ on research than the boutique brands) than see them buy a store brand that could have anything in it. The biggest take away I hope people get from food discussions is to feed the right amount and buy the best quality they can afford. Use a real measuring cup, so you know how much you're giving the pup. I like the idea behind raw food diet (BARF) but the implementation is tricky, and every other month or so we get a patient who either needs surgery to remove raw food from the GI or a dog with profound malnutrition, despite the owners best attempts.
posted by Nickel Pickle at 8:20 AM on May 6, 2011 [2 favorites]

We use Acana, which is from the same company as Orijen which many people have listed. The ingredients are all fresh and regionally sourced, no commodity grains. We've been very happy with it and were surpised to find it was cheaper than our previous food, Royal Canin.
posted by halseyaa at 8:23 AM on May 6, 2011

I agree with the recommendations for Orijen and Nature's Variety - I've used both with my cats and dogs and they are super high quality.

That said, don't freak out too much about making sure you get the Absolute Best Food No Question No Compromise. My dog has a sensitive stomach, and we're having a hard time finding a rich, high protein food that works for him. So for now, he is eating Purina Pro Plan Selects. I know everyone is cringing at Purina, but the Pro Plan Selects line has no corn, wheat, or soy, and is preservative free. It's probably the best food you can get at Petsmart type places and was a suggestion from my vet. My vet and I prefer the higher quality foods like Orijen but she too has a greyhound with a sensitive stomach and she suggested this stuff because she's had good results with it. It's a little less rich and I think that's what helps. She also said the big brands have more money to do R&D and make sure their formulations work for a majority of the dog population.

Our goal is to slowly switch him to something higher quality, but it will be a long process to find something that works. Plus he's a little neurotic so it's always hard to tell if his stomach problems are because of last night's thunderstorm or what he's eating. Sigh.
posted by misskaz at 8:58 AM on May 6, 2011

Vets really do not know all that much about foods and will recommend what they have in the office. What they usually have in the office is Prescription Diet, who's non-prescription form is Science Diet. Hill's (the company that makes Science/Prescription Diet) used to pay vets to recommend their food to people.

Science Diet is crap food.

Whatever you choose look for the following characteristics:
- ___ MEAL* as the first ingredient (Chicken Mean, Lamb Meal, something meal).
- No Corn
- No Wheat
- No By-products
- The farther down the list you can get before you can't pronounce the words the better.

* Meal vs. non meal: Ingredients are on the list by weight. Chicken is like 90% water, if the list says Chicken that means normal chicken with the water included. Chicken Meal is chicken with most of the water removed, so if it is first by weight then that means all proteins, nutrient, etc are what is making up the weight.
posted by magnetsphere at 9:50 AM on May 6, 2011

We've been feeding our German Shepherd mix Fromm Four Star foods since we adopted her at age 6ish (she's now 10ish). All of their dry pet foods are manufactured in the US and contain no wheat or corn. Her favorite is probably the whitefish and potato, but we've also used the duck and sweet potato and salmon ala veg. They also have grain free varieties.
posted by zooropa at 11:11 AM on May 6, 2011

I feed Nature's Variety Instinct and my scruffy mutt loves it. He wasn't eating when we first got him and I was quite worried. Nature's Variety wasn't even on my radar, but I went to a local pet supply store and they opened some different packages and let Gus try a few brands. Instinct was the only one he would eat.

Just remember that what works for one dog might not work for another, so you may have to try different foods until you find one that works the best for your new pup.
posted by ephemerista at 12:26 PM on May 6, 2011

We fed our Jacks Before Grain but when we got the second one we switched to Innova after some experimenting because it was what he could keep down. But check out Before Grain.
posted by jeffamaphone at 12:50 PM on May 6, 2011

Nth-ing Orijen, it's our dog's favourite. Seconding Fromm's. Both were highly recommended by our vet as well.
We also had our dog on Orijen as a puppy.
posted by SarahbytheSea at 5:26 PM on May 12, 2011

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