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Discussion Starter #1
I'm considering switching Ralphie to a different food. He's not doing bad on his current food, but I feel like he would probably do better on something else. His coat is shiny, he seems to like his current food, but his stools have always been just slightly soft. They leave residue on the grass almost always, and they are fairly large!

Additionally, he's a fairly active dog. We walk at least a mile and a half every day, and he probably goes more because 80% of our walk is him on a 100ft long line. We do 2-3 mile walks on the weekend, again with him on the long line. He's also active with agility. I would like to have him on a food that I know is going to keep him at his healthiest.

He's currently on Nature's Domain Salmon & Sweet Potato. Ingredients are as follows:

Guaranteed Analysis
Crude Protein 24% Minimum
Crude Fat 14% Minimum
Crude Fiber 3% Maximum
Moisture 10% Maximum
Zinc 150 mg/kg Minimum
Selenium 0.4 mg/kg Minimum
Vitamin E 150 IU/kg Minimum
Omega-6 Fatty Acids* 2.4% Minimum
Omega-3 Fatty Acids* 0.3% Minimum
Total Microorganisms* Not Less Than 100,000,000 CFU/lb
(Lactobacillus acidophilus, Bifidobacterium animalis, Lactobacillus reuteri)

*Not recognized as an essential nutrient by the AAFCO Dog Food Nutrient Profile.

Calorie Content
3,590 kcals/kg (336 kcals/cup) Calculated Metabolizable Energy

Is more protein better? More fat? Not sure! Any suggestions?
 

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Food is pretty subjective, both in terms of what the human thinks is best and what each dog does best on. That said, my two cents--

Protein is quite low and fat is a bit low. I'd like to see at least 28% protein but 30% better and ~35% is great. For fat, 15-16% minimum, 18-20% better. Most "performance" or "athlete" formulas are 30/20 and I do think that is a good spot for commercial dry food.

Read labels to see if the protein is being bulked up by either a lot of plant protein from peas/legumes or from ingredient splitting. Foods are listed by order of pre-cooked weight which includes water so chicken meal is more actual meat protein by weight than chicken as an example. Foods of equal proportion in a formula can be listed any order; so if something has by weight say, 20% chicken and 20% rice, chicken can be listed first.

A higher calorie per cup food can let you feed less and may help the soft stool situation.
 

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I personally like a grain free with 28 to 30% protein and, 18-20% fat. Meat or meat meal must be ALL of the first three ingredients, Only ONE vegetable protein like peas, beans or gluten and, that AFTER the animal fat source, which should also be specified, not just "animal fat" but a named fat like chicken fat, beef tallow, etc... Only one low nutrition starch such as rice, potatoes or, tapioca. Then the vitamin and mineral supplements the food needs to be balanced and good nutrition.

Better still is to feed a raw diet but, that take work on the part of the owner, and can be costly in some situations. You can't just feed raw meat at random, you have to provide balanced nutrition and, you have to provide the plant matter they would get from the gut of whole animals if they were eating whole animals. And no, feeding only whole chicken or whole rabbit is NOT the way to do it.
 

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Discussion Starter #4
Thanks, that's super helpful!

The brands I've been looking at for higher protein foods are Victor, Nutro, American Journey, Instinct by Nature's Variety, Dr. Tim's, and Natural Balance. Holy expensive, but they have higher caloric content, so I certainly wouldn't be feeding as much. I looked at Purina Sport, too, but there's a lot less meat and a lot more corn than I really want...

Any other suggestions for a higher protein food?
 

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Of those, I'd choose Nutro. I also like the Wal Mart Brand Pure Balance Grain Free recipes - that's what all four of mine get for kibble. Not terribly expensive, especially just for one dog. They eat about 1/3 to 1/2 less on a high quality, higher calorie food. First, it's more calories per cup, second, the nutrients in it are more readily available for the dog so, they don't need as much to get everything they need.

a 30 lb bag of quality food lasts me longer than 50 lbs of corn filled dog food so, cost per month is about the same, just the dogs do better on the better food.
 

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Thanks, that's super helpful!

The brands I've been looking at for higher protein foods are Victor, Nutro, American Journey, Instinct by Nature's Variety, Dr. Tim's, and Natural Balance. Holy expensive, but they have higher caloric content, so I certainly wouldn't be feeding as much. I looked at Purina Sport, too, but there's a lot less meat and a lot more corn than I really want...

Any other suggestions for a higher protein food?
My big dogs get Victor Nutra Pro Active Dog and Puppy. They do excellent on it! They are older dogs and not super active (30-45 minute walk once a day, and time in the yard sniffing around, some hiking on the weekends) and each weigh roughly 110lbs, and they eat about 2.5-3 cups a day each. I do add some sort of protein to their dinners, like sardines, ground meats, eggs, etc. The 40lb bag lasts me 4-6 weeks depending on how much cooked food they get that cycle.

So, I would recommend Victor, it's a great, very transparent and reputable company and the food is great especially for a "budget" food. 90% of the protein is from meat in the formula that I feed (a lot of the times these days it is from peas or some other source) which is another positive factor.

Instead of switching foods entirely, you could also add in some cooked foods or even canned fish, etc, in place of some of his kibble which would up quality and protein/fat depending on what you add, but I understand not everyone wants to go that route.
 

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When searching grain free foods watch out for Pea and Garbanzo Bean (Chick Pea) fillers. Those both add protein that the dog cannot digest well. Sure.. Crude protein may be high but digestible protein may be much lower.

For kibble I have actually gone to things with rice. Rice and potato is better than peas or chick peas.

I feed less kibble now than ever as the night meal is now raw food but that is a whole 'nother story and discussion.
 

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I also feed Victor Nutra Pro. $55 for 40 lbs on Chewy makes it not only cheaper or as cheap as say Purina Pro Plan but its high calorie, high protein and 90% of that protein is from animal sources which is a very high percent even among "top" foods.

Second choice from your list would be Dr. Tims which is a very good line but higher price point.
 

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Discussion Starter #10
So I ended up ordering Victor Grain-Free Countryside Canine Chicken Meal & Sweet Potato. I was going to go with another formula that included grain....but then I realized Ralphie has never been on a diet that included grain, even when he was in rescue (at least no that I know of, they were feeding a Puppy Nature's Domain formula when we got him). I got worried about it and decided to go with something grain free. I'm pretty sure at least some of his treats include grain, and he hasn't had any adverse reactions. Is there any adverse impact to switching a dog from grain free to grain?
 

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If he's eaten grains in treats then its unlikely to have any real adverse reaction. He may do better on grain free or may do better with grains.

I'm convinced through unscientific observation that a good 80-90% of the time that the big improvement people see when switching their dogs from a grain inclusive food to a grain free food is actually just because they have leveled up in food quality (meat based proteins are more easily digested, higher fat levels make for glossier coat ect)

Switching from one high quality grain formula to a high quality no grain formula and vice versa rarely makes a noticeable difference except for the small minority of dogs that are legit sensitive to grains.
 

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Discussion Starter #12
Good to know. Most of the grain formulas seemed to have more calories per cup than the grain-free, as well as being more pocket-book friendly, in general.
 

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Discussion Starter #13
So, little update with the food switch. He's been on the Victor exclusively for about a month now. I'm noticing smaller and darker stools, even though he's being fed about the same amount as his old food. His coat has remained very shiny between brushings. Usually after about a week he needs a good brushing with the undercoat rake to get dead hair out or his coat looks dull, but now his coat still looks pretty shiny even just brushing him every other day with a regular pin brush.

Some bad things I noticed but can't be sure are food related are that he got a weird rash between his back legs for like a day shortly after I started feeding the food. It's not uncommon for him to suddenly get a rash because he does have environmental allergies, so I gave him a good bath, made sure to wash the area, and it was gone within a day. He has also been itchier than normal along his sides, but his daily dose of Benadryl seems to clear it up within 15 minutes, so no idea what that's about. I suspect it's his environmental allergies rather than the food, as we're entering the season where the pollen is terrible and we have smoke from Canadian wildfires.

So, in retrospect, I think I will make food switches during the winter when I know any adverse reaction is not likely to be because of environmental allergies, haha.
 
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