Thursday, October 23, 2014

Dog Food Review: Purina Pro Plan Focus

I'm upset with myself about this one. I don't remember why I bought this food, but it was probably because it was on sale. I didn't look at the label until over half the food was gone and I was unhappy with what I saw. This oversight bothers me far more than when I lost my notes on a seven brand backlog of food reviews (which was the main reason it took me so long to get back to these). I really regret feeding Ebon this food, and I'll get into why as I go. Anyway, let's begin:

Purina Pro Plan Focus Large Breed Formula
Dog Food Advisor Rating: ★★½ This food is AAFCO approved for adult maintenance.*

Ingredients: Chicken, brewers rice, whole grain wheat, corn gluten meal, whole grain corn, poultry by-product meal (natural source of glucosamine), animal fat preserved with mixed-tocopherols (form of Vitamin E), barley, corn germ meal, fish meal (natural source of glucosamine), animal digest, fish oil, wheat bran, dried egg product, calcium phosphate, salt, potassium chloride, potassium citrate, Vitamin E supplement, choline chloride, L-Lysine monohydrochloride, zinc sulfate, ferrous sulfate, L-ascorbyl-2-polyphosphate (source of Vitamin C), manganese sulfate, niacin, Vitamin A supplement, calcium carbonate, copper sulfate, calcium pantothenate, garlic oil, pyridoxine hydrochloride, Vitamin B-12 supplement, thiamine mononitrate, riboflavin supplement, calcium iodate, Vitamin D-3 supplement, menadione sodium bisulfite complex (source of Vitamin K activity), folic acid, biotin, sodium selenite. 

Items in italics will be discussed later.
Yes, I'm going to be talking about just about everything in this food. 

Bag's recommended daily feeding for a dog 76-100 lbs: 3 3/4 to 4 1/2 cups
Crude Protein: minimum of 26.0%
Crude Fat: minimum of 12.0%
Crude Fiber: maximum of 4.5%
Moisture: maximum of 12.0%
Calorie content: 396 kcal/cup, 3732 kcal/kg
Calculated amount to maintain Ebon's ideal weight (82.5 lbs): 4.21 cups or 0.45 kg (0.99 lbs)
Price per pound when buying the largest bag (34 lbs at $41.99): $1.235
Estimated cost of feeding Ebon per year on this food: $446.27 (10.628 of the 34 lb bags)
Ebon receives slightly less than the calculated feeding amount to allow for his daily treats
Ebon's overall health on this food: Disappointing. Energy levels low. Digestion could have been worse, but wasn't great. Coat had more dandruff and shed more than normal.

The kibble is large and typically shaped and smells vaguely of meat. The lack of chelated minerals isn't exactly ideal as the chelated form allows the nutrients to be more easily absorbed by the animal's body. I am disappointed by the lack of probiotics/microorganisms. These help maintain healthy gut flora, allowing for better digestion.

The company boasts that "high-quality" chicken is the first ingredient. And while this may be true, that is followed by a lot of extremely questionable inclusions, including things that I NEVER want to see in foods. The ingredients list reeks of ingredient splitting, where a company will shuffle things around to be able to say "look at all the meat!" when there really isn't that much. In this case, chicken is followed by brewers rice, whole grain wheat, corn gluten meal, whole grain corn. These are all starchy grains and lumped together, due to their high placement on the ingredients list, this means the food is really mostly grain. And I'm not even including the other grain ingredients! Also, since corn gluten meal, whole grain corn, and corn germ meal are all listed instead of just "corn", it's likely the company wants to hide how much corn is actually in the food by shifting it down the list. This is classic ingredient splitting. Not only that, but corn gluten meal is a high protein plant product that brings the quality of the food's protein content into question. Plant proteins are not complete, lacking many essential amino acids that animals need to function. I don't like to see protein boosters such as this since Ebon has a history of not doing as well on foods with significant plant-based protein.

Even more troubling to me are poultry by-product meal, animal fat, fish meal, animal digest, fish oil. These are all unnamed ingredient sources, which I NEVER like seeing in a food. Though poultry and fish are at least provide the barest amount of specificity, "animal" is very concerning. This could literally be any animal and there has been evidence of roadkill, among other things, winding up in generic "animal" ingredients, which doesn't bode well for ingredient safety, let alone quality. One of my basic requirements for me to be comfortable with a food is that all of the ingredient sources are identified. It's not just fish, it's salmon. It's not just poultry, it's turkey. And it most definitely isn't just animal, it's beef or chicken or lamb or duck or venison or kangaroo or whatever. In addition to all of that, "animal digest" is not just a mishmash of who knows what, it is a coating sprayed on the exterior of the kibble to make it smell and taste more appetizing. The food should be appetizing on its own without the need for such tactics. Much like Hill's, there are very good reasons why I've written off Purina as a brand that just really can't make a truly good food.

What amazed me most about this food was Ebon's reduced energy levels. Since it's moderately high in protein he should have done fine on it, so I honestly chalked it up to aging. However, as soon as I started switching him to a food with an ingredients list that I am content with he really perked up. He is back to his old self, excitedly nudging me to get pets and gleefully galumphing after his favorite toy. He's still almost ten and he still doesn't have the endurance of his youth, but he doesn't need to lose his spirit too. Because he's getting older, the last thing he needs is crap food. You get out what you put in. I am not going to make this mistake again.

The first food Ebon ever ate after I brought him home was Purina One. He didn't do so great on that either, but I didn't really know the reasons behind it until I started learning about pet food quality. Seeing the changes since he's been on better foods are amazing. I keep seeing adds for the "Purina ONE 28 Day Challenge" and I can't help but think back to my glee at his improved health when we left Purina behind all of those years ago.

* Note that "Adult" is defined as ages one through six. Though Ebon will be ten years old in January, I do not feed him foods specifically formulated for seniors and I have no plans to begin doing so any time soon.

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