Thursday, March 19, 2009

Under the Pet Food Examiner’s Magnifying Glass: Review Innova Large Breed Puppy Dry Formula

One of my customers today asked me about my opinion on the Innova Large Breed Puppy dry formula. He owns 2 German Shepherds, one of them obviously being a puppy. He joined my customer base just recently and after we had a few interesting conversations about healthy pet food in general. Earlier on, when we met he had told me that “I was shocked when I stumbled on and learned that the Royal Canin German Shepherd food I was feeding my dog - thinking i'm doing the best for him - is rated 2 stars - and it costs nearly as much as the really good premiums such as Blue Wilderness and Orijens. I've since found a few other sites and they all seem to pretty much agree on the top 8 or 10 foods. And when you read the ingredients - and now I understand them - it's pretty shocking - actually criminal - what the big pet food makers such as Purina are putting in their foods. What boggles my mind is that vets - and I have a great vet - still recommend something like Iams which is even worse than Royal Canin. When I first got D., the breeder was feeding him Timberwolf. I asked my vet about it and he said "you're wasting your money." Go figure. I guess because you're a veterinarian doesn't mean you're a nutrition expert” I like pet owners like him. It just always gives me confidence that with what I am doing I am not wasting my time. More and more pet owners are waking up and realizing that they have been led down the wrong path for too long and that it is time to make a turn onto the right way.
Anyway, his puppy was on a vet prescribed diet and my customer had started to make a transition to Solid Gold Wolf Cub. While initially the Wolf Cub was well received, now the puppy seems to have lost interest and would not eat it anymore. So he is looking for alternatives and wrote:
“I'm thinking I may switch from the Wolf Cub - now that she's almost totally off the Iams Low Res prescription diet, she doesn't seem to be eating the Wolf Cub. I'll work through what I have but was thinking of changing to Innova Large Breed Puppy - see if she likes that better. Doesn't get a real high rating from but only because of low meat content. I supplement her dry food with canned to take care of that. Your thoughts on Innova - Timberwolf and Evo don't make a dry puppy food.”

Actually I think this really poses 3 questions: What is my opinion about the food? How about life stage based feeding? And finally, how reliable are dog food review data bases and what pet owners should keep in mind when utilizing them. To get started and food into the puppy bowl, as I am sure she is hungry, I want to start with the food review and attack the other two issues in another, seperate comment.

My thoughts are:
You asked me about my thoughts on Innova and Evo and refer to the rating. There are 2 ways of looking at food, one is dog food rating sites like the one you quoted and there are plenty more, some more, some less credible. I would like to address food reviews as a general topic in a separate discussion.

The other way I look at pet food is through my experience. Based on that meanwhile I have a pretty good feeling about which brands and formulas are better than others and have their spot in my top listings. So, you may ask, how opinionated is my “experience”? Well, let me put it this way, I sell food and it would be unbelievable to say I am not recommending the products I sell. But I have to make one thing clear here: I do sell only the best food available on the market today. That is a fact not just based on my “experience”, but also by many other experts who are at a minimum at least as “little” experienced as I am. And I will refrain from recommending products I do not know or, based on my philosophy do not believe in.

Let me say up front, Evo is not for puppies. Which is most likely the reason why they do not offer a puppy formula. We do not even have to go there in detail, the bottom line is I have tried it with less satisfying results and experienced issues. I suspect it is the high protein levels causing problems. I then called up Natura of which Evo is a brand. Their reps were pretty straight forward telling me that Evo is not made for puppies. When I deal with high quality pet food manufacturers it is my opinion that I need to follow their advice. As a matter of fact, credit where credit is due: I am impressed by the fact that they gave me an honest answer right up front, even if that meant this was a lost sale. Now this is a good indication and the difference between strictly profit driven Wallstreet oriented mass marketed food manufacturers and idealism driven small to medium sized, family owned manufacturers. Pet owners are definitely better off with the ladder ones.

Looking at the Innvoa Large Breed Puppy formula I can tell you that I have plenty of customers who have highly successful raised their puppies on this formula. They were so satisfied with the product that their former puppies now are as grown ups on Innova Large Breed Adult (and Evo) formulas. None of them ever had a problem except for one in which the owner tried to blame it on the food. The dog had a stool problem and when trying to get to the bottom of it I found out about many other circumstances which may have caused those problems. Aside from this one and only case, like I said no problems at all. I have currently I believe 6 or 7 customers with German Shepherd puppies and they are all doing extremely well. Even their vets say so. The vets may not be so pleased with that fact, but it is the simple truth. Sorry vets, not prescription food sale required here.
Innova has just made minor improvements during a major product re-launch back in October/November last year. None of them have shown to be any problem. Now, and this in the past was a minor issue during transitioning time from one formula to another, even the extended loose stool periods during transition are eliminated. I personally believe this is mainly due to the fact that Innova has replaced garlic with pumpkin as another ingredient. Pumpkin is considered a “super food’” and is an excellent source of antioxidants. Other improvements included enhanced APA and DHA levels for brain and eye development, optimized feeding charts based on accurate calorie information and standardized energy requirements equations, improved stool quality and palatability and elimination of transition periods when upgrading to a subsequent life stage.
The formula itself is pretty straight forward. It is listed by Whole Dog Journal (WDJ) as a Top Dry Food of the Year. WDJ in my opinion is “the” current authority when it comes to dog food ratings. (More about that in the above mentioned blog comment)
According to various conversations I had with Natura, the manufacturer, all ingredients are human grade quality and sourced domestically. At least 80% of the protein comes from meat sources (!). It contains several quality animal protein sources (turkey, chicken, egg). The first 5 ingredients are turkey, chicken, chicken meal, barley and brown rice, all quality ingredients, i.e. whole grains and named meats and meals. It also contains flax seed meal and alfalfa sprouts as quality ingredients. It is free of any added chemicals like artificial preservatives such as BHA, BHT and ethoxyquin. It contains a complete vitamin and mineral supplement program that helps pets to thrive, not just survive. The minerals are chelated, providing three to ten times greater assimilation than common minerals. The food also contains beneficial probiotic supplements, which are not required with the AAFCO minimums.
Large breed puppies have a genetic tendency to grow rapidly. Controlling growth rate helps normal development of bones and joints which is particularly important from about eight weeks of age, when a puppy is weaned, to two years of age. The tendency to overfeed and give supplements (such as calcium) to large breed puppies is common but should be avoided as it can potentially cause abnormal skeletal development. Instead, a food specially formulated to provide your puppy with the right balance of nutrients for optimum skeletal development should be selected. Innova Large Breed Puppy Food contains 6% fewer calories than regular Innova Puppy Food and includes balanced levels of calcium and phosphorus. Innova Large Breed Puppy Food also has less protein and is balanced with the appropriate mineral content for optimal skeletal development. Innova Large Breed Puppy Food also contains a bit more fiber than regular Innova Puppy food to prevent overfeeding. Innova Large Breed Puppy Food provides complete and balanced nutrition. (If you follow my blog “
All about pets & pet nutrition”, you will notice that I take the term “complete & balanced” with a grain of salt, as I agree with Dr. R.L.Wysong, DVM, who simply says “there is no such thing!” see specific blog comment “The most crucial ingredient to your pet’s health: A high quality diet“ ).
One thing I really like about Natura is the information and data provided on their formulas. While ingredient listings and guaranteed analysis are pretty much standard these days (though, sadly enough not everybody provides them), at Natura, as with any other high quality food manufacturer who has nothing to hide, you also get detailed
ingredient descriptions, referring to sourcing and benefits and nutrient analysis data, in two ways on an “as fed” or on a “dry matter” analysis, which is by far more meaningful than the summarized standard 4-item guaranteed analysis required by regulators.
The only problem I had in the past with Innova formulas was that some ingredients were sourced in China. However, the good news is that Natura just recently announced 100% their ingredients will come from trusted, non-Chinese suppliers.
Supplements are needed to ensure that pets receive optimum nutrition, and among the necessary supplements, certain B vitamins and taurine, in the past have been unavailable from anywhere other than China. As a side note, I find this fact in itself highly interesting. How many pet food manufacturers made and make us believe that their foods do not contain Chines ingredients? A little controversial I would say at least. Anyway, after diligently working with its suppliers, Natura has found alternative sources and is now using them exclusively.
Natura also was a front runner right after the 2007 recall, when it became the first pet food company in the industry to test and guarantee that all of its products are free from melamine and cyanuric acid.

You asked for my opinion:
Innova Large Breed Puppy Dry Formula gets a Pet Food Examiner's Thumb Up (in lieu of a rating system yet to be determined and established). Would I feed it to my next large breed puppy? If I would not have the on-line store, yes. But having the store, my dogs have the added benefit of being “taste testers” for a large variety of types and brands of food.

I hope this information helps you to come to your own conclusion.

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