As pet parents, we want the best for our furry companions. Quality dog food is especially important for dogs and can be key to preventing future health complications. You may be familiar with the popular brands 4Health and Blue Buffalo, but which should you choose to give to your dog?
If you care about transparent ingredient sourcing and manufacturing, go with 4Health. If you want a wider range of products for dogs with special dietary needs, go with Blue Buffalo. Both are high-quality dog foods with similar ingredients, but 4Health may be the safer, healthier option.
Still unsure of which dog food to choose? This article will break down the differences between 4Health and Blue Buffalo’s dog foods to guide you toward the best decision for your pet.
4Health Dog Food vs. Blue Buffalo: Brand Comparison
Blue Buffalo offers a broader range of products for dogs with special dietary needs. Each formula line features options for puppies, adults, and seniors in all shapes and sizes. Ingredients in each formula are chosen for their ability to aid specific issues.
Blue Buffalo is a prominent manufacturer purchased by General Mills in 2018. Some of their claims to have natural, healthy dog food have been rejected by dog owners. Their products have not always lived up to pet owners’ expectations for nutrition and ingredient sourcing.
4Health is a relatively small dog food brand owned by Tractor Supply company. Their ingredients are comparable to Blue Buffalo, but their transparency in sourcing and manufacturing makes them more trustworthy.
What To Look For in a Quality Dog Food
The nutritional needs of dogs are different from those of humans. If you feed your dog the same food every day, make sure they are getting all of the nutrients they need from their dog food.
These are a few key factors to consider before purchasing a dog food to assess its quality:
Healthy grains or grain-freeMeat is the first ingredientProbiotics, vitamins, and mineralsManufacturing information
Below I will discuss each of these factors in detail.
Healthy Grains or Grain-Free
Firstly, you should shop for healthy grain or grain-free dog food. Unlike humans, dogs don’t need grains as part of their diet. Not only is grain in their food unnecessary, but it’s difficult for them to digest and can lead to gastrointestinal issues down the line.
The best dog foods will contain no grain ingredients. Common grains used in dog foods include soy, corn, and wheat. Healthy grains like wild rice and potato are acceptable for dogs in small amounts, but the ideal dog food will be free of grains and carbohydrates. After all, dogs in the wild would not have had access to these ingredients.
Meat Is the First Ingredient
A specifically described animal meat should be listed as the first ingredient in any quality dog food. This means products made with “meat meal” or simply “meat” are not the best foods for your dog. Animal by-products tend to be low quality and more susceptible to contamination.
Look for ingredients like chicken, beef, duck, lamb, salmon, liver, or heart. Some dog foods boast more exotic meats like venison or quail. As long as the meat is specifically listed as the top ingredient, the food is likely high-quality.
All in all, we know that most dogs aren’t picky eaters, but their bodies require a high protein diet that resembles what they would eat in the wild. “Meat meal” and animal by-products like skin, hooves, organs, and fat don’t contain sufficient protein for dogs.
Includes Probiotics, Vitamins, and Minerals
Additional ingredients like probiotics, fruits and vegetables, and vitamins and minerals are also essential for your dog. Dogs don’t typically consume fruits and vegetables in the wild, but many of these ingredients are safe for dogs and provide a boost of healthy vitamins.
Due to its processed nature, kibble may be unappealing to dogs on its own. Natural flavorings from pet-safe herbs and spices are great to get your dog interested in the food, but you should avoid any artificial flavors, preservatives, or additives.
You can also consider supplementing your dog’s food with vitamin-rich treats or broth. Broths are a great way to add extra hydration to a meal and flavor kibble without artificial ingredients.
Quality dog foods will offer ample vitamins and minerals, including vitamin B, glucosamine, vitamin E, B12, iron, manganese, omega fatty acids, vitamin D3, and more. These are essential for your dog’s health and happiness.
Before purchasing any dog food, research the manufacturing locations and conditions. Dog foods made in the USA are generally sourced from fresher ingredients. Manufacturing rules and regulations keep these products safer for your dog’s consumption.
Imported dog foods are subject to looser regulation. Dog foods manufactured in other countries must endure the importation process. This makes them more likely to get wet, grow mold, or pick up trace chemicals before they reach your dog’s food bowl.
More recalls occur for imported dog foods due to contaminants like Salmonella, E. Coli, and pest control poisons. The wrong batch of food can result in serious health consequences for your dog, including gastrointestinal problems, seizures, or even death.
4Health Dog Food vs. Blue Buffalo Comparison
Blue Buffalo and 4Health are both highly sought-after dog food brands. Veterinarians often recommend them for their high-quality natural ingredients. Both brands also offer a broad range of products for dogs of all ages and sizes.
Refer to the table below for an in-depth comparison of the brands and their features.
4HealthBlue BuffaloMeat as the First IngredientYesYesGrain-free FormulasYesYesOther IngredientsProbiotics, vitamins and minerals, omega-3 fatty acidsVitamins and minerals, healthy oilsAffordability~$1.50/lb~$1.60/lbAccessibilityTractor Supply Company stores and onlineAll major pet supply retailers, grocery stores, and onlineProduct RangeDry Food, Wet Food, Supplements, TreatsDry Food, Wet Food, TreatsSize RangeSmall Breed, Adult, Large BreedSmall Breed, Standard, Large BreedAge RangePuppy, AdultPuppy, Adult, SeniorFlavor VarietySalmon, Chicken, Whitefish, Beef or Lamb + Potato or RiceSeveral formulas with wide flavor variety in eachManufacturingUSAUSA and ImportedOther NotesGreat for food allergies, food sensitivities, and grain-free diets; excellent omega-3 fatty acids and probioticsGreat for food allergies, special diets, and dogs with specific nutritional needs; broad range of ingredients
4Health Dog Food Pros and Cons
4Health’s range of dog food products is impressive. This brand offers a wide variety of dry food, wet food, supplements, and treats. It’s important to note that not all of 4Health’s dog foods are grain-free. However, they do offer a few grain-free formulas.
Pro: Quality Meat Is a Key Ingredient
The first ingredient in all 4Health dog foods is a specifically labeled meat. This is important for meeting the protein requirements of dogs, especially considering that meat by-products are typically insufficient sources of protein. 4Health strives to keep its dog food formulas as similar as possible to the natural canine diet.
Pro: Sufficient Source of Probiotics
4Health stands apart from other dog food brands in one key area: probiotics. Probiotics are essential for your dog’s digestive health. Probiotics are healthy bacteria. These live bacteria are naturally found in your dog’s digestive system, and they help dogs to process food.
When bacteria become out of balance in a dog’s body, other issues can arise. A bacterial imbalance can lead to infections and fungal overgrowth. Upset stomach and digestive ailments commonly arise from a bacterial imbalance. Probiotics in the diet replenish healthy bacteria.
Pro: Fortified With Vitamins and Minerals
4Health dog foods are also well fortified with vitamins and minerals to give your dog all of the necessary nutrients for a healthy life. They are top-rated for omega-3 fatty acids, giving your dog a shiny coat and a healthy brain.
Pro: Sourced and Manufactured in the USA
4Health prides itself on its sourcing and manufacturing. All ingredients are sourced in the USA, and all manufacturing plants are located in the USA. They are transparent about their ingredients and processing, so you can have confidence when choosing their food.
Because it is sourced and manufactured in the USA, 4Health’s dog food is less likely to have quality issues and recalls. The food travels a shorter distance from the manufacturer to your dog’s food bowl, making it less susceptible to contamination along the way.
Con: Limited Availability
4Health dog food is less widely accessible than Blue Buffalo. It can also be more expensive, depending on where it is purchased. Luckily, you can buy the 4health Salmon and Potato Adult Formula available on Amazon.com.
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At about $1.50 per pound, 4Health is a relatively affordable natural dog food option. 4Health is a brand of Tractor Supply Company, a home, farm, and hardware store. 4Health dog food can be found at their store locations but may not be available at pet supply retailers everywhere.
Blue Buffalo Dog Food Pros and Cons
The most impressive factor in Blue Buffalo’s favor is its wide range of products. This isn’t so surprising, given that Blue Buffalo is a larger dog food manufacturer than 4Health. For pet owners seeking a specific diet, Blue Buffalo makes finding suitable dog food easy.
Pro: High-Quality Ingredients
Blue Buffalo offers several formulas designed for specific health needs of dogs. Their most basic formula boasts a high-quality ingredient list, while other formulas have additional specific ingredients to aid in particular health issues.
Blue Buffalo’s Limited Ingredient and Life Protection formulas are both grain-free. Meat is the first ingredient in all of Blue Buffalo’s dog foods. Blue buffalo’s dog foods feature a wide range of meat sources, from salmon and chicken to alligator and venison.
Blue Buffalo also lists a long series of fruits and vegetables that they use in their ingredients. As mentioned above, fruits and vegetables aren’t a highly necessary part of a dog’s diet, but they do add variety and vitamins to a dog’s food.
Pro: Wide Range of Products
Every formula line offers options for specific ages and dog breed sizes. With so many options, it’s easy to find a Blue Buffalo formula that will be suitable for your pet. You can purchase Blue Buffalo Life Protection Formula in a 30lb bag available on Amazon.com for just over $50.00
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The largest dry food bag size offered by Blue Buffalo is 30lbs, which costs less than 4Health’s 45lb bag option. This may mean a cheaper up-front purchase, but the 30lb bag won’t last as long. Blue Buffalo can cost more per pound for this reason.
Blue Buffalo is easy to find almost anywhere if you prefer to purchase your dog food at a physical store. It’s carried by the most popular pet supply retailers and even some grocery stores. Blue Buffalo is generally more well-known and popular among pet owners.
Con: Lack of Transparency in Sourcing and Manufacturing
One potentially negative aspect of Blue Buffalo is its lack of transparency in sourcing. While 4Health clearly states all of its products are made in the USA, Blue Buffalo is less forthcoming.
Further research will conclude that most of Blue Buffalo’s ingredients are sourced in the USA but that some may be imported. The manufacturing locations are not revealed, so it’s difficult to determine exactly where your dog’s food is coming from or how long it may have traveled.
Con: Use of Animal By-Products and Low-Quality Meats
Blue Buffalo has faced criticism for the use of animal by-products instead of real meat. “Real meat” can be challenging to define in dog food, especially when meat ingredients are nondescript. Blue Buffalo has admitted to lying about its use of chicken by-products in a recent court case.
At this time, 4Health’s transparent ingredients and manufacturing make it the safer healthy choice for dog food. However, Blue Buffalo is still a decent and accessible natural dog food brand with the potential to improve its ingredients and business practices.
No matter which brand of dog food you choose for your beloved pet, remember the guidelines for choosing quality dog food. Choose meat as the first ingredient, pay attention to low-grain or grain-free options, and prioritize natural ingredients to keep your dog’s tail wagging for many years to come!
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