The 4 Legs Dog Food Review: Tested & Evaluated 2023
Four legs dog food and 4 Legs meatballs have been around for a while. Are you considering adding it to your dog’s regular rotation? We teamed up with canine nutritionists, veterinarians, and devoted dog parents to test out the entire range offered by this food. After months of research and plenty of discussion, we were finally able to compile this complete 4 Legs dog food review. Before making a change, here’s everything you need to know about this brand.
Related: The Best Dog Food Australia.
Related: How To Choose The Right Dog Food?
Related: How Is Australia’s Dog Food Industry Regulated?
Related: What is AAFCO? The Association of American Feed Control Officials.
Related: What Is the Pet Food Industry Association of Australia (PFIAA)?
Related: AAFCO vs PFIAA: Dog Food Standards Comparison Australia.
Related: Understanding Guaranteed Analysis Levels in Dog Food.
Related: Real Meat vs Meat Meal.
Quick Pick - Our Best Rated Dog Food
Our Number 1 Pick -
Petzyo Dog Food
- Ethically sourced Kangaroo, Chicken or Salmon, sweet potato & superfood extras
- Iron-rich & low fat proteins
- Three Omega-3 and -6 rich oils with a well balanced 11% fat content
- Made in Australia
Australia's 4 Legs Dog Food Review
4 Legs - 3 Star Rating
- Ingredients: Meatballs with beef: Meat (Chicken, Beef), Flour, Vegetables and Fruit (Carrot, Coconut, Apple, Broccoli, Parsley), Macaroni, Natural Gelling Agents, Vitamins & Minerals, Sunflower Oil, Pro’ Age™
- Named Protein First: Yes
- Dog Food Type: Chilled, pre-cooked meatballs and rolls. Can be used as a complete food or treats.
- Recipe Range: Meatballs with beef, meatballs with chicken, meatballs with kangaroo, chicken dog roll with salmon, gourmet chicken with cheese, gourmet meatballs with Angus beef, slow cooked beef and slow cooked chicken.
- Suitable For: Adult dogs and puppies (can be fed to seniors in appropriate portions)
- Cost: $$$
- Australian Owned: Yes
4 Legs Dog Food Review
This brand claims their food is fresh and wholesome to appeal to dogs, and according to most members of our independent expert panel, their dogs couldn't get enough of it!
In fact, many pup owners state their fussy eaters wolf down their meatballs with ease. For those dealing with picky eaters that can’t stand most commercial foods, using 4 Legs as a topper makes the whole meal more appetising.
PRO TIP: Have a picky eater? Try a topper. It doesn’t need to be expensive: homemade food toppers are often healthier and more appetising for dogs. Plain boiled chicken or beef, grated carrots or unsalted homemade broth can be great toppers.
On the human side of things, most owners like that the meatballs have a faint smell, even the kangaroo recipe, unlike many chilled dog foods that tend to stink out the kitchen. As a result, many people use 4 Legs as travel food or travel snacks that won’t disturb others.
Due to its success with picky eaters, our panel of experts agreed to give this brand 5 out of 5 in this category.
Even though 4 Legs features six different dog food recipes for meatballs and rolls, all of them have more or less the same composition and ingredient percentage. 4 Legs recipes start with a named protein, then flour, “vegetables & fruit”, and other minor extras like gelling agents and “vitamins & minerals”.
At a glance, the ingredient list checks some boxes: it has a named protein as the first ingredient, it’s short, and doesn’t have any unrecognisable names in it.
Our main issue with this brand is that “flour” is the second or third ingredient in almost all recipes. Since ingredients are listed in order of predominance, a second position means that up to 50% of the final product can be flour.
Our independent expert team notes that athough it is common for store bought dog food to be high in carbohydrates, refined carbs (like flour) are often used to lower the final production cost and bulk up the food. It also means these recipes use less meat-based ingredients than high-quality air-dried or freeze-dried raw recipes.
On another hand, the lack of precision on the type of flour can be problematic, particularly if you’re interested in moderating specific grains in your dog's diet, which is what I do in my household. 4 Legs' “gourmet” line does state “wheat flour” as the third ingredient, but the other recipes, including 4 Legs meatballs, only mention “flour”. Is this rice, wheat, corn, a mix…? Impossible to know, or even to check if there are changes from batch to batch.
The company’s website doesn’t explain this ingredient either. The lack of precision is probably due to the flour being a mix of different types that can also change depending on the batch. We would prefer if they clearly indicated the type of flour or flours used in the label, just as they do with the vegetables.
The ingredient batching extends to other items on the list. “Fruits and vegetables” are a great addition, but lumping ingredients together is common to make an ingredient list look better. Let’s take the “slow cooked beef” recipe : the second ingredient is “vegetables (pumpkin & broccoli)”, followed by couscous. Oftentimes, ingredient batching helps switch the order: it’s likely that if pumpkin and broccoli were listed on their own, they would both go below couscous. However, we do appreciate that the slow cooked recipes do not include flour.
PRO TIP: Ingredient labels can be deceptive since brands can batch together or split ingredients to make the list look better. Instead of focusing on the first ingredient of a recipe, look at the first three to five ingredients. This will give you a better idea of the composition of the food.
Another minor detail is the use of a “typical analysis” instead of a “guaranteed analysis”. The difference between them is the consistency of the composition: a guaranteed analysis means companies need to stick to the percentages mentioned or they can get into legal trouble. A typical analysis, on the other hand, is a rough outline of the general composition, and gives more room from batch-to-batch variability due to ingredient availability or other constraints.
Generally speaking, we prefer to see guaranteed analysis because it holds companies more accountable: there is no legal consequence for deviating from a “typical analysis”.
Due to the above, our panel of independent experts is taking off 2.5 stars.
Protein content 3/5
Overall, 4 Legs starts with a good enough premise: natural dog food with animal protein as the first ingredient. Looking at the recipes, all of them start with meat. Nevertheless, there are limited single-protein recipes and the brand partakes in so-called “ingredient lumping”.
This means that in several recipes, all types of meat (ie. Chicken and beef) are lumped together in the ingredient list under “meat”, and is mentioned as the first ingredient. Our experts note that ingredient splitting and ingredient lumping is a common practice among pet food companies to make food look better than it is. It’s likely that, if the protein sources were split, the current second ingredient (flour) would become number one.
Other than the splitting, it would be better to see the protein sources listed more specifically. The label mentions “chicken”, “salmon” or “kangaroo”, but it doesn’t mention whether this is a by-product, the full animal, a rendered, dehydrated mix, or a combination of these. Considering the vagueness of the rest of the ingredient list, this isn’t surprising either.
Another thing to keep in mind is the protein percentage. As we’ve mentioned before, Australia doesn’t have country-specific pet food guidelines but most manufacturing follow the American Association of Feed Control Offices (AAFCO) . These state that the minimum protein required for adult dog food is 18% dry matter basis, although newest studies point at the benefits of increasing this bare-minimum.
For example, a 2008 topical review found that senior dogs in particular benefited from an increase in protein intake, and feeding at least 25% of calories in protein was optimal . On another hand, according to the Kennel Club (UK equivalent of the American Kennel Club), active dogs need at least 26% protein in their food . A small 2016 study also showed Labrador retrievers that followed a high fat-high protein diet had lower cortisol (the stress hormone) and inflammation levels after physical exercise .
So here’s where things get muddy: AAFCO guidelines only stand for dry matter analysis. This means the percentages can’t be compared 1:1 with non-dry foods. This includes frozen, canned and refrigerated foods that have a significantly higher water content.
In order to calculate how much protein (or any other item) there is in non-dry dog food, you need to calculate the dry matter percentages. So, for example, if a canned food is 80% water, it means there’s 20% dry matter.
To know the actual composition of the food, you need to divide the protein content (provided in the label) by the amount of dry matter. Then, multiply that number by 100. In our 80/20 example, if a food states 10% protein, the calculation would be 10 divided by 20, then multiplied by 100. This would come out as 50% protein.
The issue our panel of independent experts had is that some wet dog food brands don’t specify the moisture quantity of their recipes. This is the case of 4 Legs: nowhere on the packaging OR on the website states the moisture content of the food. This makes it virtually impossible for customers to know how the protein content compares to other options. This lack of information makes it difficult for us to properly assess the brand. For reference, brands like Ziwi Peak indicate the moisture content of their canned recipes.
Overall, the protein sources are OK, but the protein percentage raises some questions that are impossible to answer with the information available on the package. Because of these issues, we’re taking off 2 stars to this brand.
While animal protein and flour make up the majority of these meatballs, this brand has added a few extras to round up the nutritional profile and better appeal to buyers.
This is where the recipes start differing a little. All recipes include a general “vegetables and fruit” ingredient, but these are broken down into specific items. Depending on the recipe, some meatballs will have only two or three vegetables while others will have five or six.
This brand tends to add carrots, broccoli and coconut to their recipes. These add vegetable fibre that is great for your dog’s digestive system, as well as providing some extra vitamins and minerals. Coconut will also add some healthy fats.
Some recipes include other extras like apples, green beans and brown rice. Nevertheless, these are relatively low on the ingredient list and probably have been added in very small quantities.
On top of fruits and veggies, all 4 Legs recipes also include “vitamins & minerals” without mentioning specifics. This probably means the company used a powdered mix, and there is no way of knowing which compounds are included, and in which quantities.
Another addition in all recipes are “natural gelling agents”. Again, this item doesn’t specify which type even though the name indicates there might be more than one gelling compound. We don’t love gelling agents, and here's why. A study by a Dutch research group and published in the Journal of Nutrition showed that gelling agents could lower nutrient absorption in dogs . According to these researchers, exclusively feeding food with gelling agents can cause serious nutritional imbalance among especially sensitive dogs.
Due to these less-than-ideal extras, our team of independent experts agreed to take off 3 stars in this category.
This brand only offers chilled, pre-cooked food. Because of it, owners used to kibble might find the slightly longer prep time too much for them. Nevertheless, many dog owners on our panel praised the ease of use and mention that 4 Legs is easily freezer friendly when portioned in different containers.
From a protein standpoint, all recipes include either chicken or beef. Although most dogs can eat these common proteins just fine, those with allergies or sensitivities will have to look elsewhere.
It’s also important to note that all recipes share the core ingredients and have the exact same typical analysis. This, coupled with the fact that all recipes include similar proteins, means that there is very little variety beyond the main recipe.
Finally, we should note there are a couple of meatball options for smaller pups. These are smaller in size and come in different recipes (chicken and cheese; beef with veggies) and picky eaters seem to appreciate the flavour.
We’re taking off 2 stars from this category because, even though there seem to be distinct recipes, the core ingredients remain the same. Overall, not a good option for those looking for more variety in protein or fat percentages.
Due to its higher price point and smaller packaging, this food is on the lower end of expensive. It’s not the most expensive in the market, but it’s not particularly affordable either. Of course, the price is probably higher because of the costs involved in chilling the food from production until selling.
Our panel of independent experts couldn't agree whether the cost is justified considering flour is a main ingredient in almost all recipes, and the packaging doesn’t mention the moisture content to properly calculate protein percentages.
Considering the cost, it’s not surprising to see many dog owners prefer to use 4 Legs as a topper or a treat instead of as the base of their pup’s diet. In that case, the cost is in line with other treats and toppers to make “regular” food tastier.
Because of the higher price point when used as a main food, we’re taking off 3 stars.
Do not buy if…
Many dogs love 4 Legs meatballs, but our team of experts share they might not be for you if you:
Our panel of independent experts conclude that 4 Legs can be a good option as a topper or a treat for food-motivated dogs. Many owners use it during training with great results, and as an occasional snack, it’s a good enough option.
We’d be wary of exclusively feeding 4 Legs because the actual protein percentages (calculated on the basis of dry matter) are unclear.
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- "Slow cooked beef". 4 Legs Dog Food. Retrieved October 11, 2023. https://4legs.com.au/slow-cooked-range/slow-cooked-beef/
- "Calorie Content". Association of American Feed Control Officials. Retrieved October 11, 2023. https://www.aafco.org/resources/startups/calorie-content/
- Laflamme, D. (2008). "Pet Food Safety: Dietary Protein". Topics in Companion Animal Medicine, 23 (3), August 2008, pp 154- 157. https://doi.org/10.1053/j.tcam.2008.04.009
- "Protein". The Kennel Club. Retrieved October 11, 2023. https://www.thekennelclub.org.uk/health-and-dog-care/health/health-and-care/a-z-of-health-and-care-issues/protein/
- Ober, J., et al. (2016). "The Effects of Varying Concentrations of Dietary Protein and Fat on Blood Gas, Hematologic Serum Chemistry, and Body Temperature Before and After Exercise in Labrador Retrievers". Frontiers in Veterinary Science, Volume 3, August 2016. https://doi.org/10.3389/fvets.2016.00059
- Karr-Lilienthal, L.K., et al. (2002). "Selected Gelling Agents in Canned Dog Food Affect Nutrient Digestibilities and Fecal Characteristics of Ileal Cannulated Dogs". The Journal of Nutrition, 132 (6), June 2002, pp 1714S - 1716S. https://doi.org/10.1093/jn/132.6.1714S