optimum dog food review

Optimum Dog Food Review -
The Complete Analysis

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Wondering if you should try Optimum for your dog? This dry food seems to be easy to find and it’s also endorsed by celebrity vet Chris Brown.

Is it a good option or should you pass? We did our research and our Optimum dry dog food review has everything you should know about this popular brand.

Hint: we weren’t thrilled with our findings.

  • Optimum is an easy to find dog food endorsed by celebrity vet Chris Brown
  • They have both a regular and a grain free line at an affordable price point
  • The ingredient list is very general, and doesn’t clearly indicate which vegetables or proteins are used in every recipe.
  • Several grain ingredients change in proportion according to the season, costs and manufacturer, so you can’t be sure if a new bag is similar in composition to your previous one.
hungry dachshund ready to eat

Optimum Dog Food Review

Optimum Dog Food Review

Taste

Ingredients

Protein content

Additives

Variety

Price

Taste & Digestibility 2/5

While many dogs enjoy the taste of Optimum kibble, a good proportion of owners complain about the smell. It has a strong odour, and in some cases, it has been too strong to feed dogs with. In fact, we found some instances where owners would just send back foul-smelling Optimum dog treats or dry food because it seemed spoiled.

On the other hand, when it comes to digestibility Optimum doesn’t fare well. Many dog owners report their pups had strong diarrhoea, vomit, runny stools and general illness after feeding them with Optimum. Some pups even had to go to the vet for specialised care. In fact, in some instances this happened to dogs that were previously known as having a strong stomach and being able to eat pretty much anything.

Of course, gastrointestinal distress symptoms could be caused by different factors, including a sudden diet change. For starters, you should always introduce new foods slowly. This means mixing the old and the new food, starting with small quantities of new food and progressively increasing it. Eventually, your dog will be accustomed to the new food without stomach upset. Ideally, this introductory process should happen at least over a week, ideally 2 weeks.

However, another cause for this kind of severe stomach upset -beyond gas and slightly runny stools- is the quality and ingredients of the food. This includes wheat and other grains, a prominent ingredient in all Optimum recipes. We’ll dive deeper into Optimum’s ingredients down below, but this brand won’t get 5 stars in the digestibility category.

PRO TIP: Stomach upset can be caused by sudden changes in diet, but also by food intolerances.

Because of the reports from owners and gastrointestinal symptoms among dogs of various ages and breeds, we’re taking off 3 stars in this category.

Ingredients 2/5

While we always appreciate a short and simple ingredient list, Optimum’s is way too general to be useful. This usually means that less-than-ideal ingredients were used, and it’s a way to avoid alerting the owners. Let’s explore the ingredient list.

At the start of the list in both grain-free and regular options, we have poultry and poultry by-products or meat and meat by-products. While plain meat or poultry are essential in a balanced dry dog food, the addition of by-products should be taken with caution. According to the AAFCO, by-products are

Secondary products produced in addition to the principal product" AAFCO – Ingredients in Pet Food [1].

In simple terms, this means any product created with whatever is left over after the main product was made. In the dog food industry, meat by-products are often what’s left after taking out human-grade meat.

Named by-products are generally safe and healthy for your dog. These include poultry by-product. However, unnamed by-products -appearing as meat or animal by-products- can have anything from road kill, to dead-on-arrival poultry, to diseased livestock… Since you don’t know what you’re getting, experts recommend staying away from unnamed, generic by-products [2]. Unfortunately, Optimum has meat and meat by-products on the ingredient list, although luckily, they do mention it might come from poultry, beef or lamb.

The next 2 ingredients in Optimum dry food are also questionable: sorghum and/or rice and/or wheat, and then barley and/or corn. That means that depending on the season, the exact composition of the kibble will vary. On the consumer side, it also implies you’ll never be 100% sure what you’re feeding your dog.  Either way, any of these cereals aren’t the ideal basis of your dog’s diet. Sorghum, barley and wheat can be especially hard to digest for pups, so they should be avoided in large quantities. In fact, according to the American Kennel Club, wheat is the third top allergy-provoking ingredient for dogs [3].

Finally, the addition of "vegetables" is quite vague. Are these human-grade veggies? potatoes? Green beans? Vegetables can be anything, and we’re not sure this is a positive feature in this case. This also means the recipe and proportions of those veggies can change at any time, making it more difficult to pinpoint food allergies or sensitivities if they arise.

All in all, we like their grain-free recipes better than their traditional ones, since the latter have wheat and corn. However, the ingredient list is mediocre at best and because of that we’re only giving it 2 stars.

Protein Content 2/5

As well already mentioned, the first ingredient in all Optimum’s recipes is animal protein and its by-products. This is a good feature, since some brands use grains as the first ingredient. In general, protein by-products that include things like kidneys, heart and other internal organs, have good extras that will round up your dog’s diet. Using meat and its by-products as the basis of your dog’s diet is the best way to make sure they’re properly nourished.

However, there are no protein options available beyond chicken, turkey and meat. This means you won’t have any options with this brand if your pup is allergic or prefers other flavours. Nowadays it’s easier to find exotic proteins like kangaroo and lamb, but Optimum doesn’t have any of those.

We don’t like that certain recipes labelled as fish or salmon also have other protein sources that aren’t indicated in the front of the package. In fact, their sensitive skin grain-free kibble, marketed as fish and vegetables, has poultry, poultry by-products and fish as the first ingredient.

On the other hand, Optimum pet food has a good amount of protein in line with AAFCO’s guidelines. As such, they go above and beyond the minimum recommended of 18%. In fact, most of their recipes pack a whopping 26% to 35% protein, which isn’t bad at all.

However, it isn’t clear whether or not this protein comes exclusively from animal sources -which probably it doesn’t-. In the likely case that the percentage comes from a mix of both animal and plant protein, it would be better to know the sources. So, for example, how much corn protein is in there? Are there peas boosting the protein?

Because we can’t know the answers to any of these questions, the mislabelling of protein sources in certain recipes, and there’s a possibility of inflating the protein through less than ideal ingredients, we’re taking off 3 stars.

Additives 3/5

All in all, Optimum is a very basic food. Their recipes are fairly straightforward, based on meat, cereals, vegetables, and a mix of vitamin and minerals. There are no nutritious extras that are nowadays common in our dog’s food like berries, seeds or algae.

At this price point, you can find other options that can offer a wide variety of micronutrients and healthy goodies to round up your pup’s diet.

On the other hand, Optimum doesn’t disclose what preservatives it uses on their dry kibble. Dog food has been at the centre of controversy for using sulphites to preserve food, even though daily sulphite intake has been linked to thiamine deficiency and even death in dogs. According to the RSPCA:

There are safety issues relating to sulphur dioxide and sodium and potassium sulphite preservatives – these can cause thiamine (Vitamin B1) deficiency, which can be fatal. - RSPCA Australia

In spite of this, there’s still no legal requirement to label preservatives in dog food [4]. Because of this, we don’t really know what Optimum -or almost any other brand- uses.

Because of the lack of extra goodies or superfoods, we’re taking off 2 stars.

Variety 3/5

This brand has plenty of options for your pup. They offer both regular and grain-free recipes, as well as dry kibble, wet food and treats. Their regular line has more recipe options, and their adult flavours include options for small and giant breeds, as well as a light recipe and another one for older dogs.

However, if you want to try the grain-free line, you won’t have many options to choose from. Their grain-free recipes are only for adult dogs, and come in just two flavours, either chicken or beef. On the other hand, while Optimum has some wet food recipes, they only come in 3 adult flavours, and one puppy flavour.

In general, we like that there are recipes adapted to your pup’s size, but we wish there were more protein options and a larger grain-free line available. Because of these shortcomings, we’re taking off 2 stars.

Price 5/5

Optimum is fairly affordable and easy to find, and because of it many owners have purchased this brand. Their grain-free line is especially affordable, although as we already mentioned, we’d love to see better ingredients and labelling.

We really like their big bags of kibble, which make it easier to save even more. Taking this into account, we’re giving this brand 5 stars.


Optimum Puppy Food Review

English bulldog puppy with dry food

Of course, this review wouldn’t be complete without a look at their puppy line. Optimum puppy food is very similar in composition and variety to their adult recipes.

This means they only offer 2 protein options -chicken and beef- and have both kibble and wet recipes. We appreciate the fact they have puppy food for small-breed dogs, as well as large and giant pups. This ensures the kibble size fits your dog, and it’ll be easier to meet their caloric needs.

However, our qualms with the adult recipes stay with Optimum’s puppy options. The use of generic terms like vegetables, without explicitly stating what this means, as well as the large amounts of grains are a reason to choose other brands instead.

Wouldn't make our best puppy food list.


Do Not Buy If…

Although some dogs might do well with Optimum, this isn’t the right choice if you:

  • Want to know exactly what goes into your dog’s food: as noted, Optimum has a tendency of putting blanket ingredients in their ingredient lists. This means that you won’t be sure the bag you’re getting today has the same composition as the one before. This can cause gastrointestinal distress for your dog, but will also make it harder to pinpoint the specific root of food intolerances if they were to appear.
  • Have a dog that needs exotic protein: if your pup doesn’t like or simply can’t eat poultry or beef, they won’t find suitable options within Optimum’s recipes. All their flavours, including the ones with fish, have poultry. You’ll find other brands that exclusively use a single protein source that make it easier to feed allergy-prone pups.
  • Want to avoid grains: Optimum’s regular recipes have lots of grain, including allergy-inducing wheat. Unfortunately, while it also has other grains easier to digest like rice, quantities depend on seasonal availability and might change from manufacturer to manufacturer.
  • Need a variety of grain-free optionswhile this brand has some grain-free recipes, their range is very limited and you might have to look elsewhere to find the right food for your dog’s needs and size.

Is Optimum Dog Food Good? The Verdict

At this price-point, it’s hard to find dog foods that aren’t full of cheap filler grains. Unfortunately, and in spite of its endorsement by famous vets, Optimum also falls in this category. In general, we recommend going for other brands if you have the means to do so. There are some medium-range options -including grain-free recipes- that are more transparent with their ingredient list and won’t have as much corn and wheat.

Want to read more dog food brand reviews? Check out the below:

References

  1. Association of American feed control officials, By-products. https://talkspetfood.aafco.org/byproducts
  2. The Truth About Animal By-Products in Dog Food. Dog food advisor. https://www.dogfoodadvisor.com/choosing-dog-food/animal-by-products/
  3. Can Dogs Eat Wheat and Other Grains? American Kennel Club. https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/nutrition/can-dogs-eat-wheat/
  4. Are preservatives in pet food products a concern? RSPCA Knowledge Base. https://kb.rspca.org.au/knowledge-base/are-preservatives-in-pet-food-products-a-concern/
Eloisa Thomas

Eloisa Thomas is a dog lover & anthropologist. She enjoys writing content that will actually help people understand their dogs better.

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