The Optimum Dog Food Review: Tested & Evaluated 2023
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 so you don't have to read any further than this comprehensive review. After teaming up with canine nutritionists, vets, and an array of enthusiastic pet parents, we spent weeks trying out everything Optimum offers our dogs to suss out if this brand should be your new go-to. Ahead, our Optimum dry dog food review has everything you should know about this popular brand.
Hint: we weren’t thrilled with our findings.
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 Optimum Dog Food Review
Optimum - 2.5 Star Rating
- Ingredients: Meat & meat by-products (poultry, beef and lamb); sorghum and/or rice and/or wheat; barley and/or corn; chicken digest; cereal protein; beet pulp; vegetables; salt; vegetable oil; minerals (potassium chloride, zinc sulphate, ferrous sulphate, copper sulphate, potassium iodide and selenium); sodium tripolyphosphate; vitamins (A, B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B9, B12, C, D, E and choline) and antioxidants.
- Named Protein First: No.
- Dog Food Type: Grain Inclusive & Grain Free.
- Recipe Range: Fish & Vegetables or Chicken, Vegetables & Rice or Chicken & Kangaroo + More.
- Suitable For: Optimum's recipe range can be suitable for puppy, adult and senior dogs depending on the recipe.
- Cost: $$
- Australian Owned: Yes.
Taste & Digestibility 2/5
While many dogs enjoy the taste of Optimum kibble, a good proportion of owners complain about the smell. I too immediately noticed it has a strong odour, and in some cases, it has been too strong to feed dogs with. In fact, several members of our research team actually had to send back foul-smelling Optimum dog treats or dry food because it seemed spoiled.
Also, when it comes to digestibility Optimum doesn’t fare well either. Some dog owners who participated in our research group 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 I mix the old and the new food, starting with small quantities of new food and progressively increasing it when introducing a new food to my dogs. 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 from our expert panel.
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.
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
In simple terms, our expert panel explained that 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, ou experts recommend staying away from unnamed, generic by-products . 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 for pups to digest, as one of my darling dogs knows firsthand (or rather, paw) so I know 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 .
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 our team decided on only giving it 2 stars.
Protein Content 2/5
As we 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. Our panel was upset to realise that this means we wouldn't have any options with this brand if any of our pups is allergic or prefers other flavours. Nowadays, it’s easier to find exotic proteins like kangaroo and lamb, an option not available with Optimum.
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. I don't find this acceptable for my dog that has ultra-sensitive skin issues.
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, our expert panel is also quick to point out that 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? Etc.
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, our team is taking off 3 stars.
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. I was disappointed to see that there are no nutritional extras that are now 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 micro-nutrients and healthy goodies to round up your pup’s diet.
Optimum also doesn’t disclose what preservatives it uses on their dry kibble, something that no one on our panel of researchers was happy to note. 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:
In spite of this, there’s still no legal requirement to label preservatives in dog food . We don’t really know what Optimum, or almost any other brand, uses.
Because of the lack of extra goodies or superfoods, our panel is deducting 2 stars.
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, which is a must for one of my doggos, 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 1 puppy flavour.
In general, our panel of experts liked 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, personally. Because of these shortcomings, we’re taking off 2 stars.
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, our panel has decided to give this category 5 stars.
Optimum Puppy Food Review
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. Our expert panel appreciated 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 calorie needs.
However, my qualms with the adult recipes stay with Optimum’s puppy options. The use of generic terms like vegetables, without explicitly stating which vegetables used, 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, our experts share that this isn’t the right choice if you:
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, our expert team recommends 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:
- Ivory Coat Dog Food Review
- Canidae Dog Food Review
- Advance Dog Food Review
- Supercoat Dog Food Review
- Black Hawk Dog Food Review
- Farmers Market Dog Food Review
- Applaws Dog Food Review
- Royal Canin Dog Food Review
- Nature's Gift Dog Food Review
- Baxters Dog Food Review
- Leaps & Bounds Dog Food Review
- Stay Loyal Dog Food Review
- Pedigree Dog Food Review
- Science Diet Dog Food Review
- Savour Life Dog Food Review
- Scratch Dog Food Review
- Association of American Feed Control Officials. "Understanding Pet Food". Retrieved March 10, 2023. https://www.aafco.org/consumers/understanding-pet-food/
- Dog food advisor. July 27, 2021. "The Truth About Animal By-Products in Dog Food." Retrieved March 10, 2023. https://www.dogfoodadvisor.com/choosing-dog-food/animal-by-products/
- Coile, C. March 19, 2021. "Can Dogs Eat Wheat and Other Grains?". American Kennel Club. Retrieved March 10, 2023. https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/nutrition/can-dogs-eat-wheat/
- RSPCA Knowledge Base. January 21, 2022. "Are preservatives in pet food products a concern?". Retrieved March 10, 2023. https://kb.rspca.org.au/knowledge-base/are-preservatives-in-pet-food-products-a-concern/