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As the dog food industry becomes more competitive by the day, Purina Pro Plan and NutriSource are two of the most sought-after brands that have successfully withstood the test of time. With several decades of experience under their belts, these companies have perfected their manufacturing processes and service in a way that leaves their ever-growing customer bases always satisfied. However, is one better than the other?
Purina Pro Plan is the better choice for dog owners looking for a more reasonably priced and nutritionally rich alternative. On the other hand, NutriSource manufactures better-regulated and overall safer products for dogs with preexisting health conditions or sensitivities.
In this article, I’ll first dive into a general comparison between the two brands to help you determine whose products fit your requirements and budget best. Then, I’ll take you through Purina Pro Plan and Nutrisource’s pros and cons, allowing you to come to a conclusion regarding the return on investment each company’s products offer. Therefore, if you’re looking to give your dog’s diet an upgrade, this guide is for you.
Table of Contents
As I’ve briefly mentioned, navigating today’s oversaturated dog food market can often feel overwhelming. Both these brands boast a long-standing history and legions of satisfied customers. However, what makes one better suited than the other when it comes to your (or, more accurately, your dog’s) requirements and preferences?
The first step to a fair comparison is to determine how Purina Pro Plan and Nutrisource compare based on four equally essential criteria:
- Nutritional value
- Quality and safety
- Customer testimonials
Given that it’s near-impossible to objectively tell which brand’s product will provide the greatest value to you and your dog’s diet, I recommend you read through the following sections to determine which alternative aligns with your priorities best.
If you haven’t already, before going through the rest of this article, make a list of your priorities. For example, if your pet is prone to health issues, finding the safest, allergen-free, and nutrient-rich option might be the most important item on your list.
However, if your pet is all grown up and generally healthy, spending an obscene amount of money on a product that won’t make virtually any difference to your pet’s health might rightfully seem like a waste of resources. In this instance, the price point might be a better criterion to base your decision on.
For most dog owners, finding a brand whose products provide excellent nutritional value is right at the top of their priorities list. A dog’s nutrition is directly correlated to its quality of life.
Therefore, even though most pets might seem evolved enough to live through rough conditions, there’s no doubt that a balanced, nutritional diet will ultimately optimize their health and longevity. And, at the end of the day, isn’t this every dog owner’s main goal?
As always, I want to preface the following information by noting that the dog food industry is (luckily) highly regulated at both federal and state levels. This means that most products’ nutritional labels will give you generally accurate data regarding their macro and micronutrient content.
At first glance, the brands’ products seem comparable nutritionally-wise, which is why it might be helpful to break down the comparison into some subdivisions. For example, I’ll be diving into how similar items from both companies compare in terms of protein, fats, fiber, and micronutrient content.
The first macronutrient I’ll be taking into account is protein because, as many of you might know by now, protein is the most important element in a dog’s diet. Without sufficient sources of it, your pet won’t be able to survive. Therefore, you’ll always want to opt for an option that provides plentiful, good-quality protein sources.
In this instance, Purina Pro Plan has a clear edge. This result isn’t surprising, as its products are famous for their remarkable protein content. Purina Pro Plan items are among the only ones in their price bracket to provide such high protein levels.
Even though NutriSource doesn’t fall that far behind, with differences in protein content hovering around 1.5% – 3%, if the macronutrient is of high priority for you and your pet, opting for Purina Pro Plan is your safest bet.
Healthy fats are another essential component of a healthy dog’s diet. Not only does the macronutrient serve as the primary source of energy for your pet, but it also provides a wide range of other health and appearance-related benefits.
Fat content tends to vary from one product to another; however, I’d say that NutriSource is the undisputed winner in this category. (Well, the term “winner” here depends on the context. More on this in a moment.) While most dry food items are comparable when it comes to their fat content, the wet varieties are a different story.
When it comes to canned dog food, NutriSource can offer up to 17% more fat than its counterpart. This is one of the most significant differences I’ve encountered while comparing different pet food brands.
However, beware. There’s such a thing as too much fat when it comes to your dog’s dietary requirements. While, unlike in humans, an excessive intake of the nutrient is unlikely to lead to any heart-related issues in pets, it can still lead to a plethora of other illnesses.
You generally want to aim for a less than 25% daily caloric intake from fats alone. Otherwise, your dog might be at higher risk of pancreatitis or obesity. If you’re caring for an overweight dog, you should make sure to avoid high-fat foods at all costs.
In short, dogs with a history of gastrointestinal issues or diabetes will not bode well with such a high fat intake.
On the other hand, leaner, highly active dogs would benefit from NutriSource’s fat-rich products. Moreover, if your pet is pregnant or nursing, their requirements regarding the macronutrient will also increase.
To conclude this section, most dogs require a substantial amount of fat in their diet, which NutriSource products provide more of. However, depending on your dog’s health condition, age, and activity level, the alternative that’s best suited for you might vary.
While it’s true that most healthy adult dogs don’t require any complex carbohydrates in their diet, they do need fiber to maintain a healthy digestive tract. As far as the third macronutrient goes, the brands come out fairly equal.
While there are a few slight differences in specific product lines, the advantage could go either way. For example, when it comes to the dry food varieties, NutriSource has the edge. However, Purina Pro Plan’s canned food is more fiber-rich than its comparable NutriSource counterpart.
Therefore, if fiber intake is your main concern, I’d recommend reading through each specific product’s nutritional information before reaching a decision. Unfortunately, there’s no one-size-fits-all answer when it comes to this comparison.
As far as micronutrient content goes, Purina Pro Plan seems to have the edge again. The brand’s nutritional labels list a wide range of vitamins and minerals that fortify their products, including, but not limited to:
- Vitamin E
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin A
- Vitamin B12
- Vitamin D
Even though NutriSource also lists an impressive list of micronutrients on its nutritional labels, the range and quantity simply aren’t vast enough to compete with Purina Pro Plan.
In conclusion, nutritionally wise, Purina Pro Plan is the better choice for your pet. Their products provide better macronutrient ratios and higher micronutrient content.
Quality and Safety
Crude macronutrient content isn’t the only metric that informs you regarding a product’s quality. The source and safety of these nutritional components are just as crucial to consider when deciding on the best food brand for your dog.
Therefore, in the following paragraphs, I’ll be taking a look at the ingredient quality of both of these brands, along with some possible health concerns they might subject your pet to.
Potentially Harmful Ingredients
Due to some potentially harmful ingredients and unsavory recall history, Purina Pro Plan can often be found lacking when evaluated based on this criterion, and this instance is no exception.
Suppose you’re looking to err on the side of safety and steer clear of some potentially unhealthy ingredients such as corn oil, colorings, and animal fat preserved in citric acid. In that case, I’d recommend opting for NutriSource.
This isn’t to say that Purina Pro Plan products are inherently damaging. Most healthy adult dogs do excellent on a Purina Pro Plan diet, which is why the brand has even been recommended by the FDA as one of the most nutritionally rich options on the market.
However, suppose your pet is suffering or predisposed to health conditions that might be triggered by the ingredients I previously flagged. In that case, it’s best to make that extra investment to avoid any potential complications down the road.
The same can be said for pets that suffer from food sensitivities, as Purina Pro Plan products aren’t usually the most allergen-free options you can find on the market.
Having said that, if your dog is generally healthy, opting for the budget-friendly and protein-rich Purina Pro Plan might provide you with unparalleled value. This is why I prefaced these sections by noting that the best choice for you will ultimately depend on your unique circumstances.
Moreover, it’s essential to take into account each brand’s recall history, which can help you get a better understanding of each brand’s overall credibility regarding their product’s safety.
Purina Pro Plan has been recalled several times, with the latest recall occurring in 2021 due to claims that some cans of wet food contained traces of plastic. The brand has gone through an even longer history of recalls, which you can learn more about here.
On the other hand, NutriSource has had a pretty remarkable recall-free history, that is, until 2021. In October 2021, the company had to recall approximately 1600 cases of one of its products due to claims of elevated vitamin D levels.
However, even with this incident in mind, I can confidently say that NutriSource is a better bet safety-wise.
As expected, the tightly regulated manufacturing processes come at a premium. NutriSource items are notably more expensive than their Purina Pro Plan counterparts across the board. However, the margin is somewhat negligible.
When you consider the price per calorie, comparable products from each brand can differ anywhere from $0.0001 to $0.001.
In this instance, I’d say that price per calorie might be the best metric to differentiate between the two brands, as differences in volume, weight, and moisture level might sometimes be challenging to account for. As a result, it’s safe to say that opting for the budget-friendly Purina Pro Plan might not allow you to make as many savings as you would’ve liked.
Still, considering that you’ll likely be investing in hundreds of pounds of dog food over the years, if you’re particularly budget-sensitive, opting for Purina Pro Plan would make better financial sense.
Otherwise, I’d say base your decision on a different criterion, as the price variations aren’t significant enough to make a notable difference.
Last but certainly not least, when deciding on the dog food brand that will provide you and your dog with the greatest value, it’s essential to take into account customer testimonials. Therefore, I scoured several forums, including Golden Retriever Forum and Reddit, searching for recommendations that might give you some insight into the brand that might work better for you.
Most dog owners seem to agree that Purina Pro Plan is an excellent choice for puppies. The brand’s excellent macro and micronutrient content provides a dog’s growing body with all the components it requires to thrive.
On the other hand, dogs with food sensitivities seem to do better on NutriSource. This experience aligns with the predictions made in the “Quality and Safety” section, and considering Purina Pro Plan’s allergen-filled ingredient list, it’s easy to understand why it wouldn’t be the best choice for pets that are susceptible to food-related reactions.
Purina Pro Plan’s Pros and Cons
After going through a general comparison, chances are you’ve already created an idea of the brand that will fit your requirements best. However, it’s still essential to determine whether the option that might seem better on paper actually provides a great enough value to make it worth the investment.
Here’s where this “Pros and Cons” list comes in.
- Excellent value.
- Great macronutrient content.
- Fortified with a wide range of minerals and vitamins.
- Can be found in almost any pet food store.
- Offers a wide range of product lines that cater to dogs of different ages, health conditions, etc.
- Recommended by the FDA.
- Contains many allergens.
- Long recall history, with some instances of reported plastic particles found in their products.
- Contains potentially harmful ingredients for dogs with preexisting health conditions.
- Many products are grain-based.
- Low calcium proportion compared to similarly priced brands.
NutriSource’s Pros and Cons
Even though I’ve mentioned several times throughout this article that the value a brand’s products can provide heavily depends on your requirements and circumstances, it still bears repeating.
Therefore, even though NutriSource has so far shown some impressive stats, it’s still essential to compare its advantages to its disadvantages before reaching a decision.
- Nutritionally rich.
- High fat content.
- High fiber content.
- Almost spotless recall history.
- Excellent for dogs with preexisting health conditions and food sensitivities.
- Rich in Omega 3s and probiotics.
- Some of its products can lead to gastrointestinal issues and obesity due to their excessive fat content.
- Slightly more expensive than brands offering similar nutritional value.
- Most of their products are grain-based.
Purina Pro Plan and NutriSource are two of the most successful dog food brands on today’s market. They both provide excellent value at their given price point, which is why depending on your requirements, each could make a valuable investment.
However, while NutriSource is a higher-quality alternative better suited to dogs with food sensitivities or preexisting health conditions, Purina Pro Plan offers a better nutritional profile at a more reasonable price point.
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