Purina Pro Plan Vs. Nutro: Which Dog Food Is Better?

  • By: Andrew
  • Time to read: 12 min.

There are a lot of dog foods on the market, so sometimes, it can be overwhelming deciding which dog food is right for your pet. Picking the right food is a big responsibility as a dog’s diet plays a huge role in their overall health, so I’m here to help. Two dog food brands you may be choosing between are Purina Pro Plan and Nutro.

Nutro is a better dog food brand than Purina Pro Plan because of its variety, non-GMO and natural ingredients, and commitment to sustainability and transparency with consumers.

Let’s take a closer look at these dog foods and discuss their differences and what makes Nutro the better overall choice for dog food. If you feed your dog food that they love and make them feel good, they can live the happiest life possible!

If you are interested in checking out these two dog foods? You can find them by clicking here:
Purina Pro Plan and Nutro (on Amazon.com)

Reasons Why Nutro Is Better

Both of these dog food brands offer high-quality dog foods, but Nutro is the better choice because their ingredients are all-natural and non-GMO, and they have more overall options than Purina Pro Plan. They also operate their business sustainably and ethically.

Here are some reasons why Nutro is a better choice for your dog than Purina Pro Plan:

  • Nutro follows their Feed Clean philosophy, ensuring that their recipes are purposeful and trustworthy. Nutro shines with its ingredients, which they guarantee are non-GMO and nutrient-rich. They never add artificial preservatives, flavors, or colors to their food.
  • Nutro is extremely transparent about their ingredients on their website. Nutro is so confident in their recipes that they provide a full ingredient glossary on their website that features every ingredient used in every recipe they offer and explains why they choose to include that ingredient and its benefit for your dog.
  • Nutro doesn’t use chicken by-product meal, corn, wheat, or soy. These ingredients don’t have a lot of nutritional value for dogs, and unfortunately, they are commonly used in Purina Pro Plan formulas.
  • Nutro has more options. Both companies have wide product lines, but Nutro offers 54 dry dog food recipes compared to Purina Pro Plan’s 53 and 45 wet dog foods compared to Purina Pro Plan’s 43. Additionally, Nutro offers 12 varieties of dog treats, while Purina Pro Plan doesn’t have any dog treats at all.
  • Nutro offers more flavors. Both companies have formulas that feature chicken, lamb, beef, and salmon, but Nutro also offers duck, turkey, venison meal, and their trio of proteins option.
  • You can experiment with texture with Nutro. Both Nutro and Purina Pro Plan have wet and dry dog food varieties, but Nutro has different textures available as well, including cuts in gravy, filets in gravy, hearty stews, and pate. If you have a picky dog, you’ll be sure to find food in a texture they like!
  • Nutro’s Healthy Weight formulas are superior to Purina Pro Plan’s Weight Management formulas. Nutro’s Healthy Weight recipes include healthy nutrients with fewer fats and sugars, all while maintaining great taste.
  • Nutro emphasizes sustainability. Nutro partners with suppliers that set targets to address climate impact. Additionally, they source barley from farmers that reduce soil disturbance and promote water usage efficiency.
  • 100% of Nutro’s electricity needs are covered by wind power. To reduce their carbon footprint, Nutro purchases wind power from a farm in Texas to cover all the electricity they need for production.
  • Nutro packages their food in clean packaging. Another win for environmentally-conscious shoppers is that all wet dog food cans are 100% recyclable. The company promises to get all their packaging to be completely reusable or recyclable by 2025.
  • All of Nutro’s factories meet their Responsible Workplace Standards. Nutro regularly assesses their factories to ensure that they are operating ethically, focusing on fair compensation and benefits, reasonable work hours, and their workers’ overall health and well-being.

One significant drawback to Nutro is the price. Nutro dry dog food costs approximately 20 cents more per pound than Purina Pro Plan. The difference in price for wet dog food is even more extreme. Nutro wet dog food costs more than double the cost of Purina Pro Plan wet dog food.

For this reason, if you are on a tight budget, Purina Pro Plan may be the better choice. Even though I think Nutro is better, Purina Pro Plan is still a high-quality brand that makes great dog food, so your animal will still be happy.

However, if you can afford to splurge a bit on your dog food, Nutro is a great choice. Buying Nutro dog food in bulk makes it less expensive, and they do offer most of their foods in 40-pound (18.14-kg) bags, so this is a possibility.

Another situation I might recommend Purina Pro Plan over Nutro is if you have an extremely active dog, and you’re on the hunt for food that supports this active lifestyle. Purina Pro Plan has their Sport line, but Nutro doesn’t have a similar equivalent.

Finally, you should know that Purina Pro Plan dog food typically has more crude protein and fat than comparable Nutro foods. However, because Nutro uses overall better ingredients, I would still go with Nutro despite this. Nutro contains more crude fiber. 

Now, let’s look at each of these in more detail, starting with their similarities.

Basic Similarities: Purina Pro Plan vs Nutro

Purina Pro Plan dog food has over 80 formulas that you can choose from that vary based on your dog’s size and lifestyle. If you aren’t sure which food is right for your dog, you can use the Purina My Plan feature to get an expert’s help in picking the right food. They offer wet and dry dog food varieties, and real meat is always their number one ingredient.

Similarly, Nutro has multiple natural wet and dry dog food lines that are specialized according to your dog’s health needs, life stage, and breed size. You can also pick a food by flavor or texture.

Both brands offer the option of personalization according to your specific dog and its needs and preferences.

Let’s take a look at the most popular Purina Pro Plan and Nutro foods available on Amazon.com:

Most Popular Dry Dog Food for Adult Dogs: Purina Pro Plan Adult 

Purina Pro Plan High Protein Dog Food With Probiotics for Dogs, Shredded Blend Beef & Rice Formula - 47 lb. Bag

This line features several different flavors and types, including:

  • Giant Breed
  • Small Breed
  • Toy Breed
  • Weight Management
  • Sensitive Skin and Stomach, Salmon and Rice
  • Sensitive Skin and Stomach, Lamb and Oatmeal
  • Adult Shredded Blend Lamb and Rice
  • Adult Shredded Blend Chicken and Rice
  • Adult Shredded Blend Salmon and Rice
  • Adult Shredded Blend Beef and Rice

The Adult Shredded Blend Chicken and Rice, is particularly of interest. Its main ingredients are:

  • Chicken
  • Rice
  • Whole-grain wheat
  • Poultry by-product meal
  • Soybean meal
  • Corn gluten meal
  • Whole-grain corn
  • Dried egg
  • Fish meal
  • Natural flavor
  • Soybean oil

These are relatively uncontroversial ingredients. However, the third most popular ingredient, wheat, isn’t ideal, as wheat doesn’t have a lot of nutritional value for dogs.

The most recommended Purina Pro Plan recipes are:

  • Pro Plan Adult Sensitive Skin and Stomach Salmon and Rice
  • Pro Plan Adult Shredded Blend Chicken and Rice
  • Pro Plan Sport All Life Stages Performance 30/20 Chicken and Rice
  • Pro Plan Adult Large Breed Chicken and Rice
  • Pro Plan Adult Shredded Blend Lamb and Rice

Purina Pro Plan Pros & Cons

Meat is the number one ingredientLow in calcium
High-quality ingredients Corn is one of the main ingredients in some of the formulas, which can cause digestive issues for some dogs, especially large breeds
Protein-richPurina Pro Plan is not recall-free
Suitable for dogs of all ages and breedsSome formulas give dogs bad breath
Dogs like the taste 
High in vitamins and minerals, including fish oil 
Dogs experience fewer rashes and itching 

Purina has been manufacturing dog food for over one hundred years, so they benefit from experience on their side. They were also the first company to start using real meat as the number one ingredient in their dog foods, and they have maintained that commitment to this day.

Purina Pro Plan has dog food for dogs of all life stages and every kind of breed. Dog owners can pick food for adult dogs, puppies, senior dogs, and some of their dog food is healthy for dogs of all ages.

You can personalize your food choice further with the several different product lines that are included under the banner of Purina Pro Plan. These include:

  • Development Puppy
  • Essentials
  • Specialized
  • Sport
  • Senior
  • Savor
  • Savory Meals
  • Focus
  • Bright Mind

The most popular of these are Bright Mind, Focus, Savor, and Sport.

  • Bright Mind. If you have a senior dog, this is the best choice for you. This food is designed to keep older dogs’ minds sharp and healthy.
  • Focus. This line is primarily for dogs with specific struggles, such as obesity.
  • Savor. Little dogs will benefit from the live probiotics in this food, supporting their immune health.
  • Sport. If you have an ultra-active dog, this grain-free food will support their joints and mobility.

Most Popular Dog Food for Adult Dogs: Nutro Natural Choice Adult Chicken & Brown Rice

NUTRO NATURAL CHOICE Adult Dry Dog Food, Chicken & Brown Rice Recipe Dog Kibble, 5 lb. Bag

Here are the main ingredients: 

  • Chicken
  • Brewers rice
  • Chicken meal
  • Whole-grain brown rice
  • Whole-grain barley
  • Whole-grain sorghum
  • Chicken fat
  • Rice bran
  • Whole flaxseed
  • Dried plain beet pulp
  • Potassium chloride
  • Citric acid
  • Chia seed
  • Dried coconut
  • Dried tomato pomace
  • Dried egg product
  • Dried pumpkin
  • Dried kale
  • Dried spinach

Meat being the number-one ingredient is a benefit, and another positive aspect of this food is the presence of other superfoods that your dog will benefit from. The food also comes in various bag sizes, ranging from five-pound to 40-pound (2.26 to 18.14 kg) bags, so you can buy the right amount for what you need.

Here are the most popular foods from Nutro: 

  • Nutro Wholesome Essentials Adult
  • Nutro Ultra the Superfood Plate
  • Nutro Wholesome Essentials Healthy Weight
  • Nutro Wholesome Essentials Small Breed

Nutro Pros & Cons 

Wide variety of optionsNot a recall-free company
Ethically and sustainably sourced ingredientsMore expensive, especially wet dog food
Fresh, locally sourced, non-GMONot as many options for puppies
No artificial preservatives and flavors 
Lots of options for dogs with allergies or food sensitivities 
Healthy Weight formulas are great for overweight dogs 

Nutro began as an independent pet food company, but in 2007, it was purchased by Mars, Incorporated. All of their products are made in the United States: dry foods are made in factories in California and Tennessee, whereas wet foods are made in Ohio, Arkansas, and South Dakota.

Now, Nutro is a premium dog food brand that makes food with non-GMO ingredients, and they have introduced rigorous GMO testing to ensure that their food only has the best ingredients. 

None of their recipes have any artificial colors or flavors. They also try to avoid using wheat and soy in their products, so there isn’t as much gluten in their formulas. They also supplement their foods with nutrient-packed side ingredients, such as flaxseed, sweet potatoes, and chickpeas.

Dog owners can choose from the following flavors: 

  • Chicken
  • Lamb
  • Beef
  • Fish
  • Duck
  • Turkey
  • Venison meal
  • Trio of proteins (chicken, lamb, and salmon)

They can also choose from the following lines:

  • Natural Choice. These food formulas have antioxidants that allow for healthy digestion in dogs one year old and older. They also have omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids that help give your dog healthy skin. This line also includes weight-management foods.
  • So Simple. This line ensures that dog foods are kept “simple,” meaning there is no chicken by-product meal, corn, wheat, or soy protein.
  • Nutro Ultra. These foods feature a trio of chicken, lamb, and salmon for proteins and a superfood medley, including foods such as brown rice, flaxseed, tomatoes, blueberries, and others.
  • Limited Ingredient Diet. These foods avoid ingredients that dogs are often sensitive to, such as chicken, beef, corn, wheat, soy, and dairy protein. Instead, these formulas use lamb as their main protein source.

Dog owners can then differentiate based on their breed size, whether it’s a toy, small, or large breed.

To go even further, Nutro offers different textures:

  • Cuts in gravy
  • Filets in gravy
  • Hearty stews
  • Loaf/pate

A Closer Look at Ingredients

The listed ingredients above may not mean a lot to you if you don’t know what good or bad ingredients are for your dog. Let’s discuss some popular dog food ingredients and their health value-or lack thereof-for your canine:

  • Chicken. Chicken is a great source of protein for your dog, so seeing chicken or chicken meal as one of the main ingredients in dog food is a good sign. It’s best if the chicken is pure chicken meat, so no organs are included.
  • Lamb. Both Purina Pro Plan and Nutro offer dog foods that feature lamb, which is a good thing! Lamb is a high-protein meat, but it is also a lean meat with less fat than other meats, making it a good choice for dogs struggling with obesity.
  • Salmon. Both companies also feature salmon in a large number of their recipes. Salmon contains a lot of omega-3 fatty acids, which help your dog’s immune system, decrease inflammation, and make your dog’s coat shinier.
  • Brown rice. Brown rice is a good fiber source that encourages healthy digestion and helps give your dog the energy it needs.
  • Flaxseed. This fiber source has a lot of essential nutrients that support healthy skin. It also has lignans, which help with cardiovascular health and prevent cancer.
  • Canola oil. Dogs need a healthy amount of fats and oils in their diet to support their skin and coat health, and canola oil is one of the best sources of Omega 6 fatty acids.
  • Sweet potatoes. First of all, dogs love the flavor that sweet potatoes bring to their food, and this ingredient offers dietary fiber and vitamins. Beware, though, as sweet potatoes can cause yeast infections in some dogs.
  • Chickpeas. These beans are rich in protein, potassium, and magnesium, and they are known to help aid in digestion.
  • Duck. Purina Pro Plan doesn’t offer any foods made with duck, but Nutro does. Duck provides dogs with an easy-to-digest protein that is especially good for those doggies with sensitive stomachs. Duck also has a lot of amino acids, which support strong muscles.
  • Venison meal. Just like duck, this is an option that only Nutro offers. Venison meal is a healthy source of protein for dogs and is good for managing their energy levels. Venison is high in vitamin B, iron, and zinc.
  • Turkey. Turkey used in dog food is good for dogs because it’s rich in nutrients like protein and phosphorus. When turkey stops being good for dogs, though, is when people try to feed their pets Thanksgiving leftovers, as that turkey is typically cooked in butter and oils and seasoned with stuffing, onions, and garlic, which can upset digestion.

Let’s discuss the ingredients that Nutro refuses to use in any of their recipes but that Purina Pro Plan still uses in some of their formulas: 

  • Chicken by-product meal. The ingredients used to make a by-product meal are leftovers of the meat and poultry industries, and rendering these ingredients can take away from the natural enzymes and proteins in these ingredients, lessening the nutritional quality of this protein source. Pets also tend to dislike the taste.  
  • Corn. Corn is technically safe for dogs to eat, and it does have some health benefits, but it is typically seen as a cheap way to add calories to dog food. Nutro prioritizes making every calorie nutritious, so they forgo supplementing their food with corn. 
  • Wheat. Wheat is another food that is technically okay for dogs to eat, but dogs are also prone to developing a food sensitivity to wheat if they eat too much of it. If your dog food has too much wheat in it, your dog may be overexposed to this product and get sick. 
  • Soy. Many soybeans grown in the US are genetically modified, making them an automatic no for Nutro foods. Genetically modified foods have high levels of glyphosate, which can destroy good bacteria in your dog’s stomach that help them with digestion. For this reason, dogs that eat too many soy products often experience gas, diarrhea, and bloating.

Now that you know what to look for and what to avoid when purchasing dog food, you can make a knowledgeable decision about which dog food is best for you and your dog. Purina Pro Plan uses more questionable ingredients than Nutro does, but as long as you’re feeding your pet according to their suggestion, they should be okay.

Purina Pro Plan and Nutro Recall History  

Both companies have product recalls in their history. Let’s take a look at these issues so you can be fully aware of each company’s history before making a decision. The following table outlines the recall information:

Purina March 10, 2016The company recalled some Purina Pro Plan wet dog food because it didn’t have enough vitamins and minerals
Purina August 30, 2013Purina voluntarily recalled 3.5-pound bags of Purina One Beyond due to possible Salmonella bacteria
Nutro December 2015Nutro recalled some of their treats because of potential mold
Nutro  October 2009Nutro recalled some of its dry dog food because there was plastic found in the production line
Nutro  March 2007Various dog foods were recalled because of melamine

These recalls don’t mean that these companies are not to be trusted, but it’s nice to be in the know about these things before you make a dog food decision. If you’re looking for a dog food that hasn’t been recalled, the following brands are recall-free: 

  • The Farmer’s Dog Food
  • Open Farm
  • Pet Plate Dog Food
  • Ollie Dog Food
  • Nom Nom Dog Food

Final Thoughts

Both Purina Pro Plan and Nutro are high-quality dog foods that offer a variety of foods that could be suitable for your pet. However, Nutro is more committed to using natural, non-GMO ingredients sourced sustainably and ethically. They have more options for dogs with special needs, especially dogs with food allergies or sensitivities. Though Nutro is the more expensive option, you get more value for your money.