In addition to this 4Health Puppy Formula review, you can check our main review of 4Health dog food for even more information on how the food is made, recalls, company history, and their quality control history.
As with many private label brands, information about 4Health is harder to find than for national brands. However, Tractor Supply Company does provide ingredients and nutritional information on their company web site, so you can find out more about this food than many other private label foods. They advertise the food in their store circulars, too. Since it is a private label brand you can only buy it at Tractor Supply Company stores.
Ingredients In 4health Puppy Formula
Lamb, lamb meal, egg product, rice, millet, cracked pearled barley, pea protein, chicken fat (preserved with mixed tocopherols), potatoes, oatmeal, tomato pomace, ocean fish meal, flaxseed, natural flavor, salmon oil (source of DHA), potassium chloride, salt, choline chloride, dried chicory root, dried kelp, carrots, peas, apples, tomatoes, blueberries, spinach, dried skim milk, cranberries, rosemary extract, parsley flake, yucca schidigera extract, L-Carnitine, dried Enterococcus faecium fermentation product, dried Lactobacillus acidophilus fermentation product, dried Lactobacillus casei fermentation product, dried Lactobacillus plantarum fermentation product, dried Trichoderma longibrachiatum fermentation extract, vitamin E supplement, iron proteinate, zinc proteinate, copper proteinate, ferrous sulfate, zinc sulfate, copper sulfate, potassium iodide, thiamine mononitrate, manganese proteinate, manganous oxide, ascorbic acid, vitamin A supplement, biotin, niacin, calcium pantothenate, manganese sulfate, sodium selenite, pyridoxine hydrochloride (vitamin B6), vitamin B12 supplement, riboflavin, vitamin D supplement, folic acid.
Important Notes About Feeding Puppies And Puppy Food
- Back to nature. These owners want to feed their puppies a diet that is as close to natural as possible. They often feed a lot of protein and may even lean toward a raw diet for puppies.
- Moderate commercial foods. These owners choose popular dog foods that often contain a lot of grain. Some of these foods are good quality and some aren’t.
- Keep it simple. These are the owners who believe that it’s important to keep the diet simple and try to feed their puppy foods with few ingredients. In many cases these owners have had past bad experiences with allergy-prone dogs or they fear their puppy may develop food allergies.
- The kitchen sink approach. These owners feed dog foods that contain a little bit of everything. Often these foods add lots of ingredients because some of the ingredients are popular and they might attract the consumer. Some of them are beneficial, though whether they help a puppy or not is up in the air.
These are my own mental designations for these groups and I mean no disrespect to any of them. I think I’ve floated between the groups at times. There could be other groups I’m forgetting and it’s certainly possible for someone to hold multiple belief systems about foods. For instance, you can subscribe to both the back to nature and the keep it simple belief systems very easily. You can feed your puppy a commercial food that contains lots of grain and which uses the kitchen sink approach toward ingredients. Other people who feed commercial foods can eschew grains, go grain free, and use the keep it simple approach by feeding a limited ingredient diet. So, it’s kind of mix and match.
Why am I explaining all of these views about feeding puppies? Because 4Health Puppy Formula strikes me as a food that uses the kitchen sink approach. It has a lot of great ingredients in it but, if you are trying to keep things simple for your puppy, then this isn’t the food for you.
The thinking behind feeding a puppy a simple diet with few ingredients is that if he has limited exposure to different proteins, he has less opportunity to develop food allergies to different things. On the other hand, other people believe that if you expose puppies to different proteins when they are young, there will be less likelihood that they develop allergies to them later. You can see that these two ways of thinking are mutually exclusive. So, which is correct? Actually, it’s hard to say. It certainly makes sense to limit your puppy/dog’s exposure to different proteins, but he can always develop an allergy to anything he eats if he is allergy-prone and then you will have to find a new food. But there is some evidence in humans and rats that early exposure to potential allergens can help desensitize the young: (If you think it’s easy to find this research, it’s not. People must not be doing much of it.) That would provide some support for the kitchen sink approach when feeding puppies. I have to say that I’ve used this approach with my litters of puppies. After they get teeth and start eating, I let them sample anything in the kitchen from raw hamburger meat to veggies to licking dishes. When I first wean them from their mom they get – get ready to gasp – goat’s milk and Gerber’s baby cereal. Yep, I start them on some mushy grain-gruel. They never have any problems. And none of them have ever had any allergies in a breed that can have allergies.
Some people say that if you feed your dog the same dog food all the time that he is more likely to develop an allergy to something in the food. I haven’t found this to be true myself and I fed one food for 14 years and another food for over 10 years, but I suppose it could happen with some dogs. Some food companies, especially high protein, grain free foods, encourage owners to rotate the foods they feed. In my opinion – and this is only my opinion since I don’t have research to prove it – I would think that rotating foods that typically contain exotic proteins would make it more likely for a dog to develop food allergies; and if he does develop food allergies, what are you going to feed him? You’ve already been feeding him all the foods with novel proteins. I understand the argument in favor of rotating dog foods in order to supply a dog with amino acids and other nutrients he might be missing in one food. I just think it might be a bigger risk to keep exposing your dog to novel proteins in case he does develop an allergy and you have no reasonable proteins left to feed him.
But, I digress. Let’s look at 4Health Puppy Formula.
Top 5 Ingredients Breakdown
As with other 4Health foods, the first two ingredients in this food are meat proteins, in this case lamb and lamb meal. Lamb probably sounds better but it contains a great deal of water and if the water were removed this ingredient would come much farther down the list. Lamb meal contains several times as much protein as lamb and it’s an excellent ingredient for puppy food. At one time lamb (and lamb meal) were novel ingredients in pet foods but they are so common now that dogs can have allergies to them just as they do to other common proteins. However, most puppies should have no trouble with lamb at an early age. If your puppy does develop an allergy, it usually takes a while. Most allergies don’t show up until a puppy or dog has been exposed to a food allergen for a while. At one time allergies didn’t usually show up until a dog was a year or two old but people seem to be claiming they are showing up in younger dogs now.
The third ingredient is egg product. Egg product is a good source of protein and its nutrients are easy to digest but it’s not a meat protein if that’s important to you.
The next three ingredients are grains: rice, millet, and cracked pearled barley. Rice, in particular, is problematic for some people right now since some of it has been found to contain arsenic. This is probably not a reason to avoid feeding dog foods that contain rice, but I do note that there could be concern (ingredients indicated in blue). Rice is a good source of Folate and Manganese. Millet is also a good source of Manganese, as well as a plant source of omega-6 fatty acid. And pearled barley is a good source of dietary fiber and Manganese, as well as omega-6 fatty acid. Millet and rice are gluten-free but barley does have gluten.
Additional Ingredients Of Interest
The next ingredient is somewhat controversial. It’s pea protein and it’s being used more and more by dog food companies in place of corn. For one thing, it looks better on the dog food label than corn, which has been, somewhat unfairly, labeled as a bad ingredient. Pea protein is used in other kinds of animal feed – for pigs, for trout, for example. It’s a good source of protein, Vitamin A, Niacin, Vitamin B6, Folate, Phosphorus and Copper, Vitamin C, Vitamin K, Thiamin and Manganese. It also has omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids. However, some dogs have trouble digesting it. Some dogs seem to eat it in foods without any problems but it does appear to bother others and there haven’t been any good studies about its digestibility in dogs.
Some of the fat in the food will come from the lamb and lamb meal, but a large source of fat in the food comes from the chicken fat (preserved with mixed tocopherols). This is a good named source of fat. It’s high in omega-6 fatty acids and it’s a popular fat in many dog foods. Mixed tocopherols are a form of vitamin E, so this is a natural preservative.
The next two ingredients are potatoes and oatmeal, so these provide more carbohydrates in the food. The food is looking quite heavy with carbohydrates at this point. Potatoes are a good source of Vitamin C, Vitamin B6, Potassium and Manganese. They are easy to digest so most dogs can eat them without any problems. Oatmeal is a good source of dietary fiber, Phosphorus and Selenium, and a very good source of Manganese. It takes longer for your dog’s body to digest.
Tomato pomace isn’t a bad ingredient but I want to call your attention to it because it’s sometimes misunderstood. It refers to the pulpy part of the tomato, along with the seeds. It is a by-product of tomato manufacturing processes but it’s not something bad. It contains lots of good things for a dog: it has about 20 percent protein, 15 percent fat, and 25 to 57 percent soluble fiber which is good for your dog’s gut. It’s also got lots of linoleic acid and lycopene which are both good for your dog. And it contains vitamin E. It’s usually present at about 3-7 percent of the total mixture in dog foods. There are lots of things you can worry about that go into dog foods but this really isn’t one of them.
Other ingredients in the food include dried chicory root which is used as a prebiotic to help good bacteria flourish in your dog’s gastrointestinal system.Rosemary extract is used as a natural preservative. Yucca schidigera extractfunctions to help reduce stool odor. L-Carnitine is a form of carnitine that your dog’s body uses to convert fat to energy and muscle mass. It can help a puppy stay lean.
The food also features fermentation products to help your puppy digest the food. I find this a little odd in a puppy food. It seems like the ingredients in a puppy food shouldn’t be so unusual that a puppy would have any difficulty digesting them. I question why these ingredients have to be added – are they simply for show or are they truly necessary in this food? And, if they are necessary, what does the food contain that makes it so difficult for a puppy to digest? I might look at the pea protein that causes problems in some dogs. The lamb sources of protein and the carbs don’t look like a puppy should have any problems with them. If you like giving your puppy these fermentation products, whether he needs them or not, then they won’t bother you. I’m not sure that I like the idea of giving puppies/dogs ingredients that may not be necessary.
The food also contains dried skim milk. This looks good on the label and you probably assume that this is included because it’s a puppy food and puppies like milk, etc. However, dried skim milk, as I learned from writing about pig and other animal feeds, contains enormous protein percentages. It can be added to, say, dog foods to boost the protein percentage in the food. So, it looks like a nice, harmless ingredient but looks can be deceiving. There’s nothing wrong with skim milk in dog food (unless your dog is lactose intolerant), but it’s probably not in the food because puppies like milk. If your dog is having problems with a “good” dog food and you can’t figure out what the problem is, check to see if it has dried skim milk in it. Your dog might be lactose intolerant and reacting to the high levels of lactose in this ingredient.
Finally, the food has vitamins and chelated minerals (“proteinated”) which make it easier for your dog to absorb them.
- Crude Protein ….. 27% (min.)
- Crude Fat ….. 15% (min.)
- Crude Fiber ….. 3% (max.)
- Moisture ….. 10% (max.)
- Calcium ….. 1.2% (min.)
- Phosphorus ….. 1.2% (max.)
- Phosphorus ….. 1% (min.)
- Zinc ….. 150 mg/kg (min.)
- Selenium ….. 0.4 mg/kg (min.)
- Vitamin E ….. 150 IU/kg (min.)
- L-Carnitine* ….. 30 mg/kg (min.)
- Omega-6 Fatty Acids* ….. 2.2% (min.)
- Omega-3 Fatty Acids* ….. 0.3% (min.)
- DHA (Docosahexaenoic acid)* ….. 0.05% (min.)
- Caloric Content 3,656 kcal/kg ….. (342 kcal/cup) Calculated Metabolizable Energy
*Not recognized as an essential nutrient by the AAFCO dog food nutrient profile.
Tractor Supply Company states the following in their description of this and other 4Health foods: “4Health Puppy Formula is specifically formulated to meet the nutritional needs of your puppy.” However, this is NOT the same as an AAFCO statement of nutritional adequacy. AAFCO statements are present on the packaging of 4Health products but it would be nice if the company would make them available on the web site.
4Health Puppy Formula looks like a moderately good puppy food. The protein percentage is boosted some by the addition of eggs and skim milk and there are a lot of carbs in the food, but overall it looks like a good food. There are a couple of items of concern. If you are worried about arsenic in rice, this food does contain rice near the top of the ingredient list. I’m not sure why the makers have added a plethora of fermentation products to a puppy food which should be easy for a puppy to digest. However, I like the fact that 4Health has given both the maximum and the minimum for their phosphorus percentage; and their calcium to phosphorus ratio looks spot on. If you are feeding grains, most puppies should do well on this food.
4health Puppy formula has received our 4 paw rating.
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