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Iams ProActive Health Smart Puppy Large Breed Dog Food Review

Analysis Of Dog Food

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4 Paws


You can find detailed information about Iams Dog Food, made by Procter & Gamble (P&G), in our main Iams Dog Food review. There you will also find information about how the food is made, recalls, and their quality control.

Iams produces a tremendous range of products for all ages, sizes of dogs, and dogs with different health needs. They emphasize nutrition in their foods but many people who look at ingredients will balk at the corn and other grains used in them. Some of their foods are popular grocery store brands and others can be found in pet stores or bought online. The veterinary formulas have to be purchased through veterinarians.

Eukanuba is the sister company of Iams. Ingredients in the two foods can differ and Eukanuba is generally sold online or in pet stores but the two companies rely on the same nutritional research.

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Ingredients in Iams ProActive Health Smart Puppy Large Breed

Chicken, Chicken By-Product Meal, Corn Meal, Ground Whole Grain Sorghum, Corn Grits, Brewers Rice, Chicken Flavor, Dried Beet Pulp, Fish Meal, Fish Oil (preserved with mixed Tocopherols, a source of Vitamin E), Dried Egg Product, Chicken Fat (preserved with mixed Tocopherols, a source of Vitamin E) Brewers Dried Yeast, Potassium Chloride, Salt, Caramel, Choline Chloride, Calcium Carbonate, Fructooligosaccharides, Minerals (Ferrous Sulfate, Zinc Oxide, Manganese Sulfate, Copper Sulfate, Manganous Oxide, Potassium Iodide, Cobalt Carbonate), Vitamins (Vitamin E Supplement, Ascorbic Acid, Vitamin A Acetate, Calcium Pantothenate, Biotin, Thiamine Mononitrate (source of vitamin B1), Vitamin B12 Supplement, Niacin, Riboflavin Supplement (source of vitamin B2), Inositol, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride (source of vitamin B6), Vitamin D3 Supplement, Folic Acid), DL-Methionine, L-Lysine Monohydrochloride, Rosemary Extract


The first five ingredients in this food are: Chicken, Chicken By-Product Meal, Corn Meal, Ground Whole Grain Sorghum, and Corn Grits. These first five ingredients show a nice amount of meat protein with the chicken and chicen by-product meal, which is important for growing large breed puppies. There is also some plant protein from the corn meal and corn grits. We also note that the first five ingredients contains a lot of grain/carbs but we need to check the guaranteed analysis to find out the percentages for the food. Overall, this is a moderate start for a large breed puppy food but we need to look at more ingredients.

According to Iams:

This Iams ProActive Health formula has PreBiotics that work inside the digestive tract to promote healthy digestion and strong defenses. Healthy inside. Healthy outside.

Designed for dogs ages 1-24 months and up to 90 lbs at maturity, Iams concentrated nutrition proactively nourishes your large-breed puppy to help keep him at his best.

Natural fish oils with DHA (Docosahexaenoic Acid), a nutrient vital for optimal brain development, promote smarter, more trainable puppies. Protein sourced fromchicken and egg helps build strong, firm muscles. Seven essential nutrients nourish the heart while essential mineralspromote strong teeth and bones, and antioxidants help maintain a strong immune system.

A high-quality protein with no fillers or artificial preservatives, Iams is gentle on the digestive system. Fuel your puppy’s healthy development with 100% complete and balanced nutrition that’s vet recommended and 100% Satisfaction Guaranteed.

Recommended For: Large breed puppies (51 to 90 lbs. at maturity) 1 to 12 months; giant breed puppies (over 90 lbs at maturity) 1 to 24 months. Not recommended for pregnant or nursing dogs.

We can substantiate most of the claims made by Iams in these statements. The food does contain prebiotics that are good for healthy digestion. It has approximately 400 calories per 8 ounce cup of food, which we would consider “concentrated nutrition” compared to most other dog and puppy foods. It does contain fish oil (and fish meal) which contains DHA. DHA has been cited as a nutrient that is good for brain development in puppies. And the ingredients in the food include chicken and egg as protein sources. Likewise, the food contains minerals and antioxidants, as mentioned in this description.

We would like to know more about Iams’ claim of having “Seven essential nutrients nourish the heart.” They make this claim about many of their foods but we’ve never been sure exactly which nutrients they are referring to.

Iams states here that the food contains no fillers but it does contain brewers rice which some people consider to be a filler. See the note regarding brewers rice and fillers with the description of this ingredient below.

For the most part, we see no problems with the claims that Iams makes about this food.

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Feeding Large Breed Puppies

It’s always important for foods to have the right calcium to phosphorus ratio for growing puppies since these puppies can be prone to joint and bone problems, especially later in life. They should not be fed to encourage rapid growth. Iams doesn’t list the calcium and phosphorus percentages in the guaranteed analysis but they do provide information on their web site:

“Our large-breed puppy formulas have adjusted calcium and phosphorus levels at a correct ratio to match the needs of rapidly growing large-breed puppies. The rumors that large- and giant-breed puppies need extra calcium are untrue! Excess calcium has been shown in several studies to increase the chances of developmental bone problems. Plus, puppies cannot control intestinal absorption of calcium as well from diets containing high levels. “Our large breed diets are formulated with 0.8 to 0.9% calcium and 0.7% phosphorus which is deliberately less than the amounts in all of our other puppy foods.”

In fact, those are low figures compared to the percentages recommended by most experts. It’s very important that you do NOT supplement your large breed puppy’s diet with extra calcium. Doing so can lead to skeletal and joint problems such as osteochondrosis dessicans and other skeletal issues that could require surgery.

When feeding large breed puppies important to make sure that large breed puppies stay slim and don’t become overweight since carrying too much weight at a young age can also be harmful to their bone and joint development. This food does have a lot of calories but the protein and fat percentages seem to fall within acceptable limits for growing large breed puppies. Higher protein is not usually considered to be a problem for large breed puppies. Higher fat percentages can be a problem. Some experts recommend keeping the fat content (dry matter basis) between 8 and 12 percent, which is much lower than regular puppy food.

Iams has this to say about the fat content of their puppy foods, which is about 14 percent (DMB):

“Fat contributes over twice as many calories in a diet than either proteins or carbohydrates. As the fat level increases, the energy content of the diet also increases making feeding management more difficult for large-breed puppies. Several studies have shown increases in developmental bone problems when a diet was overfed.

“By reducing the fat content of large-breed puppy formulas to about 14%, the metabolizable energy (ME) of the diets can be kept to a low level of about 1,800 kilocalories per pound.”

They seem to believe that 14 percent fat (DMB) is an acceptable figure and it is lower than their other puppy foods. It should be an acceptable percentage for a growing large breed puppy. Any lower and you run the risk of keeping your puppy hungry all the time.

When feeding your large or giant breed puppy it is recommended that you feed him several small meals per day instead of a one or two large meals. This will help him manage his meals and digest his food better.

Top 5 Ingredients Breakdown

Chicken is the first ingredient and chicken by-product mealis the second. Together, this indicates that the food probably contains a good amount of chicken protein. We always like to see meat protein as the first ingredient in a food. Chicken is about 80 percent protein and it’s a good source of Vitamin B6 and Phosphorus, and a very good source of Niacin and Selenium. Chicken is more desirable than chicken by-products. Obviously the chicken would appear lower in the list if the moisture were removed but the chicken by-product meal already has most of the moisture removed so it contains a lot of protein. AAFCO defines chicken by-product meal as: consists of the ground, rendered, clean parts of the carcass of slaughtered chicken, such as necks, feet, undeveloped eggs and intestines, exclusive of feathers, except in such amounts as might occur unavoidable in good processing practice.” There are some good parts in chicken by-products and chicken meal supplies concentrated animal protein, but it’s a mix and it’s not the same high quality protein as chicken meat. However, it should be noted that it’s definitely chicken. It’s not by-products from some unknown animal. So, it might not be chicken breast but it’s not so bad. Many people who feed raw like to give their dogs chicken necks and other parts that would be called “chicken by-products.” As mentioned, chicken by-product meal is a good source of chondroitin and glucosamine which are good for the joints. The food also contains chicken meal in the later ingredients which is another good source of animal protein.

The third ingredient is corn meal. According to one source, there are 27 different corn or corn-derived products listed in the AAFCO manual that are all by-products of the various corn milling operations which make human food products. The company says that corn meal is used in their food as a high quality source of carbohydrates for energy. We are uncertain about the nutritional information for the corn meal used in dog food. Assuming that it is similar to corn meal sold for human cooking, then it has about 10 percent protein, 14 percent fat, and 76 carbohydrates. However, we’re not sure if this is the same as the corn meal that’s used in dog food. If you have additional information about corn meal in dog food, please let us know. If these figures are correct, the corn meal would provide a source of plant protein and a lot of carbs in the food.

The fourth ingredient is ground whole grain sorghum. While sorghum is currently touted as having a lot of health benefits for humans, such as being gluten-free and helping with some health issues (which haven’t been proven), it’s usually associated with livestock feed. Sorghum is about 3 percent protein, 8 percent fat, and 89 percent carbohydrates. It contains some B vitamins and a few assorted minerals, but not large quantities of anything, although it does have a lot of omega-6 fatty acid. One species of sorghum is the source of sorghum molasses. Other kinds of sorghum are used for grass/fodder and grains for animals.

The fifth ingredient is corn grits. Ingredients such as corn grits, corn gluten feed, corn gluten meal, corn feed meal, corn bran, and corn cobs are all by-products of the various corn milling operations which make human food products. We couldn’t find any nutritional information for feeding corn grits to dogs but it’s our opinion that dogs probably have a hard time digesting grits or obtaining nutrients from them very well. If you have nutritional data on corn grits, we would like to see it. Grits are considered to be calorie-dense in human diets, with 82 percent of their calories coming from carbohydrates. According to Iams: “Corn grits is the portion of ground corn containing little or none of the bran (fiber) or germ (the small protein portion at the end of the kernel).” The company says that corn grits (and corn meal) is used in their food as a high quality source of carbohydrates for energy. Coupled with the earlier corn meal, this ingredient indicates a lot of corn in the food, especially since both of these ingredients are in the top five.

Overall, these first five ingredients provide some good sources of meat protein with the chicken and chicken by-product meal, some plant protein and a lot of carbs, especially from corn.

Additional Ingredients of Interest

We note that the food contains brewers rice as the sixth ingredient. Brewers rice should not be confused with brewers dried yeast or other ingredients. Brewers rice is a by-product of the rice milling industry. According to AAFCO it is “the small milled fragments of rice kernels that have been separated from the larger kernels of milled rice.” Brewers rice is a processed rice product that is missing many of the nutrients contained in whole ground rice and brown rice thus reducing the quality. It is often used in pet foods. Brewer’s rice is used as a source of fiber in dog foods. Used in moderation it can add structure and texture to pet food – but not nutrition. It is often considered to be a filler ingredient.

Note that the pet food industry defends the use of some filler ingredients, especially if a formula achieves its purpose and the company wants to add more bulk to the food without adding more calories or changing the formula. That might be the case in a food for large breed puppies where the company doesn’t want to add too many calories which could encourage the puppies to gain too much weight. This food already has approximately 400 calories per cup of food. Adding another ingredient that could increase the calorie density would probably be a bad idea for large breed puppies, though some kind of starch might be necessary for the mixture. Sunday, December 08, 2013
“Fillers: Are they incorrectly vilified?” By Greg Aldrich, PhD

“Real utility to fillers: There is another little-discussed and not-well-understood need that a “filler” might play. If we adopt the working definition that a filler is used to fill or make full, then in the world of formulation, a filler could help us achieve a full measure-100%- once the targeted ingredients are included to meet the required nutrient parameters. What most people don’t realize is that there is always room leftover in a commercial formula once we meet the animal’s essential needs.

“In dry foods, we commonly use some type of carbohydrate (starch or fiber) and in canned foods it is often water that fills this gap. In either case it is important that we use some type of ingredient that does not disrupt the delicate nutrient balance we have worked hard to achieve.”

The food also contains chicken flavor. This ingredient probably contains little nutritional value but it’s better than “natural flavors” which are sometimes added to dog foods and which often feature monosodium glutamate (MSG).

The food also contains dried beet pulp. There are some misconceptions about beet pulp, probably because of the name. Dried beet pulp is a natural, fermentable source of fiber. It is a wonderful addition to dog food to help move fecal matter along in the intestines, for one reason because it soaks up a lot of moisture and keeps things moving. It also acts as a pre-biotic to help good bacteria grow in the gut. Dried beet pulp is not a source of sugar for dogs. It does not make dogs hyper. The sugar has already been removed. “Despite being a byproduct of sugar beet processing, beet pulp itself is low in sugar and other non-structural carbohydrates, but high in energy and fiber. Among other nutrients, it contains 10 percent protein, 0.8 percent calcium and 0.5 percent phosphorus.”

We also see that the food contains Fish Meal (source of fish oil) and Fish Oil (preserved with mixed Tocopherols, a source of Vitamin E). Fish meal is a good source of protein and omega-3 fatty acid. Likewise fish oil is also a good source of omega-3 fatty acid. Omega-3 is good for your dog’s skin and coat, among other things. These ingredients do contain DHA which, as Iams mentions, is good for your puppy’s brain development. Iams uses ethoxyquin in their veterinary formulas and they appear to use it in their fish meals, though it is not listed on the label. (Source:

Dried egg product is a good source of animal protein. Eggs offer high bioavailability for mammals like dogs.

The food also contains chicken fat (preserved with mixed Tocopherols, a source of Vitamin E). Chicken fat is a good named fat which is good for dogs. Mixed tocopherols are a form of vitamin E and they act as natural preservatives to keep the fat from spoiling. Chicken fat is also a good source of Omega-6 fatty acid.

Brewers dried yeast (not to be confused with brewers rice) is a yeast that is leftover from making beer (Saccharomyces cerevisiae) and it has a lot of nutritional uses. It provides biotin and B complex vitamins, as well as protein. It’s considered to be very good for your dog’s skin and coat, for example. Many people add brewers yeast to their dog’s diet as a supplement to discourage fleas. It supports the nervous system and helps keep the skin, hair, eyes, and liver healthy. It’s a source of the antioxidant nutrient selenium.

The food also has caramel which can refer to coloring or flavor. In either case, it’s not something that your dog needs. Finally, the food contains the essential fatty acid Methionine. Methionine is related to aging and there are ongoing studies about how it affects people and animals. However, it usually seems to be added to dog food because it can keep dog urine from leaving burned patches in the grass.

The food contains the natural sweetener Fructooligosaccharides which is 30 to 50 percent as sweet as other commercial sweeteners/syrups. It is usually derived from fruits and vegetables but it can come from grains and cereals. Dogs don’t really need sugar added to their diet. However, fructooligosaccharides (FOS for short) has some other benefits. It’s becoming popular as a prebiotic, for example, helping to increase gastrointestinal health. According to some sources, it may also help prevent yeast infections. According to some studies, FOS, together with inulin (which is not present in this particular dog food) promotes the absorption of calcium in animals (and in people). The microflora in the lower gut is able to ferment FOS which leads to a reduced pH. Since calcium is more soluble in acidic conditions, the intestines are better able to digest foods that contain calcium and transfer it to the bloodstream. FOS can also be considered a small dietary fiber with a low caloric value.

We also note the presence of inositol in the food. Inositol is a component of the B vitamin complex. It can be found in plant and animal tissue and it is necessary for the growth of yeasts and other fungi. It’s especially important as a part of a phospholipid found in the brain.

L-Lysine is an essential amino acid. It’s a necessary building block for all protein in the body. L-Lysine plays a major role in calcium absorption; building muscle protein; recovering from surgery or sports injuries; and the body’s production of hormones, enzymes, and antibodies.

Rosemary extract is an antioxidant that acts as a natural preservative. It’s a common ingredient in many dog foods but if your dog is prone to seizures you will probably want to look for foods that do not contain rosemary since this ingredient has been linked to them.

Most of these ingredients are found in other Iams ProHealth dog foods as well though the percentages may be different.

Guaranteed Analysis

Crude Protein minimum ….. 26.0%
Crude Fat minimum ….. 14.0%
Crude Fiber maximum ….. 4.0%
Moisture maximum ….. 10.0%
Docosahexaenoic Acid minimum ….. 0.1%*
Omega-6 Fatty Acids minimum ….. 2.6%*
Omega-3 Fatty Acids minimum ….. 0.28%*

*Not recognized as an essential nutrient by the AAFCO Dog Food Nutrient Profiles.

Calories Content

399.52 kcal/cup calories per 8 oz cup

Nutritional Adequacy Statement

Animal feeding tests using Association of American Feed Control Officials procedures substantiate that Iams ProActive Health Smart Puppy Large Breed Formula provides complete and balanced nutrition for Growth.*

*This food is not recommended for pregnant or nursing dogs.

Dry Matter Basis

On a dry matter basis, this food contains 28.9 percent protein and 15.6 percent fat. Fiber makes up 4.4 percent of the food. The food contains 42.2 percent carbohydrates.


We like the animal protein in this food – chicken, chicken by-product meal, egg products, fish meal. We also like the overall protein and fat percentages for large breed puppies. We like Iams’ explanations about their use of protein, fat, and carbs. We don’t like the ethoxyquin in the fish meal or a few other things in the food. But, overall it looks like a pretty good food for large breed puppies.

Iams ProActive Health Smart Puppy Large Breed Dog Food has received our 4 paw rating.


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  • I’ve been feeding IAMS proactive large breed formula dog food to my Doberman since she was 8 weeks old and she’s been doing great on it very active with a beautiful shiny coat. The only bad thing is I rarely see any coupons for them so I have to pay full price which isn’t that bad but I like to use coupons to save the most I can.

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