Our research of Zignature dog food initiated the avid search for the best nutrition “compromise” – dry dog food. Doesn’t sound very flattering and advertisable – compromise-, does it? No, but it’s the unpleasant truth (for the owners) that, for the most part, the dry food is nothing but a cheap and convenient alternative to a solid natural diet for your dog which is addressed in the scientifically based article The truth: Why dogs are carnivores and the appropriate HP-LC diet.
With that being said, as veterinary experts and also citizens of the 21st century, we understand the reality to which we have to adjust both ourselves and our dear four-legged companions if we want to lead the kind of lifestyle we lead.
|Best for active dogs||Best for weight control||Best ingredients (our fav.)|
|Merrick Backcountry Great Plains Recipe||Grain Free Healthy Weight||Limited Ingredient Diet Real Turkey and Sweet Potato|
|Freeze-dried raw chunks - good compromise for feeding both raw and dry (kibble) food, also tastes better||High level of glucosamine and chondroitin thus promoting healthy joints and hips||Good for dogs with sensitive stomachs|
|Read full review||Read full review||Read full review|
Table of content
Although nothing indicates that there will be a perfectly balanced and tasty dry dog food recipe available in near future, we have to admit that certain brands and recipes are more thoughtful than their counterparts when it comes down to the ingredients and their ratio used in their products. As we cannot rule out dry foods from dogs’ menus (made by us, humans), our task here is to find the best dry dog food to come close to perfect diet plan with some additional types of meals.
Concise background check
Merrick Pet Care, Inc. is the company who started manufacturing the dog food brand we’re reviewing today in 1988, however, as of 2015, it is owned by Nestle Purina. Majority of the ingredients that go into their products come from local sources of Texas where their test kitchen and plants are located, and, thankfully, it has not changed since Nestle Purina came in play. As far as known, no ingredient comes from overseas. Also, it’s safe to say that Merrick food contains no artificial flavors and preservatives.
What we like about Merrick dog food is that, compared to most other dog food companies, it is very meat-based which means it’s full of animal protein (an important aspect as addressed in the HP-LC diet article). Looking at the numbers alone, it’s definitely above-average in protein, almost average in fat, and, probably most importantly, less than average in carbohydrates.
Now, there are a couple drawbacks ingredient-wise as well – we do not approve the alfalfa (seldom used in dog food) and potato protein used in Merrick’s products. The latter is a cheap ingredient alternative. Our thoughts in HP-LC article also correspond to the ideas expressed in the article from healthypets.mercola.com – Alfalfa: 3 Reasons to Avoid This Plant Protein in Your Pet’s Food.
- While alfalfa is high in protein, proteins derived from plants don’t contain all the amino acids your carnivorous dog or cat requires. That’s why pets require meat-based nutrition — the protein in animal tissue provides a complete amino acid profile.
- Like soy, alfalfa contains phytoestrogens, which are plant estrogens that are well-documented endocrine disruptors.
- Alfalfa contains several saponins, which are glycosides with a foaming characteristic. Saponins are anti-nutrients, meaning they interfere with absorption of essential nutrients.
In regards to potato protein, as we’ve implied before, the quality and digestibility of vegetable proteins are much worse than of those found in meats (animal world).
With that being said, compared to most other brands, it’s not catastrophic in terms of the ratio these two controversial products have compared to other ingredients found in Merrick dog foods.
Merrick dog food reviews
Overall comparison of Merrick products
If you didn’t have the time to go through the article about balanced HP-LC diet, may this diagram serve as your personal springboard when assessing and balancing the potential sources of nutrition for your pup.
Bear in mind, however, that, although a strong indicator, you shouldn’t look at the number alone, and, in fact, we’d like to emphasize other important aspects in this article, too. Therefore, read our reviews of each product to see its real advantages and disadvantages, as well as our tips when and how to use them to decide whether suitable for your household specifically.
We will cover only 5 outstanding recipes by Merrick with in-depth analysis in this article. In total, there are more recipes to choose from. Some other dry food recipes by Merrick include:
- Backcountry Raw Infused Big Game
- Backcountry Raw Infused Pacific Catch
- Classic Small Breed
- Grain Free Puppy
Individual reviews of Top 5 and our suggestions
We kick off this list of the top Merrick dog foods with Merrick Backcountry Great Plains Recipe which is a mix of the well-known dry kibbles and freeze-dried raw chunks which surely will be appreciated by your four-legged companion.
The main ingredient is deboned beef. It is grain-free and very high in protein – 38%. In fact, it might be a little too much for some dogs. On the other hand, this might be the best Merrick dog food for very active dogs. Furthermore, we can praise this product for containing no grain or wheat, no corn or gluten ingredients. Also, it’s one of the rare Merrick formulas that doesn’t contain chicken or chicken meal (allergic to some dogs) making it one of the safest bets for allergies and sensitive stomachs.
Compared to other dry dog foods, this one is low in carbs, however, as the carbs still make significantly more than 20% of the recipe’s nutritional value, we recommend having another meal with both decreased amount (but not quality) of carbs and protein.
|High in quality protein||May be a little too high in protein for not so active dogs if not supplemented by appropriate additional meals|
|Great for sensitive stomachs and allergies - grain-free, gluten-free, chicken-free|
|Freeze-dried raw chunks - good compromise for feeding both raw and dry (kibble) food, also tastes better|
|Excellent choice for athletic dogs who get daily exercise||Ideally, could be supplemented with another low (-er) carb and higher fat meal|
We wanted to compare our pick No. 1 with another high protein dry dog food offered by Merrick – Real Chicken & Sweet Potato Recipe. In fact, the numbers in this regard match up precisely – 38% of their nutritional values are protein. What also makes them similar is the fact that they’re both grain-free.
Now, with that being said, let’s at the quality factors, not the numbers alone. The number one ingredient in this one, as the title implies, is chicken. Now, while it might not be a big problem for your individual, it’s not the number one ingredient we’d recommend for dog in general (in this regard, we much prefer the dry food formulas by Zignature as none of them contain chicken or chicken byproducts) – it can be allergic. You can also find some people complaints about diarrhea after the consumption of this dry dog food.
Then why is this one on our list? While it’s not our favorite, and we could suggest it for certain individuals only after knowing their allergy background and health history in general, the product does have certain qualities that make it stand out in comparison to other dry dog foods on the market – it’s very rich in Omega fatty acids, contains valuable minerals and vitamins, thus making it a great assistant for healthy muscles. Also, there’s a minor benefit to smaller breeds – the kibbles are smaller compared to other counterparts, thus more appropriate for smaller jaws.
|High in quality protein (disclaimer: see our comments about chicken - good only for some dogs)||May initially cause diarrhea for some dogs|
|Small kibbles appropriate for breeds of all sizes||May be a little too high in protein for not so active dogs if not supplemented by appropriate additional meals|
|Rich in Omega fatty acids, valuable minerals and vitamins|
|Great choice for athletic dogs who get daily exercise (and don't have allergy for chicken)||Ideally, could be supplemented with another low (-er) carb and higher fat meal|
This Merrick dry dog food is easy to digest, and Omega 6 and 3 fatty acids are a great well-thought support added in the formula because not only it helps when it comes to stabilizing dog’s healthy weight but also healthy skin and coat. Also, we are pleased to see that Merrick’s Grain-Free Healthy Weight formula has high levels of glucosamine and chondroitin added that promote healthy joints and hips which, by the way, are very common issues amongst overweight dogs.
As any product on our list, it’s grain-free – no soy, corn, wheat, or any gluten ingredients. The one small drawback is that it has chicken meal as one of the ingredients, however, it’s not the primary one – it is deboned beef that starts the list.
We also highly appreciate the protein amount in this formula – 32%. That’s a very optimal number for both active and not so active dogs.
|Optimal protein amount for both inactive and active dogs||Not well suited for puppies under age of 1|
|Contain high level of glucosamine and chondroitin thus promoting healthy joints and hips||Does contain chicken as secondary ingredient that might be allergic|
|Rich in Omega 6 and 3 fatty acids for healthy coat and skin|
|Excellent for dogs with obesity issues||Ideally, could be supplemented with another low (-er) carb and higher fat meal|
The small drawback is relatively low(-er) protein and fat level, however, it’s still not far from the optimal breakdown of the nutritional value. For less active dog breeds, this might actually be better than the other recipes on the list with 38% protein.
If you read our Zignature dog food review article, you may have noticed that their Turkey recipe was our favorite – in general, turkey is an excellent (and tasty) option unless your dog has a rare allergy to it. While this grain-free recipe also has found its way into our top 5 picks for Merrick’s dog food, we prefer the aforementioned Zignature counterpart slightly more – primarily, because this one is lower in protein and fat, and also the ingredient choice, though respectable overall, was just too good in its competitor’s counterpart this time.
Still, this is a very solid dry dog food recipe, and, health-wise, this might have the best ingredients from all the recipes on this list.
|Turkey as main ingredient - both healthy and tasty (for most dogs)||Too low in fat and protein on its own for very active dogs|
|Good for dogs with sensitive stomachs|
|One of the best ingredients from Merrick's recipes|
Similarly to the other picks in the list (except the previous, Limited Ingredient Diet Real Turkey and Sweet Potato), this recipe is very high in protein – 38%, which makes it more suitable for active dogs.
Overall, we approve the ingredients used in this one. The main one is deboned beef, no chicken, still, some potato protein, but that’s common among Merrick’s recipes (not something we appreciate, as we made clear in the beginning of this article)… Bear in mind, however, that some dogs are also allergic to beef – if that’s the case, avoid this recipe by all means.
All in all, this high protein (average in fats and carbs) is a solid Merrick’s recipe that we can recommend if your pup enjoys the taste, and you enjoy exercising him frequent enough.
|High in quality protein||Ideally, could be supplemented with lower carb and higher fat meal|
|Great choice for athletic dogs who get daily exercise|
|Valuable vitamins and riboflavin for metabolic energy production|
When to look for a different brand
In some cases, you might also consider looking for another recipe from another brand.
Although not always necessary, in some cases, if your dog has special needs, or is at a certain age, you’ll be better off with a recipe that is specifically designed for such cases.
We may review such foods/recipes in those categories separately at some point in the future. For now, here are some examples when you might consider another recipe:
- Pregnant or lactating female dogs: Pregnant and lactating dogs have a bit different dietary requirements, however, not the same in all cases. We suggest an individual consultation with a vet in such cases to make sure you’re providing what your dear pet needs.
- Older dogs: Now, if your dog is somewhat longer in the tooth, it’s not automatically an indicator that it must have a formula designed for seniors only. However, if they’re becoming very stiff or putting on too much weight, they may benefit from a well-designed dog food formula for such cases, and in this category, we can recommend other dry dog food formulas from other brands over Merrick’s (one good option we can recommend is Orijen Senior Dog dry food, however, we may cover the topic more in-depth in a separate article in the future).
- Young puppies. Although most puppies under 1 year of age can go with some of the picks on the list, on some occasions, you’ll be better off with a recipe designed for a young puppy specifically. Merrick does have Grain Free Puppy Recipe, however, we are not big fans because of the nutritional value and ingredients it consists (the same goes for Merrick’s Backcountry’s version). We may cover puppy-specified list (article) after this (let us know if you’d like that).
Verdict and final tailwind notes by hmtip
Best Merrick’s recipe for active dogs: Merrick Backcountry Great Plains Recipe (read full review)
Best Merrick’s recipe for weight control/obese dogs: Grain Free Healthy Weight (read full review)
Our favorite for best/healthiest ingredients: Limited Ingredient Diet Real Turkey and Sweet Potato (read full review)
Merrick definitely has proven its worth even after the takeover by Nestle Purina – it offers a wide range of recipes that suit dogs with various ages and lifestyle. Overall, we consider it an above-average dry food. Although it has certain qualities and ingredients we appreciate and have mentioned in this article, the same can be said about the opposite – we are not thrilled about the fact that they use potato protein, alfalfa, and a lot of chicken and chicken meal in many of their recipes (the latter may be okay for some dogs, as implied in the individual reviews, however, the first two, in our opinion, are not welcome at all).
We highly appreciate the grain-free recipes, yet, we’re still unsure if we’d call them the very best on the market – Zignature doesn’t include grains in their recipes, too, and, frankly, we definitely prefer the ingredients used in their recipes overall.
Most recipes on this top 5 list are more appropriate for active dog breeds if not used in combination with another thoughtful (nutritional value-wise) meal as they are very high in protein, therefore, make sure you’re choosing the best Merrick dry dog food for your individual’s dry dog food for your individual’s lifestyle, age, and health.
As always, feel free to contact us in case of questions regards the topic of this article or other inquiries.
With best wishes,
Your hmtip team