Pitbulls are the warriors of the dog species.
They embody warrior virtues of strength, bravery, tenacity and gentleness with loved ones.
Unfortunately pitbulls are sometimes unfairly labeled as a “problem breed”, however for people who own them, this image couldn’t be further from the truth.
Pitbulls are gentle with children, fun-loving, eager to please and full of life.
Food is a dog’s “fuel”. Feeding your dog quality food is it’s ticket to a happy, long and healthy life.
This is especially true with pitbulls as they have boundless energy and more muscular physique than many dog breeds.
The dog food market, can often be confusing and misleading, with many manufacturers tailoring their marketing to what they think sounds appealing to human owners, as opposed to what is actually good for dogs.
This article seeks to shine a light on some of the common strategies manufacturers use to market their products.
It will also review 5 of the best dog food products on the market today in order to award the #1 pick the title of “the best dog food for pitbulls in 2017”.
We would note at the outset, that two out of three criteria for the #1 pick received marks of 100/100.
We rarely award full marks for any criteria, let alone for two. All we can say is that #1 is a truly outstanding dog food product.
This article will breakdown and review the 5 best dry dog foods for lively breeds with large protein and energy requirements such as pitbulls.
We have chosen to focus on dry dog foods, as this food often forms the basis of a dog’s diet and is the most popular and commercially available food type.
But before we talk about manufacturers’ labelling tricks, “evaluations on a dry matter basis” and the fat content of mackerel, let’s briefly discuss the history of the marvelous pitbull breed.
The Warrior Breed
The term “pitbull” is a general term used to include breeds such as the American Pit Bull Terrier, American Staffordshire Terrier and the American Bully.
It is thought that these pitbull-type breeds can trace their origins back to mastiff-like dogs in ancient Greece that were bred for warfare by the Molossi tribe.
These dogs, much like the tribesmen who bred them, were known for their fearsome disposition and bravery in combat.
The modern pitbull breed came about during the 1800’s and was created to be the ideal dog for the ancient blood sport of bull baiting.
In this cruel “sport”, a bull would be tied to a stake or placed in a pit (hence the name “pitbull”) and bulldog-type dogs would be set upon it until the bull collapsed.
A dog would try to bite and hang onto the bull’s nose until it was thrown off and killed or injured, or the bull collapsed in exhaustion.
In essence, the will of the dog was pitted against that of the bull — it is no wonder modern pitbulls are so brave and tenacious!
In order to create the perfect “pit dog”, bulldogs were crossbred with terriers.
Breeders sought to combine the athleticism and strength of the bulldog with the gameness and agility of a terrier and so, after much selective breeding, the pitbull as we know it was born.
Pitbulls were brought to America by immigrants in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s and since then, the popularity of the breed has gone from strength to strength worldwide.
When looking for the best dog food for your pitbull, it is important to be extremely selective.
This is not only because this breed is very active and may expend more energy than other dog breeds, but it is also prone to overeating which can lead to obesity.
As many “premium” dog foods are full of empty carbohydrates, this can be a particular problem with pitbulls if the best food is not selected.
In order to choose the best food for your dog, it is important to firrst understand some of the practices of the dog food industry.
Important Things to Note About Dog Food
If you were to take the claims made by dog food manufacturers at face value, you might be forgiven for thinking that the dog food market is full of outstanding choices when it comes to dog nutrition.
Next time you are shopping or watching TV, observe how dog food is marketed to you the owner.
You’ll see brightly colored packaging with photos of fresh meat, milk and vegetables and TV ads with vets in white lab coats formulating cutting-edge new recipes in spotless laboratories.
These vets (actors) might even say healthy sounding things such as “organic”, “naturally formulated” and “balanced servings”.
These marketing tactics serve to conjure up an image of a credible brand that has the health and wellbeing of your dog as its foremost priority.
Unfortunately this is not always the case, and many players in the dog food industry use tactics that are misleading at best, and at worst are downright deceptive.
As the owner of a breed that needs the highest quality food, understanding the labelling on dog food and what this means nutritionally for your dog is vital.
Understanding the Terms Used in Dog Food Labeling
The way ingredients are listed in a product’s name are important clues as to the content of the dog food.
While labelling laws will vary from country to country, many western countries have similar pet food labeling rules as the United States.
If a product is named after a particular animal, such as “chicken dog food”, that animal must make up at least 70% the product.
When a dog food manufacturer uses the term “chicken dinner”, “chicken platter” or “chicken entrée”, this means that chicken must make up at least 10% of the total food product.
Using the phrase “with” (such as in “with chicken”), implies that at least 3% of the total product is chicken.
Using the term “flavored” in conjunction with dog food (as in “chicken flavored”), means that there must be enough chicken in the product to be detected by taste.
How it is determined that chicken kibble actually tastes like “chicken”, is a mystery to us — perhaps the even more perplexing question is WHO is doing the testing?!
Dog owners in America should also look for a nutritional verification statement from AAFCO — the Association of American Feed Control Officials, this will ensure the dog food meets minimal nutritional requirements.
If you live in another country, look for similar industry-type certifications.
Beware of Ingredient Splitting
Ingredients are always listed in descending order according to the volume of ingredient used, so if beef is the largest ingredient by volume, it will be listed first, followed by each other ingredient according to volume.
“Ingredient splitting” is the deceptive labelling practice of dividing more abundant and inferior ingredients in the nutrition information panel, in order to make it look like there are less of these ingredients than there actually are.
An example of this would be beef being listed first because it is the largest single volume ingredient, however there may be several different forms of a less desirable ingredient listed separately because technically they are “different”.
So while a manufacturer may describe corn separately as, ground corn, kibbled corn and flaked corn, in reality these are all still corn and if taken together they would be of a greater volume than the primary beef ingredient.
Dry Matter Basis Calculations
Most dog foods will use a measurement method known as “guaranteed analysis” on their packaging.
This is a nutritional panel similar to human food panels that allows consumers to compare critical nutrients in dog food such as protein and fat content.
While this may be a quick and convenient way to compare dog food at a glance, these numbers can be misleading, because they fail to consider the widely varied amount of water present in differing types of food.
For the purposes of a fair comparison in finding the best dog food for pitbulls, we will compare all dog foods on a “dry matter” basis. This method considers the nutritional content of food after the water content is accounted for.
More information on how to calculate the dry matter basis of different types of dog food yourself can be found here, or you can find a dry matter breakdown of many of the most popular dog food brands at this excellent resource.
Criteria We Used to Find the Best Dog Food for Pitbulls
The criteria used to find the best dog food for pitbulls will focus on the amount and quality of macronutrients.
“Macronutrients” are nutrients an animal needs in large quantities in its diet. The main macronutrients for pitbulls are protein and fats.
This review will also take into account carbohydrate content along with any other desirable or undesirable ingredients that have been added.
There are 23 different amino acids and a dog’s body can synthesize all but 10 of them. These 10 “essential” amino acids must come from a dog’s diet.
High quality animal-based proteins are vitally important because they contain all 10 of these amino acids and are necessary for optimum growth and the proper functioning of the immune system.
Pitbulls especially, require high levels of protein because they are a well-muscled and high-energy breed.
The best dog food for pitbulls will have a protein content of 30% – 40% made up of high quality “whole food protein sources”.
Whole food protein sources are quality meat based proteins such as chicken eggs, beef, lamb, chicken and fish.
These meats should be specifically identified by the species it originates from such as, “chicken meat” or “herring oil”.
The best pitbull foods will have at least two or three meat proteins listed within the first several ingredients, indicating that the volume of protein in the food is high.
Many pet foods (including high quality ones) contain meat meal. This is acceptable as meal is simply meat with the moisture removed. Similarly to whole food protein sources, the meal should be from a specifically named animal.
After protein, the second most important nutrient for your pitbull is fat.
There are many different types of fat such as omega fatty acids for your dog’s skin and coat, along with other essential fats that give your dog energy and provide for the normal development and function of cells, muscles, nerves and tissues.
Fats also help a dog’s body to absorb the so-called “fat-soluble vitamins” (A, D, E and K).
Fats are also vital components in the production of prostaglandins — compounds that work to reduce inflammation in your dog’s body.
The best dog food for pitbulls will generally have a fat content of between 20% – 25%, this will ideally be sourced from high-quality animal sources such as chicken fat, beef fat, lamb fat and fish oil.
Plant based fats such as flaxseed or canola oil can also be used, but animal-based fats will be given a higher score as they are a natural source of fat for dogs.
The best dog food for pitbulls will specifically name the fats it contains such as “chicken fat”, “beef fat” or “mackerel oil”. Products that simply list “animal fat” as an ingredient will lose points.
As a carnivore, your pitbull does not have a minimum dietary carbohydrate requirement, however a certain level of carbohydrates in dog food is acceptable, as carbohydrates provide dietary fibre to a dog’s diet and can aid digestion.
Carbohydrates are also necessary from a practical standpoint, as they are often used as a binding agent for dry dog food pieces (those cute doggy bones and love hearts need to be stuck together somehow).
While an amount of carbohydrates is acceptable, many dog food manufacturers will add more carbohydrates than are necessary, because these are much cheaper than quality meats and fats.
These added “filler” carbohydrates are unhealthy for your pet, as they are simply “empty carbs” and overconsumption can lead to unwanted weight gain and obesity.
This is especially a risk in pitbulls as they can be voracious feeders and will eat whatever is put in front of them.
“Grain free” dog food will be given higher points because your dog will need less of it on a pound-for-pound basis, because this type of food contains less empty carbohydrates. It is also indicative of higher quality dog food that is filled with meat instead of carbohydrates.
The very best dog food for pitbulls will have a carbohydrate content of 30% or less on a dry matter basis. That being said, such a low carbohydrate content is difficult to find even amongst better quality foods.
This sub-criteria will evaluate any other ingredients of note, whether they are desirable or undesirable.
The Best Dog Food for Pitbulls Compared
To find the best dog food for pitbulls, foods will be rated out of 100 for each of the three criteria of protein, fats and carbohydrates/other ingredients. These scores will be added together and a total score out of 100 will be given.
While we will discuss a specific flavor of dog food for each product, the ingredients within product lines are usually balanced so that each product in the line has similar nutritional content even though the main ingredients and flavors may be slightly different.
So now that you know pretty much all there is to know about pitbull history, dog food industry practices and pitbull macronutrients, here is our list of the best dog food for pitbulls in 2017!
#5 Blue Buffalo — Life Protection Adult (Chicken and Brown Rice Flavor)
Carbohydrates/ Other Ingredients
The Blue Buffalo Life Protection Adult dry dog food range comes in various flavors including chicken and brown rice (reviewed), fish and brown rice and lamb and brown rice.
Protein — The first two ingredients of this dog food are chicken and chicken meal which are both quality foodstuffs with a high protein content. This product also includes peas, a high protein plant.
In spite of these ingredients, this product has a dry matter protein content of 27%, a number slightly below the desired 30% protein content figure.
Fats — The chicken flavored version of this dog food lists chicken fat as its main source of fat.
Chicken fat is an excellent and natural source of fat, rich in linoleic acid and omega-6 fatty acids. The product also contains flaxseed, which a rich source of omega-3 fatty acids.
While these ingredients are of a high quality, they are not present in sufficient quantities to raise the fat content of this product above the desired 20% threshold.
This product has a fat content of 16%.
Carbohydrates/Other Ingredients — The carbohydrate content of this product is quite high. Major carbohydrates include brown rice and barley, both of which only have a modest nutritional value.
The carbohydrate content of this product is 50%, significantly more than the desired 30%.
An undesirable ingredient in this food is caramel, a natural colouring agent that has been found to cause cancer in laboratory animals.
The only reason for its inclusion here is the fact that it makes the product look more appealing to humans.
Overall this is a solid AAFCO certified product with a number of quality ingredients, however it fails to reach or exceeds the three desired thresholds.
#4 Whole Earth Farms —Grain Free Recipe (Pork, Beef and Lamb Flavor)
Carbohydrates/ Other Ingredients
The Whole Earth Farms Grain Free Recipe, comes in four flavors: chicken and turkey, pork, beef and lamb (reviewed), salmon & whitefish and turkey & duck.
Protein — The first ingredient in this dog food is pork meal which can contain up to 300% more protein than fresh pork.
The product also contains raw pork, beef and lamb, however these items are seventh, eighth and ninth on the list indicating, a much lesser volume than some of the other ingredients.
This lack of volume is reflected in the protein content which is 29%, a touch below the desired 30%.
Fats — The fifth ingredient of this product is pork fat, a product that adds both flavor to the food and is high in linoleic acid and omega-6 fatty acids. It is an acceptable dog food ingredient in moderate amounts, which seems to be the case here.
This product also contains salmon oil which is one of the best sources of EPA and DHA-type omega-3 fatty acids. That being said, salmon oil is only present in this product in minor quantities.
Apart from these two ingredients, there are no other sources of fat for this product. This is reflected in the overall fat content of 15%, 5% below the desired 20% minimum.
Carbohydrates/Other Ingredients — This product lists dried potato as its second ingredient, dried potato is a rich source of carbohydrates.
Peas are listed third and are a quality source of carbohydrates and fiber.
The product contains sweet potato as its fourth item. Sweet potato is a good source of complex carbohydrates and beta carotene which helps to maintain a dog’s eyesight.
The carbohydrate content for this product is 45%, a significant amount above the desired 30%. This is likely due to the fact that carbohydrates are the third, fourth and fifth largest ingredients by volume.
With regard to other ingredients this product contains a dried fermentation product which provides enzymes that aid in canine digestion.
It also contains chelated minerals. These improve the absorption of other important minerals such as calcium and iron.
This product does not contain any undesirable ingredients.
Overall this AAFCO certified product scores points for being a grain free recipe and has some nice additional ingredients along with no undesirable ingredients.
These positives are counterbalanced by the high carbohydrate content.
#3 Taste of the Wild — Sierra Mountain (Lamb Flavor)
Carbohydrates/ Other Ingredients
Taste of the Wild grain free dog food comes in several flavors such as Bison & Venison, Boar, Lamb (reviewed), Salmon, Venison and Wildfowl.
Protein — The first ingredient in this dog food is lamb, which is a high quality whole food protein source.
The second ingredient is lamb meal, a high protein meat concentrate. The sixth and eighth ingredients are eggs and roasted lamb which are also high quality protein sources.
This is an excellent and high quality mixture of proteins and this is reflected in the protein content which comes in at 32%, slightly higher than the desired protein threshold of 30%.
Fats — This product falls slightly short of the desired 20% minimum in the fats category, with a dry matter basis for fat of 17%.
Canola oil and flaxseed oil are the only identifiable fats. There do not seem to be any specific animal fats included in this dog food.
Carbohydrates/Other Ingredients — The second, third and fourth ingredients in this product are potatoes, sweet potatoes and peas, all of which are high-carbohydrate ingredients.
This is telling, as the product comes in well above the desired 30% carbohydrates threshold with a carbohydrate content of 43%.
The product contains the undesirable filler of tomato pomace, a by-product of processing tomatoes into juice, soup and ketchup, however it appears to be used in minor quantities.
Taste of the Wild also contains several desirable minor ingredients such as chicory root, which is high in insulin and salmon oil, which is an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids.
While it falls short in the fats and carbohydrates categories, this is the first product on this list to exceed the 30% desired protein threshold.
Overall this dog food is both an AAFCO certified product and is also a grain free dog food. It is one of the most popular dry dog foods on the market and for good reason.
While it may not be the very best dog food for pitbulls, it provides outstanding value for money when its price is taken into account.
It costs one third of the price of the #1 product and is almost half the price of the #2 product.
#2 Bully Max —High Performance Super Premium Dog Food (Chicken Flavor)
Carbohydrates/ Other Ingredients
Bully Max High Performance Super Premium dog food comes in a chicken flavor.
Protein — The first ingredient of this product is chicken meal, a high quality meat concentrate.
This product also contains menhaden fish meal, which is extremely high in protein along with various other non-meat protein boosters such as brewer’s yeast and eggs. This product has a protein content of 33% which exceeds the desired threshold of 30%.
Fats — The fourth ingredient in this product is chicken fat, a quality animal fat high in linoleic acid — an omega-6 fatty acid.
Another high fat ingredient is flaxseed, one of the best plant-based sources of omega-3 fatty acids. Finally, this product contains menhaden oil, an ingredient rich in EPA and DHA, two high quality fats.
This product has an excellent fat content of 22%, exceeding the desired fat content of 20%.
Carbohydrates/Other Ingredients — The second ingredient here is brown rice, which is relatively easy to digest but is only of modest nutritional value to dogs.
Another carbohydrate in this product is barley, an ingredient that also provides only modest nutritional value.
Although the carbohydrate content of 37% is slightly above the desired level of 30%, this is still better than the majority of dog foods on the market.
This product contains several desirable additional ingredients, such as beet pulp which provides excellent benefits to intestinal health and blood sugar, and brewers yeast, which is rich in minerals and is thought to repel fleas and support the immune system.
Overall this product is a strong contender for the #1 position because it has an excellent protein and fat content along with many desirable additional ingredients. It is also grain free and AAFCO certified.
One of the advantages of this product line is that it is specifically tailored to the pitbull breed and is packed with calories and muscle building nutrients to accommodate this energetic and muscular breed.
Bully Max High Performance Super Premium dog food, is an excellent pitbull dog food. Unfortunately it only loses the title of “best dog food for pitbulls in 2017” because it is up against an outstanding product that stands head and shoulders above the competition.
#1 Orijen — Grain Free Dog Food (Regional Red Flavor)
Carbohydrates/ Other Ingredients
This product comes in original, six fish, tundra and regional red (reviewed) flavors.
Protein — The first 16 (no that’s not a typo) ingredients of this product are high quality whole protein sources and include a variety of meets such as: deboned beef, deboned wild boar, deboned goat, lamb liver, beef tripe, beef heart, whole atlantic mackerel, goat meal and wild boar meal — just to name a few.
It is little wonder then, that the dry matter protein content for this product comes in at a whopping 41%, far exceeding the desired 30% threshold.
Fats — Such a large amount of primary meat ingredients would in and of themselves be likely to satisfy the minimum fat threshold of 20%, but Orijen have also added beef fat and herring oil to bring the fat content of this product to 21%, 1% over the 20% desired threshold.
Carbohydrates/Other Ingredients — Orijen have added peas along with navy and pinto beans and red and green lentils which are an excellent and healthy source of carbohydrates. These ingredients are also a quality source of natural fiber.
This product comes in at 28% carbohydrates, below the maximum desired carbohydrate threshold of 30%.
It is the only product on this list that fully meets this criteria.
Additional desirable ingredients are alfalfa, a high protein, high fiber plant; chicory root, a plant substance rich in insulin and prebiotics; and a number of fruit and vegetables such as apples, pears, kale, pumpkin and carrots.
There are no undesirable ingredients in this product.
Overall Orijen dog food is the one of the most respected dog food brands on the market today and it is easy to see why. The company makes outstanding dog food that is without a doubt, the best dog food for pitbulls we could find.
The quality of the ingredients in this product far exceed that of the competition. Where other brands struggle to muster 3 whole meat ingredients as part of the first 8, the first 16 ingredients of this product are impeccable, high quality, whole meat ingredients.
This product not only meets the high protein and high energy needs of the pitbull breed, it exceeds them, it is also a rare find because it does not exceed the hard to satisfy carbohydrate threshold.
This dog food is not cheap, but if you have the budget and insist upon giving your pitbull the best quality food, you needn’t look anywhere else.
Where is the Best Place to Buy Dog Food From?
So you’ve soaked in all of the above information and have decided on the dog food that you think is perfect for your pitbull. Now what?
Instead of taking the time and effort to find a physical store, get to it and lug a 20lb bag of feed around, simply go to Amazon.com.
Here you can find your product in seconds, read honest user reviews and immediately confirm the availability of the product.
You can also subscribe for straight-to-your-door recurring shipments at your desired frequency. You even get an additional 20% discount on your first order just for subscribing!
At Amazon you can compare seller prices and get the best price possible.
The product will then be shipped straight to your door in a matter of days or even quicker if you choose express postage or are an Amazon Prime subscriber.