Different Dog - Dog Food Review

Different Dog - Dog Food Review

Different Dog logo

Different Dog is a UK company based in Shrewsbury. They provide a subscription-based service, delivering food tailored to your dog's needs every 2 weeks. They offer a wide variety of fresh, hand-cooked recipes that are supplied frozen. The food certainly sounds delicious - and perhaps rivals most pet parents' dinner! - but how does it measure up nutritionally?

In this article, we'll be taking a science-backed look at the food offered by Different Dog and finding out whether it lives up to its claims.

Different Dog: Who Makes It?

Different Dog food is a family business owned by husband-and-wife team Charlie and Alexandra Thurston. Their company was founded in 2016. Since opening, the company has expanded significantly and now employs around 20 people, including an in-house veterinary surgeon.

A veterinarian, canine nutritionist, and behaviourist are involved in recipe design, and all diets are signed off by their nutritionist. She holds a BSc and a post-graduate diploma in nutrition. All of Different Dog's diets are formulated to meet FEDIAF minimum nutrient levels. This means they are 'complete and balanced' and provide everything you need to keep your canine friend happy and healthy.

Food Safety & Quality Control

Unlike many other food delivery services, Different Dog state that they only use locally sourced, British ingredients and that they strive for sustainability. They're able to manage this by changing their recipes with the seasons.

Rather than relying on meat and vegetables from abroad, they're using sustainable, British-grown instead. This has huge environmental benefits in reducing food miles, and the meat is likely to be higher-welfare as well.

Note that fresh dog food is not the same as raw dog food! Because Different Dog is a cooked food, it doesn't have many of the bacteriological risks associated with feeding raw. However, they test quarterly to ensure the food is safe for you to handle and your dog to eat. Their kitchens are also regularly inspected by the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) and Public Health England.

Fresh Dog Food: What's In It?

Different Dog use only fresh, human-grade ingredients. You could find most of the ingredients listed in their recipes in your kitchen at home. Each recipe contains at least 60% meat, and their food is free from legumes (pulses, beans, peas etc), high levels of which have been associated with a recent rise in canine dilated cardiomyopathy, a type of heart disease. The foods are also grain-free.

The food is cooked below 90ºC to preserve its nutrient and vitamin content; this compares to the much higher temperatures used in the production of highly processed kibble-based dog foods. Their recipes change seasonally and can be tailored to the needs of each individual dog taking into consideration illnesses, weight, allergies, and appetite, which is great for pets with medical conditions.

Different Dog meals: Stay Supple Fish Supper, Braised Beef, and Chicken Casserole.
Different Dog meals: Stay Supple Fish Supper, Braised Beef, and Chicken Casserole.
Different Dog meals: Lamb Hotpot, Pawfect Picnic, and Low Purine / Low Phosphorus.
Different Dog meals: Lamb Hotpot, Pawfect Picnic, and Low Purine / Low Phosphorus.
at www.differentdog.com

When you sign up, you'll complete a questionnaire detailing your pet's age, weight, energy requirements, and any health or behavioural issues. You'll then be provided with a list of 12 or more recipes to choose from. The variety of recipes and ingredients used aims to increase diversity within the gut microbiome, i.e., the number and type of 'good bacteria' that live within the gut of all dogs. This helps protect them from toxins, allergens, and infection and generally keep them as healthy as possible.

Protein

Different Dog has over 12 recipes, most with a single protein source, which is useful if you have a dog that has allergies or needs an exclusion diet. The recipes change seasonally, but examples of their diets are:

Ingredients: Beef 60% (Mince 40%, Heart 15%, Liver 5%), Spinach (12.9%), Squash (8%), Carrot, Apple (5%), Mushroom, Salmon Oil, Olive Oil, Parsley, Monocalcium Phosphate, Brewers Yeast, Chia Seeds, Kelp, Minerals, Turmeric.

Gauranteed Analysis: Moisture 71.1%, Protein 12.2%, Fat 7.8%, Fibre 1.0%, Ash 2.7%, Omega 6: Omega 3 Ratio 1.4:1.

Dry Matter Basis:

Protein 42.2%
Fat 27%
Fibre 3.5%
Ash 9.3%
Carbohydrate 18%

Ingredients: Lamb 60% (Lamb Mince 40%, Lamb Heart 15%, Lamb Liver 5%), Red Cabbage (12.9%), Parsnip (8%), Carrot, Apple (5%), Mushroom, Salmon Oil, Olive Oil, Sage, Monocalcium Phosphate, Brewers Yeast, Chia Seeds, Kelp, Minerals, Turmeric.

Gauranteed Analysis: Moisture 70.3%, Protein 12.4%, Fat 8.7%, Fibre 0.5%, Ash 3.0%, Omega 6: Omega 3 ratio 1.4:1.

Dry Matter Basis:

Protein 41.8%
Fat 29.3%
Fibre 1.7%
Ash 10.1%
Carbohydrate 17.2%

Ingredients: Chicken 60% (Mince 55%, Liver 5%), Red Cabbage, Sweet Potato (8%), Carrot (5.8%), Apple, Mushroom (3%), Salmon Oil, Olive Oil, Parsley, Monocalcium Phosphate, Brewers Yeast, Chia Seeds, Kelp, Minerals, Turmeric.

Gauranteed Analysis: Moisture 72.3%, Protein 15.2%, Fat 6.6%, Fibre 1.8%, Ash 2.4% Omega 6: Omega 3 ratio 2.8:1.

Dry Matter Basis:

Protein 54.9%
Fat 23.8%
Fibre 6.5%
Ash 8.7%
Carbohydrate 6.1%

Ingredients: Turkey 60%, Cabbage (12.9%), Sweet Potato (8%), Carrot, Banana (5%), Mushroom, Salmon Oil, Olive Oil, Coriander, Monocalcium Phosphate, Brewers Yeast, Chia Seeds, Kelp, Minerals, Turmeric.

Gauranteed Analysis: Moisture 71.9%, Protein 15.8%, Fat 4.9%, Fibre 2.2%, Ash 2.5%.

Dry Matter Basis:

Protein 56.2%
Fat 17.4%
Fibre 7.8%
Ash 8.9%
Carbohydrate 9.6%

Ingredients: Lamb 60% (Lamb Mince 40%, Lamb Heart 15%, Lamb Liver 5%), Swede (15%), Red Cabbage, Cauliflower, Pear, Mushroom, Salmon Oil, Mint, Monocalcium Phosphate, Chia Seeds, Kelp, Minerals and Turmeric.

Gauranteed Analysis: Moisture 69.0%, Protein 14.9%, Fat 12.7%, Fibre 1.2%, Ash 2.6%.

Dry Matter Basis:

Protein 48%
Fat 41%
Fibre 3.9%
Ash 8.4%
Carbohydrate 4%

All of these are good-quality protein sources and on average the diets have 40-50% protein content on a dry matter basis. The AAFCO (Association of American Feed Control Officials) recommends that after weaning, puppies receive a minimum of 22% protein on a dry matter basis. This makes these diets suitable for young growing dogs as well as adults.

Different Dog offers nutritional advice from their in-house veterinarian; this is a valuable resource that new customers should be encouraged to use, especially if they have a young dog or one with different nutritional needs.

Fat

The fat content of Different Dog food varies depending on the recipe and can be tailored to the needs of the individual dog. Recipes formulated with turkey or chicken generally have a lower fat content compared to those formulated with beef or lamb. The 'Keep Me Trim Turkey' is the lowest we could find in their current selection at just under 12% fat content on a dry matter basis. This is low for a fresh food diet, although still too high for some dogs with recurrent pancreatitis.

As well as any fat naturally contained in the meat, the diets are formulated with a variety of oils such as salmon oil and coconut oil that provide natural fats. These are a good source of essential fatty acids and act as a carrier of fat-soluble vitamins. Fish oils are also a great source of omega-3 and 6 that are good for joints and help keep your dog's coat shiny and healthy.

Labrador Phoebe with two of her favourite Different Dog meals.
Labrador Phoebe with two of her favourite Different Dog meals.

Carbohydrates

The Different Dog meals contain vegetables such as carrot, sweet potato, and butternut squash as the main carbohydrate sources. Their foods do not contain pulses or legumes (such as beans or lentils). Whilst dogs can digest legumes (and they make a good source of carbohydrate and protein), large quantities of them have been linked with an outbreak of dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM), a serious and often fatal condition. Whilst investigations are still ongoing, it makes sense to avoid foods with high percentages of legumes and pulses, especially if you have a breed traditionally associated with DCM.

Different Dog do not use any corn, barley, or other grains in their diets, making them grain-free. However, it's not clear whether grain free foods provide any health benefits to dogs to dogs. Indeed, grain-free diets were also implicated in the DCM outbreak, and many vets do not currently recommend a grain-free diet unless a dog has a demonstrated grain allergy - which are rare. That said, it's unlikely that feeding a grain-free diet to your dog will cause any harm, but you should consider talking to your vet if your dog is a breed at risk of DCM.

Other Ingredients

Different Dog food has a high meat content of 60% in each meal. The rest is made up of fruit and vegetables, including some ingredients you wouldn't normally find in a dog's dinner such as blackberries, cranberries, kelp, chia seeds, and banana. Apart from sounding delicious, these ingredients add essential vitamins and minerals to the diet, and many are high in antioxidants to help support your dog's immune system and general health.

Despite the fruit and vegetable content of these diets, the fibre content is relatively low, with most diets below 4% fibre. This is common with grain-free meals and, unless your dog has anal gland problems or is prone to soft stools, probably isn't a problem. Even then, Different Dog have diet options with a higher fibre content - a consultation with their vet will help you to choose the best diet if your dog needs a high fibre diet.

There are no artificial flavours or additives and all the ingredients in each recipe are recognisable foods that you would find in your kitchen at home.

Additions such as chia seeds and kelp are high in antioxidants, which help maintain a healthy heart and liver, amongst other benefits. Calcium and phosphate help maintain bone and joint health. Turmeric appears in many of the recipes and is a potent anti-inflammatory and antioxidant.

Feeding For Specific Health Conditions

Different Dog has 5 specially formulated recipes within their 'health plus' range. These can be fed to all dogs from puppies to adults as each recipe is nutritionally complete. This range aims to be the UK's first freshly cooked health-focused range for dogs that need extra health support through their diet. Recipes include:

  • Keep Me Trim Turkey: Turkey-based, low-fat meal to help aid weight loss or maintain weight in dogs that are prone to weight gain.

  • Comforting Chicken: Chicken-based meal aimed at dogs with sensitive stomachs. Contains additional ingredients such as slippery elm to aid digestion, brewer's yeast as a prebiotic and source of B vitamins, and alfalfa as a powerful anti-inflammatory.

  • Hearty Beef and Berries: Beef-based meal which is low in sodium and high in antioxidants through the addition of blackberries and other fruits to help support heart health.

  • Stay Supple Fish Supper: Fish-based meal which has higher levels of omegas, glucosamine, and chondroitin to help support joint health. This is a calorie-controlled diet with a lower fat content to avoid unwanted weight gain in dogs with joint or mobility problems.

  • Low Purine and Phosphate: Turkey and fish-based meal which is high in antioxidants from ingredients such as green tea, fruits and vegetables. The lower purine content helps to support kidney and liver health and includes ingredients such as dandelion to act as a natural diuretic (to increase urine production). This diet may be suitable for some dogs prone to developing urinary crystals, but should only be used following a consultation with a veterinarian.

    at www.differentdog.com

The company makes specific claims that both the 'Keep Me Trim Turkey' recipe and the 'Stay Supple Fish Supper' diet are suitable for feeding to patients with pancreatitis or other digestive problems where a low-fat diet has been recommended. However, in this situation I usually advise that a diet has less than 10% fat, so whilst they will be suitable for many dogs, dogs with severe pancreatitis may still need a prescription canned or dry diet.

Environmental Impact

Different Dog has excellent environmental credentials, and they appear to prioritise sustainability as a core principle of the business. The dog food is packaged in reclaimed sugarcane pulp, which is a rapidly renewable product. Other packaging includes insulating sheep wool liners, which are compostable, and cardboard, which can be readily recycled or re-used. Using only locally-sourced ingredients ensures low food miles and reduces the carbon footprint of the product.

Using human-grade ingredients is marketed as one of the main benefits of this product. However, there are known environmental benefits of using animal by-products for pet food as it reduces food waste by ensuring more of an animal is used after slaughter.

Ordering, Delivery, & Price

Different Dog is a subscription service that can be cancelled or paused at any time. After completing an initial questionnaire about your four-legged companion, Different Dog will calculate the exact calorie requirement and feeding amount for your dog. This can be adjusted depending on the age of your dog, different life stages, exercise regime, and their current weight and body condition. Customers are encouraged to update this information regularly to ensure the food can be tailored to their dog's current needs.

Different Dog have an excellent TrustPilot rating, reflecting their high customer satisfaction.
Different Dog have an excellent TrustPilot rating, reflecting their high customer satisfaction.

The website and ordering system is easy to use and customise to your dog's needs. The different recipes on offer all contain a simple breakdown of ingredients so it is easy to avoid certain meats if you know your dog has an allergy or sensitivity to a particular ingredient.

Price

As one would expect, the price of Different Dog food varies depending on the size of the dog and the calorie requirements. As a fresh hand-cooked meal, it is at the higher end of the pet food market in terms of cost, even compared to other fresh diets on the market. The cost to feed a small breed dog starts from £2.00 per day for a full diet, whereas a larger breed such as a Labrador starts from around £6.00 per day.

By using this link, you can claim a 50% discount on your first delivery.

at www.differentdog.com

There are different subscription plans available to suit different feeding needs and budgets, ranging from 100% 'full diet' to 25% 'topper'. The company claims that even adding 25% of fresh food to a dog's diet can have significant health benefits, although they don't back this up with any scientific proof.

The subscription is also easily customisable – 10 packs of food provide a complete diet for 2 weeks. However, the order volume can be adjusted between 1 and 10 packs, meaning you can feed your dog less than their full-calorie requirement if you know they get treats or table scraps as part of their daily routine.

Different Dog's individual meal packets.
Different Dog's individual meal packets.

Delivery

As a subscription service, Different Dog calculate how much food your dog needs and make regular deliveries every 2-8 weeks. Your delivery is done within a 1-hour time slot, so you can arrange to be home. However, it's shipped in an insulated box that will remain frozen until midnight on the day it arrives - so don't worry too much if you miss the delivery man!

Feeding Guidelines

Your Different Dog delivery must be stored in the fridge or freezer. The food comes with accurate feeding guidelines; however, it is not pre-portioned into daily meals and instead comes in standard pack sizes. For example, a 30kg Labrador may require 700g of food per day and this will be delivered in 1000g portions. Digging out the kitchen weighing scales is recommended to ensure accurate portion size for your pooch!

Phoebe, about to tuck into her delicious Shepherd's Pie.
Phoebe, about to tuck into her delicious Shepherd's Pie.

Luckily, Different Dog provides exact feeding guidelines to make it as easy as possible to provide your canine friend with all the nutrients they need and keep them at their optimal weight. The initial questionnaire considers their existing weight, whether they are 'slim', 'perfect weight', or 'chunky', and how much exercise they get on an average day. However, if you opt for the 'full diet', which contains all the calories they need, it is important to avoid too many treats or titbits in between meals to avoid unwanted weight gain that can lead to health problems.

As with all diets, I'd recommended to change your dog's food slowly over a week or two to avoid an upset stomach. This is especially true for Different Dog as there is more varied ingredients than your dog might be used to.

Pros and Cons of Different Dog Food

Pros

  • A complete, balanced diet providing adequate protein and fat levels that can be fed as a complete diet or as a food topper to spice up a kibble diet
  • Diets can be tailored easily to different life stages, including puppies
  • Most recipes use a single protein source, which can be useful for dogs with known food allergies
  • British sourced meat and locally sourced ingredients
  • Recyclable and compostable packaging

Cons

  • Expensive feeding option when compared to commercially available dry and tinned foods
  • Some recipes are low in fibre, which may trigger digestive upset or constipation in some dogs
  • Food is delivered frozen, which requires more freezer space at home to store your dog's food
Delivery day: Phoebe's favourite day of the month!
Delivery day: Phoebe's favourite day of the month!

Final Thoughts

Different Dog is a growing company that offers a wide variety of delicious meals that should satisfy even the fussiest of pooches. The diets can be easily customised to meet the individual needs of your dog. The company goes to great lengths to minimise its environmental impact and produce a sustainable product. The support team are easily contactable to provide nutritional advice, which is a valuable feature of this UK-based company.

The company is also expanding its range of food to help support various health problems or illnesses in dogs. Different Dog are one of the first UK based companies to be offering fresh food for dogs with specific nutritional requirements. Overall, the recipes sound delicious — don't be too envious of your canine friend chowing down on a lamb hotpot or turkey fricassee of an evening!

at www.differentdog.com

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