Acana Dog Food Review 2019: A True Standout?

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Acana dog food makes “biologically appropriate” dog food from regional ingredients at their facilities in Kentucky and Alberta. Their food is made with seasonally fresh ingredients (or ingredients that were flash-frozen at peak freshness) and is never outsourced. The website clearly is making claims that their food is fresher and higher-quality than all the rest.

Acana dog food is one of the most-awarded pet food companies out there, recognized for Eco-Excellence, Global Food Safety Initiative, and as an Industry Leader by Pet Business, to name just two awards.

But how does Acana dog food measure up? Whenever I’m checking out dog food, I try to answer the questions laid out by the World Small Animal Veterinary Association (WSAVA) in their handout on selecting dog food. We’ll get to those eight questions later on as we review Acana dog food.

ACANA Heritage Dry Dog Food, Red Meat, Biologically Appropriate & Grain Free

Acana Dog Food Review: Overview

Acana is a high-end, award-winning dog kibble with good reason. They’re owned by Champion Pet Foods, which also makes the uber-high-quality kibble Orijen. If you’re looking for a good kibble for your dogs, you could do a lot worse than Acana!

Acana does seem to take food innovation seriously. They’ve got a whole facility set up for designing and testing their new foods in Canada. But they’re not publishing any research, so I can’t say exactly what that means beyond what’s on their website. The library on their website has several well-written whitepapers that are very well-cited with scientific literature, so that’s really good to see!

Acana clearly takes feeding your pets seriously.

Acana sells its food through trusted pet specialty partners and veterinarian practices, to guarantee that you get the best customer service possible. That said, their list of “trusted pet specialty stores” includes PetCo and PetLand, which aren’t exactly small, boutique stores! You can’t buy Acana on Chewy.com, but Amazon does sell Acana.

I love that Acana’s food strives to be ecologically sustainable. For example, their Wild Atlantic diet is made to support sustainable fisheries.

The biggest downside of Acana’s food, as far as I can tell, is that their grain-free diets rely on legumes to fill the void left by grains. Some recent research has linked boutique pet foods that rely on peas and lentils and other legumes with dilated cardiomyopathy (a heart issue) in dogs. The FDA even put out an alert about grain-free diets like these. This link is purely correlational right now and might not be the actual root of the problem – but it’s still something to keep in mind.

Acana dog food generally comes as highly-rated and is well-regarded, with good reason. They take great care in producing their foods with high-quality ingredients.

What Does Biologically Appropriate Even Mean? Hint: Not Much.

Acana dog food really pushes the “biologically appropriate” line for their dog food, with high-quality ingredients and lots of real meat in their foods. While I can’t argue with the quality of their ingredients or the expertise of their team, it’s worth pointing out that there’s not really any actual published research behind “biologically appropriate” dog food. When the phrase is mentioned in scientific research, it’s usually in quotes and it’s usually referring to raw dog food.

Acana seems to think that “biologically appropriate” is a good label to slap onto their food – it sounds good. But it’s effectively meaningless, just a trademark registered by Champion Petfoods. That doesn’t mean Acana’s dog food isn’t high quality – it is!

But I take issue with the marketing, especially claims that dogs are descended from wolves (many current researchers actually think dogs and wolves are taxonomic cousins, not descended from each other) and that dogs have the exact same digestive system as wolves despite eating human table scraps and not hunting for prey for thousands of years and the same biological needs as wild wolves, which have vastly different lifestyles from your Goldendoodle.

Acana defines “biologically appropriate” as:

  1. Rich in meat and protein – Acana dog food is made up of up to 75% meat.
  2. High fresh meat inclusion – up to half of each Acana dog food is made from fresh or raw meat.
  3. An abundant variety of meat – Acana dog food includes ranch-raised meat, wild-caught fish, free-run poultry, and eggs.
  4. Whole prey meat ratios – meaning appropriate ratios of muscle meat, organs, cartilage, and other “bits” of meat.
  5. Fresh fruits and vegetables.

The point is, there’s no consensus on what biologically appropriate even means. While Acana seems to have a good description on their site, this isn’t a regulated label and isn’t based on published research as far as I can tell. That said, their food is formulated by some real experts!

How Does Acana Stand Up to WSAVA Guidelines?

I am not a nutritionist, and my dog will eat just about anything – I had to stop him from eating a tree branch yesterday. So my review of dog food would be quite inadequate if I based it off of my own intuition and how much my dog liked a food.

Instead, I’ll fall back on the World Small Animal Veterinary Association guidelines for selecting dog food.

  • Do you employ a full-time qualified nutritionist?
    • From the Acana website: “Yes, our highly educated and talented team of 20 Research & Innovation scientists lead the development and research of our ACANA and ORIJEN pet foods. These individuals cover a wide variety of education and experience including, but not limited, to: 1 Doctor of Veterinary Medicine, 1 Ph.D. in Animal Nutrition, 2 PhD’s in Food Science, 3 Masters of Science in Animal Nutrition (2 in companion animal nutrition), 2 Masters of Science in Food Science, 1 Masters of Science in Meat Hygiene and Food Microbiology, and 17 Bachelors of Science areas such as Animal Science, Biochemistry, and Veterinary Medicine.”
  • Who formulates your foods and what are his/her credentials?
    • See above. They work with a group of animal nutritionists and consults with Veterinarians who specialize in nutrition, toxicology, and holistic medicine.
  • Are your diets tested using AAFCO feeding trials or by formulation to meet AAFCO nutrient profiles?
    • Acana participates in AAFCO feeding trials.
  • Where are your foods produced and manufactured?
    • All of Acana’s foods are manufactured at the Champion Pet Food plants – nothing is outsourced.
  • What specific quality control measures do you use to assure the consistency and quality of your ingredients and the end product?
    • Acana’s meat comes from a federally inspected facility and only uses meat from animals that are high-quality enough for human inspection. They also adhere to the Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) for preventing, identifying, and responding to hazards in their plant. Their Quality Assurance department, technicians, and independent labs all come together to ensure that testing and pathogen evaluation is done properly.
  • Will you provide a complete nutrient analysis for the dog or cat food in question?
    • Acana provides a guaranteed analysis on their site, which offers maximum and minimum values. I could not find a “typical analysis,” which shows exact values for a sample of food.
  • What is the caloric value per gram, can, or cup of your foods?
    • Acana makes it easy to find the caloric value per cup and pound of their food under the “Feeding” tab of specific diets.
  • What kind of product research has been conducted? Are the results published in peer-reviewed journals?
    • I searched Google Scholar for “Acana” and was unable to find any research specifically into Acana food – just a few studies that used Acana food as part of their research, and even those were barely footnotes! I called Acana and left a voicemail to ask more, but haven’t heard back.

Has Acana Dog Food Had Recalls?

No, Acana has never had a recall. That’s pretty impressive! However, Acana and Orijen were both sued as part of a case against their partner company, Champion Petfoods.

That lawsuit accuses the company(ies) of “negligent, reckless” practices, false advertising, and “failing to disclose the presence of heavy metals and toxins” in its pet foods such as BPA, cadmium, lead, and mercury. This lawsuit was recently trimmed by the judge – basically, the judge said the plaintiffs didn’t show enough evidence that the metals and toxins were actually harmful.

What Formulas Does Acana Dog Food Offer?

Acana has a variety of different lines of food. Acana Regionals are delicious blends of meats or fish from a given area – like grasslands or Appalachian ranch. Acana For Dogs are also made from local, fresh ingredients, but aren’t themed based on geography the same way. Acana Singles are made with a single protein source for picky dogs or dogs with allergies.

Since there are so many different Acana formulas, let’s take a look at one formula from each line of food:

Acana Puppy and Junior

Acana Puppy and Junior is a high-protein food that’s made for all breeds and all sizes, including large breed puppies. It’s 60% animal ingredients and 40% fruits and veggies. There are no grains or potatoes in this diet. However, the diet does rely on peas and lentils as a filler, which is potentially correlated with dilated cardiomyopathy. Talk to your vet about the risks.

This diet is mostly based on turkey and chicken, but also has Atlantic flounder, pumpkin, carrots, apples, turmeric, rose hips, and more. It’s a pretty high-quality ingredients list!

This food offers 408 kcal per 8 oz cup of food. The guaranteed analysis (the maximum and minimums of food, not the actual values expected) is below.

Crude protein (min.) 31 %

Crude fat (min.) 19 %

Crude fiber (max.) 5 %

Moisture (max.) 12 %

DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) (min.) 0.4 %

EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) (min.) 0.2 %

Calcium (min.) 1.2 %

Phosphorus (min.) 1 %

Omega-6 fatty acids* (min.) 2.3 %

Omega-3 fatty acids* (min.) 1.3 %

Glucosamine* (min.) 800 mg/kg

Total Microorganisms* (min.)

(Lactobacillus acidophilus, Bifidobacterium animalis, Lactobacillus casei) 100MM CFU/lb

Acana Singles Duck and Pear

This diet is made for dogs with sensitive stomachs, allergy limitations, or just picky palates. It’s made with 60% animal ingredients and 40% fruits and veggies. Like other Acana diets, this does mean the food uses a lot of lentils, which may be related to heart issues according to the FDA.

This diet is largely made from duck, but also includes pears, lentils, peas, pollock oil, kelp, chicory root, and turmeric. Aside from the potential issues with lentils, this is a great ingredient list.

This food has 409 kcal per 8 oz. cup of dry food. The guaranteed analysis is below. This is not the expected or exact value for the food – just maximums and minimums.

Crude protein (min.) 31 %

Crude fat (min.) 17 %

Crude fiber (max.) 6 %

Moisture (max.) 12 %

DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) (min.) 0.2 %

EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) (min.) 0.2 %

Calcium (min.) 1.4 %

Phosphorus (min.) 1.0 %

Omega-6 fatty acids* (min.) 2.0 %

Omega-3 fatty acids* (min.) 0.8 %

Dietary Starch (max.) 22.5 %

Sugars (max.) 2 %

Glucosamine (min.) 800 mg/kg

Total Microorganisms* (min.)

(Lactobacillus acidophilus, Bifidobacterium animalis, Lactobacillus casei) 100MM CFU/lb

Other Acana Singles include:

Acana Appalachian Ranch

This formula is designed with the history of Appalachia in mind. It’s a very mixed food – there’s beef, pork, lamb, peas, catfish, bison, squash, turnip greens, apples, and more. If your dog is sensitive to any of the ingredients, this isn’t a good option for your dog.

This food provides 388 kcal per 8 oz cup of food. The guaranteed analysis of the food is below.

DESIGNED FOR CARNIVORES

Your dog is a carnivore and shares his anatomy with the gray wolf – which means his body, teeth, jaws, and short digestive tract are adapted for a diet rich in meat, protein, and fat.

Based on this biological fact, and to produce a nutritional analysis that mirrors the diet Mother Nature would provide for your dog, ACANA Appalachian Ranch is rich in nourishing meat protein and oils, while excluding grains and gluten, and long lists of synthetic ingredients found in some dog foods.

GUARANTEED ANALYSIS

Crude protein (min.) 33 %

Crude fat (min.) 17 %

Crude fiber (max.) 6 %

Moisture (max.) 12 %

DHA (min.) 0.1 %

EPA (min.) 0.1 %

Calcium (min.) 1.8 %

Phosphorus (min.) 1.2 %

Omega-6 fatty acids* (min.) 1.8 %

Omega-3 fatty acids* (min.) 0.6 %

Glucosamine* (min.) 600 mg/kg

Total Microorganisms* (min.)

(Lactobacillus acidophilus, Bifidobacterium animalis, Lactobacillus casei) 100MM CFU/lb

Other Acana Regionals foods include:

Where to Get Acana Food

Acana Dog Food is high quality, but it’s not always easy to find – and it’s not cheap! Here are a few possible substitutions for Fromm dog food. You can purchase Acana at many local vets, small businesses, or at Amazon.com.

You can check out some of the Acana Heritage diets at the links below:

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