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Product: Sojos Complete Dog Food Mix
Quantity: 2 lbs/907 grams (package says it makes 10 pounds of food)
Price paid: $15.99
Ingredients: sweet potatoes, turkey, whole egg, broccoli, celery, apples, flax meal, pecans, tricalcium phosphate, pumpkin, cranberries, basil, dried alfalfa, ginger root, dried kelp, zinc sulfate, vitamin E acetate, vitamin D3
Guaranteed analysis:

Crude protein: not less than 22.0%
Crude fat: not less than 8.0%
Crude fiber: not more than 5.1%
Moisture: not more than 12.3%
Calories per cup = 480.8 Kcals

Country of manufacture: USA
Company information: Sojourner Farms; 1723 Adams Street NE; Minneapolis, MN 55413; tel: 1.888.867.6567
Website: Sojos.com, also on Facebook

Based on our success with our first attempt at dehydrated dog food, I decided I would grab a full box when I next went to Pet Store A. Unfortunately, they don’t stock the brand I was looking for, so I purchased what I thought was an equivalent product, a 2 pound bag of Sojos turkey recipe.

Thus I learned that not all dehydrated foods are created the same.

While the other brand was a great success, even with a fairly quick transition, this one failed. Frankly, this is probably the biggest gastrointestinal failure we’ve experienced this past year, and that’s saying a lot for The House of Two Dog Foodies who are actually fairly happy to try new things.

To prepare the food, Sojos instructions say to soak the mixture in an appropriate amount of filtered water and allow it to reconstitute for an hour at minimum, overnight in the refrigerator for optimum results.

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So here it is after about an hour. Note that the ingredients are still pretty chunky, which gives the impression of heartiness (as opposed to the powder-turned-paste of the previous brand that we tried). However, as I found out, the chunkies are not to be desired.

For the first few dinners, I served it up similarly to how I prepared the other brand. I mixed the reconstituted Sojos with a home prepared blend of raw turkey and supplements, with Sojos making up about 1/4 of the meal. Both Bows were quite enthusiastic about their New! Food! as they usually are.

Then I bumped the ratio up to 1/2 Sojos, and that’s when trouble became evident. Perhaps I transitioned them too quickly. Sojos FAQs recommend a transition time of 2-3 weeks, but so do most foods that I switch over a shortened period. I gave this some thought and based on my inspections and observations, I’m not sure a longer transition would have made that much difference.

Both of their poops were pretty densely populated by orange and yellow chunks in the days following the introduction of this food. I wasn’t sure what to make of that, so I gave them a break one day for a full raw meal. Then the following morning, Bowpi threw up. All that was in her vomit was bile and undigested chunks of Sojos potatoes. The stuff had been sitting in her stomach for over a day before her body finally surrendered it.

Sojo's
Before you add water…

Sweet potatoes in and of themselves are not typically a problem. Both Bows have had potatoes in various dog treats without any digestive upsets, and I frequently bake sweet potatoes to add to their meals. However, I usually mash it up a little, and I never include the skins, whereas Sojos does.

This is also problematic because the ingredient seems to take a long time to fully reconstitute. Even after soaking for the recommended amount of time, many of the potato pieces feel quite hard. I know this because I started picking them out, piece by piece.

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This human loves potatoes with skins. The Bows? Not so much.

Picking out the potato chunks after rehydration seemed to create a lot of waste, so I started picking out as much as I could while it was still dry.

Too many potatoes

This led me to observe that there are a LOT of potatoes in this mix. It is, after all, the very first listed ingredient. I assumed that even though turkey is listed second, this was due to the fact that it had lost some weight in the dehydration process. However, as Mike Sagman at the Dog Food Advisor points out, the published ingredients do not specify dehydrated turkey, but “USDA turkey” (which is also slightly different from just “turkey” on the packaging). Even if reconstitution increases the relative weight of turkey, all the ingredients would be rehydrated as well, and this would not change the fact that the ingredients are, by law, listed in order of weight before cooking.

I’m not sure how that shakes out if the ingredients are supposed to be raw, as the front of the bag claims the complete mix is made with “FREEZE-DRIED RAW turkey”. For those that are curious, there’s also some discussion of the relative nutritional value of freeze-drying raw versus air-dehydrating cooked meats in the comments section of the Dog Food Advisor link above, including a very recent comment from the company owner. It doesn’t definitively answer the question of proportions, but it does show that the company holds itself responsible for what people want to know about their food.

However it’s calculated, there’s still a buttload of sweet potato in this mix, probably more than I really have the time to pick through. But I am picking through it because I’m a cheap-ass, and I can’t stand the thought of throwing out something that I’ve paid good money for, dammit. I’m not exactly proud of how much energy I’ve spent de-tubering each pile of Sojos, but the process does seem to make the ingredients less, um, discernible on the way out.

With the formula thus compromised, I ended up using dollops of Sojos only to supplement up to 50% of their meals. Their poops were no longer nearly as colorful, and Bowpi didn’t throw up potato chunks anymore.

However, something else started to happen to Bowpi. She started to nibble and lick at her forearms, as well as the tops of her toes.

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28 June 2011

This could be entirely coincidental, or even a result of environmental allergies and not food-related. There’s a section of text on the bag that addresses my concern:

Q: What if my dog has allergies?

Because Sojos isn’t processed into a pellet or sprayed with synthetic additives (which can burden the body with toxicity), your pet shouldn’t experience allergic reactions like they might with traditional pet foods. (Sojo’s bag)

Okay, but I’m not entirely convinced yet. Considering that Bowpi had such problem-free skin and fur last year, and because the location of her itchy spots is so oddly dispersed (despite appearances, she’s actually NOT licking her belly any more than usual)… well, I’m leaning towards this being a reaction to some ingredient in the food. Maybe pecans, a protein that she hasn’t previously been exposed to? At any rate, no more Sojos for Bowpi, and I’m monitoring her skin in the meantime. I’ll return to edit this review if her condition does not drastically improve several weeks after quitting Sojos.

Obviously, your mileage may vary depending on your pet’s particular food sensitivities. Bowdu hasn’t been breaking out like Bowpi, so he is still getting the de-potatoed mix. But I’m throwing out what feels like a quarter of the contents to make this work for us. This wastefulness, in addition to the inconvenient reconstitution process (which has me serving cold food, not something I prefer to do except in summer months), is why I doubt I’ll be trying this brand of dehydrated dog food again.

Final Grade: B-

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