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Nutrisca chicken dinner bites

Product: Nutrisca Chicken Dinner Bites
Quantity: 5 oz (one resealable pack)
Price Paid: N/A, part of the Pawalla.com haul, usually $10.99 on Amazon.com
Ingredients: Chicken with ground bone, chicken liver, apples, chickpeas, peas, flaxseed, chicory root extract, cranberries, salmon oil (a source of DHA), dried kelp, potassium chloride, salt, zinc proteinate, iron proteinate, vitamin E supplement, copper proteinate, manganese proteinate, mixed tocopherols (a natural source of vitamin E), vitamin D3 supplement
Guaranteed Analysis:

  • Crude Protein: 40.00% (max)
  • Crude Fat: 30.00% (min)
  • Crude Fiber: 6.00% (max)
  • Moisture: 5.00% (max)

Country of Manufacture: USA
Company Information: Dogswell, LLC, 1964 Westwood Blvd., Ste. 350, Los Angeles, CA 90025; Phone: 888.559.8833; e-mail: info@dogswell.com
Web Presence: Dogswell.com, also on Facebook, Twitter; specific production information here

Raw diets appear to be hitting the mainstream these days. Since not all pet owners are prepared to handle slimy, germy raw meat, it seems like there are more pet food companies catering to the raw-but-not-really-raw niche of the market.

There are a few dehydration processes that preserve the nutritional integrity of foods without subjecting them to high heats and effectively cooking them. Freeze-drying, or lyophilization, is one method that I’m seeing used by more pet food and treat manufacturers. Apparently, each raw Nutrisca patty is flash frozen, then all the ice is vaporized out of there in order to extend shelf life without the use of chemical preservatives. Neat process.

These biscuits smell really good, very rich, like the shredded rousong/meat floss that I grew up stirring into my congee. And they’re just as dry.

Nutrisca Chicken Dinner Bites

Each wafer can be fed as-is, or rehydrated. I tried feeding as-is first. The Bows were eager to consume their portion, but without adequate chewing, pieces of the dry little puck ended up lodging in Bowpi’s throat so she gagged and hacked for a bit before finally choking down the crumbled remnants. It’s better to break down each piece before offering, but this makes for a messy process and stinky fingers.

So I don’t really like feeding it as a treat. I had better luck adding it to their meals. The rehydration process, however, was a disappointment. The package doesn’t say how much water one should add, so I steeped the nuggets in just enough hot water for them to sit waist-deep in a serving bowl, and I waited, expecting each wafer to swell as they soaked up the moisture like sponges…

Adding water to Nutrisca

Five minutes later, the water was still sitting in the bowl, and each piece was still stiff, hard, and basically the same size. Magic grow capsules, these are NOT!

Soaking Nutrisca biscuits

Breaking down each wafer and adding more water helped move the process along. In the picture below, you can see a couple of the whole peas which are part of the recipe (in small amounts). But the final result after about fifteen minutes of soaking in hot water looked… well, pretty unappetizing. The Bows don’t judge a meal by its looks though — they ate it right up, with gusto.

Soaking Nutrisca Biscuits

Ultimately, I found the best results when I broke each wafer down and stirred it in with Honest Kitchen mixes. That’s how I would recommend feeding it: as a topper or meaty filler to an already complete meal.

Nutrisca crumbled into Honest Kitchen

Though this could be fed on its own, a Bow-sized dog (20-30 pounds) is supposed to eat 19 to 26 of these cakes to get their daily fill, according to the feeding guidelines on the bag. Are they freakin’ kidding me?? Are there even 20 of these guys in a single 5 oz. bag?? And at this price, Dogswell is telling me that it could cost up to $12 or so to feed one of my dogs for a day?? Hell, *I* barely spend that much money feeding myself on average!

So frankly, feeding this as a complete meal would be ridiculous. Nutrisca recently updated their feeding guidelines to acknowledge this, advising that their nutrient rich meal is only meant to be fed “intermittently.” The more practical table on their product website suggests feeding up to four pieces with 1 to 1 1/2 dry cups of food a day for 21 ~ 30 pound dogs. I’d say that makes much more sense.

Nutrisca chicken dinner bites

This product is very high in protein, chock-full of quality ingredients — grain-free, potato-free, with “NO Gluten, soy, corn, wheat, flour, BHA/BHT, ethoxyquin, added hormones, artificial colors, flavors, or preservatives” — just the way we like it. But it’s still no substitute for a truly fresh diet. In terms of convenience, I find other dehydrated raw brands to be more efficient and thus much higher on our list of preferred foods.

Would I get this again? Sure, if there was a significant sale, like at least 25% off suggested retail price. It seems like a good product, but ultimately, not as satisfying as I had hoped.


EDIT 10.3.2012: I’m impressed that a DOGSWELL rep saw this review, and sent me a friendly message:

Brad, here, from DOGSWELL. First of all, thanks for reviewing our product. Secondly, we really appreciate hearing your feedback, especially that it was too difficult to break up as a treat and didn’t reconstitute well. We hear you loud-and-clear, and we are going to set out to create a new product, or revise our current product, to address your comments. Also, we are going to change the packaging since people told us that this version was a total snoozer.

Veddy veddy eeenteresting. We will be keeping an eye out!