Iams Vs. Purina - Which Is The Better Big Dog Food Brand? (2023)

Published on: 08/10/2019, updated on: 10/13/2021

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If you’re a dog owner, you’ve probably heard of Iams and Purina. They’re only two of the biggest household names in pet food!

Both have a long history, great products, and a loyal following that have helped them thrive through the years. Unfortunately, both also have their fair share of controversies and product issues.

Today, we’ll dive deep into these two big brands, comparing their premium product lines to determine which one is the best for your best friend.

Table of Contents

Main Differences Between Iams vs Purina Dog Food

The main differences between Iams vs Purina Dog Food are:

  • The main ingredient in Iams is Chicken and Ground Whole Grain Corn, whereas the main ingredient in Purina is Chicken and Rice Flour.
  • The protein content in Iams is only 22.5%, whereas the protein content in Purina is 26%.
  • Iams dog food is priced at $1.05/lb, whereas Purina is priced at $0.92/lb.
  • The fiber content in Iams is 5%, whereas the fiber content in Purina is 3%.


If you’re in a rush, our comparison of these two top brands had made out Iams as the more superior brand. Their big dog formula Iams Proactive Health – Adult Large Breed the clear favorite. It has consistently provided large breed dogs with a nutritious and healthy meal to boost metabolism and keep their joints healthy

Iams vs. Purina Product Reviews...

1. Iams Proactive Health – Adult Large Breed

Iams Vs. Purina - Which Is The Better Big Dog Food Brand? (1)
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This food is a vet-approved formula that contains real chicken and other wholesome ingredients. It’s made specifically for adult-stage larger breeds of more than 50 pounds.

Nutritional Profile

  • Real chicken is the primary ingredient
  • Contains L-carnitine to boost your dog’s metabolism and help is burn fat
  • Contains glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate to support healthy joints
  • The large diameter (about the size of a nickel) is perfect for big dogs’ mouths

What We Like

We like the use of real chicken meat and other healthy ingredients in this product. After trying Iams, we noticed our Golden Retrievers had better-looking coats, even during summer. The added L-carnitine is also good for fat burning, but because our dogs are very active, I’m not sure it made much of a difference. Your experience might vary, though.

Oh, and did we mention it’s at a great price point?

What We Don’t Like

Iams still includes some questionable byproducts and preservatives in this product, which is disappointing.


  • Quality ingredients
  • Helps control weight gain
  • Excellent price


  • Some controversial ingredients

Overall, Iams Proactive Health is an above-average dog food at a great price. The use of real chicken is a reasonable assurance of quality, and the added vitamins and minerals are nice touches. If you're trying to switch to a different brand, but you're not too keen on spending a lot, Iams is an excellent one to try.

Overall Rating: 3.9 / 5

Iams Dog Food | Chewy

2. Purina One Smartblend

Iams Vs. Purina - Which Is The Better Big Dog Food Brand? (2)

Purina One’s Smartblend is a protein-rich blend of chicken and rice that dogs love.

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Nutritional Profile

  • Chicken is the #1 ingredient
  • Smartblend technology makes for a holistically nutritious dog food
  • Natural glucosamine helps promote your dog’s healthy joints
  • A blend of antioxidants promotes a healthy immune system

What We Like

Two things stand out with this blend: First, it contains real chicken at an affordable price; and second, it contains more protein than comparable brands. A fellow dog owner wanted to switch from his brand, which is full of controversial ingredients. The thing is, he didn't want to invest in costly premium dog food. He opted for Purina One and happily reported that his dogs liked it, with improved health to show for it.

What We Don’t Like

We received reports of several inconsistencies with Purina One’s products. Some report different ratios of chicken and kibbles, while others reported contamination. While these may be isolated incidents, it still puts a little dent on the brand.


  • Affordable
  • Real meat from a named source
  • Great for immune system health


  • Some formula inconsistencies

If you're looking for a premium dog food without a premium price, go with Purina One. Your dog will get real chicken as the primary ingredient, and you’ll pay a surprisingly affordable price – easily half that of a premium brand. The added glucosamine and antioxidants are good boosters, too.

Overall Rating: 3.7 / 5

Purina ONE SmartBlend True Instinct Dog | Chewy

3. Purina Beneful

Iams Vs. Purina - Which Is The Better Big Dog Food Brand? (3)

Purina Beneful is a healthier dog-food option for health-conscious owners. It contains real, farm-raised chicken and other ingredients for a balanced meal that still tastes great.

Nutritional Profile

  • Real farm-raised chicken is the #1 ingredient
  • Includes fruits and vegetables for added goodness and flavor
  • Contains antioxidant blends to promote a healthy immune system

What We Like

We like the health-conscious direction of Purina Beneful. It also uses more natural ingredients. Dogs naturally love sweetness, and we believe it contributed to our dog liking this one when we tried it. The great thing? It’s naturally sweetened.

What We Don’t Like

It’s a bit pricier than Purina One, with comparable quality, in our opinion.

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  • Farm-raised all-natural ingredients
  • Balances nutrition
  • Rich in Omega-3


  • For the price, you can find better

If your dog needs a better food for health reasons, try Purina Beneful. You can rest easy knowing your dog is getting only natural ingredients and farm-sourced chicken.

Overall Rating: 4.1 / 5

Beneful Dog Food | Chewy

Product Category

The food brand for your dog depends on its particular needs, but there are some essential things you need to consider before choosing one. The best dog food brands:

Use a Quality Protein Source

Protein is one of the vital macronutrients for your pet, just as it is for you. Dogs use it for the same purpose you do – to build muscles, tissues, and hair or fur. And while dogs CAN survive on a low-protein diet, it’s generally considered a bad idea because it can lead to weight, hair, and energy losses.

That said, protein in dog food isn’t created equal. Some contain meat meal or meat byproducts that can come from any source, even waste from farms and restaurants. If the dog-food ingredients merely note "meat," chances are it's from meat meal.

The best option for your dog is to choose named protein sources. Premium meats to look for include muscle meats such as beef, lamb, or chicken. Salmon is also a good choice because it contains essential oils (more on that later).

Use A Credible Source of Fat

Fats play a significant role in your dog’s health – maybe more than you realize. Fats are more easily digested than proteins or carbs and are, therefore, readily available to your dog. Good fats are crucial to maintaining the healthy sheen of your dog's coat, and it makes things delicious!

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Fats come in many forms, but the ones you should look for are the healthy essential fatty acids, including Omega-6 and Omega-3 fatty acids. Good sources of these healthy fats include oily fish, olive oil, and animal fat.

Avoid rendered fat if you can. It can be a breeding ground for salmonella and other microorganisms. Another controversial oil is canola, with ongoing debate challenging whether it is healthy or dangerous to your dog.

Are Nutritionally Balanced and Complete

While dogs tend to love meat, they are actually omnivores. As a result, they benefit from having a balanced diet of proteins, fats, and fiber. Fiber, in particular, is crucial to your dog’s healthy digestion. Too little or too much can result in loose stools and other complications.

You also need to adjust your dog’s diet based on its life stage, activity level, and health conditions, if any. For example, puppies and outdoor dogs generally need more protein-rich foods.

When in doubt, make sure the dog food meets the guidelines set by the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO).

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Have a Stellar History of Product Safety

One way to judge a food brand's quality is by checking the number of product recalls the company has issued throughout its history. Recalls are most commonly issued due to the presence of a contaminant – like salmonella or another harmful microorganism – in a particular batch.

You can check recalls from this extensive list by the American Veterinary Medical Association. You can also take a look at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration resource for pet owners.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) doesn’t necessarily require approval of dog food before companies sell it on the market. They ensure that it is safe for pet consumption, but you have to do further due diligence on your own.

Similarities and Differences

Iams uses higher-quality ingredients than other similarly priced brands on the market. One thing you’ll notice with the Iams line is that it often contains chicken as the default meat in its recipes.

The only product line Iams carries is Proactive Health. This line includes several categories that are tailor-fit to your dog's specific age, nutritional needs, and breed. These categories make it somewhat easier to shop, especially for toy breeds that have delicate nutrition needs.

Common features of Iams include:

  • Real meat is the first ingredient – As mentioned, chicken is the most commonly used meat here, though Iams also has recipes that use beef and lamb.
  • Uses wholesome ingredients – It contains healthy ingredients, such as beet pulp and fruit, as natural sources of fiber and antioxidants.
  • Specific nutrition profiles – each recipe is formulated for a dog's particular nutrition needs. For example, the line includes products with additional vitamins and minerals specific to mature breeds.
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Purina, as a huge corporation, focuses on serving a wider variety of dogs’ needs. Its extensive product portfolio includes everything from budget to top-of-the-line premium products. But the brand is not, as a whole, always focused on using the best natural ingredients. For example, the company’s budget brand, Alpo, contains unnamed meat and controversial additives.

For comparison's against Iams, let’s take a look at Purina’s premium lines, Purina One and Beneful. Both feature higher-quality ingredients and nutritionally balanced recipes.

Common features of Purina One and Beneful include:

  • Real meat is the #1 ingredient – like Iams, Purina uses named meat in the majority of its products.
  • Holistic Nutrition – These brands put more emphasis on the dog food’s overall nutrition than the individual ingredients used. They still advocate the use of grain, when grain-free is all the rage these days.
  • Protein-Rich – Purina One and Beneful both feature above-average protein levels compared to Iams.

Head-to-Head Comparison

To help you decipher the qualities of these dog foods, we decided to compare Iams vs. Purina One, based on key product features, including:

Nutritional Content

Pay careful attention to the macronutrient profiles (proteins, fats, fibers) to be sure they meet your dog’s minimum requirements for optimal health.

First three Ingredients

The top ingredients listed say a lot about the quality of dog food. They give you an idea about the food's overall composition. Good signs include mentioning real meat, fruit, and vegetables at the top of the ingredient list.


Our best advice is to buy the highest quality dog food that meets your budget and your pet’s needs. This approach can save you a lot of money because you don’t always have to buy top-of-the-line products to get what you need.

We compared three similar products from each of Iams’s and Purina’s lines:

Feature Comparison


Proactive Health

Adult Large Breed

Purina One


Chicken and Rice


Beneful Originals


Top IngredientsChicken

Ground Whole Grain Corn



Rice Flour

Corn Gluten Meal


Whole Grain Corn


Nutritional ContentProtein: 22.5%

Fat: 12.5%

Fiber: 5.0%

Omega-6: 1.96%

Protein: 26%

Fat: 16%

Fiber: 3%

Omega-6: 1.6%

Protein: 23%

Fat: 12%

Fiber: 4%

Omega-6: N/A

Average Price/Pound

(based on Amazon prices)


Iams Brand

Iams Vs. Purina - Which Is The Better Big Dog Food Brand? (4)

Iams has provided quality pet food for almost 80 years. We like that it emphasizes balanced nutrition through the use of quality ingredients. It’s big on innovation and was the first to use animal-based protein ingredients in the 1950s. To date, the company has issued two product recalls, due to traces of salmonella in a particular batch.

Purina Brand

Iams Vs. Purina - Which Is The Better Big Dog Food Brand? (5)

Purina is one of the largest pet-food brands in the world. A subsidiary of Nestle Corporation, Purina prides itself on being on the cutting edge of pet nutrition, investing heavily in research-and-development efforts. You can see this investment in the company’s large product portfolio. Purina also has one of the most affordable prices on the market and is a good pick for budget-conscious dog owners.

Final Thoughts

Purina and Iams are both big brands on the pet-food scene. They offer balanced diets for a variety of needs and breeds. The two companies use the same quality ingredients and, unfortunately, even some controversial ones. Their price points are relatively low, making them perfect options for price-conscious dog owners.

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In the end, it's hard to pick a winner in the IAMs vs. Purina bout, but if we had to choose, we would personally go with Iams Proactive Health – Adult Large Breed. It represents a more conscious effort by Iams to use wholesome ingredients with slightly better flavor variety. Plus, you can’t beat the price!


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