Merrick VS Blue Buffalo: Which is the Best Brand for Active/ Athletic Dogs

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Just like humans, active dogs tend to have a high metabolism than the less active breeds. As such, you need to feed them a high-quality and balanced diet filled with key nutrients. In this article, we’ll compare Merrick vs Blue Buffalo to see which dog food brand is the best for athlete dogs.

The two are big names on the pet care business, trusted by many due to their commitment to delivering superior nutrition. Furthermore, the brands usually use real whole foods while preparing their dog recipes. So, there’s a good chance for your dog to remain healthy even when you’re pushing him physically.

Blue Buffalo vs Blue Wilderness

What Should You Consider When Choosing Nutrition for Active Dogs?

When compared to their sedentary cousins, athletic dogs certainly need more calories to provide energy. Therefore, the species will require the same ingredients for macronutrients, but at a higher quantity.

As you probably know, dogs do metabolize fatty acids faster [than humans] so that their body can adapt to using fat as an energy source. So, your Russell Terrier, Beagle, or German Shepherd will need a high-fat diet, with carbohydrates to keep the energy tanks in check.

Also, your endurance dog will need a perfect measure of protein to assist in muscle development and tissue repair after the workout. According to the National Research Council, the diet of any working dog should have approximately 30-35% protein. Thereby enabling high performance, while simultaneously supporting the overall growth and development.

Apart from the carbs, fats, and proteins, other nutrients essential to an active pouch include:

  • Antioxidants to deal with the free radicals and reactive oxygen species [ROS]
  • Fiber to aid in digestion and maintain gut health
  • Glucosamine and chondroitin to support joints health
  • Vitamin C to maintain cartilage, bones, plus enhance development and repair of body tissues
    Comparing Merrick vs Blue Buffalo dog food

An overview of the Brands

Chart 1:

Facts  Merrick Dog Food Blue Buffalo Dog Food
Founded 1988 2002
First Ingredient Real Meat Real Meat
Dog Food Brands  7 Types 8 Types
Dry Food Flavors  51  101
Wet Food Flavors 60 Options 99 Options
Dog Treats 43 Items 48 Items
Cat food  YES YES


Merrick is a US-based Pet Care brand based in Hereford, Texas. It started operating in 1988 after the founder, Garth Merrick, decided to bring his beloved dog wholesome and nutritious food.

While holding up to the same beliefs and vision, Merrick company creates their recipes using high-quality ingredients and from trusted sources. The provider has worked hard to ensure every pet lives to the healthiest, happiest life. Hence, the reason they invest pretty much in preparing each recipe. The group also conducts multiple tests to ensure all the ingredients are per the required levels.

Thanks to the different types of dog food, Merrick has been able to serve various dogs and their unique needs. All the recipes usually have a decent combination of protein and healthy fats. Hence, providing your active pup with significant energy and a good boost of amino acids for muscle development.

Blue Buffalo

On its end, the Blue Buffalo, or simply the Blue, is still young, having turned 20 just recently. Unlike its counterpart, the brand had a doleful beginning, in which case the founding family wanted a better diet for their unwell Airedale.
Blue creates its pet food recipes using real and quality ingredients. The firm works in hand with top veterinarians and animal nutritionists who help them understand the various dog issues and how to tackle them.

Every Blue dog diet, dry or wet, starts with real meat as the first ingredient and the main source of protein. The rest of the materials are also natural and thoroughly tested to make sure the diet holds the highest possible standard of quality.

As for the active dogs, Blue Buffalo has various exclusive nutrition that contains a balanced level of all key nutrients. This includes the newly introduced Blue Carnivora, which consists of high crude protein and fat content to ensure high performance. Want to know more? see more at blue buffalo dog food reviews.

The Various Ingredients in the Blue Buffalo and Merrick Dog Food

Chart 2:

Ingredients Merrick Dog Food Blue Buffalo Dog Food
Carbohydrates Barley, Brown Rice, Oatmeal, Potatoes, &sweet potatoes, Sweet potatoes, Barley, Brown Rice, Oat Flour, Potato Flour, & Tapioca Starch
Proteins bacon, Beef, Bison, Eggs, Fish, Lamb, peas, Poultry, rabbit, wild boar, & venison, Alligator, bacon, Beef, Bison, Eggs, Fish, Lamb, Peas Poultry, Pork, Rabbit, & Venison
Fiber Alfalfa, Barley, Guar Gum, Peas, Pumpkin, Quinoa, & Chia Seed Alfalfa, Barley grass, Banas, Fava beans, Spinach, Pumpkin, Guar Gum, & Psyllium
Vitamins Alfalfa, Apples, Blueberries, Carrots, Chicory Root, Cranberries & Essential Vitamins Apples, Blueberries, blackberries, Broccoli Carrots, Chicory Root, Cranberries, & Essential Vitamins
Minerals Carrots, Chickpeas, Green Beans, Salt, & Supplements Carrots, Chickpeas, Green Beans, Kelp, Salt, & Supplements
Fatty acids Canola Oil, Fish, Chia Seeds, Chicken Fat, Fish Oil, Flaxseed, & Sunflower Oil Canola Oil, Fish, Chicken Fat, Cinnamon Fish Oil, Flaxseed, Herring Oil, & Sunflower Oil
Antioxidants Apples, Blueberries, Cranberries, Chia seeds, Parsley, & Vitamin E Supplement Apples, Blueberries, Pomegranate, Cranberries, Parsley, & Vitamin E Supplement
Flavors Rosemary Extract, Natural Flavors, & Natural Flavor. Cheese, Cinnamon, Rosemary Extract, Natural Flavors, & Natural Flavor.
Preservatives Mixed Tocopherols & Citric Acid Citric Acid & Mixed Tocopherols

The Similarities and Differences Between Merrick vs Blue Buffalo Dog Diets

Nutritional Value

According to AAFCO, every dog food brand should include a nutrient profile on its packaging. The rule requires the food bag or can to show the guaranteed minimum percentage of crude protein and crude fat, plus the maximum percentages of crude fiber and moisture. Listing of the other nutrients is not mandatory, but it can guide on the various minerals and vitamins to expect for his pet.

Even so, dog foods usually have a unique formulation and different nutritional value. Between the various diets, therefore, you have to convert the guaranteed analysis to a dry matter basis so that you can have a definitive comparison.

Chart 3: Here is a table showing the nutrients levels between high-protein diets from Merrick and Blue Buffalo

Merrick Backcountry Game Bird Recipe vs Blue Carnivora Woodland Blend Dog Kibble

Guaranteed Analysis Guaranteed Analysis Dry Matter Basis Dry Matter Basis
Merrick Blue Buffalo Merrick Blue Buffalo
Crude Protein 38.0% Min. 40.0% Min. 42.70% 44.44%
Crude fat 17.0% Min. 17.0% Min. 19.10%  18.89%
Crude Fiber 3.5% Max. 5.0% Max. 3.93% 5.56%
Moisture 11.0% Max 10.0% Max. 0% 0%

Merrick Backcountry Grain-Free Hearty chicken vs Blue Carnivora Woodland Blend Wet Food

Guaranteed Analysis Guaranteed Analysis Dry Matter Basis Dry Matter Basis
Merrick Blue Buffalo Merrick Blue Buffalo
Crude Protein 9.0% Min. 12.5% Min. 47.37% 56.82%
Crude fat 5.0% Min. 7.5% Min.  26.32% 34.09%
Crude Fiber  3.0% Max. 1.5% Max. 15.79% 6.82%
Moisture 81.0% Max. 78% Max  0% 0%

As shown above, it’s clear Blue Buffalo is much higher on protein content than Merrick. These results, though, are not for all the dog foods, yet from the line of high protein on either side.

Ingredients Use

Both Merrick and Blue Buffalo dog foods contain wholesome ingredients from natural pasture-raised and farm sources. They also have real meat as the first ingredient and main source of protein, which is very vital to an athletic dog.

Needless to say, the two manufacturers do achieve the 30-35% crude protein that the National Research Council recommends for working dogs. Nonetheless, Blue Buffalo leads with a 1.74% difference in the dry food category whereas the wet food is higher with about 9.45%.

In keeping your pet well-fueled, Merrick and Blue Buffalo dog food contain an excellent blend of carbs and fats. Some of the sources relied on by the pair include Barley, Brown Rice, Oatmeal, Potatoes, and sweet potatoes. None use gluten wheat or corn due to the controversies surrounding them.

While you may not know about it, the concentration of oxidation products does increase when the body is under physical stress. Therefore, active dogs require a higher concentration of antioxidants than their sedentary counterparts. This will help the body to efficiently counteract the “free radical build-ups” and avoid the depletion of the antioxidants in the blood.

Fortunately, Merrick and the Blue team incorporates their diets with healthy and hardworking antioxidants. The various natural sources used by the two include Apples, Blueberries, Blackberries, Cranberries, Parsley, & Vitamin E Supplement.

Product safety

The last thing you would want is pouring your athletic dog a diet that will compromise his activity levels and or a healthy lifestyle. Therefore, the food you choose should not only be of high-quality but also safe.
Here are some of the controversial ingredients that some fans believe are helpful even though critics argue they are unnecessary addition.

  • Caramel– a natural dog food colorant
  • Garlic– used for is antioxidant properties and unique flavor
  • Canola Oil– Great source of essential omega fatty acids for skin and coat health
  • Pea protein- a natural plant source of protein, fiber, starch, and various vitamins
  • Tomato Pomace– contains an excellent amount of dietary fiber, Vitamin A, and B vitamins.

We also came across some media claiming that Blue Buffalo contains Menadione Sodium Bisulfate Complex that’s linked to adverse health issues. After a deep, deep research, though, we came to learn Blue removed the compound from their Cat food formulas way back in 2007. However, some top pet care brands are still using it since it’s cheaper [form of vitamin k].

Other than the debated ingredients, Merrick and Blue Buffalo have, sadly, recalled their products multiple times. The former has had a major issue with Salmonella, in which case they have had five recalls. For the sixth, in 2018,

Merrick issued a voluntary recall of some dog treat recipes due to potentially elevated levels of beef thyroid hormone.
Meanwhile, Blue Buffalo has had 9 recalls, with all from varying safety issues. They include:

  • High level of Vitamin D- 2010
  • Melamine- Two instances in 2007
  • Salmonella contamination- 2015
  • Presence of Propylene Glycol- 2015
  • Mold- 2016
  • Elevated beef thyroid hormone- 2017
  • Presence of Aluminum- 2017
  • Foil Seal Packaging problem- 2017

The 4 Best Merrick and Blue Buffalo Diets for Athletic Dogs

Merrick Real Beef & Sweet Potato Dry Dog Food

This is one of the best options that you can consider for your athletic dog. It features a spectacular blend of high protein, derived from various natural sources such as deboned beef, lamb meal, salmon meal, whitefish meal, and peas. The dog food also has rich carbs [from tubers] that ensure your pet has enough energy to support his active lifestyle.

Key Features:

  • It has a high protein to support growth and lean, strong muscles
  • Rich in fiber to support gut health and improve digestion
  • Highly palatable and easy to digest
  • Includes Omega-3 and -6 fatty acids to improve skin and coat
  • It contains Glucosamine and Chondroitin to maintain healthy hips and joints

Merrick healthy Weight Grain Free Dog Kibble

At around 32% protein, this diet can also make a great selection for your Beagle or German Shepherd. It also has a decent concentration of fats and carbs to replenish your dog’s glucose tanks and ensure he has the energy to split. Each of the kibbles does pack Taurine to support heart function and Vitamin A supplement to improve eyesight.

Key Features

  • It’s a complete and well-balanced diet
  • Great for the overall growth and lean muscle development
  • Contains no grains or synthetic additives
  • Can help normalize bowel movement
  • Contains Glucosamine and Chondroitin to maintain healthy joints
  • It has superior antioxidants from Apples and Berries.

Blue Buffalo Wilderness High protein Dry Dog Food

This is yet another great selection that you can consider for your working dog. It consists of a complete, balanced, and nutritious formulation, with high protein and fat content to support your athletic canine.
The dog food packs rich carbs from sweet potatoes and tapioca. Then, it has the exclusive lifesource bits to improve the overall wellbeing of your pet.

Key Features:

  • It’s specifically for small breed dogs
  • Has high protein levels for muscle development
  • Contains no grains or artificial additives
  • Rich in fiber and antioxidants
  • Includes Glucosamine to support overall mobility
  • It has small-bite kibbles to fit small jaws.

The Blue Wilderness Duck & Chicken Trail Treats

Last but not least is a snack option that you use to compliment your pet during and after a workout. It’s available in various flavors, with all features real meat as the number #1 ingredient and carbs from non-grain sources.
Each treat bit has a soft texture that is effortless and quick for your pet to chew. It also has DHA to assist in cognitive development and muscle recovery.


  • It’s highly palatable and easy to digest
  • Has high protein content
  • Prepared in the USA
  • Can help improve skin and coat health
  • Relies on natural flavors and preservatives
  • It’s fit for dogs with grains intolerance.

Final Verdict

Truthfully, there’s no overall winner between Merrick vs Blue Buffalo. Especially for quality control, both brands have been able to stick on wholesome ingredients that are safe and helpful to pets. The brands also have multiple recipes that have passed the nutrition profile recommended for the working dogs.

Nonetheless, Blue Buffalo wins with the highest protein ratio, in which case it can be a great option if your pet is also underweight. Moreover, the brand is relatively cheaper than almost all Merrick dog food formulas. So it can be a worthwhile alternative if you have a thinner wallet, but you need a perfect diet for your furry friend.

In any case, Merrick is a reputable provider and trusted by many. Thus, can also make a great rotational diet for your athletic dog. Only be aware the brand may be a little higher when it comes to the cost.

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