For All You Orijen Feeders, READ THIS!

Read this blog post about Orijen and concerning nutrient levels courtesy of Desert Wind Hounds blog. Read the comments too, there is a ton of information there about misconceptions of food allergies and grain free diets. It’s important to evaluate WHY a specific dog should start a unique food like this, which is why I’m posting this here. I truely believe a dogs’ diet should be based on their individual needs, not breed, and not because it’s popular.
I do think Orijen is a well made product and it really, really helped Beebe when I was first dealing with her crazy allergies. It was a great starting point that helped prompt me to feeding raw and learning about the importance of researching what you feed. I fed Orijen to my first two Shibas, and then switched to the lower protein variety Acana when several things started happening. 

Firstly, they became horribly gassy, secondly, they became extremely thirsty on this food which is a sign of stress on the kidneys and liver, which I later learned was from the highly concentrated amounts of dried protein in the food. Thirdly, I observed elevated liver and kidney enzymes after starting this food.

So, before feeding this food, please stop and think why the particular dog should have this instead of a more traditional kibble, home cooked, or raw: Is the dog truely allergic or intolerant of grains based on allergy testing and diet trials? Is the dog’s kidneys/liver in great working order based on bloodwork? Is the dog out of the puppy stage (very high levels of calcium and phospherous)? If yes to all of these, Orijen is probably a good choice among many equally good choices of diet. I sincerely believe at this point however, that the best grain free diet is total raw, or something well formulated with lower protein like Acana.

41 thoughts on “For All You Orijen Feeders, READ THIS!

  1. We stopped Orijen when Akira started getting black stains on his belly, our vet said it was a problem due to his kidneys. We did not asks for further analysis and just switched to Raw.I think that normal food is just better for dogs, kibble will always be a highly processed and very dry feed. But that's just me 😉

  2. honestly I thought her review was a bit extreme. I'm sure someone can dissect Acana the same way.I guess her warnings and concerns would be valid if someone ONLY gave orijen – no treats, water or anything else – every day for the life of a dog. But then… extreme, isn't it?From fostering I've learned that dog food is less about what you feed and mroe about how the individual dog tolerates it. For my three and most fosters, Orijen Regional Red works for all of them. I'm happy with it.

  3. Well, that explains the eighty-gajillion hits I'm getting on that article ;)Out of curiosity, how soon did you observe the greater water intake in your dogs after starting the food? And did you do the organ screen due to the excessive thirst? I get at least one or two hits every day on that article from people searching for 'orijen drinking water' and 'orijen liver problems' or variations thereof. It makes me wonder how often that actually happens with these foods.

  4. @ Cynthia, I was thinking about Akira when I was reading the OP.@Jen, I totally agree "that dog food is less about what you feed and mroe about how the individual dog tolerates it." @Jess- I'm really glad you addressed this. I hear from so many pet people who remark their dogs are terribly gassy and very thirsty after switching to Orijen. I have spoken with several very prominent breeders in Shibas who have had dogs develop elevations in liver function on the food. It has forced quite a change in what we now recommended for our dogs.I noticed the increased thirst right away, and so started soaking it in water to help, not realizing what was really going on. Their urine turned very dark, and one dog in particular was acting very ill and not eating.The changes were very gradual, so I think it was following 12ish months that I did labs. Although I can't proove that it wasn't infection or stress which caused the abnormal lab values, it was enough to cause me to switch.My concern is that people start otherwise healthy puppies and dogs on it because of popular dogma on pet forums that "Shibas should eat grain free" and protein is king without doing research. I think it's being most recommended for suspected allergy dogs in lieu of medical testing, but I know so many people switch to it hoping that will "prevent" allergy issues from developing.I used to really thump that bible, but I now realize that isn't necessarily best for a healthy dog who could do equally well on something less restrictive, especially with puppies.It would be nice if Orijen would mention if they are finding this is a verified issue with their customers. I wonder if this isn't what prompted the recent changes in their formulas?

  5. Jen, frankly, I thought your critical thinking skills were a little bit better than that. Who DOES NOT give their dog water? Really? Do you think three or four treats a day are going to make a difference if the main diet is really out of whack? Many people do not feed their dog anything but kibble, ESPECIALLY if the dog has a weight problem, and grain free foods are frequently recommended for weight loss. In fact, I recommend low carb foods myself for weight loss.Frankly, for the cost of this kibble, people should expect a safe product. If there are caveats (should be fed with other foods, fed with extra water, some dogs may have issues with it in regards to kidney and liver function) IT SHOULD BE ON THE BAG.I have seen changes in my dogs with very subtle diet tweaks. Yes, that makes me question the wisdom of having a iron content that is FIVE TIMES the recommended amount in a product meant for daily feeding (no warning on the bag.) Chronic high iron intake can actually scar the liver and cause permanent damage. Call me extreme, if it makes you feel better. I don't mind. Lindsay, I find it very interesting that you saw the thirst right away. That's actually a little scary, because the moisture content in this food is 10%, which is in line with other kibbles. There really isn't a reason, in regards to hydration, why a dog would need more water on this food. Water consumption in that case would be a disease pathology, and I find it a little scary because it is an organ function problem, not just something like a little soft poop due to increased fat or fiber that will resolve once the dog gets used to the new diet.I have talked to other people who have had increased liver values in their dogs on very high protein foods, that resolved when the food was changed. It would be really interesting to know how common that is. It would also be really interesting to cross-reference it in purebred according to pedigree to see if there's a familial component.Food allergies in dogs is a really interesting topic and there is a load of misinformation out there. IME, it's not really what you feed, but how you feed it (from weaning onwards) AND your dog's general physiology. There is a such a strong genetic component to it as well, that that can't be ignored. I've talked to many people with allergy dogs that are completely opposite to mine.Thanks for the link and I'm glad you found it useful.

  6. nutrient information on dog food bags – do they take into account daily water consumption?that's what I meant. we're breaking down the nutrient content in dry matter form based on what is printed on the bag and how it may or may not affect the health of the dog. Not taking into consideration anything else the dog consumes or to say that you could be hurting your dog by feeding this because of the toll it can possibly maybe take on the liver and kidney based on the dry matter value is.. well.. extreme. in my very humble i-don't-have-any degrees-to-back-me-up-i'm-just-saying-because-i-feed-this-to-my-dogs-so-i'm-a-little-defensive-but-more-than-that-i-see-that-it-works-for-them-way.and this is why, like you, I just can't handle getting into the food wars, with people or dog foods. since i'm a nutrition major in my post grad studies, i have to talk human nutrition all…the…time.

  7. This food has ten percent moisture. It should not cause a dog to drink more water to keep itself hydrated than any other ten percent moisture food. If it is necessary for the dog to consume more water than 'normal', which will vary by dog and environment, then it should say so on the bag. Iron and calcium and phosphorus are minerals. Water consumption is not going to affect mineral absorption. It may affect excretion of excess (and certainly that could be a reason for increased water consumption on this food), which comes back to directions on the bag.As a nutrition major, would you recommend that a person eat a food that contains five times the recommended amount of iron, every day? Do you think it would ethical for Kelloggs to market a breakfast cereal to children, and you know how children are about food preferences, that has five times the amount of a nutrient they need per day, and NOT put a notice on the box that says they should only be eating it in very small amounts or only a few times a week? I don't think that's ethical for children, and I don't think it's ethical for dogs. The thing is, most people who feed a food that their dog doesn't do well on, will just change it. They don't think about WHY their dog may be doing poorly. This lets manufacturers off the hook.As a nutritionist, you may be interested in looking up a case study of a puppy with metabolic bone disease that was fed Sojourner Farms premix. See if you think the manufacturer's response in that case was ethical.

  8. FWIW: We have experienced the same type of symptoms for our dogs over time with several high end protein brands of Kibble. So I would not point to just Orijens but kibble over 25% protein with a long ingredient list. (I think Orijens has one of the highest protein compounds on the market so it may be that symptoms appear quicker depending on the dog). As our Shibas have matured into Sr. dogs the higher protein content plus all the extras in the mixture have been quite hard on the kidneys. We have the cbc and urinalysis to prove it and the follow up after food change that shows a distinct change, so we believe there is a probable correlation. All of the dogs have done far better on raw with rice and veggies with a trade out of kibble (lower protein/short ingredient list) for at least one feeding per day or every other day. We are doing quite well with Addiction brand at this point. I really feel that high protein high supplement foods are akin power drinks/shakes in humans, unless one is bodybuilding or embarking in very high endurance sports there isn't really a need for it in the everyday. There is something to be said for being practical while seeking a whole food product to gain the greatest benefit in its simplest form. This brings me to another thought, in many kibble brands there is a 50 to 100 item ingredient list and I question if some of those are actually essential, particularly after processing. Some items listed sound really tasty but in all reality probably less is more.

    • I too was feeding my shiba orijen, but I mixed it with blue buffalo canned food, After about 3 years she stopped eating her food and I took her to the vet and she was diagnosed with kidney disease. I took her off the food and started to feed her k/d prescription diet and her levels have come down. However I have been giving her lots of rice some protein and vegetables and unfortunately have been trying different kibble but now she is scooting on the rug and after having a bowel movement. I took her to the vet and they expelled her anal glands and dismissed any infection but 2 weeks later she is still doing it, I know Shibas are very prone to allergies so I was wondering if I should try another kibble or just feed her chicken and rice for the time and see if it gets better?

  9. I switched my Aussies to Orijen a couple of months ago as a transitional step to raw. I took one of them in for a blood test today and her BUN and creatinine levels were high (less than a year ago they were almost half of today's numbers). Both have been incredibly gassy since starting this food and are drinking a lot more water. I'm transitioning them off of it now.

  10. Good plan Beth. I hope tour dog starts feeling better soon. I would retest labs in another 30 days. There has to be some correlation with the higher protein levels. I know people want to dismiss it by saying the dog was sick to begin with, but I second what Jess says, why aren't these special directions and cautions on the bag? To echo what Fuzzy is saying, I wouldn't feed a sled dog racing formula to my lazy senior dog, so people need to step back and evaluate why they believe any higher protein premium unique food should be rotated into their house pets diets when most pets simply don't need that level of nutrition. If I was forced to feed this food, or something similar to it, I would soak it in water and add cooked potato or rice, and reduce the overall kibble portion.

  11. I would like to add here. I have a very good Vet who has been my Vet for over 35 years. We were talking about Raw diets and he told me he see’s more dogs sick from Raw diets then he ever has in the last 5 years. Raw is not always the answer and actually does not contain much of what is necessary for dogs to be healthy.

    • I didn’t say raw was “the answer”. Did you even read the linked article?

      I don’t care what you feed your dogs. Don’t think that you are entitled to come and troll on my site and spew your opinions. You burned that bridge.

  12. I just got back from the vet today… my dog was hospitalized over night due to vomiting SEVERAL times. We just switched his food to Orijen 3 wks ago. We found out his liver enzymes were very high. He has been home 3 hrs and is acting wonderfully. The vet didn’t seem to think that there was a link but now after reading post after post after post I’m skeptical and my dog will be switched to a different food. I hope my dog continues to improve as he is part of our family! 1200 dollars later… ugh

      • So three weeks after taking my dog off orijen his liver enzymes are normal again and he’s back to 100%. Thank god. I called orijen this morning yet again and got the run around. I guess I have to eat my 1200$ vet bill. The good thing is Scotty is alive and well!!

      • Good grief! That is a horrible Vet bill. Thankfully he is all right now. I would maybe consider small claims court to recoup your cost if you can get a Vet statement and lab work. In the least, the threat of it may prompt them to settle with you.

  13. We put out little chi/yorkie on orijen and we almost lost him to acute liver damage. I can’t prove it was the food but our dog does not get into anything. We have a camera that watches his every move when we are not home. He just sits in our window. Thank god he lived. He had To be in hospital over night Three weeks after discontinuing orijen his liver enzymes were normal again. All blood work checked out perfect.

      • My schnauzer has elevated liver enzymes. My three small dogs have been eating OriJen for almost 1 year. I now read that not all dogs can process the high levels of protein in Orijen and I believe this is the reason for the elevated enzymes showing up in the blood work. I will be taking the other 2 in for blood tests and changing their diets immediately. I have noticed an excessive thirst in the terrier but didn’t connect it to the food until now.

      • I’m glad it was caught in time, and I hope they are doing better. Schnauzers were my first breed and I love them dearly. Can you believe when I was kid in 81, they ate Gravy Train and Kibbles n Bits!

  14. I have three Brussels Griffons…mother, father and a son. I switched the female to Orijen but not the other two dogs. The female was 9 years old and died of kidney failure…I believe from switching to this dog food. The vet said she was shocked that my dog had kidney failure. Her health had been excellent prior to the switch. Will never know for sure as I have had her cremated…three weeks after my mother died. I had a dual memorial. Still grieving for my baby girl, Ginger.

  15. Please contact me of you are interested in trying to get a lawyer involved. This company lies through its teeth saying no ones ever called reporting ANY issues with its food. My email is let’s see if there’s anything we can do

  16. Like many I googled to get some info on why my cairn terrier was drinking excessively on orijen senior -in fact he regurgitated in his
    sleep.Very scary .I started soaking the kibble in boiled water overnight which has helped .Ihave found I only need to use a fraction of the amount.50gms instead of the 120grms advised for the less active dog and he isnt looking for any more.He vomited outside last night and I am going to take him off it .I think it is too concentrated fo the average dog.His energy level has dropped and he is sluggish which was not the case before.
    After reading all those comments from other users of Orijen I am of the opinion that it does not suit all dogs and is even making them ill including mine.

  17. my 9 year old Husky has developed high Alt levels….think I need to transition off Orijen…what food should I transition to?

    • I used Evangers Whitefish and Potato or Chicken and rice as a lower protein transition, but you can try home cooked. Anything with fish, rice or potato is a good lower protein option.

    • I switched my dog to taste of the wild salmon. He has thrived and since having a dance with death September 2012 has been in excellent health. He has had two blood tests to confirm all is perfect. It was absolutely the orijen food.

  18. “Thirdly, I observed elevated liver and kidney enzymes after starting this food.”

    Really? You “observed”? What exactly did you see that you could evaluate elevated liver and kidney enzymes in your dog? And you state this without having it confirmed by blood tests?

    My GSD constantly vomited and had diarrhea until I went grain free. I did this on my own since my vet never suggested the problem could have been food related.

    I tried Taste of the Wild but my GSD didn’t care for it and then after it was recalled I switched to Orijen. Now he has no more digestive issues or scratching.

    Most dogs do well on Orijen…most do not do well on foods with grain.

  19. Started my 2 1/2 yo Lab on Orijen 9mos ago. In May routine bloodwork showed elevated liver enzymes. Vet wanted to run bile acid test. That showed continued elevation. I immediately took him off Orijen and started supplement of Denosyl for 30 days. Recheck in6wks. showed completely normal results. Will never know if the Orijen was a contributing factor, but I won’t be feeding it again. He showed no signs of any issues, plenty of Lab energy to run, retrieve and swim. I’m sad this food did not work for him.

  20. Thank you 🙂 my dog has had the same symptoms (drinking a lot more water) since i switched to orijen about 10 months ago. it was when i brought him to the vet and found out his kidney enzymes are elevated and vet recommend a diet change, that i started to do some research for a new dog food and ended up here 🙂 any suggestions for kibbles ?? 🙂

  21. I am very concerned about this food. Routine neuter lab results showed elevated ALT, AST and BUN levels which prompted me to google and found this site. Please can anyone tell me what is a ‘safe’ dog food to feed. RAW is not an option for me due to time constraints and the ick factor. I will transition my dog to boiled rice and ground beef and introduce a new kibble. What kibble? Price is not an issue. I will pay whatever for my baby to be healthy. TIA

  22. I hit send, before finishing my post. I wanted to add that I am very sorry and my heart is aching for those who have lost a pet or have had one become very ill. I am disgusted with what I am reading. Praying all your fur kids are ‘safe’ from this garbage food.

  23. My baby has white shaky dog syndrome and is a Morkie mix @ 10 months of age. We put both him and my precious rag doll cat on orijjen. Now JoJo is diagnosed with high liver enzymes and shaky white dog syndrome common to Maltese and due to autoimmune syndrome. Vet is treating w/ milk thistle component and some type of steroid. Will take both off of orijjen and go to what breeder recommended.

  24. Hi,
    I tried Orijen for the first time about 3 weeks ago. I immediately noticed my dog’s need for water increased dramatically, he would vomit a few times a week and he was grassy — something he had never been before. His urine also became very dark. I stopped feeding him Orijen as soon as I figured out it was the food causing these issues. It’s only been a few days, but I see dramatic improvement.
    I tried Orijen because of its reputation as being ‘the best’ and due to its nearly nonexistent recall history. I stopped feeding Canidae and Taste of the Wild due to recalls. I’m now researching home made foods and raw diets. I really don’t care how much it costs to feed my dog, I just want him healthy and along with it, some peace of mind that what I’m feeding him isn’t causing him harm. Why is this so hard?

  25. I have been feeding my 5 year old lab Orijen for the past 7 months and I noticed he was drinking a lot of water but didn’t think there was anything wrong. About 2 weeks ago he stopped eating and I took him to the vet to get blood work done. The vet said his levels for kidneys were a bit higher than they should be and he’s now on antibiotics and a special kidney diet. I didn’t think it could be the food but now I’m reading all these comments and wondering that it may be.

  26. People here didn’t finish high school? The percentage of the protein means nothing if you don’t take in the account the total grams you feed. For medium size dog, for example, orijen is 120 gram less than lots of other kibble. It means that the total amount of protein is the same.

  27. I just came upon this blog and I am happy I did. I am experiencing many of the problems with my dog as listed above due to Orijen, including very similar results after full blood work. I have two large bags of the feed and now I am considering dumping them. Nothing is sacred.

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