Is it worth feeding your pet expensive brands of food?

On Ireland AM this week, we discussed the important topic of choosing the right pet food. You can watch the video by following the link at the foot of this page, but the key aspect that we discussed is this:

  • What’s the story about expensive diets?
  • Are they worth spending money on?

Why are some foods more expensive than others, and is it worth paying the extra?

There are two things that you pay extra for:

1) Quality of ingredients

If you read the label, you will see that there may be specific items (e.g. chicken, brown rice) rather than broad groups of ingredients (e.g. “meat and animal derivatives”).  These days, manufacturers know that people read labels, so the list of ingredients is often designed to appeal more to human tastes than to animals’ needs!
The question is: do pets NEED a high quality of ingredients?

2) Consistency of ingredients from batch to batch

Cheaper foods have broad groups of ingredients (e.g. meat and animal derivatives) which means that the manufacturer can change from one thing to another (eg chicken to turkey) without changing the label. This allows them to chop and change the formulation depending on what type of protein is cheapest at any given time (eg turkey is cheaper after Christmas, beef may be cheaper in summer and mutton may be cheaper in the autumn).

More expensive foods tend to have more specific ingredients that cannot be changed according to the price of the ingredients, which is why they are more expensive.

While this aspect of the daily diet may not matter too much for many pets, there are some that have sensitive digestive tracts that react badly if their diet is changed. For these animals, a more expensive diet that is consistent from batch to batch is better.

Is it worth paying extra? Sometimes, but not always. It depends on your individual pet.

My conclusion is that you need to take the time and effort to assess how your pet reacts to the food you offer.

  • Do they enjoy eating it?
  • Is their digestive health good?
  • Do they have a shiny coat, well-defined muscles and bright eyes?

If the answers to these questions are YES, then you are feeding the right diet, regardless of price.

What about asking your own vet about which diet is best?

My belief is that if you are not sure about what to feed your pet, ask your vet. Vets are taught at college about pet nutrition, and they have experience of seeing pets being fed a range of diets over many years.

I know there are sceptics out there who will say “but they will just recommend the food that they are selling on their own shelves”.

My response to this is two-fold:

  • First, vets choose which food to stock on their shelves based on what they believe is good for pets’ health. Vets have no interest in selling products which are going to disappoint people. We want our customers (and their pets) to be happy with what we supply them, so we make sure that we only sell products that we can stand over with confidence.
  • Second, vets do not always recommend only the products that they sell. We are independent professionals and we are happy to give advice about the entire range on the market. Just as your dentist is unlikely to recommend only one type of toothbrush or toothpaste, so vets will can offer you advice on a wide range of options.

2 Comments

  • Kerryn Humphreys says:

    My vets stopped stocking one brand of food when they found that the ingredients had changed on one of the range which affected the epileptic dogs it was meant to help. They reported this to the manufacturers and changed the brand on sale to clients.

  • LouMar says:

    My dog has epilepsy and I’m trying to find a good food for her, I was recommended pro plan 7+ but can’t buy it locally, what are you using?

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Please note that I am unable to answer veterinary questions in comments. If you have questions or concerns about your pet's health it is always better to contact your vet.

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