People come into BONeJOUR everyday and ask me for recommendations for dog food. Over the last 3 years here, I've made it a point to learn as much as possible about the pet food industry, so that I can help you choose the best food for your dog or cat! Now I can use this blog to help keep you informed, but as always, feel free to stop by or give me a call so we can discuss your pet's unique needs. (This is generally dog-specific, but most of the info here can apply to cat food as well!)
This is slightly dumbed down, but I’m going to say there are basically 3 categories of dog foods. Economy/Generic, Premium, Super-Premium/Natural/Holistic/Organic. Let’s start with the gross stuff...
Economy / Generic Dog Food - (Grocery Store Brands, Old Roy, Purina, Pedigree, Purina, Beneful) WARNING: This is really yucky. Those with weak stomachs may just want to skip it.
Generic dog food can often be lower in nutrients and higher in fat products. This is stuff you buy in the grocery store or the corner store. From the generic Acme brand to Purina One, they are all in the bottom category.
Why are they so bad? Well, one major reason is their source of meats. Instead of the whole meats their beautiful labels and thousand-dollar commercials show, they are using meat by-products. These are basically the leftovers of the meat industry, otherwise known as Specified Risk Materials, bits of animals humans don’t eat (feathers, beaks, guts, etc) or 4D meats. The 4-D's are dead, diseased, drugged, and downed meat producing animals. Told you it was disgusting! STAY AWAY FROM BY-PRODUCTS!
Another reason to avoid generic brands is the percentage of meat to “fillers”. Dogs are omnivores that need a large amount of meat protein in their diets, and cats are true carnivores. Our pets have difficulty processing certain grains, and definitely should not be getting their protein from animal sources such as corn gluten, which is what most of these brands use to pump up their protein percentages.
Foods in this category often change depending on what type of meat is cheaper. This can wreak havoc on a dog’s digestive system. They often contain artificial colorings and flavorings, which your dog could care less about. These foods contain chemical preservatives and fillers like wheat, corn and soy.
We don’t carry any economy/generic foods here at BONeJOUR, and I urge you not to feed your pet any food in this category.
Premium Dog Food - (Hill’s Science Diet, Nutro, Iams)
Premium dog foods have higher standards in choosing ingredients and in processing methods. Premium foods still vary from brand to brand, but often the formula does not change from bag to bag like it might with economy brands. The ingredients are slightly better, artificial dyes are not added, but antioxidants and vitamins are, and the food is slightly easier to digest. All of these extra touches result in slightly higher quality nutrition for your pet, but with less food consumed.
The only brand in this category that we carry at BONeJOUR is Science Diet. I am conflicted about carrying this brand, because I don’t think it’s the best quality food. However, because of their amazing marketing and partnerships with vets and animal shelters, many people come in and insist on feeding their pet Science Diet. They recently came out with the Nature’s Best line, which is actually much better quality than the original. (Yay!) If you currently feed your pet Science Diet and you’re interested in switching to a higher quality food, PLEASE come see me! I’d love to help you!
Super Premium Dog Food - Canidae, Solid Gold, California Natural, Wellness, Innova, Evo, Orijen, Verus, Merrick
Super Premium foods contain better ingredients than in the Premium brands. Most brands use only human-grade ingredients. They also do not use synthetic preservatives like ethoxyquin, but use Vitamin C or Vitamin E instead. They do not use artificial flavors or colors. Super Premiums may be more expensive, but your pet is receiving concentrated nutrition packed into smaller portion sizes, which can be more economical.
Some of these foods are also grain-free (Orijen, Evo) and many are made with human-grade ingredients. It’s really quite a far cry from that store brand food we looked at back in the first category! Most of them are also all-natural, meaning that they do not use chemical preservatives, colorings, or flavorings. This is the good stuff. Give one of these foods a try, and you’ll see benefits such as shinier coats, increased energy, and better overall health. Less vet visits!
The majority of food we carry at BONeJOUR falls in this category. This does not mean all the foods are the same! There are still differences in type of animal protein (chicken, fish, lamb, etc), amount of grains (grain-free vs. traditional holistic foods containing digestible grains), and TASTE! All our dogs are different, they need different foods based on their particular needs and tastes. Hence the variety. But regardless of their differences, you can feel good about feeding your dog any food in this category.
There’s actually one more category that we didn’t really get into...
Veterinary Prescription Diets - Requiring a prescription from a veterinarian, therapeutic diets are usually used when a dog is taken into the vet because something is wrong with them. Science Diet (Hill's) makes prescription diets, as do other companies. Retail stores like BONeJOUR can't order these diets, because they are prescription only. The thing is, I've done quite a bit of research on these diets, and talked to quite a few vets, and I'm skeptical. In my eyes, if you feed a dog a high-quality food, it is very unlikely that they will need to be on these diets. I believe that the prescription diet "scheme" is exactly that - marketing. Pet food companies provide these foods to vets so they can "prescribe" them to people (at extremely high markups!) Many of these foods would be considered an poor quality food if you look at the ingredients - by-products, gluten, fillers, yuck, yuck, and yuck! I know there are a lot of great vets out there who know tons about dog nutrition, but I've been in situations where I specifically asked a vet what ingredients in a special food would be beneficial for a condition, and the vet had no idea! If your vet prescribes your dog a prescription food, please ask them what exactly about the food is therapeutic to your dog. Then come see me and we'll find a healthier alternative that serves the same purpose, is most likely cheaper, and doesn't support the pet food marketing industry.
The Difference is in the Price, and in the Poop!
The thing that bugs me the most about pet food you can buy at, say, Shop-Rite, is the price! If you're going to spend almost as much money, why not get something GOOD, and support a worthwhile pet food company company and a small, local business at the same time? It's always been my opinion that if you skimp on pet food, you will end up paying more at the vet later. Plus, feeding your dog a Super-Premium food will end up costing LESS per feeding, because you have to feed the dog much less to get the same nutritional power!
* 24 cents a day to feed a dog a Super-Premium brand
* 26 cents a day for a Premium brand
* 31 cents a day for an Econo brand!
According to Nan Weitzman and Ross Becker in The Dog Food Book, the main difference between Economy, Premium, and Super Premium dog foods is the clean up. The Economy brands had fewer nutrients per package and the recommended feeding portion was 6 cups a day. The Premium brand had more nutrients than the Economy packages, but less than the Super Premium. The feeding instructions recommended 3-1/4 cups per day. The Super Premium offered the best nutritional value and suggested an average of only 1-3/4 cups of food per day. All measurements were for a 40-lb. dog. "Thus, the big difference," state Weitzman and Becker "is in the poop!"