Do you love your cat or dog? Of course, you do. That's why you choose to buy the better food, take them to the vet regularly, and spoil them. We know, we do the same with our pets.
Chances are, you fall among the large percentage of pet owners that spend more time analyzing your pet's food than you do your own. You take a look at the label to see what's on there, but we know that can be a little confusing.
Why Cheap Dog Food Isn't Good
Have you stood in the aisle of the grocery store, looking from one side to the other at the various brands and types of pet food? Some are cheap, and some are quite expensive. What's the difference?
In most cases, it comes down to the quality of the ingredients that go into the pet food. Let's take a look at the top three things you'll see on the label: meat, vegetables, and vitamins and minerals.
Almost all the companies use the same types of vitamins and minerals, and there are federal regulations for exactly what they do use. Some of the better brands will go above and beyond and include more than the minimum required dose.
Most companies will use vegetables, but you do have to be careful not to include too many legumes such as peas, beans, and soy. These ingredients contain lecithin, a protein that binds vitamins and minerals and is difficult to digest. Some cheaper foods add a lot of soy into their products to bulk up both the protein and fiber content.
Meat should be the primary ingredient, particularly for cats. Cats are obligate carnivores and have to have a lot of meat and protein to survive. But, even this confuses some people.
For example, you could have chicken as the ingredient, chicken by-products, or chicken meal. So, what does this mean?
If an ingredient is just chicken, beef, or turkey, that means they took muscle and put it into the product. This is a whole steak or a chicken breast. By-products are the other stuff, the necks, organs, feet, ligaments, and scraps not used for human consumption. It isn't necessarily bad, but isn't good.
Then, there's the meal. This is the leftover by-product of larger companies boiling down the bones and scraps to make broth and stock. This is not necessarily bad, either, but it is very low-quality.
Generally, higher-cost pet food uses more whole meats than by-products and meal.
Designer Pet Foods May Not Be Tops Either
The next step to figure out if your high price pet food is worth it is to find out where the company sources the meat. Many companies have partnerships with slaughterhouses to get the product they need. Some of them will sell unfit animals to pet manufacturers because the processing eliminates nearly all of the pathogens.
So, your high-end pet food might contain sick or injured animals. You would have to research the company to know the difference.
You Don't Need To Handmake All Your Own Pet Food
You might start thinking it's worth making your own pet food, but we want to caution against that, too. Many people, including many blogger moms, post their homemade pet food for the world to see.
Most of them are probably very tasty and their pets eat it up quickly. But talking with some pet nutritionists, they are horrified by how nutrient-deficient some of these recipes are. You can't just throw together a couple of chicken breasts, livers, and vegetables and consider them healthy.
If you do choose to have homemade pet food, seek out a qualified animal nutritionist to make sure you're not harming your pet in an effort to help them.
The Right Supplements For Your Pet
Fortunately, your vet has a lot of supplements specifically designed for cats and dogs.
One of the notable supplements is taurine for cats. They must have taurine supplemented in their diet, which is a protein only found in whole cuts of meat. It's added to all cat foods and treats.
Dogs need a considerable amount of fat, vitamin A, and protein. Although dogs are more scavengers, having good quality dog food can prevent a lot of problems. Scratching is a big issue and dry skin. Most dried dog foods do not contain enough fats. Supplementing a little bit of grease from your cooking can give them that extra boost. Dogs that get enough have soft, supple skin and shiny coats. You can actually see the difference once your dog gets enough fats within a few days.
Both cats and dogs enjoy the taste of liver, and an occasional snack, no more than a tablespoon once a day, can be a nice treat that supplements a lot of vitamins.
Just be careful with bones, as any bone that can splinter can cause severe damage to your pet's digestive system. However, good quality soup bones are a treat.
The bottom line: The higher-cost pet foods usually are a better investment in your pet's health. You can also supplement with vitamins from the vet and giving scraps from your own table. Just like humans, many animals will eat and crave food to offset nutritional deficiencies. If your pet is always hungry, that's a sign something is missing from their diet.