I recently received an email asking my opinion about a couple of different types of pet foods – what I thought about the quality of the foods. Both of the pet foods he asked about (which he was feeding his family) were what I considered to be very inferior foods. I informed him of this and his response was that they probably couldn’t afford a better food.
While I understand that better quality dog and cat foods can be two or even three times more expensive than some of the cheaper brands, folks who think they can’t afford it, unfortunately, will ‘pay’ in the end. When a pet is sick with kidney or liver disease, when a pet must be treated for skin irritations and ear infections – vet bills to ‘fix’ the health concern cost pet owners far more than the ‘few cents’ a meal to feed them quality nutrition. And I’m often questioned about this ‘few cents a meal’ theory – but before you question me too, let me explain.
Many pet owners suffer ‘sticker shock’ when considering purchasing a better quality food. They look at the price tag and gasp when considering how fast Fido or Fluffy eats that bag of food. What they don’t know is that with better quality pet foods, you don’t feed as much – cheap foods have cheap ‘filler’ ingredients that do not satisfy the nutritional needs of the pet, thus they eat A LOT more attempting to get the nutrition that their body is telling them they need. Better quality foods/ingredients provide the animal with quality nutrition and they eat on average 1/3 less.
So let’s break it down to cost per meal…
Let’s say your pet currently eats 1 cup of food per day. A 20 pound bag of food will provide you with about 50 servings. If the food costs you $15.00 for a 20 pound bag – that equals about .30 per meal.
Now with a good quality pet food – feeding about 1/3 less – a 20 pound bag will provide you about 80 servings. If the better food costs $30.00 for a 20 pound bag – that breaks down to a little less than .38 cents a meal.
So even though the price tag of the food reads to be twice as expensive – it’s actually far from the truth. Using the above example, at .30 cents per meal, two meals a day, in one month you are spending around $18.00 per month to feed a pet with the inferior food. With the apparent twice as expensive higher quality pet food, at .38 cents per meal, two meals a day, in one month you are spending around $22.80 per month. Less than $5.00 per month difference that can save you thousands of dollars in vet bills and add years to their life. You must look at the cost per meal to completely give the price of the food consideration.
Here is what has happened to us…for years and years we’ve watched the television commercials of pet food. They emphasize the words ‘for your pet’s health’ or ‘choice’. We’ve trusted them and we’ve followed their directions to feed our pet 2 or 3 cups of food per day. What we didn’t know was that those recommended 2 or 3 cups of food was necessary because the pet food contained cheap inferior nutrition sources like by-products, meat and bone meal, and grains.
So, it has become our habit to feed more – which they do need more with inferior ingredients. Then someone like myself comes along and tells you how horrible ingredients like by-products and meat and bone meal are – and you learn that grains such as corn, wheat, and soy are inferior – and since this recent pet food recall, you learn that chemicals can actually be added to variations of these grains (glutens)…so then you look over your options at the pet store or online. And you think in terms of how much per ‘bag’ of food. After all, you’ve probably tried several different types of pet food in the past – maybe even one or two that cost a little more than the cheap brands – and you still ended up feeding the same 2 or 3 cups of food a day. Naturally, you look at the $30.00 for a 20 pound bag of pet food and gasp at the cost – you are thinking just the way they want you to think…in terms of the cost of the bag, not the cost of the serving.
The determining factor for your choice of pet food should not be cost or advertising. You must look at and understand those first five ingredients. Of course there is much more involved than the first five ingredients, but in my research…if the first five ingredients of a pet food are good, so are the rest of the ingredients. If a pet food manufacturer cares enough to make the first five ingredients quality – which is the majority of the food…they care enough to make all of the ingredients quality. Don’t be mislead into any comfort zone of a pet food manufacturers advertising…do your homework and read and understand at least the first five ingredients of your pet’s food.
With better, more nutritious pet foods – they do NOT need as much as with the cheaper foods. Don’t let the old habit of feeding more sway you when you switch to a more nutritious pet food – again, with more quality ingredients they just don’t need as much food as with inferior ingredients. If you switch your pet to a quality pet food and continue to feed the same amount as the lesser quality food you were feeding – your pet will gain weight.
The daily amount of food our pets require depends on many things such as activity level, age, breeding animals, or neutered animals. As an example, my 100 pound German Shepherd only eats two cups of food per day; 1 cup AM, 1 cup PM. My little guy (8 pound Papillion eats about 1/3 cup a day. Both dogs are active. However, my little guy is young and is fairly high energy level. My big guy is 12 years old and much more sedate. Considering his little size, the small dog eats far more for his size than the big dog. His energy and activity level requires it.
My cat on the other hand free feeds – he has access to a full bowl of food at all times and eats when he wants. He has never been an over eater and this works well for him. I could never do the same with my dogs.
So serving size for your pet is something you will need to experiment with. If your dog or cat has no ‘figure’ – shows no waist when looking at them from above – chances are they need to lose a few pounds. Cut back the serving size. If you can visibly see ribs – they probably need to gain a couple of pounds and you need to slightly increase the serving size. Please note too that a cup of food a day at 2 years old will more than likely be too much food when they are a little older. Keep a constant monitoring eye on them – a healthy weight is a healthier pet.
And please don’t just look at the cost of the bag of food, look at (at least) the first five ingredients and consider the cost of the serving.
Wishing you and your pets good health