Are premium pet food worth their price?

I believe if you have had a pet with skin problems, you would have experienced a time when you went to a vet or pet shop, and they tried to push you expensive prescription diet or top-of-the-line gourmet hand-cooked free-range lamb with sturgeon caviar promising to be the end all and cure all for your pet’s skin problems. Well, did it?Canine Fine Dining

My guess would be most probably no. If it did, however, you have no idea how lucky you are to find a particular brand of food that’s suitable for your pet’s condition (or why did it have to be the most expensive one?!). But I still know of many pet owners who choose to stick to one particular brand even though they do not see significant results.

So then, is expensive food really better? The short answer is: Of course!

Reason? Is organic peanut butter better than Skippy’s? Of course! You’d get fewer pesticides and all of the chemicals that we don’t want, all for a few pennies more in exchange for good health; why not?

But is fancy organic peanut butter cultivated from virgin volcanic soil good for people with nut allergies?

How good a product still has to depend on whether it will do any good for the body.

So how are we going to determine whether it’s going to provide the benefits? To answer this, we must first ask, what is the primary result I want from the food? If you don’t, you will be persuaded into buying something you don’t need, and most times, having more creates more problems. We’ll come to that later.

So what are some primary objectives you can have when choosing food? Are you looking for any specific ingredients? Is it because your pets are fussy eaters? Skin issues? Underweight? Overweight? Kidney/Liver issues?

What’s your budget?

Just like buying a new phone, if we don’t know what’s the most important function to us, we’ll tend to go for the one that has everything and everything we don’t need (me included).

So once you have your primary objective identified, it’ll be so much easier for you and whoever is serving you.

And I always tell my customers that if they have been making a lot of trial and error with different food, supplements, and products, my good guess is that they already know what works and what doesn’t. Use your gut and trust yourself rather than what people tell you.

For me, even though something didn’t work out the first time, I’d still try two more times with different variations before I confirm its suitability.

But don’t go around changing your pet’s food every time it refuses to eat the same food. If you know they are fussy eaters, catering to their preferences may do them more disservice in the long run. Proper behavioral training is the solution to this issue.

How do manufacturers determine their prices?

Luckily for pet food, where people buy it out of necessity than as a luxury, it has not reached a stage where manufacturers are charging crazy prices to position themselves as a premium brand. Of course, some brands can give you more value in terms of the ingredients for the same price, and you will learn how to choose one in this article.

But to simplify things, a $20 bag of food will not be the same quality and as nutritious as a $60 bag of food, even if they have the exact nutritional levels.

Why? First up, just take protein, for example, I can take a whole bunch of hair, nails, and skin of animals, grind them up and make them into kibbles, and they will show a good level of protein, well, because they are protein.

Secondly, meat safe for human consumption will be more expensive than meat from ground-up male chicks and rejects.

As for the fancy list of supplements, herbs, and botanicals? You can probably ask the manufacturers how many milligrams are added in a kilo. The amount is almost insignificant.

What should I look for?

If I had your attention up until now, you’d care enough to ensure that the food that goes into their mouth comes from the same carcass that goes into ours.

  1. Fresh Ingredients: The definitions are confusing as there’s no regulation on the definition of the use of the word ‘Fresh,’ and every brand seems to be using that now. But if the price is in the medium range and up, it usually is dependable.
  2. Free-range and antibiotics free: Although livestock is generally not slaughtered after being administered with antibiotics, free-range livestock, especially from Australia and New Zealand, have very low chances of being contaminated with antibiotics.
  3. Suited for your pet’s activity level: If you aren’t working out, you don’t need protein shakes. If your pet is more laid back, giving him a high-protein diet might do him more harm than good. Remember, less is more.

Secondly, ask around if you have friends whose pets are on raw diets.

Proponents of raw diets have been touting the benefits of feeding animals like cats and dogs for a long time, and it has only gained popularity over the last several years. From experience and research, putting pets on exclusively raw diets from a young does produce sturdier bodies and fewer dental problems.

Let’s say you only have a small dog or cat under your care, commercial raw diets are generally affordable, and I strongly suggest this option if you can allocate a monthly budget of around $70 – $100 for their food.

Watch out for these traps.

  1. Sometimes bigger companies have shareholder’s stomachs to fill: And as a result, more money may go into the branding than the quality of the food, like buying Panadol versus any generic brand of paracetamol.
  2. Long ingredients lists: Apart from being available in such small quantities that may not provide significant results, more ingredients mean a higher possibility that something in the list is going to cause allergies.
  3. Grain-free: As long you’re buying kibbles, there will still be carbohydrates in the form of potatoes, lentils, peas, et cetera. It’s the only way to hold the kibbles together. Nothing wrong with grains or carbohydrates; just that increasingly, manufacturers are using the term grain free to charge a premium when the cost may potentially be the same.

Some brands have potatoes as their first ingredient, nothing wrong with that. Potatoes are 80% water, and some well-known brands are using dried potatoes so that they can appear lower down the ingredient list.

Take your money and get supplements instead

That’s right. Paired with the right food, supplements double up the benefits of proper nutrition and give the body the help it needs to heal and strengthen itself.

But nobody walks into GNC and grabs everything. For me, the gut is where I start because what isn’t absorbed is just expensive poop and piss. To enhance absorption, I recommend digestive enzymes as well as probiotics – minimum. Not all our food is absorbed, and diseases start in the gut (and it starts in the mind for humans). Enzymes help break down the food to increase the bio-availability of the nutrients, and the probiotics protect the gut from harmful bacteria and yeast, which it has the slightest chance, will cause your pet’s health to plunge into a vicious cycle.

Then if your budget allows, you could add in another one and rotate between supplements like krill oil, multivitamins, or spirulina to help reduce free radicals and boost the immune system.

As long as it works

At the end of the day, you’re a smart consumer. What really matters is that the food matches your primary objective. If you need convenient food with less hassle to provide them with the best benefits, then raw (and expensive) is the way to go. Contrary, finding a food that is agreeable to your pet’s immune system and taste buds relies on trial and error or with an exclusion diet plan.


Do you have any tips or tricks for fussy eaters or have issues you’d like some advice on? Leave your comment below!


Are You The Overly Attached Owner?

Does the thought of losing your pet cause your mood to go into a downward spiral and ruin an otherwise perfectly good day? Do you spend more time thinking and caring for your pet than yourself?

Or is this you?

Overly Attached Owner

If you’ve answered ‘Yes,’ the good news is that you’re not Tin Man, but the not-so-good news is that you might be overly attached to your pet.

No, there’s nothing wrong with it. We all grieve when they’re gone, we all pamper them while they’re here. It’s natural. It’s what they do and what they have that’s rare in humans that fills the emotional void and makes us fall in love with them so deeply. Their unconditional love, no matter how little time we spend with them, how we look when we put on extra weight, their affection (except Mari-kun), and their willingness to listen to our complaints makes them the perfect companion.

Animals And Their Wizardry 

However, it’s also their almost perfect character (‘almost’ because they have the innate ability to do the dumbest things) that led many into a trap.

Although a pet can bring about great therapeutic healing, as seen in therapy dogs, we need to be honest with ourselves if we can deal with the fact that most animals will leave this place before we do. It can even be a dangerous event if someone is already suffering from mental illness. Even so most people, a pet is more than just a furry companion – they can even mean more than a significant other or family member.

Too Much Of A Good Thing Makes Me Sick, Especially If The Good Thing Is Chocolate

Most people I know take the loss of their pets in stride, especially pets who died of old age. But life is not only fragile; the outcomes of daily events – big and small, are beyond our control. How many times have you bought someone a gift but only to get an awkward smile when they opened it up?

It’s not about being indifferent but knowing where to draw the line. Water and nutrients are essential for the growth of a plant; give it too much, and it dies. The same goes for many things in life.

Pets are readily conditioned by positive things; they’ll soon know that all they need to do to get more treats and attention is to beg for it. Not only does it create obesity, anxiety, and stress issues, but having an unhealthy body and mind will manifest into, in turn, creating more problems.

It’s A Matter Of Personal Reflection

It’s difficult finding the balance as most pet owners are either overly attached or nonchalant, both of which will create the same behavioral and health issues.

So, in my opinion, only when we understand the boundaries of what’s expected of our pets (e.g., rules they need to abide by), but also what’s expected of us – logically evaluating our pet’s best interests, will we be able to enjoy a healthy relationship.


Further reading:

Psychology Today on the technical aspects

Another psychologist talks about this in The Veterinary Expert


How to Choose the Proper Pet Food

So often, I have customers coming in clueless about what brands of pet food to choose, often confused by the myriad of brands available and conflicting feedback from people.

Many may disagree with me but what matters most is that your pet has a healthy appetite and eats willingly anything they’re not allergic to, given at the right proportion. Animals who usually remain healthy and live until a ripe old age seem to be fed a good variety of food rather than a strict diet.

Although there are people who feed their dogs low to mid-range kibbles all their lives and never suffer from anything serious, it’s akin to saying that there are many healthy old people who still smoke cigarettes at the age of 80, and therefore, tobacco does you no harm.

Better diets will improve lives.

Ask and look around, and you’ll see more animals developing physiological and psychological problems than before. This is because many purebred pets we see today are badly bred from puppy mills – Animals with character flaws like aggression or genetic problems are allowed to breed indiscreetly. Also, to reduce operating costs, most are poorly nourished, and as a result, pets you find in pet shops have not benefited from a healthy, wholesome head start which is so critical for their future development.

But even if they’re born with problems, a proper diet will help make up for the poor start and rebuild their immune system.

Superficial issues always surface because of internal imbalances. With a healthier diet, the most obvious signs you would see if your pet responds well to the diet are better skin, brighter eyes, cleaner ears, and thicker hair. But how does one define what’s good and not? You’ve seen categories like Active, Fit, Senior, Breed Specific Diets, Limited Ingredients, Grain Free, Hypoallergenic Diets, and BARF – why do they need this much differentiation, and which one to choose?

To me, where and how they source their raw materials and what they put in them is more important than what they’re called and how much they cost.

My Criteria

It doesn’t mean that the longer the ingredients list, the better the product is. Let me give you a simple example: Most supplements require taking one to two tablets to achieve the right dosage. So let’s just say if we have a meal replacement product that has all the essential nutrients, multivitamins, a correct proportion of vegetables and fruits, supplements to improve joint health and digestive health, an array of herbs to improve general well-being, you’ll be looking at a huge meal to consume everything at the right dosage. That said, it doesn’t mean that a product with a long ingredient list is bull, but rather, you shouldn’t discount a product just because it has limited ingredients.

Secondly, I wondered why so many people realized that feeding their pets chicken would result in allergic reactions. Although there isn’t a definitive answer yet, but a chicken usually takes 4 months to mature naturally, but only a month in modern farms. How it’s being altered to achieve that, I do not know, but the amount of antibiotics used on livestock is ridiculous.

All these alterations made to produce weaken the body and, at the same time, strengthens bacteria and viruses. And to put the body back in balance, choose meat product that has been sourced from responsible farms. Everybody can add fancy stuff inside their diets and boast about optimal levels of protein, but if the quality of the product is questionable, you’re just feeding your pets optimal levels of poison.

Other things to note 

There have been arguments that a high protein diet could lead to or worsen kidney diseases and raise uric acid levels due to protein metabolism. My simple suggestion is to stay on the safe side and choose a formula with a protein level of around 30-35%. Besides, more protein does not indicate that it’s a good product! Our fingernails, hair, and skin are all protein, but it isn’t a good source, isn’t it? The best way to prevent that and many other illnesses is to make sure that your pet has enough water so that the body has enough fluids to flush kidney stone-forming substances and other toxins out of the body.

It is also imperative that your pet has enough exercise as it will help the body utilize the nutrients and function well, especially with a high-nutrient diet. Goodness unspent and not utilized will do more harm than good.

Any particular brands that I should choose?

I know you’re waiting for this, and the short answer is: No. But I offer some brands I think are not bad and for different budgets.

If you’re here reading this, you have a good idea that education is the key to taking good care of our body and mind. The same goes for food that nourishes your pet. Rather than spending hours on Zalora choosing that perfect dress, take half an hour just to go through some of the websites of brands that have crossed your mind. Don’t bother reading about their manufacturing process and what they put inside because if we are talking about better brands, most of them don’t differ much from each other.

Rather, find out where they have sourced their food from. But in all honesty, food manufacturers, be it food for personal consumption or pets, can say so much yet mean so little. Like politicians, most of the time, labels are just pure confusing.

Since most pet foods are from the United States, here are some commonly used food labeling and what they really mean.

Therefore, as mentioned in the beginning, it’s always a good idea to provide variety in one’s diet. Different vegetables provide different vitamins, and different pet food brands are formulated differently and provide different amounts of nutrients. Staying with one brand or formula may cause a deficiency in the long run.

So change around every few months; how often really depends on the individual pet. For a fussy eater, rotating food when you have not managed its choosy behavior may worsen its habits.

My next article will discuss raw diets if you have the time and want the best for your pets.