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!


Your pet’s health can only be as good as its digestive system

Plagued with gastric ailments for as long as I can remember, I know how much a healthy digestive system can affect a person’s health and your pet’s.

Allow me to auntie complain for awhile.

Basically, I’m experiencing bloating that never goes away, and it seems like my meals are taking a long time to digest. Gastroscopy shows that I have an inflamed stomach lining with no H. Pylori bacteria. So doctors put me on a double dosage of Omeprazole (a drug to suppress gastric acid) for months, which did as much help as asking Alan Garner (Played by Zach Galifianakis in The Hangover) to plan my wedding.

Getting self-aid help online

Even after consulting different specialists and TCM practitioners, going through months of medications, strict diets, and spending how much money, I don’t know, nothing seemed to work seemed and totally solved my problem once and for all. I then started to self-medicate and tested different theories and methods – Manuka honey, alkaline diets, apple cider vinegar, ginger tea, green papaya, probiotics, etc. but yet, nothing worked.

Also, information found online is often contradicting, like how two different diseases can produce the same symptoms. That’s why even doctors take a trial-and-error approach, don’t they? Hence recently, I went for something more straightforward and tried tackling my problem one symptom at a time.

Finally, something after years of struggle

Since I reckon that my bloating is caused by indigestion and having too much or too little gastric juices can cause indigestion, I tried using digestive enzymes to speed up digestion. And guess what? Although not fully cured, it was the first time I truly felt better.

It was then I remembered that many animals also suffer from digestive problems, and even with supplements and probiotics, they can’t seem to gain weight; they overeat, have a large stool, or vomit and have diarrhea frequently. Although I don’t have concrete research, I believe that if the body can’t absorb, it can’t benefit.

One for you and one for me

Even though there are digestive enzymes for pets, as with most pet supplements, to make measuring simple (imagine scooping 500mg of flour) and to create the impression of ‘Value for money, manufacturers bulk it with fillers. That’s why I’m using NOW® Super Enzymes, which has worked great for me, and it’s the same formulation from Mercola. I’ll break a capsule into 10 servings of Secure and a probiotic capsule on top of that. But because the digestive enzymes are quite sensitive to heat and moisture, you can stir in 1/8 tsp of calcium carbonate to act as a desiccant or simply put it in the fridge.

Even if you or your pet has no digestive issues, I believe it’s a great supplement to boost your pet’s overall health. Here’s a good article on the need for enzymes. I’m not promoting any products in the link, and nor am I carrying their products, but I just find it informative. For more info, you can also read this article from or The Whole Dog Journal.



Nutrition: How to evaluate the nutritional value of canned food

pet food guaranteed analysis

Have you ever looked at the label of a can of pet food and wondered why the guaranteed analysis of their nutritional content is so different as compared to their dried counterparts?

For example, the protein level in canned food typically seldom exceeds 10%, whereas dried food typically has 20-30% protein.

If so, is canned food less nutritious?

The answer is quite simple if we think about it. The main difference between wet food and dried is, as the name implies, the moisture content. It’s like a tablet of vitamin C in a glass of water. In its concentrated form (tablet), there’s 1000mg of vitamin C; even when it’s dissolved, the amount of vitamin C in the solution is still the same.

Therefore, to make a meaningful comparison between wet and dried food, we have to remove their moisture content through calculations and compare them on a “dry matter basis.”


Let’s say you want to calculate the protein level of a particular brand of canned food which looks like this:

  • Crude protein: 10%
  • Fat content: 8%
  • Moisture: 80%

If we were to remove all the moisture, we would be left with 20% dry matter (100% minus 80% moisture). To find the amount of protein (or any nutrient expressed as a percentage) the dry matter has, divide the amount of protein by the amount of dry matter, which in this case looks something like this:

10 (Protein level) / 20 (Dry matter) * 100% = 50%

So in this instance, the amount of protein (50%) in this particular canned food has more protein than most brands of dried kibbles.

As for dried food, their moisture levels usually hover around 10-15%, and for kibbles with a guaranteed analysis of 28%, you will find that their protein level will be around 30% using the dry matter basis of calculation.

That said, higher levels of protein or fat do not indicate the quality, and it all depends on what your pet needs. Pets who are overweight or suffering from kidney problems might worsen their condition if fed a high protein or fatty diet. Secondly, nutritional analyses are just a reference; again, they do not reflect the food’s quality. Hair, nails, feathers, etc., are all sources of protein. That’s why food vastly different in price may have the same nutritional analysis. So don’t be fooled, be informed.