Confessions of a cheapskate dog lover
Most dog lovers are buying expensive, branded dog food for their pets, but when the time comes that you are on a tight budget, especially if you have a big family, you need to buy cheap brands of dog food to accommodate your budget. Most pet owners worry about the health of their dogs if they buy more affordable food, more than anything else. They think letting their dog eat low-quality food will endanger their health and rack up vet bills in the long run. The risk always outweighs the money they save on buying cheaper brands. But for me, there’s more to dog food than the price. Quality and price don’t always go hand in hand, according to Dr Valerie Parker, College of Veterinary Medicine assistant professor at The Ohio State University. Higher priced pet food does not mean it has good quality. In reality, pricey dog foods that are considered “gourmet” sometimes contain fewer nutrients compare to cheaper ones. This doesn’t make sense, right? Industry doublespeak, vague labelling and the pet nutrition complexities can decide on what to give to your dogs are very difficult.
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To get an idea on how much money is at stake here, we ran the numbers. To make it simple, we focused on the day the dogs enter adulthood because that’s the time the dog needs a stable nutritional need at around 5-7 cups per day. That’s a lot, for a small, active dogs. Most pet owners will feed their dogs branded dog food like Pedigree that is sold in a 50-pound bags. The reason they feed their pets with expensive brands of dog food is that they think buying branded, expensive food can make their pet eat lesser and with more nutrition compared to the cheaper brands. To make sure you accounted for everything, you need to use the calories per cup of the most expensive dog food and adjust it according to your dog’s needs. The savings you can get, feeding your dog with cheap dog food is substantial. For example, you have an average sized dog that has a lifespan of 11 years. Buying more affordable brands, you will save at least $140 monthly, compared to buying Purina One, or if you buy the more expensive Blue Buffalo dog food, you will save $446. If you compute the money you will save for the entire lifespan of your dog; you will save at least $18,000 compared to Purina One and $58,872 compared to Blue Buffalo. That’s the price of one mid-level SUV for dog food.
Cheap brands are OK
For dogs that don’t have any allergies or specific health conditions, it is OK to feed them cheap dog foods. Just make sure that your veterinarian is comfortable with what you are feeding your dogs. Dogs with certain health conditions and allergies may need specific nutrients and ingredients. If that’s the case, it is OK to buy them special food which is more expensive compared to regular dog food. You can’t risk your dog’s life for a little money you can save from their food. And please, don’t believe what food companies are advertising about what nutrients your dog needs. You need to speak to your veterinarian to make sure that your dog is getting the nutrients that they need.
Read the label
Association of American Feed Control Officials or AAFCO is an organization that makes the nutritional standards for dog food. According to law, the dog food needs to have a nutritional statement by AAFCO to make sure that they are good for your dogs. The statement reads that the brand meets the nutrient level set by AAFCO.
Look at the calorie content
To best judge the value of the dog food, you need to measure the price of the food per 100 calories. The bad news is, most brands don’t put on their label, the list of calories per kilogram or pound. It will make it difficult to calculate how many calories are inside the bag. It will be helpful if the manufacturer will put servings per container just like nutritional labels you can see in human food products.
Order of the ingredients
The ingredients’ order does not provide real information on how your dog will react to that dog food. According to old myths, if the dog food doesn’t have meat as its first ingredient, it is not good food. Ingredients are ordered according to weight, but the truth is much more complicated. For example, a manufacturer may boost their product using fresh lamb, beef or pork meat. But the majority of the weight in raw meat is water. So, in reality, the meat is the first ingredients that contain the least amount of animal protein compared to products that use dried meat.
The bottom line is, dog owners loved their pets and every dog lover want what’s best for their dogs, whether they save a little money or not.