I DO USE AFFILIATE LINKS IN THIS BLOG POST, WHICH MEANS AT NO ADDITIONAL COST TO YOU AMAZON and others PAY ME A LITTLE BIT FOR MY PRODUCT REFERRAL. MY “TRAINER RECOMMENDS” SERIES WILL ALWAYS BE PRODUCTS I KNOW, USE, AND LOVE!
While pet stores and grocery stores offer a wide variety of foods, it can be very challenging to find a truly nutritionally appropriate food for your pet on store shelves. Boutique pet stores sometimes carry higher quality brands, but it’s important to make sure you’re paying for nutrition and not just a fancier package! Let me give you some tips on how to choose the right food for your pet.
Proper nutrition is critical to your pet’s health and behavior. Skin allergies, diarrhea, and obesity can be directly caused by diet as many of my clients have found out. Pets with poor diets can also develop coprophagia (dogs eating feces) or ingesting inedible items to compensate for diet deficiencies. Complications with health due to diet can also lead to behaviors like reactivity and aggression due to pain. As a trainer, I often recommend diet change to something high-quality as one of the first steps in addressing behavior issues (along with a recent vet check in most cases to rule out underlying medical causes).
Dogfoodadvisor.com is an independent organization that rates the nutrition in most pet foods. Their goal is to provide ingredient information, the latest food recalls, and more. I use it regularly to show clients the difference between something poor quality like Pedigree and high quality brands like pawTree, Fromm Four Star and Acana Heritage. Dog Food Advisor does rate “grain free” brands higher based on the idea that more protein is better for dogs, but it’s important to understand that protein can come from things other than meat (like legumes!) and if the meat content is too low, taurine amounts can be insufficient and therefore dangerous. I also recommend pets who have been put on a prescription diet by their veterinarian continue to follow this diet, but check with your vet if you have concerns about the quality or ingredients (sometimes vets are recommending food based on other factors). Be sure that any food you choose is made in the USA for safety and quality (though recalls can still happen under these circumstances – check out PetFooled! for more info on the pet food industry).
The important thing to remember about switching to a nutritionally dense food is that you often are able to feed pets less food than brands with a lot of fillers because they are more efficient in delivering nutrients. So the higher quality brands seem like a high cost up front, but they pay off in the long run with their efficiency in delivering appropriate nutrition and how they improve your pet’s overall health.
I feed all of my pets pawTree and even signed up to be a petPro with them after seeing the difference their products made in so many pets lives. I recommend it to my clients as my top choice for several reasons:
Customizable nutrition – After you complete the pet profile, pawTree not only provides food recommendations but supplements as well to help with a variety of physiological needs. And the food bags actually come with your pet’s photo on them (which is a cute bonus!).
Options – They have both grain-free and “healthy grain” foods. Grain-free (aka high-protein) foods can be a good option for average healthy adults, but sedentary pets and seniors can do just as well with a little less protein in their diet and the “healthy grain” option is a little easier on the pocketbook. Pawtree also adds in taurine to make up for protein content that come from non-meat sources in their grain-free line.
EZ-Shipping – Once you set up your pet profile and pick the food right for your pet, you can set it to ship on a regular schedule. When you want to add treats or supplements, you can go in and add those items to your next shipment with just a few clicks. No more lugging big bags home from the store or running out of food!
Freshness – The food ships in smaller bags, sending multiple bags for larger orders. While this may seem slightly inconvenient, it’s actually brilliant! The bags you aren’t using stay fresh longer because they remain sealed, and the smaller bags are more manageable for handling and storage! Freshness is further guaranteed because the food ships straight from pawTree rather than going to a middle man like PetSmart where it may sit on the shelf for a few weeks.
Customer loyalty rewards – Every dollar you spend earns you points toward free products and pawTree is often throwing in bonus items in shipments or providing coupon codes for free or discounted items for its customers!
Acana Heritage is comparable to pawTree’s grain-free versions of food, and can be ordered online at Amazon and found in Petsmart stores. Pricing is also very similar between the Acana Heritage brand and pawTree. A definite option for people that like to go shopping in a physical store – just remember to buy the smaller bags to maintain freshness!
Fromm Four Star
Fromm Four Star is trickier to find, a lot of the big online stores don’t carry it or charge too much! Locally, you can find it at Choice Pet Markets and online I was able to find it for a reasonable price at Petflow.com. Similar pricing and ratings as the others.
I will address raw diets and homemade dog food in a few weeks, stay tuned!!