—Isn’t this higher quality food really, really expensive?—
Yes and no. Now, on average, it usually does cost a bit more per bag than low-quality food. Since the ingredients are of a much higher quality, it costs the manufacturer more to make it, and obviously some of that cost must be passed on to the consumer. But, despite this, you will actually save money buy choosing a high-quality dog food!
How can this be? Simple – You won’t need to feed as much as you did with lower-quality food. In most cases, you will only need to feed ½ or ¾ as much, and therefore will only need to buy ½ or ¾ as much.
All dog foods have a recommended amount to feed (usually right on the bag), depending on the age and weight of your dog. Low-quality foods recommend feeding much higher amounts than high-quality food. Because the high-quality food is so much healthier, your dog is getting all the nutrition he or she needs from a smaller amount of it, and more of it is actually being absorbed into your dog’s system. Which means your food will last longer, which mean you won’t have to buy it as often, which means you will be spending much less in the long run!
So how much will you save? Let’s do the math –
For this example, I’ll use Science Diet Adult (low-quality) and Orijen Adult (high-quality). I used their plain “Adult” foods for this comparison. Orijen recommends up to ¼ a cup a day per 5 lbs of dog. Science Diet numbers and feeding guidelines were taken from their official website.
Orijen recommends that an active adult dog weighing 40 lbs be given up to 2 cups a day.
Science Diet recommends that an adult dog weighing 40 lbs be given up to 3 cups a day.
That’s a difference of 1 cup per day, which doesn’t seem like much. But, over a week, that’s a difference of 7 cups. That’s still not much, is it? But over a month, it’s a difference of 30 cups. And over a year, the difference is a whopping 330+ cups! Now that is a lot. How many bags of dog food do you think that is? And that’s for just one 40 lb dog! If you have a bigger dog, the difference is even more.
An active 100 lb dog needs, at most, 4 ½ cups of Orijen a day. A 100 lb dog needs up to 6 cups of Science Diet a day. That’s a difference of over 540 cups of dog food a year!
If you have multiple medium to large dogs, the difference could easily be over 1,000 cups a year!
Now, think about all of this over the course of 10-15 years, the entire life of your dog. That’s easily the difference of thousands of cups of dog food! Several thousand cups of dog food that you never had to buy in the first place!
So think about it… how much is that “cheap” food really costing you?
This is NOT just in the case of Hill’s Science Diet and Orijen, and I did not intentionally pick these because the difference was so wide (you can easily check any brands you are interested in on their official websites – do your own comparisons using your own dog’s weight!). You will find that this applies to 99% of low-quality foods!
You will be paying more per bag, but you will need to buy fewer bags, possibly even half as many as you would a low-quality food, which works out to less cost, period. I hope this has helped to show why it’s actually often cheaper to pay a little more per bag for high quality food, and why over time, you will end up saving money, rather than losing money.
—So… where can I get high-quality food? Can I just walk into any pet store and buy it?—
Yes and no. While there are some good foods available in chain pet stores like PetSmart, some others can’t be found there. These foods can often be found at small local groomers and smaller, locally owned, non-chain pet stores. If you have your heart set on a certain brand, but these small local businesses don’t stock it, most of them will be more than happy to place a special order for you. I have a local groomer order my dog food (Orijen Adult) for me every few months at no extra charge. She calls me when my bag comes in. You also usually have the option of ordering online, but of course, S+H charges will add up over time.
You can also check the official website of the food you are interested in. Many have a “store locator” to help you find a store in your area that sells their food!
—I don’t know if I want to deal with all of that hassle…what are the good foods I might be able to find at my local pet store?—
Two of the “better than the bad stuff but not as good as the good stuff” foods you can find are Blue Buffalo and certain kinds of Solid Gold (check the ingredients and make sure the bag of Solid Gold you are holding has a meat as both the first and second listed ingredients). They have a fairly decent amount of meat (but should ideally have more), and also some filler, but they are still much better than a lot of the foods out there.
Some of the very high quality foods you can often find at pet stores are Blue Wilderness (made by the same company that makes Blue Buffolo), Wellness Core, and Taste of the Wild. Chicken Soup for the Dog Lover’s Soul, while not quite as good as the three mentioned above, is a very good food as well, and is widely sold and easy to find. All of these have a nice amount of meat and few, if any, fillers.
Keep in mind that not all pet stores will have these. My local PetSmart has them all, and I believe my local PetCo does as well. Call around! It’s very easy to locate most of these brands.
—I don’t really mind a bit of searching… what brands are really good?—
I currently feed Orijen, and I recommend it wholeheartedly to anyone looking for a better food. It’s full of high-quality, human-grade ingredients, has great meat content, it’s completely grain-free, and contains nothing even resembling fillers, plus it has a taste my dogs can’t get enough of (even my picky one loves it). I’ve done a lot of searching and trying different foods, and I personally feel it doesn’t get any better than Orijen. Of course, this is just my personal opinion!
Below is an incomplete list of high-quality foods – there ARE many more out there – this is just to get you started:
Taste of the Wild
Chicken Soup for the Dog Lover’s Soul
What do all of these have in common? High meat content, no fillers (cheap and/or unnecessary ingredients which do little good for your dog), and high-quality ingredients (whole grains, often human-grade meat, the veggies aren’t rotten leftovers from the human food industry, etc).
These are not all created equally – some ARE better than others. However, these are all generally great foods, so you can’t really go wrong. If you have questions about the quality about a specific brand, please comment.
Prices vary, so if one is a bit too expensive, chances are there will be another one that is well within your budget!
Part 3 has been posted. In it, I answer the questions, “Are all of the foods from the “good brands” equally healthy? Are all of the foods from the “bad brands” equally poor-quality?” and “Will I actually see any changes in my dog if I switch to a better food, or are the benefits all invisible?” Please join me for part 3!