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Choosing a Dog Food: Guilt vs. Budget

When I adopted Maybelle from the Humane Society they sent me home with a small bag of Science Diet to get us started.

I knew I probably wasn’t going to be sticking with Science Diet so I started doing my dog food research, which was no small task. People would have you believe that buying food at the grocery store surely leads to premature death. Of course, most of us remember the days when even the most beloved family pets got Alpo in their bowls and not only did they like it, but they lived to be 100 years old in dog years.

Most of us, though, are just trying to find a happy middle–a food that isn’t just fillers and preservatives but doesn’t cost a fortune. For me that “doesn’t cost a fortune” part was especially important because my two cats are already on prescription food that costs more than my weekly grocery bill. 

Torn between guilt and budget I spent several evenings reading dog food reviews on the internet, and asked friends about their dogs’ foods. The main things people talked about were the dog’s coat and skin, and “output” (dog person code for poo). It got me thinking, Maybelle did seem to be pooping an awful lot, and she had dry skin on her rear end. Was the food to blame?

Who knows? When I was a kid my dogs ate Pedigree, and they had dry skin in the winter (just like Maybelle). My friends who spring for a “super premium” food have to haul their dog to groomer for soothing oatmeal baths all winter because his skin gets so dry. So as far as I can tell, blaming the food seems silly.

I was starting to feel like a complete yuppie for putting so much though into this. Left to her own devices, the dog would eat garbage and “output.” Anything had to be better than that, right?

Giving into my guilt I went with the expensive at first, and bought a small bag of Nutro Natural Choice’s grain free food. Then I noticed that it was made with New Zealand free range venison. WHAT? I’m eating cereal and she’s eating free range venison? That seems…unbalanced.

So I stepped it back a notch, and bought a big bag of Nutro’s Natural Choice Lamb and Rice. Why did I stick with Nutro? Not because I necessarily think it’s better, but because it’s made in America. In fact, I even passed by its Lebanon, TN factory while on a roadtrip. After all those recalls of pet food a few years ago ( and some more concerns about treats and food from China) I decided that sticking with American-made food was important. And paying a little extra to support an American company in a crappy economy seemed like the right thing to do.

I can’t say that I’ll always be willing to pay for this better food. Nature’s Recipe got good reviews, and is much less expensive. Blue Seal has also been recommended, and though it’s harder to find reviews (at least ones not on the company’s site) it is also an American made food. Someday budget may win out and I might make the switch.


*Update: I have once again been on a dog/cat food research kick. I decided to find a non-prescription way to feed my cats that is good for them and their urinary tractss. (Turns out dehydration and grains may be the culprits behind feline UTIs so I may start giving them more wet food with less dry food of a better quality.) But this also led to my second-guessing myself on the dog food. Mostly I blame Apparently, there is some “synthetic Vitamin K” in Nutro — and some of the cheaper alternatives I looked at — which may or may not lead to terrible things like liver problems.

I’m sure plenty of people feed their dogs this food without any issues, but  if 10 years down the road Maybelle developed liver problems I would feel awful. So I started looking around some more, and decided on Innova. It’s not less expensive (so boo to that) but all you have to do is compare the ingredient lists to see the difference. I don’t like eating foods with long lists of unpronounceable ingredients, and so I decided to do a little shopping around to see if I could make Innova worth my while. Petco happened to be having an online sale, and you can get 5% back through, which makes it just a few dollars more expensive than what I had been feeding her. That seems worth it.


About TheresaMC

Basically, I'm a reader and a writer, just trying to negotiate the changing world of publishing.

One response »

  1. Ugh. I just bought Tulla a big bag of Nurtro…then I saw the Blue Buffalo commercial and I feel like a terrible mother.


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