Lower priced diets boast comparisons to the better brands, but you won’t get what you don’t pay for.

 

Question:

I read an article recently in Consumer Reports that said that some of the lower priced pet foods are a much better deal than food like Science Diet because the ingredients are just as good but the price is much lower. But you’ve said that the premium brands are better. Somebody doesn’t have their story straight.

 

Dr. Nichol:

You’re not the first person to raise this point. In fact Hills Pet Products, makers of Science Diet and Health Blend diets, took issue directly with Consumer Reports over their faulty methods of analysis. The magazine has written an apology to Hills stating that they will do the analysis over more thoroughly and reprint their findings.

 

It turns out that Consumer Reports got into this mess for the same reason that many pet owners do: They believed the labels on the lower priced foods. Isn’t it illegal to lie on the package, you ask? Well, in the strictest sense they are not lying. By the use of parentheses and comas, the order in which ingredients are listed, and the loophole of allowing some ingredient names to encompass many different sources of nutrition, a pet food company can make its product look pretty good. Unfortunately for many pets, the real differences are striking. To make the point, shoe leather has been analyzed for its protein content. The results are around 22%-roughly comparable to many pet foods. Too bad you can’t recycle your old shoes, handbags and gloves by feeding them to your pets.

 

I will conclude my response to poor quality diets by recounting my observations of the health of the pets I examine and treat on a daily basis. Cheap food, no matter how low the price, results in poor hair coats, large volumes of soft stool (lots more to clean up), poor weight, and diminished defenses against disease. In addition the high salt content and excessive quantities of poor digestibility protein adds to the risk of kidney failure as these bargain fed pets age. As the old saw goes: The bitterness of poor quality is remembered long after the sweetness of low price is forgotten. Or put differently: You don’t get what you don’t pay for.