Tips for Choosing the Best Pet Food Options

In previous posts, we discussed the history of dry food or “kibble” and why it may not be the best option for all pets. Today, pet owners have a variety of options to choose from, including canned food, freeze-dried meals, and raw diets. However, with so many choices available, it can be challenging to navigate the market and find the best options for your pet.

Spotting Deceptive Tactics

As consumers, it is essential to be aware of the deceptive tactics some manufacturers use to sell their products. Some companies may market their products as “premium” or “natural,” but in reality, they contain fillers and low-quality ingredients. To avoid falling prey to these tactics, it is crucial to read the label carefully and understand the ingredients listed.

Changes in the Pet Food Industry

The way we purchase pet food has also evolved over the years. In the past, most people bought their pet food from local feed and farm supply stores. These stores provided quality products at affordable prices and were centrally located. However, with the rise of big-box retailers and online shopping, many of these small businesses have closed.

While online retailers offer convenience, some pets have suffered as a result. Products may sit in warehouses for months, leading to expired or stale food. Additionally, there have been instances of customers purchasing expired food from online retailers and attempting to return it to local stores. To ensure the quality of your pet’s food, it is best to purchase from a reputable, local pet supply store.

Choosing the Best Pet Food

At local pet supply stores, pet owners can find a variety of local and all-American options, as well as some Canadian and European brands with unique quality control measures. It is essential to read labels carefully and choose products without fillers or low-quality ingredients. Some family-owned pet food manufacturers offer high-quality, honest products, and even provide free samples to try before you buy.

While advancements in the pet food industry have brought about many positive changes, it is crucial for pet owners to be informed and make the best choices for their pets. By choosing quality products and supporting local businesses, we can ensure that our pets receive the nutrition they need to live healthy, happy lives.

The best advice I can give when choosing a pet food is twofold:

Understand How to Read a Pet Food Label

If you’re a pet owner, it’s important to know what your pet’s food is made of. Understanding pet food ingredients can help you make better choices for your pet’s health and wellbeing. Here are some things to keep in mind when looking at the ingredients in your pet’s food:

reading pet food ingredient label

  1. Know the source of each ingredient: It’s important to know where each ingredient comes from to ensure the quality and safety of your pet’s food. Look for pet food brands that use high-quality, locally sourced ingredients.

  2. Consider your pet’s digestive system: Cats and dogs have shorter digestive tracts than humans, which means they may have difficulty digesting grains and carbohydrates. Look for pet foods that are easy for your pet to digest.

  3. Watch out for deceptive labeling: “Meat first” labeling can be deceiving because ingredients are listed by weight before cooking. This means that the first ingredient may not actually be the main protein source. Look for pet foods that have a high percentage of whole proteins.

  4. Understand meal ingredients: Meals, such as chicken meal or fish meal, are not necessarily bad ingredients. However, you should avoid by-product meals. Look for pet foods with whole protein meals as the first ingredient for optimal nutrition.

By keeping these tips in mind, you can make informed decisions about the pet food you purchase and help ensure your pet stays healthy and happy.

Shop Small

If you’re in Connecticut or any other state, you’ll find many small pet food supply stores. Shopping small has many advantages:

  • Direct access to the owner who truly cares about the quality of products on their shelves and the pets they are feeding. Family-owned businesses have a unique sense of pride, vast knowledge, and experience in many brands and types of food. Unlike big-box stores, small businesses provide individualized approaches to each customer.

  • Small businesses can actually be more affordable. Big box stores have huge overhead and investors, who are concerned with the bottom line. Many small businesses will meet or beat the large competitor’s price and offer frequent buyer programs.

  • Many online retailers have shipping costs wrapped into their “low price”. Although online retailers offer convenience, your local small retailers often offer excellent prices. Many small businesses will even deliver, sometimes even on the same day! 

  • Frequent buyer programs can’t be found through online retailers, nor can their knowledge or experience.

  • Many stores have owners and staff who are college-educated pet nutritionists. Some staff members also have additional certifications in pet nutrition, allowing them to spend extra time combing through ingredient labels, and vitamin panels to find the perfect food for your pet. 

  • Many small pet supply stores have an extensive knowledge and offering of nutritional supplements that can help support whole body health as well as help pets with many types of disease.

  • Small businesses have exclusivity with many small companies that offer unique treats, toys, foods, and accessories that can’t be found online or in big box stores.

  • Small businesses give back to the community. They support local sports teams, youth groups, music programs, senior programs, rescues, and local pounds. They annually donate several TONS of food to local rescue and municipal pounds.  Keeping business local provides support for the community in a much greater way than you could ever imagine.

A Balanced Approach to Pet Health

We believe in treating each pet as an individual, not just another animal to be sold products or treated with a one-size-fits-all protocol. We’ve found that the healthiest pets have benefited from a unique balance of traditional medicine, holistic medicine, and wholesome nutrition.

Small (Affordable) Changes for Big Improvements

While we highly advocate for a fresh, organic, raw meat diet, we understand that it may not be feasible or affordable for everyone. However, even small changes can make a big difference. For example, adding fresh food to your pet’s dry food can help improve their health. We understand that budget is a concern for many pet owners, so we strive to help our clients do the best they can within their means.

If you have scraps of meat or vegetables left over from cooking, why not add a small handful to your pet’s bowl? Even cats can benefit from fresh food, though it may take them 2-4 weeks to adjust to changes in their diet. At our pet store, we encourage all pet owners to try adding fresh food to their pet’s diet and see the difference it can make.