Why Buy Premium Pet Foods
We love our pets and we want to have them around for as long as possible. We keep them safe, well exercised and try to feed them meals that are not only delicious but also nutritious. They get all their nutrition and dietary needs from the food that we, as their owners, supply so we have a huge responsibility to make sure that they are getting everything that they need to live that long, healthy life that we look forward to.
Pets are what they eat. Just like us, pets need a nutritionally complete and balanced diet to ensure that they maintain an ideal weight and have all the energy that they need to be healthy and happy. An animal’s diet needs to include proteins, fats, minerals, vitamins, carbohydrates and water in combinations to suit their breed, activity levels and stage of life. These must also be in a form where as much of these nutrients can be absorbed into the body as possible and of course, the food must taste great.
It is difficult to be sure that the food that we are feeding our pets is nutritionally complete and balanced. The packaging is always bright, there is often a healthy image on the front and usually a comforting few words about taste and nutrition. Making an informed decision isn’t easy.
In the pet industry, there are pet foods that are often referred to as ‘premium’ and sometimes even ‘super premium’. These foods appear to cost more and certainly make a lot of claims and so it is easy to understand why owners baulk at trying them on their own pet. The questions most asked by pet owners are:
ARE PREMIUM PET FOODS ALL THEY ARE CRACKED UP TO BE?
The answer: Yes, definitely.
It almost seems that the testing that goes into premium pet foods is even more than goes into some foods for humans. To be able to call themselves ‘premium’, pet foods have to achieve the very strict nutritional guidelines and standards of the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) and this is certainly no easy task. The product must start with high quality meat (sometimes even human grade), vegetables and additional supplements and these must be combined in a way to ensure optimum nutritional balance and flavour.
Premium pet food companies spend an enormous amount of resources on testing to not only meet but also maintain the standards set by the AAFCO. They start with laboratory analysis to ensure that the nutrients are present in the correct ratio to the energy content and to each other. This ensures that the food meets the requirements of the pet’s life stage and life style whether puppy or kitten, adult or senior.
Once the recipe has met these nutritional requirements, the research and development team further tests the food for palatability and digestibility through feeding trials. For example, a panel of animals may be put on a 10 day feeding trial and their faeces collected every day and analysed for protein, fat, moisture and ash content. The faeces is even graded from very soft to very hard with the aim being for one that is just firm. All of this unappetising work allows the researchers to determine whether the animals enjoy the food and how much of it their bodies utilise. The better the raw material used in the food, the more the animal’s body absorbs and the fewer and firmer their stools are.
Further testing is then undertaken in anywhere up to 8,000 households with animals that are at the life stage for which the food is aimed. Testing at this stage can take up to six months and includes full veterinary examinations, food intake and body weight monitoring and observation of important indicators such as oral health, skin and coat health, body condition and faecal quality. Blood samples are taken to monitor any nutritional changes and of course, palatability is continuously monitored.
A premium pet food for cats and dogs can take up to three years to develop and then, once it is available to sell to the pet owner, regular sampling of the finished product and continuous testing of the raw materials are undertaken. The recipe that has then met the standards of the AAFCO remains exactly the same from one batch to the next but where new nutritional innovations come to hand, a new recipe is developed and the whole process of testing begins all over again to ensure that the product is at the highest standard possible before it can reach the market.
WHY DO THEY SEEM TO COST SO MUCH?
The answer: They may not cost as much as you think.
It certainly seems that premium pet foods cost a lot of money but understanding the amount of money spent by these major companies on research and development as well as the increased cost of quality, often human-grade ingredients, goes a long way to explaining this. But, simply looking at the price that a pet owner pays for a bag of premium pet food as compared to a bag of non-premium food isn’t an accurate way of showing how much it actually costs to feed a cat or a dog.
When looking at the price for pet food, it is important to look at the cost per day to feed them as opposed to the initial cost of the bag itself.
Every brand of pet food, whether budget, regular or premium is very different in the amount that needs to be fed to the animal. For example, budget foods often have a high fibre content, referred to as ‘fillers’, but lower nutritional content so the animal needs to be fed more to receive the level of protein, fat and other nutritional elements that it needs. Whereas, premium pet foods avoid these fillers, use higher quality ingredients and aim to have as much of the food absorbed by the pet’s body as possible so less is required for the animal to feel satisfied and to receive the nutrients that it needs. In fact, this is why animals on premium pet foods usually have much smaller stools than those on less expensive foods that are packed with fillers. Put simply, there is less wasted material in the food.
Since pets need to eat more of the non-premium foods to get the nutritional requirements that they would from the premium foods, the cost per day of feeding has to be calculated on how many feeds are in a bag and not the price of the whole bag itself. When this is taken into consideration, the cost compares favourably, especially when the quality of the ingredients and the benefits of these foods are taken into account. The staff at Better Pets and Gardens can help you to calculate the cost to feed your pet each day based on its age, weight and breed.
HOW MUCH TO FEED
When feeding any pet with a premium pet food, follow the suggestions on the label carefully since often the amount required is actually less than for non-premium pet foods. Start with the lowest amount shown in the range and only increase if the animal still appears hungry.
SPECIAL DIETS AND CUSTOMISED NUTRITION
Interestingly, some breeds have specific dietary needs and premium pet food companies have developed formulas tailored to these. For example, Rottweiler’s are prone to muscle, joint and skin problems so a premium dog food is available that helps to build and maintain their muscle tone, supports healthy joints and contains zinc and copper for healthy skin. Dachshunds are prone to back issues and so the formula for this breed helps maintain a healthy body weight to reduce back stress and also contains antioxidants to support their immune system. Specifically tailored formulas are also available for many other breeds of both dogs and cats.
Some animals have specific needs based on their age, size, health and even breed. Where this is the case, the team at Better Pets and Gardens can give advice on the best food for your cat or dog.
Cats are carnivorous by nature and so it is important that their primary source of protein comes from real chicken, red meat or fish and not vegetables. Premium cat foods offer this but in formulas to suit their age and lifestyle. For indoor cats, the formulation available reduces the discomfort of hairballs allowing them to pass gently through their body. Mature cats that are older than 7 years require different levels of antioxidants as well as protein, fat, calories, vitamins and minerals than young, active cats and so choosing a product to suit their age is important for optimal health.
Premium pet foods contain quality ingredients that, by their very nature, have been found to be beneficial in a number of health issues such as dietary intolerances, food allergies and urinary tract, intestinal and skin disorders. There are however, specialised diets that have been developed to treat specific conditions such as obesity, reduced kidney function, liver disease and convalescence after illness or surgery. For specific medical issues, seek veterinary advice.
BENEFITS OF PREMIUM PET FOODS
Apart from having the highest quality ingredients and maintaining strict standards in production and recipes, premium pet foods offer the following benefits:
- Healthy gut and digestion through the combination of soluble and insoluble fibres that promote healthy bacteria.
- Joint health through the inclusion of glucosamine, chondroitin sulphate and omega3 fatty acids.
- Specifically balanced nutrition for gestating and lactating females for their health as well as their babies.
- Sensitive dietary products that limit the source of protein to turkey and rice in a highly digestive form.
- Balanced nutrition for young pets during weaning & re-housing to minimise diarrhoea and maintain a healthy gut.
- Specific formulas for large & giant breeds to achieve optimum growth yet maintain strong bones and joints.
- Reduced hairballs and improved hair removal for cats through the inclusion of unique forms of natural fibre.
- Improved natural defences through the addition of antioxidants to support a healthy immune system.
- Skin and coat health through the inclusion of omega3 fatty acids and other selected oils.
- Dental health and hygiene from the unique shape of the kibble reducing tartar and infection.
- Strong, lean muscles promoted through animal-based proteins.
- Reduced risk of lower urinary tract disease due to the controlled levels of minerals.
- Optimised brain and bone development for kittens and puppies.
- Weight management through less calories but increased vitamins and minerals.