Can you save money by giving better nutrition to your pets?
Just like our household bills and what feels like everything else recently, the cost of pet products is soaring.
As reported by the UK Consumer Prices Index (CPIH), it's already increased by 6.1% since 2021.
With the ‘cost of living’ crisis showing no signs of slowing down any time soon, millions of pet parents are due to feel the pinch.
Pet food is just one of the many household essentials that's spiking in price, and this is due to many factors. Notably Brexit, Covid-19, and the war in Ukraine.
With rising costs forcing Britons to cut back and reduce expenses, many pet parents would be right to wonder - "is it worth doing this with our pet food?"
And with around 13 million dogs and 12 million cats in the UK (PFMA) alone, it's not a surprising thought! That's a lot of fluffy mouths to feed.
But in a nutshell, the answer has to be a NO!
Switching to a cheaper pet food for the short term may have detrimental effects to your pet's health later down the line.
It's no secret that the market for dog and cat food is hugely competitive in the UK. And because of this, companies are eager to keep pet owners happy by adopting the latest pet trends and marketing techniques.
So how do you really know which food is best for your pets? Does the price always reflect the quality of food? And should we listen to the masses of social media groups giving opinions on what pet owners should be feeding?
Of course, the answer to the last one is absolutely not. Unless the source is credible (which is hard to tell on social media these days).
But if it's advice from a real-life veterinary nurse with 20 plus years in the field you're after, stick around!
Broadly speaking, and in my professional opinion, you do get what you pay for with pet food.
I am a nutrition geek. I love researching and reading all about nutrition. So much so that most of the CPD courses I do in the year are all on, you guessed it, nutrition!
Since the 1970’s pet food manufacturers have developed food with regards to the different life stages (puppy, kitten, adult, senior, geriatric etc.) depending on the nutritional needs at each stage of life.
But more recently, over the past 10-20 years, pet food manufacturing has become more sophisticated.
Scientific research to enhance our pet's health and wellbeing by adding additional benefits (such as joint care and digestive health) has grown in popularity.
As a vet nurse, one of my passions is advocating for preventative health care and wellbeing of pets.
I love to help educate and encourage owners to feed well-balanced diets because healthy pets = happy pets.
One of my favourite parts of the job is empowering pet parents to choose a pet food themselves; based on what will give their pet the best opportunity for good health and wellbeing.
The PFMA (Pet Food Manufacturers Association) is a good place to start when looking at pet food brands. The European legislation standards they follow means that food manufacturers have to adhere to strict rules regarding quality and ingredients.
They are open with the list of members PFMA Members | PFMA and encourage pet owners to check to see if the brand they are feeding their pets is listed here.
PFMA members only use animal sources inspected and fit for human consumption.
Why would we feed additional health and wellbeing benefits?
A lot of scientific research has been invested into pet nutrition. The fact that we can improve our pet's health and enhance their quality of life by providing top grade food is a no brainer!
After all, we all want our pets to live happier, longer, active lives, it’s the least our Buddys deserve!
The additional benefits in our pets' foods of antioxidants for immune support, glucosamine for joint support, pro and prebiotics for beneficial gut flora and digestive care, means we can pick and choose according to our pets' individual needs.
Whether this is breed related, or simply down to the fact that your dog has excessive flatulence. If we can provide additional support via nutrition, this could certainly work out cheaper than adding in additional supplements along the way!
What are the potential implications of switching to cheaper, low-quality pet food?
We can look at the ingredients labels to see the differences from the higher and lower quality foods. The PFMA have a great guide to pet food labelling here (A Guide To Pet Food Labelling | PFMA )
You are more likely to see additional preservatives, flavours and colours in the lower quality and cheaper foods.
Have you ever been to the supermarket and looked on the food bags and seen the brightest of bright red colours in some dry foods? Or different coloured kibble within the food?
Most of the time these are not natural colours or ingredients and that bright red looks exactly the same coming out the other end! Believe me, I have had the great pleasure of seeing this in vet practices during my nursing career!
Imagine if you let your kids eat junk food or fill their faces with sweets every day, then they would naturally become hyper due to the sugar high. Well, it's no different when it comes to our pets and what they eat!
Not only does their health suffer in the long term, but it can also have a dramatic impact on behaviour. Hyperactivity and destructive behaviour in relation to the food our pets consume goes hand in hand. And when it comes to health, we are looking at a multitude of concerns.
Skin (dull coat, excessive moulting, dandruff, dry or oily skin, allergies), weight issues and obesity, growth deformities, excessive shedding, flatulence and digestive issues. The list is extensive.
If you’re thinking about a short-term gain of saving a little money in this false economy, forget about it! It will result in more expense vet visits to treat those issues in the future!
Too many times throughout my career I’ve seen pets during nurse consultations with minor issues described above that don’t necessarily warrant a vet visit at that time.
All it takes is one discussion into what foods they are feeding and a change of diet to a higher quality one! It makes all the difference and can get rid of the issues completely in a short space of time.
If these issues get to the point where they become more of a concern and a vet visit is needed, the costs can quite easily build up.
And sadly, most of the time, these symptoms will get to the stage where they do need veterinary intervention.
How many times do we laugh of the fact and make light of Luna the pug having flatulence? There could be a simple reason for this that shouldn’t be overlooked.
If you’re ever in doubt check with a veterinary professional with regards to your pet's nutrition.