Is Pricey Pet Food Worth It?

Despite what you may believe, it seems this recession did in fact go to the dogs.

A recent survey conducted by the American Pet Association estimates that pet owners will spend more than $18 billion on pet food in 2010. So, while some may have gotten rid of their pets due to economic constraints, owners haven’t stopped spending on their animals, even on high-end meals.

But is paying top dollar for premium pet food actually worth the expense? The short answer, it seems, is yes. But the whole story is not so simple.

“It’s comparable to a human being living off of fresh, whole foods as to opposed to eating fast food all the time,” said Dr. Ernest Ward, chief of staff at Seaside Animal Care and author of Chow Hounds: Why Our Dogs Are Getting Fatter- A Vet's Plan To Save Their Lives", explaining that cheap, processed food can lead to obesity, disease and shorter life spans in animals just like in humans.

“Nutrition has a major effect on your dog's physical health and behavior,” said professional dog trainer Traci Murdock. However, she adds, “expensive isn't necessarily better.”

A bag of pet food can cost anywhere from $6 to $75, depending, of course, on the product type and size. According to Ward, the adage “you get what you pay for” holds up in the pet food business, meaning that those who pay close $75 for a 30-lb. bag of kibble probably are giving their pet a premium meal while those paying $10 for the same amount of product are essentially buying the animal equivalent of street meat.

However, products in the middle price range (typically between $30 and $40 a bag) represent a mixed bag when it comes to their actual nutritional value.  

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