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Don’t select your pet’s food by price alone

By Diane C. Lade Modified: March 5, 2009 at 10:02 am •  Published: March 5, 2009
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FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — A 5.5-ounce can of "holistic pheasant” cat food sells for $1.73 at a Fort Lauderdale specialty pet food store. Three blocks away, you can get the same size can of a supermarket chain brand cat food for 39 cents.

Is the more expensive one better for your cat than the supermarket food?

Not necessarily, at least according to eight dog and cat nutrition experts at seven well-known veterinary medical schools who were interviewed by Consumer Reports.

The bottom line of the article in the magazine’s March issue: "There are quality foods at every price point,” said Jamie Kopf Hirsh, the associate health editor who wrote the piece.

Dr. Joseph Wakshlag, an assistant professor of clinical nutrition at the Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine, was more direct: There is no scientific evidence that "any food is better than the next,” regardless of price, he told Hirsh.

Two years ago, a spate of pet food recalls — most connected to tainted wheat gluten imported from China — started consumers looking more closely at what they were feeding their pets. More than 100 brands ultimately were recalled, and hundreds of animals are thought to have been sickened or died from eating these products.

Food and Drug Administration spokeswoman Siobhan DeLancey said the agency, which regulates pet food along with the states, is working on updating pet food labeling requirements.

But many pet owners remain confused by vague ingredient lists and terms that are more about marketing than nutrition.

Phrases such as "holistic,” "gourmet” and "premium” are commonly found on pet food packages.