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Is Pricey Pet Food Worth the Cost?

  Your pet is part of your family, so naturally you want to do what you…

411 on Pet Food

Is Pricey Pet Food Worth the Cost?


Your pet is part of your family, so naturally you want to do what you can to keep them healthy and happy—and that includes feeding them an appropriate diet. Prices of available pet food vary from a few dollars a bag to well over $100 a bag for very high-end or prescription diets.

If you’re like most pet owners, you’ve asked yourself if the most expensive pet food is worth it and if the best pet food always means the most costly.

It can be difficult to find solid answers—especially when you consider the sheer number of options.
Unless your pet has special dietary needs due to allergies or a medical condition, learning what to look for in a quality diet will help you ensure your dog or cat gets healthy food that will help her enjoy a long, active life.

What Makes a Good Pet Food?

Dogs and cats need meat, but many cheaper pet foods are largely filler. That food might taste great, and your pets might love it, but it’s not providing the nutrition they need.
What to look for on the label:

A Named Protein Source

Look for a named source, such as chicken or salmon, rather than just meat. This protein should be the first ingredient on canned food and the first or second on dry food.


If a food carries this label, it means that the food has a minimum of 18% protein and meets all the dietary needs of an adult pet.

Byproducts, Preservatives, and Fillers

Just as important as what you DO want to see on the label is what you DON’T want to see. Avoid pet foods that contain:

Meat and Bone Meal
Animal Digest
By Products
Chemicals such as BHT, BHA

Made in the USA

Sourcing your pet’s food and treats from the US ensures that certain guidelines for safety and quality are met. Other countries’ guidelines may not be as strict, so it better to avoid imported pet food unless you are very familiar with the brand.

Wet vs. Dry

Does a pet need both wet and dry food? Some vets say it’s better to feed both while others say it doesn’t matter.

One reason a mix of wet and dry is a good idea for cats is that some don’t drink enough water, and the wet food can help to replace some of the moisture they miss. Wet food is more expensive, so some cat owners serve wet once a day and use dry for any other feedings.

That being said, both dogs and cats appreciate the variety of a diet that contains both wet and dry food.

Why Do Prices Vary So Widely?

The above explains a bit about why some pet foods are very inexpensive; it’s because they use fillers vs. more costly pure protein. In these cases, the price discrepancy between the least expensive and more expensive foods does, in fact, come down to quality.

But why the variation in price between brands that do offer a solid, healthy diet? Are the most expensive among those necessarily better?

The simple answer is no.

As with any other industry, costs unrelated to the quality of the product are factored in to the price. Often, when you pay more for pet food, you’re paying for marketing, branding, and advertising rather than better food.

Just like some human food brands aim to target a specific demographic, so do some pet food brands.
Is it important to you that your dog or cat eat the same food as Paris Hilton’s cat? If not, ignore the marketing and catchy slogans and learn to understand the labels.

As an example, we looked at two cat foods. One cost about $3 per pound, and the other about $2.25 per pound. Both had named meat sources as the first ingredients and lots of protein. Surprisingly, the more expensive option also had cornmeal, potato starch, and more fat. In this example, the best pet food was not the most expensive pet food.

What’s the Bottom Line?

It’s easy to get confused about which pet food is best. Just remember that he goal is to feed your pet a healthy diet. While this does mean avoiding the least expensive foods, it doesn’t mean heading straight to those with the biggest price tag.

Learn the labels and ask your vet any questions you have about a particular ingredient, and you’ll find it’s easy to give your pet premium food without overpaying.

The team at Vet on Fourth is happy to discuss your pet’s dietary needs, take a look at the label of the food you’re currently using, and help you make decisions about your pet’s nutrition that will keep them healthy and happy!