Why You Shouldn’t Buy Cheap Pet Food

By: Jeremy Biberdorf

July 2, 2012

Why You Shouldn't Buy Cheap Pet Food

 

As mentioned in my Friday post, one of my cats was a bit under the weather recently. Now I’d like to share an important lesson I learned about owning a pet.

 

Both of my cats have always been very healthy and are actually quite spoiled. So I always assumed I was doing everything right with taking care of them.

 

Then things changed a little while ago when my cat Trip started puking. My veterinarian at the time said he was in good health and most likely just had excess fur in his digestive system. This sounded like a plausible explanation since he sheds a lot and also grooms my other cat Timmy.

 

As the problem continued I started looking for other causes. Online research revealed that it was apparently a fairly common thing with older cats, particularly if they have long fur. I decided to make some changes around the apartment to try to help him out:

 

  • Switching to hairball control food and treats.
  • Regularly grooming him to limit the fur he ingests.
  • Leaving the balcony door open so that he can always get fresh air.
  • Always putting the toilet seat down so that he couldn’t sneak water from there.
  • Making sure his beds and litter boxes are free from anything harmful.
  • Freezing his wet food so that an open can wouldn’t sit in the fridge all week.
  • Clearing out any wet food scraps so he wouldn’t eat those scraps later in the day.
  • Not giving into this begging for human food.
  •  

Despite all these changes, he just wasn’t getting better. I was really getting concerned. So I took him to a different vet to see what he thought. This ended up being a very good idea.

 

Veterinary Prognosis

 

I told him about my suspicion of it being a furball built up in his digestive system, but he thought it would be best to take an x-ray to see if that is the case or whether it might be stones in his bladder. Since I wanted to get to the bottom of this, I gladly agreed to the $100+ for the x-ray.

 

I figured from there he would give Trip some kind of medication and it would be problem solved. Unfortunately the x-ray revealed that he had developed a stone in his bladder. The vet explained how crystals in the urine can accumulate to the point of it blocking things and making him sick. Left unchecked for longer, it would’ve led to blood in his urine and eventually inability to urinate among other problems.

 

The good news was that they could perform a surgery to remove the stone. The bad news was that it would put the vet bill over $1000. It was a steep price, but obviously I agreed to it. The worse kick in the gut came when I asked what causes this problem and how it could be prevented.

 

The Root Of The Problem – Cheap Pet Food

 

Basically it was completely my fault for feeding him low priced cat food. No I wasn’t using some no name super cheap food. I had been giving them Whiskas dry food and Fancy Feast wet food. With big brands like that, I assumed it would be quality food.

 

Food companies just cannot be trusted though, whether it’s for human food or pet food. They will add all kinds of crap just to make it tastier or to make it last longer. In some cases there is too much heavy metals which leads to problems like this. They don’t care what health problems their food can cause. They just care about profits and making it appear that the food is being enjoyed.

 

It’s interesting that it was such a parallel to my own health problems also caused by eating too much of the wrong kinds of foods. Here I was doing a 180 with my own diet, but continuing to feed my cats unhealthy food. To say I felt guilty would be a huge understatement. Sure I was super pissed off at these pet food manufacturers, but ultimately it was me that made that choice. Sorry Trip and Timmy!

 

The Road To Recovery

 

After agreeing to the surgery, I was relieved to hear that it could be performed later that day. So I paid a big deposit and went home to dwell on my guilt, worry and anger.

 

The surgery went well and the bladder stone was successfully removed. Still they decided to keep him there a couple days for monitoring and to give him medicine. The apartment just wasn’t the same without him around. I couldn’t help but worry more the longer he stayed there.

 

Now that he’s back home, he’s switched to a special food that cleanses the crystals from his system. He hasn’t puked at all since and seems to be doing much better.

 

Although Timmy was never puking, he’s also on this special food now since he was possibly developing stones too. I’ll have to keep an eye on both of them to make sure they are both doing well. After 2 months, they will be switching to normal food. I’ll just have to find a brand that I can trust, probably something organic. It will cost a lot more for a bag of that kind of food, but your loved ones’ health is priceless and it should avoid those costly visits to the vet.

 

Lesson Learned

 

I definitely won’t be making this same mistake with my pets. I love them too much to do that. If any of you are pet owners and trying to save money on pet food, be aware of the risk you may be taking. Even keep that in mind when making your own personal food choices. It may taste good, but do you really want to cause problems down the road. It may already be causing problems now, but you didn’t realize the cause.

 

Also if you have any pets and wouldn’t be able to cover an expensive vet bill, it might be a good idea to pay for pet insurance. I sure was wishing I had some kind of coverage when paying this 4 figure bill. It would’ve taken some of the stress out of the situation too.

 

Are you aware of the dangers of cheap pet food? Do you think pet food manufacturers should be held more responsible for their products? Or am I just a horrible pet owner for not being more educated about this risk? What top cat food brands can you suggest? Has anyone here tried Royal Canin and Eukanuba?

 

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About the Author:

Jeremy Biberdorf is the founder of Modest Money. After working many years in the website marketing industry, he decided to take on blogging full time and also get his finances headed in the right direction. Also check out his contributions to Equities.com and Benzinga.

71 thoughts on “Why You Shouldn’t Buy Cheap Pet Food”

  1. Money Bulldog

    When you see animals recycling necklaces & watches on films it does make you think they could live on anything. Obviously not!

    1. Animals recycling necklaces and watches?!? Sorry I must’ve missed that episode of National Geographic. Sounds like you didn’t read the post and was just assuming I fed them the cheapest food possible.

    1. Apparently a bunch of human food manufacturers have been using cellulose as a filler too.

      People are just so used to seeing random chemicals in ingredients list that they usually don’t even bother checking the ingredients.

  2. I don’t have any cats, but as for my dogs I always give them the same kind of dog food. My oldest dog is 12 and he won’t eat anything but Kibbles and Bits. He has always been fairly healthy so I am not too concerned about it now. But I just got a new dog (Siberian Husky, she’s so pretty) and I do want to make sure she stays nice and healthy.

    BTW your cats are so cute. It definitely shows how much you love them.

    1. You’ll have to post some photos of your dogs on your blog sometime. Or I’m accepting pet photos for my blog update posts. Pets can get pretty particular about a certain kind of food. It does make you kinda wonder if there’s something in there which makes it more addictive to animals.

  3. Justin @ The Family Finances

    Our dog is on a special food that we have to buy at the vet due to some kidney issues of his. But even before that, we gave him quality food rather than the cheap stuff. I figure our dog is part of the family. I wouldn’t feed my wife and son ramen or mac and cheese every day, so I’m not going to give our pet the dog equivalent of that.

    1. Sorry to hear about your dog’s kidney issues. Vet food certainly is expensive, but I’d bet it is the healthiest stuff out there. I’ll have to resort to that option if I’m not satisfied with the research I come up with for the pet food store organic brands.

  4. And that’s why I’m getting pet insurance for my dog. I’m also going to start her out on the right foot and feed her a high quality pet food, probably the same brand my cat gets. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, as the saying goes. The problem your kitty suffered from is very common in male cats, but it’s still traumatic none the less, hopefully he recovers soon.

    1. Really, it’s more common in male cats? I didn’t know that. I guess the crystals just build up more.

      If I had a dog I’d really look into pet insurance. With my cats I’m not sure if it would be worth it unless I happened to have had it before this incident. Dogs seem to need surgery much more often though. The last thing you want to be thinking about then is the financial pressure.

  5. Bad food can cause serious diseases and even death in case of humans as well as his/her pets and that’s why your article is a positive indication towards buying good food for survival and I would like to say yes to making habit of eating organic food.

    1. I’m still working on buying more organic food for myself. It is a fight between my battle to save money and eat better. I really need to move closer to a good store that specializes in organic and natural foods. I’ll at least get my cats started on it soon though.

  6. Jamie Jefferson

    Your poor cat! I agree that those cheap brands of pet food don’t pay in the end. Even if you don’t end up with health problems that warrant a trip to the vet, the filler that’s in much of the cheap dog food just isn’t good for any of our pets. We find that our dog eats less of the more expensive brands – probably because there is simply less filler.

    1. Good point about quality food getting pets fuller. The filler they add to both pet food and processed human food is just a waste. Who wants to eat a bunch of cellulose? I’ll have to watch to see if my cats eat less when on good food.

  7. Kris @ BalancingMoneyandLife

    Good quality food doesn’t have to be super expensive. Find out what your vet recommends, and then check the ingredient list. Then go looking for less expensive brands that have similar ingredients in similar order. We had a purebred St. Bernard, and found that paying a little extra for good quality food was not only better for his health, he actually ate less of the better food! (Less filler in it).

    1. Good tip about checking ingredients between brands. I’m sure as long as it doesn’t have fillers or other bad additives it should be good overall. I need to be avoiding the seafood flavors too.

  8. Although I am not a pet owner per say, I do feed and interact with the stray cat that the previous owner of my home left when they moved out. It may not be mine, but I am delighted to feed it as it keeps out pests and other rodents. I was wondering what types of cat food you recommend to avoid similar problems? Thanks in advance!

    1. I’m still trying to figure out the best food to switch to. I have a couple months to figure it out since they need to be on vet food for a while first. That’s awesome that you are trying to feed the stray cat healthy food though. Those mice and/or rats should be pretty nutritious too lol.

  9. Simple island living

    When we got our cat the person at the pet store recommended that we look at cat food ingredients and never get food that has animal by-products in it. We’ve been doing that now as well as use wheat kitty litter rather than clay (didn’t want her licking clay off her body and ingesting that) and while yes she’s incredibly spoiled like that, she’s been pretty healthy so far (knock on wood). It does pay to give animals healthy food, at least it has been good so far for us.

    1. Kris! It’s been a while. Hmm I’ll have to watch out for animals byproducts when I go find a replacement after the vet food. I’m sure they would use all kinds of nasty stuff that isn’t suitable for human food. I’m not a fan of clay litter either. I personally use pine pellets and they work great. Plus it’s way cheaper.

  10. My cat that I adopted got stones within a year of me owning him. I feed him great food (the holistic cost you a fortune type)

    . The truth is male cats and overweight cats are more prone to stones. The only foods out there that prevent it is vet prescription foods because they are the only ones guaranteed tested for it.

    My cat was on hills prescription S/D(the owners science diet) to get rid of it and after that W/D wet only for life. When he got older he switched to urinary so.

    To be honest it cost a lot to buy just wet food for my boy from the vets, but it was worth it because every vet visit for stones would have cost thousands and put my little guy through hell.

    I am sorry your fellas are going through this right now, food companies sell an image to pet owners and I can see why people buy cheaper food like wiskas when they say that it is so good and tested in the ads.

    1. I have a hard time buying that only vet foods can prevent stones. I think if another non-vet brand had all the same ingredients without additives, it would do the trick as well. The vet I saw only recommended doing urinary s/o for 2 months and then switching to preventative. I intend to do a lot more research towards the end of that 2 months to decide which route is best.

  11. American Debt Project

    I’m glad you wrote this article! I have been giving my dogs healthy, and more natural dog food since late 2009. At first I thought it was unneccesary but you read a few blogs abut dog food and it’ll change your mind. My dogs are 4 and 2 and have not had any problems yet. I want them to live forever, but I’ll settle for 12-14 happy years :).

    1. I can’t say I’ve ever read any pet blogs. Maybe I should be though to learn more about this kind of stuff. Or maybe the animal shelters should be more proactive in teaching people about this. Then again scaring people with high prices might lower their adoption rates.

  12. Poor To Rich a Day at a Time

    I consider all commercial foods to not the be the healthiest for a pet, my cat refuses to eat a homestyle diet however, at least for now while I am trying different things. Ash content is very high in a lot of cheap foods and in male cats this can also lead to a plugged pee duct so they can not pee……..all sorts of health issues in both sexes.

    If you even look at the ingredients on many of the high priced dog foods you will still find they use meat not fit for human consumption ( and they are not good for dogs health either) and some sort of filler along with carmel coloring ……..same things that are not good for humans.

    I have found it costs me the same about to feed my dog a very healthy homestyle diet that I cook myself as it would to feed her low cost commercial food. The vet approved how I feed her and said she was in amazing condition with an amazing glossy coat!

    Now just to find what my finicky cat will eat! 🙂

    And no you are not a bad pet owner, many are unaware of how bad commercial foods can be for their animals same as humans really have no idea what they eat is typically not food and really bad for you!

    1. I hadn’t considered a homestyle diet for my cats. I think I’ll look into that at least for wet food. They’re a little picky with commercial food, but they’d eat any cooked meat. I’d just need to figure out what else needs to be added to help them get all their nutrients. It sounds like you are a very responsible pet owner. Thank you for the suggestion.

  13. Sometimes, the cheap dog foods are not of good quality. This is why you should buy the dog food with a slightly higher value.

  14. In life, you do often get what you pay for and pet food is no exception. It’s always a good idea to check the ingredients carefully, and look for the best quality as we have to remember that these companies are selling it to make a profit first, and the health of your pet isn’t at the top of their priority list.

    There are some really good quality commercial pet foods available, and they don’t have to cost the earth – with a bit of searching online, you can often get big discounts compared to buying from your vet or the supermarket. Look out for special offers, or consider buying in bulk to make it even more affordable.

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