Quality of Generic Dog Food?
March 19, 2006 2:20 PM   Subscribe

Is there a difference between store and name brand dog food?

My grocery store's (harris teeter) dog food is literally a third of the price of the brand I was using (Iams), and claims to be equally as nutritous. Is this true?
posted by BigPicnic to Pets & Animals (24 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
The ash content is higher in store brand
posted by A189Nut at 2:37 PM on March 19, 2006


Looking at the ingredients (here and here), I'd say that the Iams is better just because the first ingredient is chicken and the first ingredient of the Harris Teeter is corn.
posted by amarynth at 2:41 PM on March 19, 2006


I use the Science Diet for my cats. It's way more expensive, but they also eat a lot less of it. I think with the crappier food, they just eat a lot more trying to get their nutrients. Iams is more nutritionally dense and probably isn't that much more expensive per serving than the cheap stuff.
posted by 45moore45 at 2:46 PM on March 19, 2006


We feed our dog Natures Recipe. Her stools are 1/4 of the size and three times firmer than if we fed her some store brand or something like Purina or Alpo.
posted by DieHipsterDie at 3:08 PM on March 19, 2006


This is a great resource for learning to read dog food labels. If the first ingredient is corn (in fact, if ANY of the top five ingredients is corn), the food is very low grade (many dogs have problems with corn, and seeing corn high on an ingredients list means that most of the calories and protein in the food are coming from the corn, rather than meat). Pretty well anything you can buy in a grocery store is low-grade pet food (including Iams), high in grain, by-products and generic fats (all of which have much lower quality control standards than identified meats and fats) and contain other flavour enhancers (including sugar), and low in high-quality meat protein. So the Iams is probably marginally better than the generic brand, but they're both very low-end foods. Sorry.
posted by biscotti at 3:09 PM on March 19, 2006


Google "Iams" and "animal testing" together and you may decide you'd rather not use it.

I use Petguard Premium dry food and Natural Choice wet food. It can be tough to find pet food that is made primarily of meat, but I feel guilty giving my cat junk food considering she has no other food source but me.
posted by hermitosis at 3:22 PM on March 19, 2006


Yeah, poops are a lot smaller with good quality food. It's really amazing. (I have a cat, but I can't imagine it would be very different for dogs.)
posted by kindall at 3:30 PM on March 19, 2006


Nutro Ultra and Royal Canin Natural Blend are both high-quality foods. It can be tough to find some, but these two at least are available at PetSmart and Petco. You feed less of the better-quality foods (so they're not actually that much more expensive), and I feel that diet is one of the few health variables we have any kind of control over with our pets, so it's worth feeding good food. Not everyone agrees on this topic, but a bit of research will usually help you at least learn to make informed choices.
posted by biscotti at 3:34 PM on March 19, 2006


I use the nutro light for my cats, they eat less, poop less, drink more water and seem generally more active than when they were on the store brand. plus, now that they are 100% dry food, their overall health is much, much better, but i'm not sure if that's true for all cats or just mine.
posted by luriete at 3:41 PM on March 19, 2006


This happened with cat food, but I imagine the risks may be similar with cheap dog food. I started my cat on Iams and then ran out one day and picked up some cheap stuff at the corner store. Of course, she got addicted and I couldn't get her to eat Iams again. One day I noticed blood in the litter box and it turned out she had crystals in her urine that were directly related to the high ash content in her food. I felt like such a bad owner, it was horrible.

She's on prescription low-ph food now (Eukanuba brand) and has been fine ever since.

Needless to say, I think it's worth it to feed them the healthier (pricier) food.
posted by jdl at 3:57 PM on March 19, 2006


Ask your vet, but mine has always made a point about high quality food - Avoderm or Eukanuba; even Iams & Science Diet are just kinda "better fast food", while store brands are the seriously white castle-esque options. Remember that what you feed them is what they are eating three meals a day, every day; imagine the comparison and you can see how it could have a profound effect on their health.
posted by mdn at 4:28 PM on March 19, 2006


Also chime in for Nutro brand.
posted by machaus at 4:35 PM on March 19, 2006


Keep in mind that even with brands like Nutro, there's a wide range of quality. Nutro Max is pretty crappy, Nutro Natural Choice is mid-range and Nutro Ultra is fairly high end (Ultra is the only Nutro food I'd feed my dog, too much crap in the others). Ideally you want an identified meat meal ("chicken meal", "lamb meal") as the first ingredient (at least), since meals are the meat without the water. So even though Eukanuba has chicken as the first ingredient it has by-product meal second (which means it very probably contains more by-product than chicken, since ingredients are listed by weight), and corn third, which makes it more like Steak'n'Shake than McDonald's, but still...not what I would want to feed my dog on a regular basis. It's also important to remember that vets don't get much nutrition education, and what they do get is often sponsored by pet food companies like Hill's. Unless your vet is particularly "into" nutrition, there are often better sources of information about pet foods than your vet.
posted by biscotti at 4:57 PM on March 19, 2006 [1 favorite]


Read the ingredient and nutrition labels. We don't feed our critters (3 cats, 1 dog) anything you can get at the grocer, even the "premium" brands. They're almost all grain based and/or rife with filler.

We had a cat who had to get his urinary tract routed out due to the ash content of the supposedly 'premium' dry cat food we were feeding. On the recommendation of the vet, we switched to Diamond Maintenance, and never looked back. We've been using it for nearly 20 years, with 6 different cats. Poop is smaller and less stinky, as is the breath. The dog (black) shines, and that's even when she's not had a bath in a while. The last pair of cats we took in had been eating ScienceDiet Lamb and Rice because one of them was sensitive to the corn in basic ScienceDiet. We changed them over to Diamond Maintenance, and she's been reaction free for over two years. As a bonus, they don't have to get their teeth cleaned. As an extra bonus, Diamond is less expensive per pound than anything but the house brand pet foods, and far less expensive on an annual basis.
posted by jlkr at 5:55 PM on March 19, 2006


I only feed my dog the high-end stuff, for the reasons stated above. I would never feed my dog Alpo or some kind of grocery store brand.

That being said, I recall a period of time where literally every single pet store owner I talked to contradicted one another on the topic of food. Each one claimed that the other guy's advice was tantamount to poisoning your dog. Each one claimed that their brand was the One True Brand. So do your research. Read ingredients labels and try brands out in month-long auditions and see if the dog gains or loses weight, or otherwise seems better/worse.
posted by frogan at 6:13 PM on March 19, 2006


Is Science Diet really that bad? I've been using it for years and my cat seems happy, healthy, spry; we're into the "sensitive skin" since he has some scar tissue. Any comments on that?
posted by amtho at 7:14 PM on March 19, 2006


Five dogs here , all doing well with COSTCO brand , Lamb and Rice, quite less expensive and the research and consumer info shows it equal to the High Dollar brands.
I don't have the link now, but when I started feeding my pack , I checked around and thoroughly checked it out.
posted by Agamenticus at 7:19 PM on March 19, 2006


My dog eats the Petsmart Authority brand. I think I was informed a few years ago that it's actually repackaged Purina Pro Plan.

God help you if you ever feed the dog Bil-Jac. I don't even know if it's still around. It was some sort of hippiesh dogfood we got a quart sample of. Dog was pooping like 8 times a day. No sir on that one.
posted by pieoverdone at 7:33 PM on March 19, 2006


Is Science Diet really that bad?

There have been reports that it sometimes contains barbituates. The most likely way for these to get into the food would be for them to be using euthanized shelter animals as feedstock.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 8:37 PM on March 19, 2006


check ratings on this Lab site
posted by Agamenticus at 8:43 PM on March 19, 2006


That's a lot of stuff to look into, thanks everyone.
posted by BigPicnic at 5:33 AM on March 20, 2006


When I got my dog from a breeder she told me that she and several other breeders in VA had gotten together and had the state lab test all of the locally available dog food. Wal-Mart Ol' Roy High Pro came out on top.
posted by OmieWise at 5:55 AM on March 20, 2006


I used to feed my dog the Iams stuff from the grocery store. Then I asked this question and switched to Nutro Ultra for Large Breeds. His poops are smaller, less stinky (really!) and easier to pick up (a big plus) in addition to drastically reducing the problem in question.
posted by ambrosia at 3:21 PM on March 20, 2006


OmieWise, I would LOVE to see those test results, I'd also like to know what they were testing FOR, since Ol' Roy is complete and utter crap, it's about the worst of the worst. The first and third ingredients are corn, the second is "meat and bone meal" (which can be just about anything), the fourth ingredient is soybean meal, the fifth ingredient is "wheat middlings" and the sixth ingredient is "animal fat" (which can also be just about anything). How much meat is in there? Not much. All I can assume is that your breeder was completely clueless about canine nutrition, was lying to you, you have absolutely no good dog foods available in your area (even Purina Beneful is better than Ol' Roy and it's pretty much bottom of the barrel) or the state lab was testing for corn...or crap.
posted by biscotti at 3:54 PM on March 20, 2006


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