Saturday, May 13, 2006

Can Dog Food be Cheap and Healthy?

I recently switched dog food. The switch was inspired by recent readings that rated different brands of dog food. To my great surprise, the Costco brand - Kirkland's - was rated one of the best brands. If you are not familiar with high-quality dog food (shame if you're not!), well, it usually costs around $40 for a 40 lb bag. Kirkland's dog food only costs around $17. So it was a great surprise to me that Kirkland's could be considered so healthy yet still be so incredibly inexpensive.

Naturally I'm highly suspicious of the reading that gave Kirkland's such a high score. Was it a typo? An intentional sleight-of-hand? Or is it really that great? I couldn't resist the urge to find out; I decided to test the food.

Fortunately, or unfortunately, for me, my dogs both have sensitive skin and stomachs. The wrong type of food, as we discovered, results in itchy, gaseous dogs. High quality food keeps the dogs feeling (and smelling) good. For a very long time we have fed them Sensible Choice dog food - expensive but with results well worth the price.

Now they have almost finished their first bag of Kirkland's brand dog food. Is it going to be good enough? Will it keep them from irritated, itchy rashes and random acts of fart? I really hope so, because the price is fantastic. The money saved by the food change can be used on other initiatives, like my websites, my research, donations to the Humane Society, and so forth.

Recently, though, Dozer has developed some sort of rough, scabby area under his chin. Since neither of the dogs are gaseous so far, I'm waiting to see if Dozer's rash goes away after a bath, indicating some sort of environmental factor rather than food. Like many white dogs he has sensitive skin that can be easily irritated by things like grass, bug bites, and even too much sun.


happypitbull said...

Update: The bath seems to have helped somewhat - Dozer is white again - but the itchiness and red eyes linger. I've also noticed Felanie has become gaseous, a problem we have not witnessed since we started the dogs on Sensible Choice. It's possible that this new dog food is causing the problems. Now I have to decide whether to go for one more month on the new food to see if the problems clear up on their own, or revert back to the Sensible Choice, which I know is "safe", and see if the problems clear up that way instead. Hmm...

Anonymous said...

first of all, i really like your site and your ideas. but i dont think feeding your dog the cheaper dry food is a good idea especially with the underlying allergies and tummy upsets you are describing. i think a quality food without by products and without additives is more beneficial than you spending the extra $$ donating to other causes. you must feed your dogs well then donate if you have funds left. I have read a lot and done my own research on dry dog foods that are available. and I have found that Wellness Simple solutions is among the best. if you cant afford that then at least feed california naturals or nutro. feeding your dog a food that has by products is like a child eating hot dogs every day as their main food source. not a good idea. again, i just wanted to voice my opinion on dry dog foods. sometimes you do get what you pay for. and for me my dogs are worth every penny.

happypitbull said...

To the previous poster, I want to stress that, like you, I also do not approve of feeding cheap dog food simply because it is cheap. If I were solely concerned about price, I would not be feeding my dogs the super-premium food that costs $40 / 35 lb bag. However, the Kirkland dog food piqued my interest because I had recently heard it referred to more than once as a "high quality food". The fact that it was getting labeled a super-premium food despite unusually low cost is what caused me to become interested. I also scanned the ingredients to determine whether the food was acceptable to me or not; I avoid corn at all costs, along with some other ingredients that would indicate the food was low quality. However, the Kirkland's food did not seem to contain ingredients that I would consider problematic, at least not in large quantities.

Ultimately, my dogs' reaction to the food - their overall appearance, smell, health, and behavior - is what determines whether I continue with a certain food or not. I have found that such reactions vary widely from dog to dog, and Felanie in particular becomes "odoriffic" even with certain super-premium foods, so the fact that a food has high-quality ingredients doesn't necessarily make it a winner in my house until it passes a test period.

Ultimately, the Kirkland's food did not make the grade at my place. The dogs continued to have redness (especially around the eyes, which is an allergic reaction in many cases), episodes of gaseousness, and itchiness. After a month, I switched them back to their "safe" food, Sensible Choice, a super-premium dog food that seems to work very well for both dogs.

Kelly Anderson said...

Hi, firstly, I really like your site. Secondly, I was wondering if you could possibly give me some advice? I have a 5 month old male pitbull (he is extremely important to me), he has the same itching and farting problem you describe your dogs as having. The biggest issue for me is I live in New Zealand and am unable to purchase the products you reccomend. Do you know of any good dog foods you can buy there that can also be purchased here? He has seen a vet acouple of times, who has reccomended Hills Science Diet. It seems to work really well but Jax hates it and lost alot of weight at the start because he refused to eat it untill he was litterally starving. I cany handle doing that to him again but the itching is bugging me as much as it bothers him! I know its food related, is milk on his bikkies a huge no-no? I have heard its bad for their skin. He is fussy and I am running out of ideas. What should I look for in a good food and what should be avoided? I appreciate you taking the time to read this and look forward to a reply (hopefully!)
Kelly and Jax

happypitbull said...

Hi Kelly,

I had to look up the word "bikkies," being an American I had no idea what that meant, lol. Did you mean, is it okay to put milk in his food? If that's what you meant - I would not recommend that. Cow's milk is one of those food products that many dogs are allergic to, and can really increase gaseousness to boot. I'm actually really surprised to hear that you cannot get a good quality dog food in New Zealand - I have read that most of the lamb in the lamb-and-rice recipes comes from New Zealand!

I don't know what brands you are able to get, but I do know that, for me, I had to do some experimentation to find the right dog food. I suggest that you start by checking out this site: and read a bit about common dog food ingredients. This will help you read the labels on the dog food bags at your local store. I always avoid foods with corn, because that was a major trigger for my dogs.

You can make dog food more appetizing to a dog in several ways. One way is to add a little hot water. This makes a sort of gravy, it's not a lot of work, and most dogs really get excited about it. You can also mix in some warm rice, cooked chicken, tiny carrot pieces, or peas. You don't want to add too much of these things, though, or else you might find that: 1) your dog picks out the good stuff and leaves the food, or 2) the extra tidbits are too rich and give your dog an upset stomach.

Here is a good list of foods to avoid feeding your dog:

Your vet should be able to recommend something for the itching, too. Common over-the-counter medications like hydrocortisone cream and Benadryl can be helpful for temporary relief from itching, but it's important to talk to your vet about proper dosage and use.

Hope this helps, and good luck!

haircutting in high heels said...

I feed my dogs Wellness and have noticed a difference from the former Solid Gold in a shinier coat, and overall health. I Came upon the Kirkland brand while buying Dog beds at Costco! I hope it's the answer to some money saving and yes I agree sometimes that makes a huge difference in doggie care and vet bills. I would never jeopardize their good health or longevity. Dogs don't have a choice on their diet, we do. Thank you for the great info. I am now following your blog :)
Good thoughts to you and your doggies!