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Consumer Reports Urges Pet Owners to Forgo Premium Pet Food, Shop for Vet Services

Posted: July 5, 2011, 4:20 p.m., EDT


In its latest issue, which hits newsstands today, Consumer Reports magazine offers pet owners several ways to save money. Among the recommendations: skip premium pet food, frequent big box stores and shop around for vet services.In its latest issue, which hits newsstands today, Consumer Reports magazine offers pet owners several ways to save money. Among the recommendations: skip premium pet food, frequent big box stores and shop around for vet services.

"It’s still possible to save hundreds of dollars a year on pet care without shortchanging your furry, finned or feathered friends,” said Greg Daugherty, executive editor of Consumer Reports.

Food is the biggest ongoing cost of owning a cat or dog, according to the magazine, and a significant part of the national pet-food bill goes toward premium and super-premium varieties. But, Consumer Reports advises pet owners not to pay for premium pet food, because it said "premium” has no legal definition in terms of nutritional quality.

Consumer Reports does acknowledge that pets with certain problems, such as sensitive skin, digestive difficulties or obesity, might do better on special types of food. Still, consumers are likely to find significant price differences among equally appropriate foods, Consumer Reports said.

When shopping for pet food, Consumer Reports suggests pet owners hit up big box stores. In a study, Consumer Reports said it found that Target and Walmart had the lowest prices most of the time. The magazine also recommends pet owners consider store and private-label brands. Among the least expensive pet foods Consumer Reports found (on a unit-price basis) were Costco’s Kirkland Signature, Petsmart’s Grreat Choice, Safeway’s store brand and Walmart’s Ol’ Roy.

When it comes to protecting pets from fleas and ticks, Consumer Reports recommends pet owners consider new generic options. The magazine noted SentryFiproGuard Plus and PetArmor Plus as less expensive alternatives to Frontline Plus. However, a federal court recently ruled that PetArmor Plus infringed on Merial Ltd.’s U.S. patent for Frontline Plus.

Veterinary care is another area in which consumers can save money, according to Consumer Reports. The magazine recommends pet owners comparison shop by calling at least two or three nearby vets and finding out the cost of a physical exam. The exam fee forms the cornerstone of every vet bill, and vets often set their other fees as a percentage or multiple of that charge, according to Consumer Reports.

The same goes for pet medications. Consumer Reports advises pet owners not to buy medications from their veterinarian, because markups over wholesale start at 100 percent and frequently hit 160 percent. Instead, Consumer Reports recommends pet owners shop at one of the veterinary-verified Internet pharmacy sites, such as 1-800-PetMeds and Doctors Foster & Smith. If the medication is also prescribed to humans, Consumer Reports suggested filling the prescription at a chain drugstore, supermarket or big box store.

In addition, pet owners are advised to think twice about purchasing pet health insurance. Consumer Reports said it analyzed polices marketed by insurers representing about 90 percent of the pet insurance market and found that none would have reimbursed more than the premium they charged for a basically healthy dog over a 10-year life span. Only when Consumer Reports looked at extreme and uncommon situations did all of the policies pay out more than a pet owner would have paid in.

Lastly, Consumer Reports advises pet owners to take simple steps to avoid costly health problems in the future. For example, Consumer Reports suggested brushing dogs and cats’ teeth to prevent periodontal disease. Other recommended preventatives: spaying and neutering, keeping shots current (Consumer Reports noted that the core vaccines are needed every three years), and trying not to overfeed pets to prevent obesity.

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Consumer Reports Urges Pet Owners to Forgo Premium Pet Food, Shop for Vet Services

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Please people before you go out and buy the "McDonalds" of dog food for your furry friend please read the labels. The first ingredient should be a meat or fish! Not grain, corn meal, or other crap. It should also contain some vegetables, vitamins, and a protein percentage that meets your dogs needs (based on weight, physical activity, etc.) Please people do your research feed your animals well!
Jonathan, norfolk, MA
Posted: 1/27/2012 8:31:57 PM
Finally some honest information that cuts through all of the marketing lies.

Bravo CR for making people aware of the AAFCO standards.
Joe, Asheville, NC
Posted: 8/9/2011 1:54:49 PM
Totally disagree with the suggestion to stay away from premium pet foods. here are so many dogs who have various conditions due to an allergy or reaction to a certain ingredient or product in their food. (e.g. ear infections are often caused by reactions to food ingredients.) It is always better to look in to where the food is produced and if the production plant shares it's machinery with other brands-- there have been many recalls due to shared factories. Many of the premium brands are totally reputable and will make dogs healthier.
Barbara, Cambridge, MA
Posted: 7/16/2011 10:53:31 AM
Wow! That's the last time I will use Consumer Reports. There may not be a legal definition for "premium" but any moron can read the ingredient list and do the appropriate research online. While the word "premium" isn't indicative of quality anymore than the word "natural" is, Consumer Reports gets an "F" for failing to educate the consumer about how and where ingredients are sourced and the fact that ingredients aren't created equal. What a bunch of generic pablum. Someone at Consumer Reports is either to comfortable in their job or a rank intern!
Randall, Eugene, OR
Posted: 7/14/2011 12:58:00 PM
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