Recently in a Dear Heloise article, a pet owner wrote she buys treats at a Dollar store for $1 that are “almost the same as $5 treats from the pet store.” Unfortunately for this pet owner, discounted dog treats might cost her far more in the long run.
The old adage ‘you get what you pay for’ usually holds true with pet foods and treats. Discount store pet foods and treats are no exception. Typically, ‘Dollar stores’ purchase lots of soon to be outdated/expired goods for pennies on the dollar, and then sell cheap hoping to retail all before the expiration date. Some discount stores also purchase lots of imported ‘look alike’ goods. The red flag for pet owners would be Chinese imported look alike pet foods and treats. However, either way, the pet isn’t being provided with much of a treat.
For explanation’s sake, let’s say that the $1 bag of dog treats is called Fido’s Best Chicken Flavored Natural Dog Treats; the bag contains 20 small dog treat pieces, 20 ounces. Just as with pet foods, it is legal for the manufacturer to make “unqualified claims either directly or indirectly” on the pet treat label; Fido’s Best Natural might not be ‘best’ and probably isn’t all ‘natural’. Let’s assume that the discount store purchased the treats for $.50 per bag. If half of the price is manufacturer labor, packaging, and markup expense, each 20 ounce bag of treats contains $.25 worth of ingredients.
Now, if the ingredients cost only $.25 per 20 ounces or 1.2 cents per ounce (about $.19 per pound), how much quality nutrition can this treat actually provide your pet? According to AAFCO regulations, pet treats are only supplemental to the diet; very few labeling or ingredient rules apply to pet treats. So, if a pet food can contain chicken feet and cow intestines and be dubbed Natural Pet Food, just imagine what is allowed with pet treats and what quality of ingredients can be in them. At 1.2 cents per ounce cost for ingredients, you can safely assume the discount treats have only the cheapest left over, garbage ingredients and/or the cheapest of the cheap imported ingredients. Even purchasing bulk ingredients ($380.00 per ton) only the cheapest ingredients could be included in these treats. Either way, there is no actual nutrition provided to your pet and/or your pet’s health could be at risk from consuming them.
The other concern of purchasing discount store pet foods and treats is pet owners purchasing expired products. Expired treats or foods can make your pet sick costing you far more in vet bills than the savings from the discounted prices.
If you’re ever tempted, if you ever let the thought into your conscious that it’s just treats, they won’t hurt anything, even if they’re cheap my dog or cat will eat them regardless, just consider for a moment what you are giving your pet. Cheap treats (and foods) can ONLY mean the cheapest of ingredients, the poorest quality of ingredients. Don’t be tempted. One mistake from the manufacturer that makes foods or treats using the cheapest of ingredients could cost your pet’s life and/or thousands in vet bills. If you need to save money on treats, give your pet green beans, carrot and apple slices, or spoonfuls of canned pumpkin. These are inexpensive and provide your pet with some nutrition.
Wishing you and your pet(s) the best,
Pet Food Safety Advocate
Author, Buyer Beware
Co-Author Dinner PAWsible
What’s in Your Pet’s Food
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