Over the past few years, we’ve seen a major expansion of products now available directly to consumers. We can now buy razors, toothbrushes and tampons through subscription services that promise not only higher quality, but lower prices. These direct-to-consumer (DTC) products also include dog food, though those companies tend to focus on offering high-quality food, rather than promoting a substantial cost savings. There are plenty of DTC dog food options out there, but are they worth the money? Here’s what to know.
What’s the deal with direct-to-consumer dog food?
Like other DTC products, part of the appeal of having a subscription is not having to remember to purchase something you need on a regular basis. But, as NBC News reports, in most cases, DTC dog food is more about indulging your pet with “higher quality,” more nutritious food, rather than convenience or saving money. These products aims to fill the gap between affordable dry dog food and the really expensive, high-end stuff (probably sold in a refrigerated section of your local grocery store). Brands and services include: Sundays, Tailored, Jinx, Nom Nom and The Farmer’s Dog.
Is direct-to-consumer dog food actually healthier?
These DTC dog food companies are banking on the fact that people with dogs are willing to pay more for their furry friends’ food if it’s higher in quality and better for them. But is that really the case? Some veterinarians, like Dr. Kristin Neuhauser, DVM, of Noah’s Ark Animal Clinic, see kibble as an important part of a dog’s diet. “For dogs, the main benefit to being on a commercially-prepared dry dog food is that they are eating a complete and balanced diet,” she told NBC News.
The most important thing to consider when selecting a dog food, according to Dr. Joseph Wakshlag, DVM, a professor of Sections of Clinical Nutrition and Sports Medicine and Rehabilitation at the College of Veterinary Medicine at Cornel, is to make sure that it meets nutrient standards set by organizations like the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO). “If not [complete and balanced] then there’s vitamins and minerals that need to be added,” he told NBC News. “I, as a veterinarian nutritionist, feel much more comfortable [knowing] a product has met AAFCO specifications.”
That’s not to say that DTC dog foods don’t meet those standards—it’s just important that you check that they do, instead of simply assuming that higher cost equals higher quality.
Is direct-to-consumer dog food worth the price?
In short, it all depends on your priorities. If your dog is perfectly happy eating kibble that meets AAFCO nutrition standards, then it may not be worth the extra money to upgrade to a more expensive DTC plan. But in cases where your dog may not be eating enough or getting the nutrients it needs, then it could be worth splurging on high-quality human-grade food.
“If you want to feed your pet human-grade foods it will be more expensive, but if your pet finds it palatable and really enjoys their meals, I think it’s worth the extra cost,” veterinarian Dr. Hunter Finn, DVM, told Fast Company. He also only recommends dog food brands that employ a full-time veterinary nutritionist and are open and honest when answering your questions regarding research, manufacturing and nutrient profile studies.
So ultimately, it’s up to you—but as long as your dog is enjoying a complete and balanced diet, don’t feel as though you need to shell out the extra cash for human-grade food.