Is it worth it to “trade down” your dog's food?

Over time, prices on most things go up. But have you ever noticed how some prices creep while others leap?

After trying several different brands, we finally found a dog food that works well for both of my large breed dogs and we resolved to pay the not-so-cheap $41 per 35-pound bag. Last week, when I went to purchase the food, it was $49. While $8 might not seem like a ton of money, the fact that it was a 28% increase was hard to stomach (like my dogs found the cheaper dog food—but I will spare you the gory details). And it might even be worse than I thought. Apparently, many pet food companies have been reducing the size of their bags.

I tapped into a few online conversations about dog food price increases. People were speculating that the increase was due to the cost of transportation. When I called the manufacturer to inquire, they explained that the increase took place in March of this year in response to an increase in the cost of their raw ingredients. According to Petfood, the prices of raw ingredients increased dramatically in the summer of 2008. Some stores even posted signs explaining the 2008 price increases in raw ingredients like lamb (136 percent,) brown rice (121 percent), and chicken fat (30 percent).

The good news is that the pet food industry has been relatively recession proof due to the fact that the majority of pet owners have proven reluctant to “trade down” their pet's food. Apparently, there is a lot of brand loyalty with pet food. Why is this good news? Because skimping on quality now can be costly later—in unhappy pets and higher veterinary bills.

If only the humans had it so good. Experts say that short-term healthcare cutback could lead to more medical problems and, ultimately, higher spending. Unfortunately, a recent survey by the American Heart Association found that 32 percent (of humans) have made a recent healthcare change to save money, such as delaying preventive care appointments, not taking medications or skipping the dentist. Forty two percent plan to make changes in the near future that may impact their health, such as buying fewer fruits and vegetables. Fortunately, Parade Magazine pointed out in last weekend's edition that some steps people can take toward wellness—like walking—may cost little or nothing.

I personally haven’t made a decision about our dogs' food quite yet. Maybe I’ll think about it while taking the dogs for a walk (which will do us all a little good!)


Kim McGrigg is the former Manager of Community and Media Relations for MMI.