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Reasons to ONLY Purchase your Pet Food from an Independent Pet Food Store

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  1. Jessica

    Thank you for this post. Many moons ago I worked at an independent pet food store and I took my job very seriously despite the fact that I only worked there 1 day a week. Employees were encouraged to learn as much as possible about the foods sold in the store and to really get to know our regulars. We had regular meetings with food reps so we could learn more about the products and ask any questions us or our customers may have. We often got free samples of the foods which allowed us to offer first hand experience answers to customers. My cats sampled just about every kibble, canned and raw food we sold and I was able pass my observations onto customers (even if it was just about taste). We also worked closely with a local vet. They would send their clients to us whenever food issues were suspected as we had the knowledge and foods to help the pets better than the vet could. Any good independent pet store employee will know their product, and if they don’t they should be eager to learn so they can better help their customers.

  2. […] thought of this before… One unique benefit from shopping at independent pet food stores… Reasons to ONLY Purchase your Pet Food from an Independent Pet Food Store | Truth about Pet Food __________________ Kathy "A nation and its moral progress can be judged by the manner in […]

  3. Jerry

    Thank you Susan for posting this article. As an independent pet store owner I’m very concerned about what foods I sell and what I feed to my pet. We try as hard as possible to make sure we are China free in our foods and treats. We also try to research our foods that we offer to make sure we can explain why someone should feed a particular food.

    Thanks again!

  4. Barby Wolfish

    As a Canadian independent pet supply store owner, I thank you for this wonderful article. I have even said to people who come in and tell me they are feeding Beneful . . . “I don’t care if you don’t buy your food from me, but please do some research and stop feeding that food to your dog”

  5. dearcat

    My Maine Coon, Zeus, will not eat anything but Fancy Feast. Not anywhere near the best. I shop at a pet store and have tried everything from Newman to Blue. He has done this since kittenhood; he is now 11. Anyone have any ideas on what to do to make him eat better food? I have tried the “little mixed in” bit. No dice. He is very clever and has a nose like a bloodhound.

    1. Megan

      DearCat, There are good sites on the internet explaining how to switch diets. Some are for raw foods, but the process is the same. It can take months, so be patient. My darling Maine Coon was a devotee of Pro Plan. He died of pancreatitis when he was only 9, and suffered for years prior to his death. I still wonder if a better diet would have prevented it.

    2. Lindsey

      I have been struggling with the same problem. My 17 year old tabby has turned her nose up to every wet food I have offered her for years, even freeze dried and raw. She would only eat Fancy Feast.

      We recently brought some new cans into the Independent Retailer I work for, and I tried them on a whim. The line is called “Fussy Cat” and she absolutely LOVES it – she stands by the pantry and cries for it every night at dinner time. So I recommend that brand if you can find it 🙂 I’ve also had people have good luck with the Merrick line of cans.

      1. Peter

        Cats eat more by smell than taste. This is the reason that many brands, most particularly “grocery store” ones, use tuna and seafood. It stinks!

        Take a look at the labels of grocery store brands: you will often find tuna as a main ingredient in “beef” flavor lines. And almost every cat food uses “fish” as an extender or palatant. Cats commonly become “addicted” to these foods, which are formulated according to extensive laboratory research committed by the manufacturer: they’ve got customers “for life.” Its more about money, than making a “good” product. Well meaning pet parents may be confronted with cats “addicted” to grocery store junk when they adopt a middle-aged or older cat… which can be terribly difficult, its hard to undo the damage.

        Cat foods with fish are generally high in phosphorous. Over many years, this can contribute to developing chronic kidney disease, which will necessitate a diet change, as a medical necessity.

    3. Kenneth

      @ dearcat

      I had the same problems when we switched to RAW.

      My 2 sphynxes would eat anything put in front of them like they are starving, but my siamese would have none of it, not even mixed in a little bit at a time.

      I cut his normal meals by about 10% so he’d be a little bit hungry, nothing like being slightly hungry to make food we don’t like taste better. Then I mixed the raw with a bit of unsalted canned tuna (Most cats go nuts for tuna and the stink will cover the smell of the new food), then mixed that in with his regular food, when we were at 50% new food I started phasing out the tuna, and he started eating it, took about a month.

      Also take it slooooow, you might be mixing in too much, it doesn’t matter if you have to mix in a quarter of a teaspoon and increase it by a quarter each week, it will just take longer, but you will get there. Find out where his threshold for snubbing the food is with the new mixed in, and stay under that for a while.

      You can also try stuff like pretending it’s something you’re going to eat if he tends to beg for food, sit on the floor “eating” it, pretend you’re not giving him any for a while then “give up” and let him have a piece in his bowl. Once he’s actually eaten some he might see that it’s ok to eat.

      My siamese who’s a picky eater will eat absolutely anything if he see me eating it, he’s stolen weird stuff like pickled cucumbers, labbed up chili sauce (Hot stuff), carrots, potatoes, salad with dressing, slices of dry bread, etc..

      If I put any of that in his bowl he’d never eat it, if it’s mine, it must be the best thing ever 🙂

  6. Marsha

    dearcat, Try making your own food. If Zeus likes Chicken start with that, or whatever meat you cat likes. There are plenty of human grade chicken products that are antibiotic free, growth hormone free products. Same applies to turkey. We make our won dog food, all from human grade products.

  7. Hope Williams

    Susan, your direct approach in telling it like it is when shopping at independent pet supply stores versus big box retail stores is right on! And appreciated. I own Best Friend Nutrition in Sequim, WA and we all are well educated on holistic pet care as well as industry issues, stock and sell the highest quality (not necessarily the highest price) food and supplement products for dogs and cat and rabbit and dispense much advice every day for helping humans have the healthiest pets for as long as possible. We just wish some folks would stop getting advice from us and then buy on-line. The reality is that if enough people do that our independent pet supply stores won’t be around to help them in the future! Your article has helped to make others aware of that. Thank you from the bottom of my and my staffs’ hearts!

  8. Christine Mallar

    Woo Hoo! Thanks Susan for that fabulous letter of support for those if us who changed our lives to open stores with the sole mission of helping others get access to better products and education for their pets

  9. angela collins


  10. Nicole

    14 years ago when my dog was a pup, I fed him Science Diet during his first year of life at my vet’s strong recommendation. My vet sold it, so it had to be good, right? Wrong! It was my first dog and I did not know any better or know that my vet’s nutritional knowledge actually came from one source – Science Diet.

    On this food, my dog pooped six times a day (no exaggeration), he ate his poop and he scratched incessantly. Despite these issues, my vet never told me to change the food or that the food was or could be the culprit.

    One day I was out of treats and stopped by this very small independent pet store. When I entered and looked around I didn’t recognize the food brands that were for sale. I asked the woman, who was the owner, where the Science Diet treats were. To this day, I will never forget the look on her face. She looked at me as if I were the worst scoundrel and sternly told me she did not sell that brand and that I should not feed it. Back then, before P&G bought and destroyed the Natura Brand, it was the elite food of choice. After a long discussion with this wonderful knowledgeable woman regarding the different foods, ingredients, etc., I switched to this food and the issues stopped. And to be very clear, this brand is not now what it once was.

    The encounter encouraged me to research to the point that eventually years later I switched to all raw. I believe that this woman who cared so much, was instrumental in my dog’s health and long life. My 100lb dog is now 14 years old. He still walks near a mile a day and looks six.

    And even though I don’t feed store bought food, I still stop by to chat with this wonderful woman who is so happy my dog is still doing well and not at all bothered that I don’t buy food from her.

    I personally will never walk into the big box store and we know which one(s) I am referring to. I learned during my research years ago, that it is a conglomerate holding company owned by the very same manufacturers whose food line the shelves. Isn’t that brilliant. They make crappy food and own the huge chain of stores to sell that food. That is why the high end foods aren’t sold there. They would be competing against themselves.

  11. Wolf

    Susan, if you didn’t live so far away, I’d hug you. And take you to a fancy dinner. Thank you for your understanding, support, and endless vigilance. Without you, all of us little folks out here would be in a real vacuum.

  12. Pacific Sun

    I’m guilty of not understanding cats. But from all the comments I read, and the challenges getting cats to eat, has anyone ever considered changing out the kind of food dish used? From a bowl to a plate. From porcelin to glass to metal. Making sure it’s squeaky clean, or maybe not perfectly so…. You could experiment with same food side by side but in different dishes? (:->}

  13. Jett

    Just wanted to thank you for your continuing support of the Independent pet stores! My staff & I work hard to provide the best foods & treats for our customers and their pets — keeping up with changes in the market place and working with each customer as an individual with individual needs. We have a very eclectic neighborhood, with many people very money-conscious. We can find a good food that fits any budget (and can tell you why the cheapest bag may not be the cheapest to feed your pet!) We also keep up with new toys and accessories and can help keep your dog or cat mentally healthy, too.

    For the people having trouble switching their cats’ foods, keep in mind that cats are also sensitive to the texture of their food, so don’t try to switch from a “shredded” food to a pate, and don’t change the protein (e.g. from fish to chicken) at the same time you are changing brands. Try to match the Fancy Feast as closely as possible at first and that may help. Cats don’t make it easy, do they? 😉

  14. Sandra

    Susan, I’m up the road from you in NPR. I’m curious to know where you shop for your pets? I buy my dog and cat food at Dog Lovers in Tarpon and have been shopping there for years. I’ve always been impressed with the knowledge of the staff and the time they take with each of their customers.

    I own a pet sitting service and cringe at what most clients feed their pets. The most common dog food is Beneful and I can tell when I compare their coats, stool and overall health with pets who are fed quality food. I wish there was a way I could convince clients to feed their pets better food without making them feel inadequate!

  15. Audrey

    I worked at PetSmart for several months and it was horrible. My associates looked at me like I was crazy when I told them that I fed my pets a home-made, raw diet. They thought I was some kind of health nut. The customers at my store were no better. They were always dumbfounded when I recommended a raw diet. I worked at Wal-Mart in the pets department as well and it was just as bad.

    The only thing I liked about PetSmart was that they considered raw and grain-free foods “best”. Associates at my store were given pamphlets that featured “good”, “better”, and “best” brands of pet food. We were supposed to use these pamphlets to make appropriate food recommendations.

  16. Steven

    I appreciate your support for the little guy/gal. However, there are no regulations regarding the nutritional training of pet store owners or their employees. Just because you have the financial backing to open a business of personal interest does not make you a pet or nutrition expert. In fact, I have had very bad experiences in independent pet stores, one resulting in a pet food change that harmed my dog.

    Nobody starts a business to offer advice and not make money. Some of these owners have taken it on themselves to get formal training to learn as much as they can about pet nutrition so that they can offer sound advice to their customers. They should be the ones frequented. Customers should quiz the employees at any pet store that they choose to support and inquire about their training. If it was internet based or “internal training”, proceed with caution.

    Many independents are struggling and will recommend and support the brands that offer them the largest profit margin. This is not always the best product for your pet. Some pet food stores coach employees by making their higher priced items appear to be better products. It is also common practice for independents to just go with whatever brands one or two key distributors can offer them, so they can get better volume discounts when they place an order. They can order a pallet with 12 brands on it, instead of having to order a full pallet from 12 different companies. This, again, does not have anything to do with the quality of the food, or the health of your pet.

    My last dog trainer was from a “big box” store, as you would call it, but had 20 plus years in the industry, was very well trained and had text books available on dog/cat nutrition. She is just as passionate about pet food and animals as anyone and shouldn’t be ruled out as a resource because she doesn’t work at a “boutique” store. I trust her with my pets health more than anyone I have met in an independent.

  17. Two Poodles

    There’s never a one-size-fits-all solution for many situations. Pet Food (PF) nutrition included. It’s the pet owner’s primary responsibility to be informed about PF. Not a store owner’s. A good Independent Store owner can recommend proper reading and resources. And they can confirm what the owner has learned. But the best Independent PF Store owner is a good listener. Figuring out what the pet need’s and what the owner can deal with. Because I think they can tell the difference between discerning PF consumers or not from the owner’s conversation and questions. Fifteen years ago (before the fashion) my breeder started me thinking about PF the right way, and was an early advocate of BARF. That she would care that much (considering the extent of her responsibilities) always stuck with me. From that beginning I found a tiny hole in the wall IPFS owner, who had home made whole foods in the store freezer. Even if (and all too often when) I didn’t buy anything from her, she would still talk to me at length about healthy food. And discourage me from buying commercial kibble (even her’s) while never trying to up-sell me the pricey freezer products. In the end, she fed human food to her most gorgeous looking Chihuahuas, and made home made cookies that all of our pets loved! I will always be grateful to Sandra!

    I corroborated that experience with another IPFS’s worker who fed strictly uncooked pure raw meat and vegetables (alternating) to his two 17 year old Cockers that looked and acted like puppies! (Before the web, and the fashion) he did this simply because he was a physical fitness guru. And it made sense! Later on I experimented with probably the only known truly fermented PF products developed by an Industry Insider who also taught me more about PF than I wanted to know. By the time TAPF became available I was prime for the continuing education! But it’s a very long haul, and realize that most people don’t even know what they don’t know. Therefore they can’t ask the right questions to figure out which IPFS’s just want to help, or sell. Unfortunately I’ve never come across a Big Box Store employee with any impartial advice. I’ve found there are NON Big Box Stores who simply charge more for the same products, because of overhead. So the best IPFS’s learn to develop a genuine relationship with their PF consumers, through patient (and yes repeated) conversations, with gentle education, and by supporting recommendations with facts and reasons. For my friend with many responsibilities, one IPFS owner has learned to (and can explain why) he recommends the best quality product for an affordable price point. He makes a judgment call through dealings with the distributor and sales reps (accessibility, honesty, insider reputation). For the IPFS in my area, the owners switched me to raw by listening to many, many of my challenges! The new plan is working extremely well so far. And I am very grateful for their help!

  18. DogLover

    I have seen Taste of the Wild at my local independent pet food store. How does it compare to the higher priced foods also available at these stores like Fromm, Solid Gold, and Orijen? I currently feed Taste of the Wild and am worried about some of the ingredients like canola oil and sodium selenite. Since it is made by Diamond salmonella contamination is also a concern. Also, has anyone seen Orijen tundra available in kibble form anywhere? I can’t find online or at local stores. I have been considering it if I can find it. My dog is an 8 month old spayed female German shepherd eating about 1445 calories a day including treats. Please let me know what you think! 🙂

    1. DogLover

      By the way, my dog is active, weighs about 63 pounds, and is not overweight. She eats 3 1/2 cups a day of Taste of the Wild’s high prairie formula.

    2. Barby Wolfish

      I would stay away from anything manufactured by Diamond Pet Foods. TOTW recently changed their formulation, so you could look again, but it as Diamond Pet Foods product. I own a pet store in Toronto and can get the Tundra. If you are in Canada I don’t think you should have a problem.

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