The Champagne Life on a DIY Budget Since 2007

The Truth About Pet Food + Wellness TruFood Review

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When it comes to ensuring my dogs’ health, I’ve been known to splurge on the same organic, high-quality foods that I would feed my human family & friends. I’ve always lived by the old adage that I’d rather pay the grocer than the doctor, and the same is true for my dogs: I’d rather spend a little more on their food each month than pay the vet bills for preventable issues later on. (Something we had all too much experience with when Dante developed kidney disease, most likely from kibble and treats contaminated with melamine, a plastic, in China, and are still paying off credit card bills from his last year of life nearly two years later…)

But new research shows that the pet food industry has us by the cajones: This week, the UK daily newspaper The Mirror published an investigative report showing that pet food now costs up to 50 percent more than the same food packaged for humans, comparing not just prices but quality of ingredients. Shocking, but not shocking.

Ever since the major pet food recall in 2007 (of which we suspect Dante was a victim, but can’t prove), we’ve been much more vigilant about researching the brands of food, treats, supplements, and anything else that we give our dogs to ingest, relying on watchdog sites like Truth About Pet Food to help me make informed consumer decisions about how to vote with my dollars to support brands that are fighting the good fight, as well as how to get the most bang for my bucks.

I’ve also cooked for my dogs (using veterinary guidelines), embraced the “raw diet” (promoted by so many veterinary nutrition experts), baked homemade dog treats and “pupcakes,” and been as much of an advocate for buying only Made in USA or ethically-produced food, treats, toys & gear for my pets as I am about the ones I buy for myself and my friends/family.

As a foster family, we frequently see the difference that good, high-quality food and supplements can have in rehabilitating rescue dogs. Our most recent foster dog (before we foster failed with Jack) was a little Italian Greyhound named Gumby who had clearly been loved but neglected when it came to his dietary needs. He was underweight, his fur was patchy and literally lackluster, his teeth were covered in plaque and tartar and his breath stank like a fishmonger. After just 10 days of eating the same organic kibble, treats & raw turkey necks that we feed Pixie (and now Jack), Gumby’s coat was thicker, longer and shinier, the plaque and tartar on his teeth were breaking apart (making his breath smell a whole lot less offensive), he had much more energy and was much more playful. Just like in humans, where research has shown that two weeks of only-organic food can rid your body of chemical toxins, we saw a complete 180 in Gumby’s health.

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So when Wellness Pet Food — the brand we switched Dante to after the pet food recall (and finding out that IAMS is full of kidney-disease-causing contaminants!) — approached me with a Klout Perk to try their new organic, grain-free TruFood line of pet food and treats for Jack and Pixie, I was skeptical but excited.

The Dog Food Advisor — another of my favorite resources for researching pet food safety — ranked the quality of the ingredients in TruFood a 4.5 out of 5 stars, their second-highest rating. I felt confident it was safe enough to give it a go and try it out on the whippets.

AND THEY LOVED IT.

The CocoChia Bakes treats (with beets, chicken & coconut oil) were a welcome, crunchy change from the smaller, denser Fruitables training treats they usually get, and they didn’t last long. I would definitely buy them again. But the real hero was the TruFood “Living Nutrition” kibble with chicken, chicken liver, and flaxseed. I mixed it half and half with their usual salmon kibble from Nulo and only the everyday stuff remained in their bowls. Sometimes I take that to signal that the stuff they like better is the junk food, but based on the reviews, it’s just as high quality as the Nulo kibble I give them every day ($53 per 10-lb bag) but cheaper and easier to find at more pet stores ($40 per 10-lb bag).

I’m not going to switch over entirely, since the salmon Nulo food is so good for sighthound stomachs and coats, but I can definitely see us buying a bag of Wellness TruFood here or there and mixing in with it, or using in a pinch when we’re out of town. And it’s so great to know we now have such a reliable alternative and a cheaper option we can recommend to friends and new dog owners.

What brands of dog food and treats do you trust for your pets? How do you handle budgeting for pet food and supplies in your house? Have you ever cooked for your pets? I’d love to hear from you!

Story: Shoestring LLC & Melissa Massello.
Photos: Chelsea Laine Francis

Disclaimer: Complimentary samples of Wellness TruFood were supplied for review through Klout Perks. By clicking on product links in this story and making a purchase on Amazon, Shoestring may make a small commission, but in no other way will be monetarily reimbursed by the company for this unbiased product review.