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Providing Your Pet With A Healthy Lifestyle; Avoiding Discount Foods and Medications

Updated on February 3, 2012
My nine-month old Beagle-Labrador Mix. Why would you want to endanger a face like that?
My nine-month old Beagle-Labrador Mix. Why would you want to endanger a face like that? | Source

How Off-Brand Pet Foods and Flea Medications Can Harm Your Beloved Friends

There is no denying that the bill for your dog or cat can rack up a bit past your expectations every now and then. Being a college student myself with two cats and a dog, sometimes I find it difficult to pay for all of their necessities when they all fall on the same weekend. Let's take a moment and add up just how much I typically spend in a single monthly shopping trip.

Two 18lb bags of dog food - $38

One bag of cat food - $11.00

Two containers of cat litter - $17.90

Cat and Dog Treats - $20 and upwards

Flea Medication for two cats - $32

Flea Medication for one dog - $16

Not to mention any 'must-have' toys or treats that you picked up here and there throughout the month.

Looking at my own expenses above, I am spending anywhere between $132 - $150 minimum on pet essentials each and every month. That cost alone is more than half of one of my weekly paychecks. Sound like a familiar story?

What if I told you that you could have everything above for under $70 a month? That's half of what your paying right now, so there must be some sort of catch, right?

As a matter of fact, the price that you'll pay by taking the cheaper way out is heavier than you might think; the heaviest that a pet owner can pay. The overall health and lifespan of your beloved pets. In fact, what most people don't realize is that they are slowly, seemingly harmlessly, killing their own animals with the food and products they are giving them.

What's In Your Dog's Food?

Take a moment to go to your pantry or cabinet where your dog food is stored. Check the ingredients list. If Corn is listed as the top ingredient, do your dog a favor and immediately head for the trash can. I've spoken to various veterinarians on the matter of what I should be feeding my dog, and they all highly recommend steering away from foods where corn is high on the list.

But why? Because corn is hardly anything more than a filler, overstocked in common pet foods to make your pet feel fuller and make the consumers feel like their getting their money's worth out of their product. Corn itself hardly contains enough vitamins and minerals to allow your dog to have a healthy lifestyle. Corn and Wheat Gluten trick your animal into believing that they are full, though what they've eaten is barely providing them with the bare essentials to function. Take a look at the chart below that debunks the belief that protein found in corn is enough to supply your pet with a healthy amount of valuable nutrients.


Walmart and an unmentionable amount of grocery chains are guilty of offering foods like this at low prices. It's priced the way it is for a reason. Corn is also a leading allergen in young dogs. I experienced the effects of this firsthand when my six month old puppy began having flaky skin beneath her chin. The slightly upraised bumps turned rapidly into what appeared to be painful, flaking soars. She began to nibble at her feet as well, and before we knew it the tops of her paws were blood-red with dried skin. It wasn't until a trip to Petsmart that an employee told us the Purina Puppy Chow we were feeding her at the time was more than likely the cause. We changed her food immediately, and took her for a vet visit where they prescribed her a two-week plan of taking antibiotics. The 'cheaper' way already cost us the bill of a vet visit and $30 for antibiotics. Within a few days of taking the pills and eating healthier food, her paws returned to normal and already began regrowing hair. It has been over three months since then, and we still have had no problems with her current food. On top of Puppy Chow, Kibbles N' Bits is another leading cause of undernourishment and allergy-related issues.

This is what we currently feed our dog. While not the best on the market, it is an affordable and wonderful alternative to discount foods.
This is what we currently feed our dog. While not the best on the market, it is an affordable and wonderful alternative to discount foods.
Brands such as this should be avoided and rely on marketing rather than results to sell their product.
Brands such as this should be avoided and rely on marketing rather than results to sell their product.

Let's take a look at the leading ingredients in the above-mentioned food. This list is taken directly from the back of the bag. "Corn, Soybean Meal, Beef & Bone Meal, Ground Wheat Flour, Animal Fat (Bha Used As A Preservative), Corn Syrup,"

As you can see, the product is not only drowned with corn, but contains wheat flour and corn flour; other unhealthy filler ingredients. We met with a dog trainer in our local area, James Akenhead, who gave us the real 101 laydown on what's essential in finding a good food. A good dog food should have an all natural meat or fish product listed as the first ingredient, whether it be chicken, lamb, or whitefish. Peas, corn, alfalfa, whole ground barley, various berries, carrots, and rice bran should be high on the list. The general rule is: don't buy a dog food if corn is listed in the top five ingredients. While food such as Blue Buffalo is optimal, it is realistically not affordable for many people. The cost of a 15lb bag of Blue Buffalo is $32 at Petsmart. As a good alternative to the top dollar stuff, we now feed our dog Authority dog food. It doesnt cost us a fortune and its a hundred percent more beneficial for our dog than the Puppy Chow she was eating. The top three ingredients in Authority Real Lamb Mini-Chunk Dog Food are: Lamb, lamb meal, and brown rice. While rice can also considered a filler as well, it contains more fiber and various other benefits when compared to its corn alternative.

Thoughtful Owners, Great Dogs: Canine Behavior and Training a Triadic Approach
Thoughtful Owners, Great Dogs: Canine Behavior and Training a Triadic Approach

Our adviser on dog training and dog food, James Ackenhead, has published a worthy book on training your new best friend if you are looking for some pointers. You can buy it here.


The very same rules apply not only to dog food, but to cat food as well. Try to feed your animals something with all-natural ingredients with as little preservatives as possible. Food companies are not technically obligated to include certain chemicals in their list of ingredients. An example is that when a label states, 'meat byproduct', that byproduct includes any chemicals that were previously added to the meat. You sort of have to think of it as unlisted ingredients within a single ingredient. Some of these chemicals can be harmful to your animal. For a short lesson, take a moment and preview the video below.

Hidden Chemicals in Pet Food

Many popular companies, such as Friskies, lead their name-brand foods with corn as well. This can cause the very same effects as previously described. Take a look at whats in their food too before you make a decision. The top three ingredients in Friskies Indoor Delights are: Ground yellow corn, corn gluten meal, and chicken by-product meal.

If you feed your cat Friskies, head over to the cat food section on their website and click on your cat's food to find out what you've been feeding them.

More Ingredient Concerns and Choosing the Right Treats

Because dog food can contain meat byproduct and be over-manufactured with corn as a base ingredient, that doesn't make the treats you feed your animals any different either. Let's take a look at Purina's own 'T-Bonz' flavored steak snacks. Upon visiting the website, I then had to visit another website, then click on two links, and then click on a picture to finally get the ingredients list. The top of the list is as follows: Ground Wheat, Corn Gluten Meal, Water, Wheat Flour, Ground Yellow Corn, Sugar, Glycerin, Beef, chicken by-product meal. . .

First of all, the top five ingredients are nothing but fillers. Wheat, corn meal and corn are all meant to fill your dog up so that you feel like you need to feed him or her less treats; thus getting more 'bang for you buck'. Then we have sugar, because we all know our hyperactive friends need more of that, right? Next comes Glycerin, which if I'm not mistaken, is one of the main active ingredients in the hair gel that I bought for myself yesterday. Then we have 'beef', and chicken by-product meal. But let's take a closer look at what exactly the word 'byproduct' can mean. According to the Merrian-Webster dictionary, byproduct is defined as: something produced in a usually industrial or biological process in addition to the principal product. In other words, nothing natural that we would want to feed our pets.

If you watched the video above, you would now know that companies are not obligated to list any chemicals that were previously added to that beef or byproduct. Not to mention the question of, where did that meat come from?

With a little research, I came across an article by Jessica Smith at The information provided sickened me. Not only can dangerous chemicals end up in your discount dog food, but so can roadkill as well. No, you didn't read that wrong. Roadkill. And besides our common squirrel and possum friends we often see on the side of the road, what else can be classified as roadkill? Dogs and cats.

Your dog could be eating his very own species for dinner. The process involves mixing humongous quantites of unidentified meat into a huge vat and turning the temperature up to unbearable degrees. Upon being mixed around after the heating, the grease is drained and classified as 'animal fat' on your pet food's ingredient list. The meat itself is listed as 'meat and bone meal' on your list. How companies can get away with this today still bothers me. Take a good look at what is included in your pet's food and treats. Most dry foods are going to contain some amount of bone meal and meat byproduct. If you have questions about where it comes from, don't be afraid to call your food's company and see if they can explain it to you.

I highly recommend taking the time to read the article mentioned above. It can be found here.

Bully sticks are an all-natural snack that your dog can enjoy for a good few hours, or even days!
Bully sticks are an all-natural snack that your dog can enjoy for a good few hours, or even days! | Source

Healthy Treat Options

Here a few good choices of all-natural dog-treats.

Bully Sticks - Bully sticks are all-natural meat sticks that can last your dog quite some time. Sometimes my dog will finish a stick in half an hour, sometimes it takes her a few days. The snack provides your dog with an incredible amount of protein, made up of no less than 80% of crude protein. The only downside is the history of where these sticks actually come from. Bully sticks, also called 'bull pizzles' are made entirely from bull penis. The bull's penis is removed, cleaned, stretched and sometimes smoked. The result is a natural, healthy treat that your dog will find delicious! Come on, you can't say that your pet hasn't opted him or herself in to eat more disgusting things on your daily walks. The good thing is, these are perfectly safe and considered a treat for your dog.

Buy All-Natural Bully Sticks By Using This Link!

Old Mother Hubbard's - These naturally flavored biscuits come in a variety of flavors, including peanut butter and Bacon and Cheese. My dog absolutely loves these, and they are decent-sized too. You definitely get your money's worth with these. These treats are well-made and heavy duty; keeping your dog full and happy!

Charlee Bears - These tiny treats are great for training and small rewards. They can also be handy to stick in puzzle toys. At only three calories a treat, these guys are an excellent way to reward your dog. They come in a variety of flavors, including liver and egg & cheese. The ingredients list is also impressive, containing very little but wheat and liver. Head over to the Petsmart page for this product here to take a look for yourself.

Discount Flea Medications

I currently spend $16 for one tube of flea applicant per animal, which puts my total bill at $48 per month. If I walked into Walmart right now, I could cut that price by over $43 dollars. Let me show you an example of what I'm talking about by clicking on the link to the right. Walmart provides not one month, not two months, but three months of flea protection for your dog for a mere $4.19. The price of this alone should immediately send a red flag soaring in your mind. Hartz, the company shown in the link, is a shining example of discount pet medications to avoid. The company has a horrific history of endangering, and even killing, pets who have been treated with their products. On a personal level, I have two examples of such instances that come from two separate friends that my mother works with. In the first, the dog was treated with Hartz flea medication one evening. That night, the dog had overwhelming diarrhea and vomited continually into the morning. Having a loss of appetite, the dog would even throw up anything it could manage to eat. The owners took him to the vet, Hartz causing another consumer yet another emergency bill. The dog was treated,and the vet linked the flea medication as the direct cause. The second example is a bit more dismal. Another friend had a middle-aged dog who had been diagnosed with a form of cancer. The dog was seemingly healthy for his recently diagnosed sickness, and the couple thought that had more time time with their friend. While no proof can directly link the two, the dog was dead less than two days after the discount flea medication was applied. A fellow hubpager, K9keystrokes, has written a fantastic article about choosing the correct flea medication for your pet. Take a look at her article here:

If the Hartz and other off-brand products don't sicken or kill your animal, they'll more than likely do nothing for the little money you paid for them. There are plenty of accounts of the medicine being useless in the comments of Walmart's very own website.

Which Flea Products Are Safe To Use?

If you don't believe the personal accounts I've explained above, I encourage you to visit a website organized specifically for the very problem I am speaking of. Hartz has taken too many lives already, and the truth about the company needs to be more well known.

So which products can you trust? Which are safe to use? The honest answer is none of them, really. Each type of medication contains some type of poison that is necessary to kill and ward off fleas. But since flea protection is essential for your dog's safety as well, we are left with a lose-lose situation. I currently use Advantage II on my cats, and Advantage Multi on my dog. While my cats don't seem to mind it, my dog has had a hard time adjusting to the medication. The night we apply the flea medication, she appears drowsy and sick. We have noticed a significant lack of energy the day following appliance, as well as light vomiting and diarrhea on two separate occasions. We are planning on trying Frontline Plus in the coming months to see if she takes better to that medication. Many vets will recommend the following products to you, and they are respectably safe with only a few possible but rare side effects.

This is what I currently use for my two cats, and I have had no problems with it.
This is what I currently use for my two cats, and I have had no problems with it. | Source
A respectable brand of flea treatment medication for both dogs and cats.
A respectable brand of flea treatment medication for both dogs and cats. | Source
Another choice brand of flea meds.
Another choice brand of flea meds. | Source

All in all, the best thing to do is to do your research on the products that you are going to supply your pets with before you actually apply it to them. There have been far too many cases of sick animals due to a rushed lack of research. Avoid any kind of product you walk in the store and pick up. You will need to see your vet and either order medication through them, or go through a company such as 1-800-Pet-Meds and have your vet verify that they can ship certain products to you through the mail. Some vets want you to buy directly from them and will not approve for you to buy products elsewhere. My recommendation, then, is to find a new vet. Because there answer right there tells you that their priorities are on finances; not the health of your dog or cat.

I ran into a scare a few months back when my cats had been diagnosed with worms for the second time. This came right after discovering a flea walking around on one of our cats. After getting them treatment, I came across a product in the store called 'Hartz Ultra Guard Plus Home Fogger.' The product claims to eliminate all fleas, ticks, mosquitos, flea eggs, and flea larvae in your home. To use, I was supposed to open all of my windows, cover my furniture, and abandon my house for at least a half an hour; taking my animals with me. The more I read this, the more concerned I became. Essentially, I was going to let off a poison bomb in my apartment. I'm glad I did my research before deciding to actually use the product I paid less than $5 dollars for. The worms, we discovered, had been caused by the cats eating a certain type of plant that was planted on the outside of our apartment. Every few days we would take them out on a leash to sit on the patio with us, and every time they would eat even a bite of this plant; they would end up with worms within days. The fleas were fixed simply by routinely applying the Advantage II tubes shown above. Now, our cats are healthy and happy without the flea bomb that I nearly set off in our home.

As you can see, the Home Fogger I mistakenly bought over a year ago is still sitting around my home. I disposed of it after taking the picture.
As you can see, the Home Fogger I mistakenly bought over a year ago is still sitting around my home. I disposed of it after taking the picture. | Source

Avoid Flea Bombs and Cheap Flea Collars

Continuing with what I mentioned above, if you want to have your house fumigated; splurge for a professional job. Don't trust a dollar product with the life of you, your animals, and the possibility of ruining your furniture. Especially harmful to children, these flea foggers release toxic chemicals into our breathing air. Even by following the directions, the chemicals can seep into porous furniture and clothing; even if it is covered up. A half an hour isn't nearly enough time to rid your home or apartment of any poisonous chemicals you risk inhaling. The general rule on these products is that they are more trouble than they are worth. Check out an informative article on flea bombs here.

Flea collars can also be just as dangerous as liquid medication. They release many of the same chemicals through your pets skin, putting them at equal risk. As a personal rule I follow when shopping for pet supplies: If it seems like a gimmick, it probably is. And the risk isn't worth the outcome.

Closing Thoughts

Going back to my initial analysis, I happily pay more than twice as much as I 'need' to each month for my pet supplies. My animals are part of my family. They welcome me when I walk in the door, they sleep with me at night, they always run at me with a smile and an open mouth. They provide so much joy to our lives, and they rely on us for their daily essentials. So please, don't harm your animals by providing them with cheap, offbrand food and medications. They deserve better than that for the love that they give you in return. Corn-based foods can take years off of your pets life, and cheap flea medications can end their lives in an instant. Always think before you buy. Saving money doesn't compare to saving a life.

Has this article changed your outlook on the products you use on your pet?

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    • Paulart profile image


      6 years ago from 2510 Warren Avenue Cheyenne,Wyoming 82001

      I like your hub. Very useful for pet owners.


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