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Is it worth spending more for ‘premium’ pet food?

We compare pricey pet foods to standard versions


A complete pet food should provide all the nutrients your dog or cat needs

Spending more on a premium dog or cat food may not guarantee your pet’s meals are any more nutritious, according to a Which? investigation.

With hundreds of pet foods available in supermarkets, we set out to discover whether premium pet foods offer anything more for your money over standard versions, and how much it really costs to feed our four-legged friends with different pet food brands over the course of a year.

Our results show that savvy shoppers can make savings when shopping for pet food without scrimping on the key nutrients that dogs and cats need.

Read our full guide to choosing the best pet food for our full results, including expert assessments of dog and cat foods from some of the leading brands.

Costly dog and cat food

If you have a small Labrador and feed him exclusively on standard Butcher’s dog food, you’ll be spending just under £640 a year. But buy Butcher’s Superior and you’ll be shelling out £850.

But the extra £210 doesn’t necessarily give your dog anything extra for your money. Both tins of food provide almost exactly the same level of nutrition – and the Butcher’s Superior tin even contains a little less meat and a little less protein than its cheaper counterpart.

Butcher’s told us that every dog is different and its range of products means consumers have a bigger selection of recipes to choose from.

When we assessed cheaper and more expensive ranges from other top cat and dog food brands, we found a similar pattern; see our guides to choosing the best dog food and best cat food to find out more. 

Complete vs complementary pet foods

Vets told us that most pet foods labelled ‘complete’ or ‘complete and balanced’ have to meet strict regulations that ensure your pet gets the nutrients it needs. Some pet foods are marked ‘complementary’, meaning they should be given to your pet alongside a complete food.

Pet food that says it is ‘with chicken’ must contain at least 4% chicken, but a ‘chicken flavoured’ product doesn’t have to contain any at all. But while proteins from meat can be better used in the body once it’s been digested, a mixture of plant and meat protein is important in a diet.

The most important thing is that your cat or dog is healthy. Signs that your pet is getting good nutrition include clear and bright eyes, a shiny and dandruff-free coat, plenty of enthusiasm for life, and a lack of excess body fat – you should be able to feel their ribs and see their waist.

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