Is organic pet food better?

Pet owners are willing to pay more for organic pet food although its benefits are debatable

Despite the high price tag and debatable benefits of organic pet food brands, some pet owners and animal welfare organisations are buying into them.

The cost of a 1.5kg pack of dog food from organic pet food brand Fish4Dogs is five times that from a regular brand at $30.

Ethical and organic pet supplies store Bubbly Petz has seen a 30 per cent increase in sales since its launch in 2014. Co-founder and education director Maeve Suar says: "Customers have shared that these organic products are actually as effective, if not more so than conventional ones".

Pet Lovers Centre has seen yearly double-digit growth in sales since 2011. This encouraged the retailer to introduce more organic brands. A total of four brands are now sold in its stores - Fish4Dogs, Pronature, Burp! and Sunday Pets.

Other speciality pet stores have also noticed increased sales.

Animal welfare charity Causes for Animals Singapore finds the cost of such brands daunting.

Fund-raising coordinator Christine Bernadette Tan says that it "cannot afford them in the long run even though our pets are healthier with fewer coat and stool problems".

Pet owners also feel the pinch with the organic diet of their cats and dogs.

Freelancer Felicia Liew, 42, spends about $2,000 a month to feed her two dogs, more than double their previous diet of regular pet food.

She says of her five-year-old Maltese, Fifi: "I stopped feeding Fifi regular pet food ever since she started breaking out in rashes. After some research, I realised that the regular pet food brands are not very healthy, even the supposedly holistic ones."

She eventually settled on a diet of organic pet food brands and home-cooked organic food for Fifi and her other dog, Jolie, a 41/2-year-old poodle.

"Nutrients can be lost after cooking, so I buy multi-vitamins, joint supplements and probiotics and feed them daily," says Ms Liew, who buys brands such as Lacto Chix, EVO and The Barkery.

However, vets are advising pet owners not to be too quick to jump on the organic bandwagon.

Says Dr Don Goh of The Veterinary Clinic in Tampines: "Most regular pet food in the market seems to be providing enough nutritional benefits to the pets."

He adds: "We don't know how beneficial organic food can be either. Pets which are more sensitive to chemical residues in food will do better on organic food, but other pets will probably do fine on non-organic food. Usually, I recommend a good quality commercially formulated diet according to the animals' nutritional needs."

Still, pet owners are not persuaded.

Says Ms Liew: "Even though it's more expensive, as long as it's good for the dogs, I don't mind. Money is not everything, but the most important thing is for the animals to be healthy."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on February 07, 2016, with the headline 'Is organic pet food better?'. Print Edition | Subscribe