Wednesday, January 5, 2011

The Food Experiment: Wellness

We're several months into the Great Food Experiment of 2010/2011.  To recap, I am searching out a handful of high quality foods to give my pups variety, help Sadie lose those last 5 pesky lbs and most importantly, to reduce Maggie's allergy/itchiness problems. 

First on the list was the Wellness brand.  I selected Wellness for a variety of reasons:

 - They are a popular brand in small, independent pet stores in the Portland area.  While the availability of a food is not one of my criteria, I have faith in the dog community here in Portland.  It's one that promotes high quality, holistic, grain-free and raw diets so I trust what's on the shelves of several highly respected small specialty stores here.

- I love the fact that they have an extensive line of foods.  In addition to their "regular" formulas (which are the only ones I tried with my girls), they have grain-free, allergy and canned formulas.

 - The quality of information on their website.  You can tell a lot regarding the quality of a pet food from the level of transparency on their website.  I look for a couple things.
      First, a full list of product ingredients.
      Second, a nutritional analysis that includes more than what is simply required - Wellness posts the caloric content of their food, which is usually information that is more difficult to get your hands on.
     Third, the quality of the About Us section and how easily it can be found is the first thing I look at when researching a new product.  I want to know who I'm buying from and what their philosophy/mission is.

-They give back through their Wellness Foundation and most of that giving back is to local organizations.  It's icing on the cake when I find products made by companies who believe in social responsibility.  I do wish there were more specific details in this section but it's definitely a start!

- They use many whole food ingredients and their formulas are free from artificial preservatives, corn, wheat, soy and animal by-products.

But the #1 reason I selected Wellness first was the Ingredients Dictionary page of their website.  They describe each ingredient and its purpose in their formulas.  This. Is. Seriously. Awesome!  I don't know about you but I pretty much understand the first five or so ingredients and then the list tends to lose me.  No, I have no idea what Cassia Gum is or what it is used for.  Thank you Wellness!  I feel like a much more empowered consumer and can utilize the information they provide on their website in analyzing the contents of other kinds of dog food.

So that's why I chose Wellness.  We started out with a few bags of the Complete Health Lamb, Barley & Salmon recipe then switched to the Whitefish & Sweet Potato recipe.  The girls were on Wellness for about 2 1/2 months.  (I changed the rules here - initially, it was going to be one new food per month but I think it takes longer than a month to see how they are truly doing on it so we go through at least two bags of one brand or at least 2 months)

Sadie seemed to lose a bit of weight.  I haven't weighed her yet - we'll do that later this month when I have to pick up Maggie's prescription from the vet.  But I'm starting to see her sides come in at the hip again - decreasing the sausage effect.

I do want to point out that the change in food occurred right before I quit working for the man.  Now that I'm home all day, she's a bit more active than before simply by following me around.  She gets more walks now that I'm not working 60-80 hours per week.  I can't with 100% confidence say that it was the change in food that caused the perceived weight loss.  But I can say that either way, she is happy and looks healthier!  Her farts did get a bit stinky at first but settled down after a few weeks on the new food (thank god - the LAST thing I need is stinky Sadie farts - they are truly the most awful.  Ever.)  And she has completely stopped the food bag guarding habit.  As cute as that was, it always worried me a bit that she would forsake all interaction with her family to sit by a bag of food.  I won't be missing that habit one bit.  Though getting her head stuck in the Iams bag was always a good laugh.

Maggie's coat saw some pretty immediate benefits.  Within a week or two, I noticed that it was significantly softer and shinier.  However, I can't say that it helped with her itchiness.  I didn't notice any change in her scratching and the scratching actually increased when I switched her to the Whitefish formula (only for the first week or so, then it calmed back down).  I am keeping a list of everything she gets through this process and hopefully, a pattern will emerge and I can identify the problem ingredients.  Keepin' my fingers crossed on that one!

All in all, I was really happy with Wellness.  This is a brand I will be carrying in my store and I commend them for their commitment to quality and transparency with their customers.   I'd like to try their allergy (Core) formulas later in the Great Food Experiment to see if a smaller list of ingredients and single protein sources may help Maggie.  Even though they weren't the miracle solution to her allergies with their regular formulas, I did see noticeable improvements in Sadie's weight and Maggie's coat.

Did I mention they have a section of their website devoted to defining their ingredients?  Seriously awesome, folks!

PS - No, I did not receive any free products or compensation for this postie post.  It's just me, trying to do best by my dogs and sharing it all with you :)


  1. Do you mind my asking what kind of dog is Maggie?

  2. She is a lab. She started developing allergies at about a year and a half but they started out very minor and have progressed to her scratching herself virtually every time I touch her. No hot spots or that severe of scratching. yet. I am committed to making sure I do everything I can so she doesn't get to that point!

  3. I highly recommend you try out Canidae and see what you think/whether it's worthy for your store. When I got my first dog I went to a specialty dog store that didn't carry it (they were closing down) but the owner of the place believed so firmly in it that he recommended it to me and told me where else I could get it. My Sadie also has a bit of a weight problem and lost 20 pounds on the senior & overweight formula (disclaimer: I adopted her at age 4 and her foster family CLEARLY did not exercise her or watch what she ate at all). Vets are always impressed when I say that's what I feed her and they've never questioned that that brand of food could be contributing to any ailments or illnesses she's had over the years. I'm a big fan.

  4. (oh, this is Julie's roommate Marna by the way, of the doppleganger dogs Sadie & Maggie. The dumb name is from blogs I started years ago. Don't look at them or I'll never be able to look you in the eye when we meet in person! ;))

  5. @SFG

    Nice to cyber-meet your Marne! I look forward to making it down to LA to face meet you, hopefully soon! Thanks for the food suggestion.

  6. to the person who suggested canidae: I used to fed my dog canidae and it severely dried out his skin. after switching to taste of the wild, i have had no problems