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For some of us, our pets are like family. But pet ownership can also prove beneficial to our overall health. They help us exercise more, and studies have shown their companionship can improve our mental health. Overall, they may even help us live longer. So, it makes sense that we would want only the best pet products for them. There are many factors to consider when choosing the best pet care products.
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“A big part of loving your dog and wanting them to be healthy means giving them the highest-quality dog food and pet care products you can,” says Bully Max Founder and CEO Matthew Kinneman.
When it comes to food, treats and chews, you must consider balanced nutrition and quality and sourcing of ingredients. For non-food products, focus on what materials make up the product, where and how they are manufactured and whether they meet safety standards for pets. As with every purchase you make, you can also check company and brand ethics to ensure they treat their workers and the environment with respect. Check the What to Look for in the Best Pet Products section below for more details.
Below are some of the best pet products available today. Although many are specifically for dogs, we’ve also noted those appropriate for cats or available from the same company in a version for other pets.
Chuckit! Sport Fetch Ball Launcher Dog Toy
Perhaps one of the ideal pet products for dogs available today is the classic Chuckit! Fetch Ball Launcher Dog Toy. Most dogs love to fetch, but owners don’t generally love it after the first throw because of the drool and debris the ball quickly collects. Our dog will play fetch until she can’t stand up from tiredness. It’s a great exercise in a short time and makes her calmer in the evenings and when we have visitors.
A ball launcher keeps your hands clean and increases the distance you can throw it by two to three times. The launcher comes in extra handy when recovering the ball from bushes, mud and water bodies.
Made in the USA, this durable, lightweight launcher is a flexible plastic with an ergonomic handle for your comfort and control. Available in various sizes and colors, make sure your launcher comes with one or two latex-, bisphenol A (BPA)-, and phthalate-free balls your dog will love to chew. However, this ball launcher also works with standard tennis balls.
If your dog isn’t into fetch, you can check out the wide range of other indoor and outdoor tug and toss toys by Chuckit! and peruse this list of indestructible dog toys.
Lucy Pet Products Hip to Be Square Treats
Lucy Pet Products Hip to Be Square Treats are “limited ingredient treats,” which means they only use a few simple healthy ingredients. That makes them a healthy pet product for dogs with allergies, food sensitivities, and digestive or other health issues. But they are also delicious and nutritious for all dogs.
These grain-free treats come in three chewy flavors — duck, salmon or chicken plus pumpkin. The Wild Alaskan salmon and pumpkin treats are an ideal pet product for training because dogs give their full attention to the very fishy smell of this high-value treat. Pumpkin adds fiber to their diet and promotes healthy digestion and regularity.
A bonus is that every purchase helps animals in need by contributing to the Lucy Pet Foundation, which supports spaying and neutering to prevent unnecessary euthanasia. Every dog is different, so check out this list of other top-rated training treats if these aren’t a fit.
Bully Max Instant Fresh Raw Dog Food
Many pet owners are shifting toward a partially or fully raw food diet for their dogs and cats because freezing and freeze-drying don’t alter and break down the proteins in the food the way cooking does. That means our pets’ nutrients are closer to what they’d get in a fresh raw diet their ancestors would get in the wild. Changing to a partially or fully raw food diet can also help reduce or solve many mild yet persistent health problems.
Although Bully Max’s high protein foods and supplements are healthy and appropriate for all breeds, they are especially popular with pit bull owners. While choosing the “best” food is highly subjective based on your individual dog’s needs, we like Bully Max Instant Fresh Raw Dog Food. “Filled with the most wholesome ingredients and vital nutrients, the recipe is inspired by raw nutrition’s power and undeniable benefits,” says Kinneman.
Add warm water to hydrate this freeze-dried food made in the USA in a human-grade kitchen. Nutritionally appropriate for all ages and breeds, this food uses recognizable ingredients your dog loves, such as chicken and chicken fat, oats, barley and rice, egg, flaxseed and carrots.
Because the food is freeze-dried, there’s no chance of the food-borne illness associated with fresh raw diets. It’s also lightweight, compact and shelf-stable for 90 days after opening without refrigeration. That makes it an ideal pet product for backpacking, camping and trips away from home.
This food meets all Association of American Feed Control Officials (AFFCO) requirements for a complete and balanced diet. Meeting these standards means it can be used as a standalone diet, combined with other foods, or as a treat or topper.
Not all dogs are alike, however. Each has their own tastes so if this food isn’t a hit with your dog, check out these other top-rated dog foods. With these slow-feeder dog bowls, you can help your dog take their time at meals and add challenge and stimulation.
Snoozer Luxury Cozy Cave Pet Bed
As the name implies, your pet will likely love to curl up in the cushy protection of the Snoozer Luxury Cozy Cave Pet Bed. These made-to-order pet beds cost a little more than average because of their superior craftsmanship and design. Although some pets might take a bit to get used to the cave design, this bed is perfect for the dog or cat that loves to crawl under the covers with you at night.
They are hand sewn in the U.S. and come in three sizes, with two types of soft microsuede and more than 20 colors to choose from. The bed surface is a fluffy sherpa fabric that adds extra cushion. Smartly designed, the interior support is made of a cedar-poly fill, a soft yet sturdy product that is naturally flea and tick repellent without pesticides or unpleasant odors. The removable cover is machine washable, dryable and even replaceable to ensure a lasting lifetime for this comfy bed.
Snoozer pet products come with a one-year warranty so you can have confidence in your purchase and ship free when purchased directly.
Whistle Go Explore Smart Device
The Whistle G.O. Explore smart device is worn on your dog’s collar and can be paired with your phone or computer to allow you to monitor your dog’s location and health and wellness over time and in real-time. It not only gives you GPS location monitoring, but you can also set it to alert you if your dog escapes its safe place. It comes in three colors and is under 2 inches square.
Due to the device’s size, it is meant for dogs 25 pounds and up. It requires Wi-Fi, a low monthly subscription, and the Whistle app to access data.
Tech lovers will appreciate this unit’s features and settings that are waterproof up to six feet of water. You can set custom activity goals based on your dog’s breed, weight, age, and schedule reminders for vet visits and medications. You will be alerted proactively when the device detects potential health concerns. Customers also confirm the excellent battery life of up to 20 days.
It makes a great gift and can give you peace of mind if your dog likes to wander or goes to daycare or when you’re out of town or traveling with your dog.
Embark Dog DNA Test
If you own a mixed breed or designer dog, an Embark DNA Test kit can help you answer the often asked question, “What kind of dog is that?” Pure breed owners will appreciate the genetic health profile that can alert you to otherwise unknown inherited health disorders or predisposition to preventable (and non) health problems like hip dysplasia and 210 other genetic health risks.
The test is available in breed-only, health-only (for purebreds), and breed and health versions, so you can pay only for the results you care about. Having used the breed and health combo test for both of our rescue mutts, we learned a lot. Not only did we discover our dog was a completely different blend of breeds than we had guessed — a “super mutt” — we constantly refer to the health profile results when making decisions about preventative pet health care products.
A bonus is that you can see profiles for other dogs in the database that are relatives or dogs with a similar breed mix. We set the website to notify us of new matches, so this test keeps on giving long after you receive initial results.
The simple cheek swab takes just a minute to collect, and then you just drop it in the mail. Results take a couple of weeks (plus shipping time) to be posted to their website. Although the price feels a bit spendy, watch for frequent sales prices around major human and pet holidays. These tests also make great gifts for the dog lovers in your life.
Virbac CET Enzymatic Oral Hygiene Kit for Dogs
It’s not just about fresh breath. Proper oral hygiene could add years to your dog’s life. That’s because gum disease increases your dog’s risk of heart, liver and kidney disease as they age. Regular brushing can keep illness at bay.
The affordable Virbac CET Enzymatic Oral Hygiene Kit for Dogs includes a silicon finger brush and a two-headed brush toothbrush, and a top-quality enzymatic toothpaste.
The Virbac CET Enzymatic Toothpaste line contains a “Dual-Enzyme System” composed of glucose oxidase and lactoperoxidase. Glucose oxidase — extracted from a fungus — boosts the formation of hydrogen peroxide in the mouth, which is a natural whitener and has natural antibacterial properties. Lactoperoxidase is released naturally from salivary glands in mammals to kill bacteria and viruses, so this toothpaste has an added boost of this vital oral enzyme.
The first ingredient of this toothpaste is sorbitol, a low-calorie sweetener. Containing no foaming agents, this toothpaste uses silica as its abrasive, and its other ingredients are simple, standard and safe for pets to swallow in small quantities.
Herbsmith Sound Dog Viscosity Advanced Joint Support
BEST GLUCOSAMINE SUPPLEMENT
Available as a chew or a powder that you can add to their food, Herbsmith Sound Dog Viscosity Advanced Joint Support can be used as a preventative in active and working dogs and as a treatment for older dogs struggling with joint disease and pain. Their formula was developed by a holistic veterinarian and herbalist, Dr. Chris Bessent.
In addition to healthy flaxseed and high concentrations of glucosamine and chondroitin, the joint support powder includes corydalis. This plant has been used for centuries as a pain reliever in traditional Chinese medicine. The active ingredient in corydalis, dehydrocorybulbine (DHCB), has been shown in laboratory studies as effective against inflammatory pain and injury-related nerve pain. It doesn’t heal the injury but blocks pain using the same pathway as some prescription pain killers.
This supplement also includes methylsulfonylmethane (MSM), Boswellia, and curcumin, promoting healthy joint function and reducing inflammation. MSM is a common anti-inflammatory used to treat osteoarthritis and other tendon and ligament disorders. It also supports healthy digestion. While the yucca plant is toxic to dogs, the yucca root in this supplement is known to reduce swelling and inflammation and promote healthy digestion.
Made in the U.S., this supplement comes in three sizes to choose the amount based on the size of your dog. The chews contain a similar blend and are available in small and large sizes. Herbsmith also offers wellness pet care products for cats and horses.
NaturVet Herbal Flea Spray
During flea season, NaturVet Herbal Flea Spray is a great preventative formulated by a veterinarian for both dogs and cats over six weeks of age. Its simple, fragrant herbal ingredients — thyme, cedarwood, lemongrass and rosemary oils — are safe to use on bedding and furniture year-round. Before applying widely, as with any product, spot test fabrics in an inconspicuous location.
Thyme essential oil is known to help dogs with respiratory issues. Although the manufacturers say the spray is safe to use directly on your pets, the lemongrass oil can cause skin irritation and gastrointestinal upset in some dogs and cats. If you are unsure about your dog’s tolerance to essential oils, we recommend checking with your vet.
You can feel good about the quality because NaturVet is certified by the National Animal Supplement Council as a Current Good Manufacturing Practice facility (cGMP regulations enforced by the Food and Drug Administration).
Much better than pesticide-based flea products for dogs and cats in your home, NaturVet’s money-back guarantee should dispel any worries that these herbal ingredients won’t be strong enough to be effective.
If they’ve gotten completely out of control, check out this range of top-rated flea products for dogs for more options.
What to Look for in the Best Pet Products
Check the label for mention of the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AFFCO) or other animal nutrition certifications, as they have high standards that ensure your dog will get a complete and balanced diet.
“Some unscrupulous food manufacturers will do whatever they can to make you think their food is healthier than it really is — allowing them to save money by including cheap filler ingredients that are no good for your dog,” adds Kinneman. “At a minimum, consider these factors when choosing pet food, treat or chew:
Ingredients on the label are listed in order by weight. That means that the ingredients at the top of the list make up a higher percentage of the dog food’s weight than the ingredients at the bottom.
Manufacturing standards vary by country. To ensure your dog food meets the highest standards of excellence and quality, look for dog foods made in the U.S.
Artificial Colors, Flavors, or Preservatives
These are never good ingredients for anyone—human, dog, or anyone else. Look for food with natural preservatives and ingredients instead. Some examples of artificial ingredients to avoid include:
BHA (Butylated Hydroxyanisole)
BHT (Butylated Hydroxytoluene)
Food Dyes (Blue 2, Red 40, Yellow 5 and 6, 4-MIE) Food dyes are an especially head-scratching choice. After all, how many dogs ever care about the color of their food?
When possible, choose a brand that uses quality natural ingredients that you recognize. When available and you can afford it, opt for U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Certified Organic products. You can research the ingredients you don’t recognize. Generally, ingredients with good ratings of 1 or 2 from the Environmental Working Group (EWG) are safer than those with higher ratings. EWG evaluates and rates products and food and cosmetic-grade chemicals for their impacts on human (not pet) health and the environment. Although not specific to cats and dogs, these ratings are based on research in laboratory animals and humans and can help you compare and avoid certain less-desirable ingredients.
MATERIALS & MANUFACTURING AND SAFETY
Any products that your pets contact should be non-toxic and safe. Choose natural materials like cotton, rubber, and wool over synthetic fibers when possible. Synthetic fabrics and fibers degrade over time and can off-gas harmful chemicals, especially when exposed to sunlight for extended periods. The same is true for toy stuffing, mattress materials and toys. When plastic is necessary, look for those free of toxic and allergy-inducing BPA, latex and phthalates.
Opt for products made in the U.S. or Europe since they have the highest safety standards for pet products. Some products will have additional safety certifications, so check the label or website for safety seals or logos when comparing products.
Evaluate craftsmanship as well. Some low-end pet products are mass-produced with low-quality materials, shortening the product’s life and potentially exposing your pet unnecessarily.
A product can be offered very cheaply and on a global scale, but that convenience sometimes comes at the expense or exploitation of a company’s workers. Whenever possible, spend your money with companies that practice “fair trade” — that pay their workers a living wage, provide a safe working environment and give back to the communities that help them grow and succeed. Check the label or website for certifications by third-party organizations that independently verify and certify fair trade practices, such as Fair for Life.
Check out the “About” section of a company’s website for clues to their environmental and social responsibility. That’s where they’ll often list fair trade practices and any third-party certifications as well as charitable programs in which they participate, such as 1% for the Planet. Many pet supply manufacturers donate some of their products or financial support to animal shelters and hospitals. Choose companies and manufacturers that mirror your own environmental and social ethics whenever possible.
Why Trust SPY?
Lorraine Wilde has had at least two cat and two dog companions in her home for the past 35 years. When researching these brands, Lorraine evaluated customer and professional reviews, the safety and health of the ingredients and materials of each product, and each company’s product research and development.
Because she has only the highest standards for her pets and her family, Lorraine only included products she’d be willing to use in her own home.
Lorraine holds a Master’s degree in environmental science with an emphasis in toxicology. She does this work to help consumers make healthy, informed, and environmentally conscious choices to protect their pets, their families and our planet.
Matthew Kinneman is the Founder and CEO of the family-owned and operated dog food and supplement brand, Bully Max. Kinneman discovered the need for high-protein performance dog food more than 20 years ago while training and working with police canines. Bully Max has invested thousands of hours in product research and development and is proud to manufacture its products in AAFCO registered facilities in the Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania area since 2010.
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