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Chicken soup for furry friends: Demand soars for fresh pet food | India News

The chipped walls of Dhara Jain’s Andheri home speak of the time six-month-old Lola would bite off more than she could chew. Months into her adoption in March this year, the rescued Indie dog had made Jain spritz chew-stopping spray on electronic cables, sofas, walls and other corners that her baby canine teeth favoured. But the nibbling didn’t end until Jain attended an online course on pet parenting that made her suspect that Lola’s habit may not have to do with teething so much as a calcium deficiency. So, Jain – a busy production designer and nervous pet mum who used to feed her pet boiled carrots and packaged dry food by turns – opted for a fresh-pet-food delivery service that offered three customised, nutritious meals a day at around Rs 15,000 per month. Today, except for the odd delivery package carton, Lola’s fangs don’t destroy much else. “Even her skin and coat have improved without any supplements or products,” says Jain.
Heightened consciousness of pet nutrition coupled with the spurt in lockdown pet adoptions by busy WFH employees has meant good business for fresh pet food delivery services that offer everything from homemade chicken soup to “24-hour bone broth” customised according to the pet’s size and breed. Clients largely tend to be organic-produce-favouring, health-conscious millennial pet parents driven by scepticism about the nutritional content of packaged dry foods and vegetarians who are aware of their pet’s animal protein requirements but are unable to provide these at home.
Rehaan Qureshi, who runs a three-year-old pet tiffin service that also offers baked protein snacks among the options on its daily menu, has been getting double the number of enquiries per day than in pre-Covid times while Rashee Kuchroo, owner of a 10-year-old Delhi-based fresh pet food delivery firm that switched from offering freeze-dried to ready-to-eat pet meals during the lockdown, has seen a 20% rise in demand per month in Mumbai, Delhi, Bangalore and smaller cities “where the availability of meats is low”. “The pandemic has forced people to spend more time with their dogs,” says Kuchroo. “And they have learnt that a good quality diet can prevent a host of health issues,” says Kuchroo.
Lack of government regulation on feed-grade meat adds to the wariness. “Nobody is quite sure about the kind of meat used in packaged foods,” says Nayan Shah whose eight-month-old fresh pet food delivery service in Mumbai already boasts over 70 clients across the city. While the firm has run into the odd vegetarian clients who chafe at the idea of frozen meats, “many clients have noticed an improvement in the digestive health and skin of the pets,” says Shah, whose company customises meals as per the weight and breed of the dog. To make the move from dry food to wet food easy for pets, Shah says they even offers a “transition period” of 10 days where the pet is progressively introduced to their brand of food.
To be sure, “even a preservative-free diet of only chicken and rice or only milk and roti can be as dangerous as relying solely on packaged foods,” says Kuchroo. Vets advise finding a happy medium. “Many pet parents feel pets are like their children and don’t want to feed the pets food that they will not eat,” says veterinarian Dr Amrita Deb, who typically suggests feeding pets an equal measure of fresh and dry food per day. Packaged food isn’t all bad, feels Deb, pointing out that many imported dry food brands in the market tend to meet the World Small Animal Veterinary Association’s pet food dietary guidelines. “If pet owners are opting for fresh food, it’s essential to make sure they have a certified nutritionist,” says Deb.
Dr Dhananjay Pandit, the only veterinarian in the city who is also a certified pet nutritionist, warns about the recent rise of “quack nutritionists”. “Some of them advocate a complete raw-food diet while some others advise going grain-free,” says Pandit, who once treated a dog who had developed kidney ailments because the owner was told that carbs were the villain. “So the pet was fed 80% meat. Pet food is about nutrients the dogs get in appropriate amounts as per their activity, size and ailments while grain-free diets are for pets who have a gluten allergy,” says Pandit.
Meanwhile, Jain is positive she’s got this science somewhat right. Though Lola is the culprit behind the missing nose of the Kathakali dancer on her sofa cushion, Jain says the act didn’t stem from a deficiency. “That was only to mess with me.”




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