I hear clients and prospective clients ask about this issue all the time.  They say, "I buy brand X pet food at the local big-box discount store and it is very much cheaper than at a pet store or vet. It looks the exactly the same.  Why is that? Are you ripping me off?" So my staff and I explain the differences in bulk purchasing and customer service support and all of the reasons that you have heard before.

BUT I bought a formerly "salon only" hair product recently from a big box retailer.  It was not a knock off. It has the exact brand name that I used to associate with high end salon products. Incidentally, it was cheaper than what I remembered paying at the salon, but as far as hair products go, it was not cheap. I am here to tell you that this product is NOT the same as the ones that I used to buy from this company before their contract with the discount retailer.  So I did a little digging about this issue. 

Chuck, our practice manager, is a retired chemist. He used to run plants that manufactured urethane foam products (like the foam used for pillows and cushions). At one point his factories were making a certain type of pillow that was sold on TV. His company got a contract to make the pillows for one of the big name discount stores. Chuck was thrilled that his production went up dramatically and he thought it was great...until he realized that in order to meet the price demanded by the big box store, he had to compromise on some things.  He learned that one "cannot have the cake and eat it too" because to make the contract demands, he had to decide which ingredients could be altered to make the pillows cheaper to manufacture or he could not pay his workers! There are other brands that I used to trust that got contracts with big box retailers and their quality has had to suffer. I understand why they have to make the decision to prioritize quantity over quality (because they are in business too), but I do not want you, animal lovers, to be misled and think that these products are identical.  In many cases, they just can't be.

Quality of ingredients is obviously less important for pillows and hair products than it is for something that you eat or feed your pets.  But sadly, the fact remains that you get what you pay for. I will not be buying hair products from the big box store and expecting them to be the same. You might choose to purchase some of your pet items from big box stores also, but I do want you to know that you may be compromising even though the product looks the same.  Be an educated consumer.  Ask around about products. We all want a good value.  I have lived and learned about many things and I too have to make choices.  One thing I know for sure is that I want to know what I am getting. I remember hearing all my life- "If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is."

Dr. Kathryn Primm is a veterinarian and author. Her first book is Tennessee Tails: Pets and Their People, and you can visit her author site at http://www.drprimm.com/