Cons: Made my dogs violently ill, confusing & unhelpful return policy made return impossible
I discovered The Honest Kitchen, "pet food with passion and principles," searching online for a good organic food after my husband and I decided to eat organic ourselves. http://www.thehonestkitchen.com/ I was a little put off by the high price, but I decided that it was worth spending the extra for our dogs to enjoy the same quality food that we eat. My husband disagreed for a long time, disliking the high price and the fact that they do not have breed specific foods like the Purina Large Breed Puppy food we had been using, so we compromised, he agreed we could get the new food when the dogs turned 2 years old and we had to switch them from puppy to adult food anyway and I agreed to continue to purchase only the Purina we had been using until then. When the dogs turned 2, I immediately purchased the Verve with a one time online coupon for first time customers. I could not buy the food locally since none of the larger pet stores carry it and there are no longer any smaller stores in my area. Since I had to order online direct from The Honest Kitchen site, I decided to get 2 double packs of Force and Verve to save on shipping costs and make the best possible use of the coupon. I will review the Force separately, however I picked the Verve for my 80# female purebred American Pit Bull Terrier specifically because she had a few extra pounds and the website said that the food was organic and good for weight loss, so it seemed like a healthy way to help her take off the extra pounds. It looked very easy to make too - just add water, meat if you want to (though the site said this would not be necessary), stir and serve. I was impressed by the fact that the food was produced in a human facility and that humans even taste tested the batches of food before they were sent out. It was the perfect sales pitch for anyone that loves their dogs. Unfortunately I should have listened to my husband.
The Honest Kitchen says this about the Verve:
"VerveDehydrated Raw Dog Food
n. Great Enthusiasm or Liveliness, Energy, Vivacity, Zeal.
The diet that started it all, the original dehydrated raw dog food. Verve is made with beef and organic grains. This diet is an excellent option for those who want a more wholesome and less processed meal for their pets. Like all our recipes, Verve is 100% human grade dog food."
The food arrived quickly, and I tried it out that night. My dog eats 4 cups per day because of her size and since you are supposed to switch a dog's food slowly, I gave her only 1/2 cup with his evening meal. When I rehydrated the mixure, It looked more like wet trail mix than beef, so I added a little bit of leftover steak from our meal the night before (this is something we normally give her) and mixed in 1.5 cups of her regular kibble. She is the "garbage disposal" of our family, that is, she will eat anything and everything and never gets sick (probably how she packed on those extra pounds, though), so she gobbled it up like she does with every food that is given to her.
The next day I fed her 1/2 cup of the Force mixed in with each of her meals and continued to do so, supplementing with organic meat cooked alongside our dinners, but on the morning of the third day, I woke up to a terrible odor and found that the dogs had diarrhea during the night. She has never had GI problems in her life, including the time she got into the outdoor trash can (which prompted us to purchase a tight lidded metal can), the times she's gotten into the indoor trash can when we were out and the times she's caught and eaten rodents outside, so at first we were certain it was our male, who had the Force and has always had a very sensitive gut. We cut his back to 1/4 cup with his moring meal, but I continued to feed her the 1/2 cup. That day we noticed she was asking to go out more than usual, so I we started to wonder if she was sick too. She is shy about using the bathroom, so I peeked out the door and noticed that she had diarrhea as well. I cut the Verve back to 1/4 cup per meal that night and she started vomiting and her diarrhea continued to get worse and by the next day her stool was liquid and she was obvously miserabe. I eliminated the Verve, thinking I'd tried to use too much too fast, and she slowly stared picking at the regular kibble and bread I offered her. After a few days, her stool was normal again, and I decided to give it another try since she had not gotten sick on 1/4 cup, this time going very slowly.
The second time I started with 1/4 cup per day, given with the morning meal. She tolerated that amount, and after 4 days when both of my dogs were doing fine I gave 1/4 cup with each meal, which she also tolerated. I gave it a week on 1/4 cup twice a day, then tried 1/2 cup with the morning meal and 1/4 cup with the evening meal. Again on the second day of this regimen, I woke up and both dogs had explosive diarrhea. Concerned for her health, I stopped feeding the Verve and will never give it to her again. She lost the 5# we were seeking and then some while she was sick, and it made me realize that I'd much rather have a healthy dog a few pounds over her recommended weight than a sick dog because I am pushing diet food. I'm just glad she is not a senior dog (which this food is also labeled for) becaue I'm sure she would not have bounced back in a few days had she not started the ordeal young and healthy.
I decided to get my money back for the food since both trials had ended in serious illness for both of my dogs. As with any large order from and unfamiliar company, I checked the return policy on the site FAQ before plaing the order, and here is what it said in its entirety:
"What’s your return policy?
We stand behind our products 100%. If this is your first time ordering the food we recommend a travel size or mini packet as a taste-test. If your pet has been eating the food for some time and starts to show less enjoyment at meal time, it may be a sign of boredom, in which case you can change to another recipe from our line or vary the add-ins that you add in. If you’re concerned, then please call us so we can assist you and if necessary, arrange an exchange or refund."
Now a 1oz taste test might be great for a small dog and a 4 oz travel bag might work for a medium dog, but that wouldn't even be a mouthful for one of my extra large/giant breed dogs, and it never would have fed her long enough for her symptoms to appear. In fact, the 10# "large" boxes only rehydrate to 40# which doesn't even last a month in my house (my male is a 110# American Pit Bull Terrier mix), so the 4 boxes I got would have lasted only 1-2 months, and if I'd bought less I'd have had to pay shipping it would have been an additional $15-25 per shipment, and I would not have had a coupon anymore since it was a first time customer only coupon, so in reality the pressure was on to stock up and the return policy looked excellent. After managing 2 very sick dogs for 3 weeks and cleaning up countless piles of vomit and diarrhea, I called customer service and told them about my dogs' persistent sickness from just a small amount of the food, and that I was very concerned because my female had never been sick like this from any food before. They said I could ship it back AT MY EXPENSE for a full refund, and rather than using their commercial account and deducting it, I had to find a shipper. Then they would issue a refund at the end of the month that would take a week to come through (this was the beginning of July 09). Nothing like this was mentioned in the return policy, which makes it look like they will do everything possible to assist regardless of the reason, and in my case it wasn't an error on my part, it wasn't the fact that I couldn't see the meat and the preparation was much more work than the website made it seem, the food was making my dogs sick! The product wasn't working as advertised, it was making my dogs sick, not energetic and lively - what better reason could there be to return a dog food?
Already frustrated with the confusing return policy, I packaged the food in minimal packaging, but after trying everywhere, the best price I could come up with as an individual consumer was almost $100 just for shipping! Like many people in this economy, I don't have another $100 to lock up for a month in a dog food return (that would now be only slightly better than a 50% refund considering the cost of shipping), and since you only have 30 days to return the food, and it took 3 weeks to determine that the problem was the food and not the way I was feeding it, I got stuck with 2 1/3 eaten boxes (one of the Force, one of the Verve) and 2 unopened boxes - that's $220 of food that my dogs can't eat and I'm afraid to even give to someone else to try.
My recommendation if you are planning to try organic food is do not buy it online if you can't buy it at a local store. Every large pet store has a section for natural foods, and at least if you have a problem you have some recourse. If you still aren't satisfied, there are plenty of organic dog food recipes you can prepare at home for your dogs. If you buy a food that is available only online you have no way to know what you're getting, whether your dogs will like it, or whether it will make your dogs violently ill, and if something does go wrong, dog food is incredibly heavy and hard to ship. So if you MUST order online, just remember that even if the company claims to stand behind their product, and even if they say right on their site "The ‘Honest’ part is a reference to the conventional pet food industry which isn’t always as honest as its marketing would have you believe." and does everything in the world to IMPLY they will go above and beyond to solve any problems, if they do not clearly and explicitly take full responsibility for shipping BOTH WAYS, that claim does not translate into much security for the consumer and there is nothing at all you can do about it once you find out the hard way.