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Natural Awakenings San Diego

Dishing Up Wellness: Local Companies Offer Healthy Entrees and Treats

Jul 28, 2011 09:34AM ● By J.F. Walker

Ann Thomas, owner of Tigertail Foods, and Amy Hodges, owner of Wholesome Choice Pet Market, never imagined a future in the pet food business. As pet parents, they relied upon what they thought were healthy, brand name foods—until they discovered that most commercial choices used poor quality ingredients. After learning all they could about pet food ingredients, neither Ann nor Amy could resist the urge to become a community resource and inform pet owners about the value of quality food that not only tastes good, but meets a furry companion’s nutritional needs.

Ann Thomas, Tigertail Foods

Ann was a member of an online golden retriever email list, where she met a fellow dog lover that was a food chemist formerly employed by a large dog food manufacturer. The chemist informed Ann that the top-of-the-line, brand name food she fed her dog had been detrimental to the animal’s health. “I was shocked, and asked him for more information that would substantiate his claim about the food,” Ann recalls. “I believed I was feeding my dog the best food available on the market. The chemist did me and my pets a huge favor by sending me a very long reading list.”

Months later, emboldened by knowledge she gleaned from numerous articles and books written by holistic veterinarians such as Dr. Ian Billinghurst, Ann made a life-changing decision. “After I read Billinghurst’s Give Your Dog a Bone: The Practical, Commonsense Way to Feed Dogs for a Long, Healthy Life and many other books, I vowed never to feed my pets commercial food again,” exclaims Ann, who thoroughly believes in Billinghurst’s Biologically Appropriate Raw Food (BARF) diet for dogs and cats. The diet Ann formulated is based on human-grade whole foods, including raw meat, finely ground bones and other healthy ingredients, such as fruits and vegetables.

Ann was delighted when she saw how her pets responded to a BARF diet, which eliminates toxic chemicals that, over time, weaken a pet’s immune system. The diet also eliminates dry, scaly skin; itching and scratching; hot spots; and a sparse coat. “I’d lost my golden retriever to cancer and was determined that I was going to give all my future pets the right diet and help other pet guardians by making food that would optimize an animal’s health,” notes Ann.

After conferring with a friend that is also a canine nutrition specialist, Ann was satisfied that Tigertail Foods would offer variety and balanced ingredients to meet a dog or cat’s dietary requirements. “I noticed that even savvy consumers tend to feed their pets based on their human preferences, rather than on what the animal species needs,” advises Ann. Tigertail entrees and treats are made from fresh beef, poultry and vegetables from trusted resources, and are purchased locally, when possible

Amy Hodges, Wholesome Choice Pet Market

Amy was frustrated when none of her veterinarian’s solutions—steroids, cortisone baths and a well-known, brand name food—resolved her cat’s skin problems. Four weeks after following a friend’s recommendation to give the cat a raw food diet, the skin condition was gone, and Amy had all the proof she needed that pets deserve a better diet than what typically appears on pet store shelves. In September 2007, she gave up a successful career in banking and finance; not just to open her 1,000-square-foot independent storefront, but also to educate the public, offer better nutrition for pets and provide jobs in her community.

“People who shop here discover, as I did, that better nutrition means fewer trips to the vet’s office and a reduced need for allergy testing, antibiotics and creams, as well as cortisone and steroid shots,” says Amy.

Consumers also appreciate Amy’s efforts to buy only quality U.S. brands of natural foods purchased from sources as close to the store as possible. “It makes me feel good when I help our local economy and educate our employees, who in turn inform customers about the value of natural, nutrient-dense healthy pet food and treats, which are the only things we sell,” Amy enthuses. Knowledgeable employees help customers with selections from any of the quality brands, including raw items that are stocked in the store’s seven freezers.

From the start, Ann and Amy have offered pet guardians what is best for their loyal companions, rather than what is merely acceptable. That distinction underscores what the two women value—integrity and the health of the pet population—and informs their personal and business ethics, which they hold dear. If ethics are what the theologian and physician Albert Schweitzer suggested—an abiding reverence for life—it is clear that both Ann and Amy hold the human and animal species in high esteem.

Tigertail Foods, 438 Cerro St., Encinitas 92024. Call 760-634-1183 or visit

Wholesome Choice Pet Market, 15371 Bernardo Heights Pkwy., Ste. 103, San Diego 92128. Call 858-675-1053 or visit

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