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Pawalla.com gift subscription - review

EDIT: On 22 August 2013, Pawalla announced that it is “no longer operating as a subscription service.”

Product: Pawalla.com pet gift subscription service
Quantity: One big ol’ box of food, treats, supplements, and other pet products
Price: $26 / month for pay-as-you-go subscription; $21 / month for a 12-month subscription (with 2 bonus months thrown in); shipping included (to the lower 48 US states?)**
Ingredients: all kinds!
Company information: Pawalla.com, 9415 Culver Blvd.; Culver City, CA 90232
Web Presence: At Pawalla.com and Facebook

With a single THUMP announcing the delivery on the front porch, the Bows got more postal love than I’ve gotten in years! I never thought I’d feel mail jealousy directed towards my dogs.

Pawalla gift subscription service

Pawalla.com is a monthly subscription service for dogs and cats, offering a thoughtfully selected variety of six or more “all natural” wet foods, treats, supplements, and extras like grooming aids and toys. This hefty promotional box sent to The House of Two Bows was bursting with goodies:

  • Mulligan Stew (Beef), one 13 oz can
  • Precise Holistic Complete (Beef w/ Vegetables and Wild at Heart River Line w/ Salmon and Trout), two 5.5 oz cans
  • Weruva Amazon Liver (Chicken), two 5.5 oz cans
  • Sam’s Yams Veggie Rawhide, one 5 oz pouch
  • Kong Traxx tire chew toy, size medium
  • Kong Chewy Treats (Chicken, Lamb), two 0.75 oz pouches
  • Nutrisca Freeze Dried Dinner Bites (chicken), one 5 oz pouch
  • Wapiti Labs elk antler chew, 4″ medium
  • Wapiti Labs natural mobility supplement, 15 g sample pouch
  • Tropiclean Fresh Breath gel, one 2 fl oz bottle

Pawalla.com gift subscription - review

That’s quite a first impression! A printed menu presented the month’s selections with peppy, personalized descriptions. My quick tabulation of local retail prices for all this schwag rang up at about $60 total. If this box is indicative of the usual fare, subscribers are in for some great deals!

More importantly, the quality of the items show that the folks at Pawalla know what they’re doing. Everything in here was a brand that we have either purchased in the past, or noted as worth trying in the future. That means that Pawalla has passed The House of Two Bows’ stringent selection criteria multiple times! What are the chances?

Sam's Yam, a veggie rawhide

Pretty good, apparently, if you have a certified nutritionist on board. I love that the company has the credentials of their nutritionist, Dr. Susan Lauten, prominently featured on their introduction page. If Pawalla adheres to Dr. Lauten’s advice as I found on the website for Nature’s Variety, one of the brands she advises, I am confident that the company will maintain rigorous standards. That is, I expect all future products to be free of low-quality grains like corn, wheat, or soy (though not necessarily grain free), gluten, animal byproducts, generic meats and fats, and chemical preservatives.

I also checked each item to make sure that none of the items were manufactured in China or other sites of recent recalls. While Weruva, one of the brands of canned food included in this box, is manufactured in Thailand, the plant adheres to international export quality standards that should allay the fears of consumers with a North American bias.

Pawalla.com gift subscription - review

Eric, one of the company founders, assured me that they “share[d my] concern about Chinese made products and do not provide them in [their] boxes.” In the future I would like to see a more explicit policy about how the company will ensure that their products pass muster, including staying abreast of recalls and how they would issue item replacements, if necessary. As it is, the company FAQ covers more of the monetary and procedural end of affairs, and offers less detailed information regarding what’s actually inside each box. Some amount of mystery is necessary, after all, to preserve the element of surprise!

Perhaps some of the reticence is because the company is still in development. Future plans include an online store, to be launched in August, for customers to stock up — because sometimes a single can is just not enough for a hungry pet, let alone Two Bows!

Weruva + Honest Kitchen

This subscription service is ideal for dogs who exhibit no food allergies. I asked Eric if they had plans to restrict protein options pending pet owner preferences. Unfortunately, we are hearing about more and more about dogs who exhibit sensitivities to common proteins across the board — which is one reason why so many in my crowd are eager to embrace home-prepared meals. Understandably, this would complicate the supply process if enough picky-bickys join the club, but this is a valid deterrent to a more long-term subscription for consumers like us, despite the great value (note that two free months are currently being offered with a year’s subscription).

Having some probiotics and digestive aids on hand might be a good idea when trying out new products. Luckily, the Bows are used to variety, but if your pet is not, be aware that you might wreak havoc on your pet’s digestive health if you try to go through a different can of food a day without adequate transition time. It would be better to pace the surprises over the course of the month.

I would recommend this as an awesome gift idea for first-time dog owners — and it’s very easy to purchase a 3, 6, or 12 month gift subscription for someone else. Perhaps your best friends just adopted their first dog and they’re overwhelmed by the wide world of dog products. Pawalla has it in them to guide newbies to the good stuff first. Yet, there are still surprises in store for more seasoned consumers, too. Personally, I was excited about the Wapiti Labs mobility supplements for Bowdu, and the Tropiclean dental gel for Bowpi, though it’s too early to tell if these products work as advertised.

Tropiclean dental gel

It is also important to me that Pawalla offers some customizations for pets of different ages and sizes. The promotional box contained items that would have been appropriate for a range of ages from puppies (super tough chew toys) to adults and seniors (mobility supplements). Frankly, we prefer consumables to objects that just accumulate around the house, though a post on the Pawalla blog makes an argument that everything in the box is essential, from food to toys, when you’re striving for the optimum physical and emotional health for your pet.

Over time, I will be curious to see how Pawalla can maintain both a commitment to quality while rotating enough product diversity to keep subscriptions interesting. A common complaint of other pet deals sites is the number of repeat offerings. Is it possible that there is a finite number of high quality brands that Pawalla can present? Or does a service like Pawalla actually help promote higher standards and fuel the growing market for quality pet products?

I’d like to think the latter is true, and indicative of a positive trend in how people are willing to care for their pets. Meanwhile, I’m grateful for the existence of companies like Pawalla that appear to align with my own retail philosophies. I was honestly impressed by the execution, and they’re definitely on the right track. However, I will withhold my highest grade because there is no record yet of consistency, which is critical for a subscription-based operation. But since The Bows asked so nicely, I do believe we’ll be getting another box in the future.

Pawalla.com gift subscription - review


** Note: The House of Two Bows was given one promotional box in exchange for our honest review.

EDIT: On 22 August 2013, Pawalla announced that it is “no longer operating as a subscription service.”