We were so excited to chat with Jen and Kristi, owners of Maxwell’s Pet Bar in the Noe Valley neighborhood of San Francisco, CA. Open since November 2020, their beautiful shop offers a full service pet spa/dog wash. Their products focus on holistic nutrition and dog and cat supplements, along with high quality toys, pet apparel, and walking gear, including High Tail Hikes Leashes and Sport Collars!
As Jen and Kristi share on their website:
"We're passionate about pets, nutrition and transparency. We've seen your pets thrive & we've experienced firsthand the benefits of feeding fresh foods to our fur kids. We're here to connect & to share with you what we've learned, if you're interested. Call to schedule a free nutritional consultation. We can explore anything you'd like!"
We chatted with them about how they got started in the business, some thoughts on how to support your pet through nutrition and dog supplements, and more. Enjoy!
Thanks so much for talking with us for the blog! Can you tell us a little bit about your background and what led to you opening Maxwell’s Pet Bar to offer dog supplements and other products?
We love and admire our companion animals; neither one of us have ever known life without one. When this space in Noe Valley became available, it was like a dream for us. At the time, Kristi owned a Hair Salon in San Bruno and I had just left a job where I had learned about health and nutrition for pets.
We had always wanted to create a business together, we just didn’t know what it was, until we did. Our retail & service backgrounds combined with our love for pets felt like the perfect combination.
How would you describe your focus at Maxwell’s Pet Bar? Who do you serve and why?
Our focus is on providing whole food nutrition & supplements. We strive to provide transparency around nutrition & supplements so that you can make well-informed decisions and avoid unnecessary trips to the vet. We also provide a self service dog wash.
We serve you and your pets because we know you love them and want them to thrive! They bring out the best in us, we believe we should bring out the best in them too. That it starts with nutrition and informed care.
Let’s talk about pet nutrition, specifically dog nutrition. There are so many “types” of dog food on the market. Raw, fresh cooked, dehydrated, freeze dried, freeze dried raw, toppers, kibble, etc.
There’s a lot of conflicting information out there, and for the average pet owner, it can be confusing. What do we want to be thinking about with regards to our pet’s nutrition?
We agree, there’s a lot of conflicting information out there (including from vets) and to further complicate choices, marketing can be very misleading.
Our mission is to provide transparency around nutrition so that you can make informed choices based on your goals, your pet and your budget. Our generation grew up mostly feeding kibble, so I think it’s common to keep doing what we’re used to, especially if our vet supports our kibble choice. Generally speaking though, dogs don’t require a lot of carbohydrates and cats require none as obligate carnivores.
We focus on providing options that mimic what they would have eaten before “we” (Mars, Purina, Science Diet) created a carb loaded dry kibble that is shelf stable for years. If you choose to feed a dry kibble, the less processed, the easier it is on your pet’s system. Try to stay away from animal protein meat meals (Chicken Meal for example) and unnecessary fillers if possible (carbs like corn, potatoes). Demand transparency in the supply chain. Were the animals healthy, humanely raised and grass fed and finished (instead of grain fed)?
Add as much whole food to the kibble base, or as chews or snacks, as possible. Think raw or lightly cooked meat, chicken backs, tendons, shanks, dehydrated snacks that are unique (Quail, Duck, Venison). The more you rotate in variety, the stronger the gut, the healthier the pet. More research is showing that a large portion of our ability to fight off disease and illness is directly linked to the health of our gut (microbiome).
A visiting pup picks out a trachea chew!
Can we talk about raw vs. cooked or processed dog food? What do you recommend? I think that many people are intimidated by the idea of feeding a raw diet. What are the benefits, and is there a way to incorporate some aspects of raw feeding into our dog’s diet?
The type of food we recommend will depend on your lifestyle, your pet's age, health & activity level. The benefit of whole foods is that it’s easy to digest, so it’s easier on the system & organs and it’s more bioavailable. Whole foods can be in different formats - like raw, lightly cooked, air dried or freeze dried. I was intimidated about feeding raw until I studied nutrition.
I remember my Dad feeding a BARF (biologically appropriate raw foods) diet mixed with kibble to his 9 dogs at the time. Kristi and I were visiting from college and we had the feeding duty (including the pheasants and chickens and hogs and maybe a few geese too). I just thought, “What’s this gross raw stuff with greens”?
We’re raw feeders with this crew and we’ve never had a healthier furry family. All 3 of our girls (two dogs & one cat) are thriving with healthy, glossy coats, clean teeth & breath, no allergies, bright eyes (no tear stains) and high activity levels.
Our furry kids are still young (1 to 5 y/o), but we followed the vet’s advice with previous pets and they all developed dental disease by 2 to 3 years of age. Fast forward and they eventually had kidney failure, heart disease, exacerbated arthritis, yeasty ears, hot spots. We believe a lot of this could have been prevented. Food is medicine.
A raw diet isn’t for every pet or family. Older dogs may need help with digestion, so lightly cooked could be a better choice.
What’s really cool about being a pet owner today is all of the innovative whole food options that are easily accessible! The great news is that no matter what your base meal choice is, ANY amount of whole food will make a significant positive impact on their health. It’s not all or nothing.
“Replacing as little as 10 percent of your dog’s daily processed pet food (kibble) with fresh food creates positive changes in the body”
The Forever Dog
What are some things we need to think about with regards to nutrition as our pets age? You see puppy, adult dog, and senior food, especially with kibble. Is there some value to this?
We think it’s important to be aware of not only how your pet is aging, but supporting their lifestyle & breed dispositions along the way. As an example, our pup Hazel is an extreme athlete. As a puppy, we made sure she had advanced level hip & joint support to give her that additional joint health support. If you have a breed that is susceptible to hip dysplasia for example, you may want to supplement with extra hip & joint health support early on. You can do this through a powder or liquid supplement or with whole food sources (chicken & duck feet, green lipped mussels & beef trachea for example).
To answer your question about whether there is any value in different types of food to support different life stages like puppy, adult and senior, in theory, “yes.” Depending on the context though of the food, or the format, some may be more beneficial than others. In kibble for example, the actual bioavailability is questionable after it’s been processed at such a high heat and pressure. Think about vegetables or a steak, we get the most nutrition by “lightly cooking” them. If you burned them, there would be little to no nutritional value at all. We do believe that adding whole food supplements for both preventative, maintenance and advanced level support can be beneficial.
Pups of all ages and stages can benefit from having whole foods added to their diet.
Let’s talk about treats. With so many of us using treats throughout the day for training, enrichment, etc, what are some considerations we should think about with treats with regard to overall health and nutrition?
It really depends on the situation. If we want to guarantee that our girls will race back to us from a dead seal at the beach, then we carry the heavy artillery. For them it’s a mixed bag, an example is Calamari with squid ink, Green or Blue Lipped Mussels, Bison Treats, Emu Liver, various forms of tripe, Pork Heart and Anchovies, Smelt & Silverside.
We just keep mixing it up. They love seafood, and the various combinations keeps it exciting. For training, it could be string cheese, or cream cheese based treat pouches or maybe raw meat in a silicone treat pouch. Sometimes you just have to use what works, even if it’s carb loaded.
What are some of your best selling treats or chews?
Our jerkys are really popular, and we have a large selection of unique chews and proteins so we can find something great for any pup, even with sensitive stomachs or limited teeth.
Let’s talk about dog supplements, another area that can be pretty confusing for dog owners. It can be hard to know what supplements to give, or what brand to choose.
What are some situations in which you would recommend supplements? Where can people go to get solid information on this?
We think a good guideline is to supplement with purpose. It’s not about brand, it’s about ingredients, sourcing & ethics. We like to support smaller, minority businesses, we spend a lot of time vetting ingredients and partners that we love. We know all of our house partners by name. Connection with our vendors is just as important to us as connection with our community.
Some situations where dog supplements can be helpful:
- Digestive Issues : Probiotics, Goat Milk, Gelatin, Enzymes, Green Tripe
- Anxiety : Calming Herbs like Passion Flower & Chamomile, CBD
- Skin & Coat : AMP up the Omega 3’s. You can do this through a fish oil supplement or whole foods like mussels, anchovies, and salmon heads.
- Hair Loss : Evaluate Zinc levels, considering amping that up as a start
- Warts : Try Turkey Tail Mushrooms or a combination of other medicinal mushrooms like Reishi, Shitake, Poria, and Mesima. Medicinal mushrooms are also excellent for immunity health. Studies show a direct correlation between sustained health & regular medicinal mushroom consumption.
- Picky Eaters OR as a way to provide variety: Think of food unique to their standard diet as enticement supplements. There are so many cool options, gelatin jiggles, raw goat milk, bone broth, green boosters, tumeric & coconut, wild fermented beets & cabbage, Lightly cooked sliders, liver, hearts, dehydrated chicken feet, wild salmon skin, calamari, emu.
What about CBD? Yet another area where the market is oversaturated and there’s not a lot of solid info.
The most important element of deciding on a brand is validating its authenticity. Every legit CBD product these days should have a QR code that you can scan for test results. You want to evaluate the Certificate of Analysis and hone in on the CBD & THC content, know the strain, and that it was organically grown.
We carry CBD in the form of oils, chews, powder, topicals & shampoo. We like to talk through any allergies and lifestyle before making a recommendation. Carrier Oils, spectrum and extraction methods are also considerations.
There are a lot of great combination products on the market now like CBD & Green Lipped Mussels. You get some hip & joint support plus the anti inflammatory benefits of CBD.
Scientifically we’re just scratching the surface on learning about different cannabinoid characteristics (CBG, CBH & CBN for example) and more focused benefits. It will be exciting to see what new and innovative products are created as we learn more!
When considering supplements for your pet, consider sourcing, ethics, and the intended purpose.
You also offer a self service pet wash. Can you tell us more about that?
We offer self wash services in a warm and relaxing environment. We have elevated cast iron tubs and we provide everything including organic shampoo, conditioner, blueberry facial, tooth gel, handmade treats & grooming tools if you need them.
What High Tail Hikes products do you carry and what do you or your customers like about them?
We fell in love with the High Tail Hikes products for so many reasons! Hand tooled leashes, collars & long lines made by a woman entrepreneur in Oakland? Yes please! Customers love them because they feel great in your hand, they’re light, bright, don’t fade, and are super easy to clean!
We also love that you continue to innovate by introducing new training tools, long lines for example and adding customizable and different hardware options. We’ve just started incorporating the BioThane long line with our youngest pup and what a difference! We get peace of mind in case she gets crazy ideas of running off wild at the beach, and she gets the feeling of independence and accomplishment! When we explain the purpose, our customers totally get it and love them!
Maxwell's customer love using High Tail Hikes BioThane gear for beach trips and other outdoor adventures!
Thanks for that, we love working with you! Where can people find you online and in person?
In person, they can find us at 1734 Church Street San Francisco, Ca 94131
Thanks so much for your time!
Thanks for having us!