Do You Have A Clue What's In Your Pet's Food?

Strolling through the dry dog food aisles can be mind boggling. There are so many brands and they all tout why they're the best for your dog. Vets say you get what you pay for, and cheapest isn't always best.

"They're made of lower quality ingredients that the dog can't digest as well and therefore they're gonna produce more waste and they're gonna get less out of the food, whereas a higher quality diet will be more digestible and the dog will get better nutrition from the same cup of food if you're looking at the volume of the food. Vets say commercial dog food is also loaded with fat," Biloxi Veterinarian Dr. Greg McGrath says.

"Your dog gains a lot of weight and over a period of time his organs age, the stress factors come on, pancreatic disease is number one, liver disease is next and if they live long enough the quality of protein stresses the kidneys and they go into renal failure," says Gulfport Veterinarian Dr. Richard Williams.

You can avoid that with premium foods. Some of those are Hill's Science Diet, IAMS and Eukanuba. Dr. Williams says they have high nutritional value, are easily digestible and help your dog live a longer, healthier life. But that will cost you more.

"If you want to feed your dog premium food, you got to pay for it."

What you pay depends on the brand. On the low end, a 40-pound bag of Come and Get It cost $12.99. You'll pay $13.99 for a 44 pound bag of Gravy Train.

Compare those prices with the better quality foods: $27.99 for a 40 pound bag of Science Diet made by Hills, and the most expensive dry food we found, Eukanuba, $35.99 for 40 pounds.

"I'm kinda prejudiced. I been doing this 30 plus years and my dogs eat Science Diet, my cats eat Science Diet. Ny cat lived to be 21, my labs 15, 17, 18 years old," says Dr. Williams.

Dr. McGrath, however, isn't completely sold on sticking strictly to the higher priced foods.

"Most veterinarians will tell you Hill's is their top choice because Hill's has done a tremendous amount of nutritional research and produces prescription diets which are the cornerstone of nutritional therapy in veterinary medicine, but the Purina diets are good diets. Pedigree diets are good diets. I just advise my clients to stay away from the least expensive diets. They're cheap, because they're made of poor quality ingredients," he says.

Those include what's called by-products or organs.

"Some of the dog foods use lungs. They use powdered lung material in there. It's checked health wise, disease wise and all that. It's not a human product so they call it a by-product." says Dr. Williams.

Simply put, it's the parts of the chicken, pig and cow that we don't eat.

Figuring out the ingredients on the nutritional label can be like trying to decipher a chemistry book. The nutrient analysis that you see on the bag is determined by chemical tests on the food, but it doesn't tell you how digestible the food is, and if the dog is getting all the vitamins and nutrients it needs.

"Your best guideline in selecting a diet is know who made the food. If you know that it comes from a good manufacturer then you're going to be okay otherwise," Dr. McGrath says.

When deciding what to feed your dog, you might also consider canned. Again, the choices are endless, and vets don't always agree which is best: canned or dry.

"Canned food is gonna be about 70-percent water. Dry food is about ten or 12 percent moisture content. There's no advantage feeding a canned food over a dry food as far as nutrition to the pet and dry food will have a tendency to keep their teeth cleaner. Most veterinarians will recommend a dry diet," Dr. McGrath says.

"The canned food will have a little more odor to it, it's more appetizing. The owner smells it and thinks the pet's gonna like it better but they'll be just as happy on a good quality dry diet and you won't be spending a lot of money for water."

As with the pricier dry food, Dr. Williams prefers the more expensive canned, saying he feeds his own pets a combination of both. He says shop around.

"It depends on what brand they're feeding. Most of your commercial foods have a year plus storage factor. Canned foods are gonna be better preserved or have no preservatives because it's canned, it's sealed."

Don't forget to consider age when dog food shopping. Feeding an adult or senior dog puppy food will give the animal too many nutrients and calories which can lead to weight and other problems. If you give your puppy adult food, you're depriving it of the protein and nutrients it needs to grow.

Another tip: don't give your best friend chocolate for Valentine's Day. It can make your dog very sick and even kill it. Stick to the healthy treats.