Reading labels an important step in buying dog food

SPECIAL REPORT: Bone-appetite - what's in your dog's bowl?
Published: Jul. 1, 2016 at 8:06 PM EDT|Updated: Aug. 11, 2016 at 12:02 AM EDT
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(Source: WXTX)
(Source: WXTX)

COLUMBUS, GA (WTVM) - The aisles of every grocery and pet store are full of products marketed specifically to the puppy market, but are foods specific to an animal's breed or stage of life really necessary?

We'll answer that question for you and examine whether or not buying the most expensive dog food on the market is really the best thing you can do for your best friend.

When buying food for your dog the choices out there can be confusing. What's the best, what the worst, and is buying the most expensive food on the market the best thing to do?

Some animal experts say no!

"There are some dog foods on the market that are very expensive that are not very balanced and not really good foods," said Robert Lofton, Assistant Clinical Professor with the Department of Clinical Science at Auburn University's Veterinary Clinic. "So probably a middle of the road price isn't a good way to start." 

Lofton says buying dog food according to its high price isn't the best choice. There are less expensive foods on the market that are equally nutritious for your dog.

Let's break down what animal experts suggest:

  • They don't recommend buying food that contain any proteins or fats that come from unnamed species such as animal fat or animal protein. Instead, look for whole ingredients from named species such as duck meal, chicken, beef and lamb meal. 
  • Also look for whole grains and other carb sources such as wheat, barley, Quinoa and sweet potatoes.

Lofton says there's an independent agency that evaluates dog food and their findings can be found on the labeling. 

Just look for AAFCO, which stands for American Association of Feed Company Officials – they do consumer reporting for pet foods.

"If their statement is on the bag that says it has been fed to and substantiated to meet the need then that means it's a good product," Lofton said. "You have to be careful because the statement sometimes gets tweaked to say it's been formulated to meet the need and that's generally used when there's no research to back it up." 

Just remember that when you're shopping for dog food, look at the ingredients on the packaging.

If the first item is meat, you're on your way to providing your dog with the necessary protein he or she needs in their diet.

Meet Linda Hartley and her best friend Cujo. While he's nothing like the movie bearing the same name, this four legged Jack Russell Terrier is the apple of his owner's eyes.

But according to Linda, she doesn't break the bank buying food for Cujo. In fact, her choice of food for Cujo is Kibbles and Bits.

"Why buy name brand when store brand is practically the same thing with the same ingredients?" Linda said. "Save your money people!"

In fact, Linda says every once and a while she'll give Cujo food from the table, something vets do not recommend.

"The boneless, skinless chicken breast and I give him a little bit of it because chicken is protein and what do they need, protein," Linda said.

Another food that dog owners should pay close attention to when shopping for your furry friends are treats, but keep in mind, all treats are not good for your best friend.

Although dogs go crazy for treats like Beggin' Strips, they are not always the healthiest things you can give you pet. Many of them contain high levels of sugar and salt.

"Dog treats have been around forever and you think you go to the grocery store, you buy your dog a treat and it's good for him but it's not," said pet owner Matt Butts.

Matt and his best friend Rory knows all too well about treats that can do more damage than good.

He says treats with red dye caused some serious skin issues for Rory, so to fix the problem he started making homemade treats for animals that contain more natural ingredients. Now Rory can't get enough of them.

"All of my dogs love them. He's one of four and most of their treats, if I don't cook treats for them it's fresh green beans, fresh apple slices, carrots, Brussel sprouts, he loves Brussel sprouts, it's one of his favorites," Matt said.

But beware – too much of a good thing can pack on the pounds.

"It's just like with us. If your dog is lazy, whatever you feed him or her they're going to gain weight," Matt said.

"More than 50 percent of dogs and cats in America are overweight and part of that is that we give them a treat every time they go outside to go to the bathroom, every time they do something and even when they don't need that treat and the treats can be a real problem as far as the weights concerned," Lofton said.

But to keep the weight down, Lofton suggest you don't overdo it when it comes to rewarding your dog with treats and says consider breaking a treat in half.

By doing so, it cuts down on the amount of calories you're giving him or her to ingest.

So the lesson learned is when it comes to buying food and treats for your dog, do your research and remember, not all expensive pet food is the best for your dog – some of the cheaper brands contain all of the proteins and nutrients your dog needs.

Choose treats that don't contain a lot of salt, sugar and dyes. Read the labeling on dog food packaging and give your dog plenty of exercise to keep them slim and trim.

But some pet owners like Linda like to spoil her pet – but in moderation.

"Don't give them too much of all of the other stuff," Linda said. "Give them one or two maybe five black eyed peas, a little bit of mac and cheese, that's a happy camper right there, that is a happy camper."

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