Healthy dog food: Are you getting what you pay for?

Posted at 9:02 PM, Nov 25, 2014

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. -- Americans spent an all time high of $55.7 billion on their pets last year, and spending is projected to reach $60 billion in 2014.

Among those costs is pet food, and there are hundreds of options to choose from. But which provide the right amount of nutrition for your pet?

FOX 17 investigated the choices and spoke with experts, uncovering what’s really the best for your four-legged friend.

“Most pet owners don’t know that companies are not required by law to test the food before they put it out on the market,” said Dr. Sarah Abood with Michigan State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine.

Dr. Abood says owners need to see through the hype in order to truly pick the best food for their pets.

One hyped choice: feed your animal raw meat. Dr. Abood says there’s no scientific evidence that raw meat is beneficial, and it does carry some risks. “The risk is that raw meat or uncooked meat will provide the potential for both the animals and the people living in the household to maybe get a salmonella infection or an E coli infection,” she said.

Something else you’re sure to see in the pet food aisle are grain-free options.

“Dogs and cats need, they need protein, they need a source (of) fat in their diet,” Dr. Abood said. “A completely carbohydrate-free diet might not be ideal for some pets.”

Dr. Abood says when you’re approached with the never-ending aisles and rows of choices, there’s one thing guaranteed to be on every bag: the nutritional adequacy statement. It reveals the product has been approved by the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO).

But pet food may not be regulated as well as most pet owners would like, says Dr. Randall Carpenter at Family Friends Veterinary Hospital.

“A pet food industry study done out of Washington, D.C., reported that 31 out of 52 pet foods were labeled incorrectly," Dr. Carpenter said. "Also, Chapman’s Food Science program recently did a study where they found that 16 out of 52 pet foods tested positive for a meat ingredient not listed on the label."

Carpenter recommends doing some research when it comes to your pet's specific needs. “Things to look at when you’re looking at food: price, quality, brand name, online reviews,” he said.

And absolutely stay away from anything produced in China. They're still on the shelves even though Dr. Carpenter says they’ve proven fatal to several pets.

“I’d like to see all pet foods and pet treats made in China outlawed in this country,” he said.

In the end, veterinarians agree, monitoring their health and wellness comes down to good pet parenting and doing what you think is best for your animals.