PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – Otis is a 3-year-old English bulldog, and he loves to eat.
“The limited ingredient diet venison recipe and he loves it and I do his treats on top and he’s a happy camper,” said dog owner Heather Down.
Down pays close attention to what she feeds Otis.
“When he was a puppy, he had some stomach issues and he was extremely itchy all the time. So, our vet said check into some different foods for him and we tried out different foods until we found one that worked for him,” Down said.
Our pets are just like us when it comes to their diet. They are what they eat. But, how do we know the right food to buy when we’re bombarded with so many brands?
“Quality pet foods depends on a lot different factors. It depends on the ingredients. It also depends on the manufacturing process,” said Medical Director with Vet Tech Institute Rebekah Clermont.
Clermont said keeping your pet at a healthy weight is most important and recommends looking for two things when food shopping for your dog or cat.
“I would look at something called the AAFCO statement,” said Clermont.
The AAFCO statement stands for the Association for American Feed Control Officials.
“There’s an AAFCO statement on each bag of dog food that’s sold commercially and it will either say that this bag of dog food has been tested and has been shown to adequately support a healthy animal or that it meets the requirements,” Clermont said.
Clermont said we also need to pay close attention to the manufacturer, which you can research online.
“In general, the older a company is, the more likely it is to have the resources to put behind the research for quality assurance. They’re testing the food they’re making right now on a regular basis,” said Clermont.
What about ingredients?
“I know a lot of people are interested in having meat be the first active ingredient that’s listed on the food. Dogs are not carnivores. They’re actually omnivorous, meaning they need a mixture of meat and carbohydrates in their diet to be healthy,” Clermont said. “It doesn’t need it to necessarily be the first ingredient.”
“Cats are a little bit different. They’re more carnivorous than dogs are but they still only need about 26 percent to maintain a healthy lifestyle,” said Clermont.
A lot of companies have jumped on the grain-free train as well as corn, wheat and soy free diets.
However, is that really worth it?
“I really think those things are less important because we just don’t have the research behind corn and gluten free to say whether or not it’s a benefit,” Clermont said.
Toni Shelaske is the owner of Healthy Pet Products in McCandless.
“The veterinary industry has a different outlook on things than we do here and I don’t think their way is right, wrong or otherwise,” Shelaske said.
Her store specializes in holistic foods with a focus on a raw diet. Shelaske uses food to help her customers fix their pets’ ailments.
“I’ve had some medical problems like inflammatory bowel disease and asthma in one of my girls. Since then, I have tried to be more holistic and it has greatly reduced by veterinary bills,” said cat owner Nancy Reed.
Another thing to keep in mind when shopping is that some popular chains, like PetSmart, are known to organize better quality brands closer to the front of the store with lower quality in the back. Most pet owners we talked to agree, paying a little more is worth it.
“I want to get what’s best for our pets. They’re our family members. We love them,” said dog owner Liane Laughlin.
“As my vet said, I can pay a little bit more on my dog food and spend more time at home with my dog. Or, if I’m not feeding him the right food, then I can spend some more time at the vet and try to figure out what’s wrong with my dog. I’d rather be playing with him,” said Down.
As for treats, Clermont said they don’t have an AAFCO statement on them because they’re not meant to be used as a primary food source. However, researching the manufacturer is still important. She said treats made in the United States and Europe are best for our pets.