NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — There are more than a thousand pet food brands on the market, with as many as 5,000 different recipes.
From raw diets to holistic, and grain free, how do you know which is better for your pet?
It’s exactly the kind of information that CBS2’s Cindy Hsu — a new pet owner herself — was in search of.
At just 6 months old, Lilo weighs less than 10-lbs, but has a big appetite.
“Our pets are like our children today. Whenever we eat healthy, we want to give them healthy food too,” Lawrence Carito with K9 Caterers explained.
With so many options it’s not always easy to choose. Carito said while pet food has come a long way, it’s still important to read the label — keeping in mind that ingredients are listed by weight.
“First ingredient you should be looking for is either chicken, beef,” he explained.
Peter Katz, the owner of K9, said many consumers who are concerned about gluten and carbohydrates in their own food, feel the same way about their pets.
“The special diet industry is huge,” he said.
Many brands are now being made with alternative grains.
“Oatmeal, barley, you could have a brown rice,” Carito said.
Experts also said consider the cost. Cheaper brands may use ingredients like ‘by-product’ and ‘meal’ to keep protein levels high while keeping food production costs low.
When it comes to dry versus canned food, exerts said it’s a matter of preference, but suggested canned for cats because it’s more hydrating.
“We see a lot of skin allergies, fatty tumors, ear infections,” groomer Amanda Madtes said.
Madtes said in her experience, the quality of food can directly impact the skin.
“We’ve actually seen dogs that have been on subpar dog food, and we’ve asked the client about it, and we’ve recommend they do some homework. And five to six months later, the dog’s skin is cleared up. There’s no more ear infections,” she said.
Veterinarian Richard Goldstein is with Manhattan’s Animal Medical Center, he said it’s important that companies meet certain standards.
“You just need to make sure that the company you’re using is a company that adheres to standards,” he explained.
Look for the seal of approval from the association of American Feed Control Officials, which he said certifies that the food is considered complete and balanced.
“People think like, oh, my dog is like a wolf. It needs to eat like in nature,” he said.
But dogs have evolved well beyond the wild, Dr. Goldstein said, thanks in part to today’s multi-ingredient foods.
If you’re contemplating a raw food diet, vets suggest researching the brand thoroughly as there have been some reports of e-Coli and salmonella contamination.
Pet owners can check on brands at sites like The Dog Food Advisor which rates and review products based on nutritional content.