Pricey Pet Food, Don't Overpay For Labels

February 27, 2009 12:37:09 AM PST
In this tough economy, people are cutting back on everything from groceries to luxuries. But there seems to be one big exception. Many are still paying top dollar for pet food. There's no shortage of pets in Wendy Aglietti's house - the puppy Duke, the cat, and Jed the lab. What they eat is just as important as what her family eats.

Wendy Aglietti said, "Why wouldn't I let them eat healthy, too? It's just my responsibility to them."

But do you need to spend a lot to get healthy, quality pet food? Consumer Reports' Jamie Hirsh rounded up pet foods with labels that tout "organic," "premium ingredients," and something called "human-quality ingredients," then consulted experts at seven of the top veterinary schools.

"As it turns out, there are no agreed upon standards for the terms organic, premium, and human grade on pet-food labels," said Jamie Hirsh.

Pet-food prices vary dramatically - some can cost as much as ten times more than others.

"Vets said paying a higher price might get you better quality ingredients and higher quality control standards, but you might also be paying for pretty packaging and a fancy-sounding name," said Jamie Hirsh.

Vets say most important to look for in a pet food is that it's feed-tested on animals. And that those tests are approved by AAFCO - the Association of American Feed Control Officials. Also make sure the food says "complete and balanced," which means it can be your pet's sole source of food. Most important, say vets - your pet's health. If she's got a shiny coat, her weight is stable, she's active and healthy, the food is doing its job.

Consumer Reports says another pet food claim that doesn't mean much are ones marked for "senior pets." that's because nutritional needs for older pets vary.

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