Deciding the best food for your dog

Deciding the best food for your dog

CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - When you shop for pet food you see all sorts of eye catching claims that make you want to pick one product over another.

But what do the terms like all natural or ultra premium really mean? And how do you know what's really best for your best friend?

Ilana Jacqueline tried ten different dog foods for her dog, Happy, researching ingredients and scouring labels to finally find one that didn't upset his stomach.

"It was very frustrating at times trying to figure out what the claims were actually trying to say," Jacqueline said.

We found when it comes to pet food, while the FDA and USDA regulate certain terms on the bag or can, not all claims are regulated or even clearly defined.

"There are a lot of buzz words out there right now that pet food companies are putting on their labels because it's what's hot in the market," said veterinarian Dr. Katy Nelson.

"Organic" is one of those buzz words the FDA says there are "no official rules governing the labeling of organic foods for pets".

Same goes for the USDA. Though the agency will certify a pet product if it meets current organic standards for humans.

Don't go looking for the definition of "holistic" either. What about claims like "premium" "super premium" and "ultra premium?"

These foods are "not required to contain any different or higher quality ingredients."

"Those are defined really by the marketplace," said Pet Foot Institute President Duane Ekedah said.

The Pet Food Institute says manufacturers comply with current laws and keep an eye on standards set by other agencies and organizations.

But Dr. Nelson says a lot of the terms may be more about marketing. We found no FDA definition for the term, but there are industry guidelines set up for the pet food companies to follow: there should not be artificial flavors, colors or preservatives.

"You can still be using by-products," Nelson said."You can still be using all sorts of things that might not be the best quality, but they're still natural, so you can put natural on your pet food label."

Look for claims that say "complete and balanced." That's actually defined by law and a company must prove its pet food contains all the nutrients necessary for a healthy dog or cat.

So why would pet food makers put all those other terms or claims on products? The Pet Food Institute believes pet owners will know the difference. Jacqueline says doing all the research she could to find the best pet food to make her dog happy was confusing at times, but well worth it.

"My dog is very happy and healthy now that he's on the right food," Jacqueline said.

The USDA says its working very hard to come up with rules and regulations to define criteria for organic pet food. If you have specific questions about pet food, experts say call the pet food company and ask them or ask your vet.

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