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Does your pooch eat organic food?

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Vets break down what to look for in pet food and which claims are worthless.

There's no shortage of pets in Wendy Aglietti's house, she has a puppy, a cat, and a Labrador. What they eat is just as important as what her family eats.

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

But do you need to spend a lot to get healthy, quality pet food? Consumer Reports' Jamie Kopf 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 Kopf 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 Kopf Hirsh.

Vets say it is important when buying pet food 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. Vets say what is most important though, is 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. Instead, look for "all life stages" on the label, which means the food is nutritionally balanced for any age.


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