Newly minted pet parents must make many decisions as they welcome their pets into their homes. The food pet owners choose is one of the most important decisions pet owners must make. A high-quality, well-balanced diet can strengthen the immune system, help pets maintain a healthy weight and keep fur shiny and sleek.
It wasn’t too long ago that only a few different brands of pet food were available to consumers. The pet food industry continues to grow, and now there are scores of brands and formulations on the market. A report by Zion Market Research titled “Pet Food Market (Wet Food, Dry Food, Nutrition, Snacks and Others) for Cats, Dogs and Other Animals: U.S Industry Perspective, Comprehensive Analysis and Forecast, 2016–2022,” found that the U.S. pet food market is expected to have a value of more than $30 billion in 2022. There are almost 300 manufacturers operating in the pet food section in the United States, which produce nearly seven million tons of pet food annually.
With so many options to choose from, pet owners may not know where to begin when looking for acceptable food for their companion animals.
Cost is one of the key factors in choosing pet food. While the cost of food does not always translate into quality, some less expensive foods may have more fillers. The pet resource Simply for Dogs says quality pet food is an expensive commodity, with the most expensive dog foods going for nearly $40 per 2.2 pound bag. But price points vary. Find the best food you can afford.
Look at the ingredients
The Association of American Feed Control Officials has established guidelines for regulators to govern claims a pet food company can make on its label. Foods that contain a single ingredient must contain at least 95 percent of that ingredient. Ingredients also are listed by weight on the label. Those in the top spots may not be more abundant; they may just weigh more because of their moisture content. Keep this in mind.
Don’t be afraid of grains
While cats are strict carnivores, dogs are not. Pet owners do not need to avoid grains. In fact, grains, fruits and vegetables can be a valuable source of essential vitamins, minerals and fiber for many pets, according to the American Kennel Club. Since 2018, the U.S. Food & Drug Administration has investigated more than 500 reports of canine dilated cardiomyopathy, a serious heart condition, potentially linked to dog foods marketed as grain-free.
Read the nutrition adequacy statement
A more important part of the labeling of pet foods is the nutrition adequacy statement. Look for the statement that it is a “complete and balanced” food and which species and stage of life it is for. Young pets and pregnant or lactating females require different nutrition than adult animals.
Consider non-branded foods as well
Certain pet food manufacturers also contract with well-known stores to produce store-branded varieties of popular formulas at discount costs. For example, Diamond Pet Foods produces its own line of foods and also is the company behind Kirkland Signature pet foods available at Costco.