If you’ve ever gone shopping for cat or dog food (which I’m sure you have), then you know how overwhelming is the task. There is a plethora of competing product claims fancy packaging. In the end aren’t most of us seeking the same thing – a nutritious diet for our pet?


Well, according to a recent petMD survey the answer is a resounding yes! Nearly 80% said they choose their pet's food based on how nutritious or healthy they believe it will be for their pet.


So how do you go about finding the healthiest choice for your pet? Here are 5 tips I tell my patients:


1. Veterinary Recommendations: The best information for choosing a quality pet food is the advice of a veterinary professional who knows the specific health needs of your pet.


2. Brand Reputation: Many of the new start­up brands don’t have veterinary nutritionists on staff, nor do they have facilities to test the nutritional quality of their food through feeding trials with real pets. Look for a brand that have both of these and strong quality assurance programs in place to ensure the quality and safety of their products.


3. Regulatory Statement: According to the petMD survey, only 1 out of 3 consumers

said they look for the AAFCO Statement on the bag of pet food. This statement is required by pet food regulators to inform consumers if the product provides at least the minimum nutritional level necessary for your pet's particular life stage. Make sure the statement lists your pet's correct life stage, such as puppy or adult. Also, be careful with the "all life stages." This isn’t exactly a “one size fits all” stamp of approval. In fact, it’s probably best if your adult or senior pet doesn’t get fed a diet marked “all life stages.”


4. Manufactured "by" the Brand: This statement is often overlooked by people In fact, only 1 in 3 petMD survey takers said they looked for this statement on their pet food label. However, I recommend purchasing your pet's food from a company that makes its own food under the watchful eyes of its own employees to make sure the food meets the company's quality standards, rather than trusting the safety procedures of an unknown manufacturer.


When a product says it was manufactured "for" the company, it means it was not produced in a facility owned by the company but was actually made under a contract with an unnamed manufacturer.


5. Toll Free Consumer Line: If manufacturers don't provide a toll-free number on the pet food, chances are they don't want your questions because they don't have very good answers. I recommend choosing a brand that stands behind its products and is happy to answer your questions.


Image: Dora Zett / via Shutterstock