Is expensive dog food better? Or is it all bark and no bite?

Posted at 1:00 PM, May 09, 2017
and last updated 2017-05-10 15:35:03-04

Families spend thousands of dollars a year to make sure their pets are well fed — and some go above and beyond to make sure their furry friends are eating as well as their owners.

After going to several grocery stores, 41 Action News found dog food as cheap as $10. We also found a 27 pound bag for $90.

Bags of dog food can cost anywhere from $10 a bag to $90 a bag. But Allison Wara, a veterinary nutritionist at the University of Missouri, says high price point and spiffy presentation doesn't always mean it's the best choice.

“And that’s what can be very misleading,” she said. 

Wara says the most important thing to do when choosing dog food is to peek at the back of the label.

“On the back of every label you should find a nutritional adequacy statement, and that statement will say whether or not the pet food is complete and balanced,” she said. 

Pet food in the U.S. is regulated by FDA. The FDA representatives serve on the AAFCO, or the Association of American Feed Control Officials, board.

“Complete” means the product contains all the nutrients required.

“Balanced” means the nutrients are present in the correct rations.

Otherwise, Wara says, it’ll say something like "intermittent," or "for supplemental feeding." 

Delena Stout argues pet owners should take it a step further. She runs the Brookside Barkery, where some of her food goes for top dollar — as high as $90. She says measuring pet food is key.

According to her, with some of high-priced food, you don’t have to feed as much, because it’s rich in protein.

“You feed a lot less than if you were to feed from a bag that’s $30,” she said.

Stout also says her customers have noticed a huge improvement in their pet’s health by switching to an organic, raw, or grain free diet.

“Yes you’re going to spend a little bit more money with a better quality food, but the quality of life for your pet is going to be just phenomenal,” said Stout.

Megan Horne is the General Manager of Go Pet Go. Her stores won’t carry dog food with a recall history. Horne believes a protein-based diet is the way to go because too much corn and grain can cause issues.

“Like skin and coat issues, digestion issues, and you have to feed a lot more of it,” she said. 

But do pets really need organic, certified organic or completely raw?

Most experts agree that’s a want and not a need.

“You don’t necessarily have to go organic,” Horne said. “You just want to go with natural. You want to go with good, quality ingredients.”

A study by Consumer Reports finds higher prices can mean better ingredients and better quality control during manufacturing.

The same study shows pets can still thrive on inexpensive food or become sick from pricey food.

Bottom line: if your pet is active and healthy, then no matter the price point, the food is doing its job.