Is pricey dog food worth it?

DENVER, Colo. -- They're our furry family members, but for many of us, taking care of them puts a huge strain on our wallets.

A recent ASPCA study shows more than 1 million households nationwide give up their pets because they can't afford them. We still want to make sure Fido is being fed right, and as Denver7 found out, it doesn't have to break the bank.

Stacey Cason considers her golden retriever, Maximus, family.

"He gets a lot of attention. He goes for walks every single day," she said.

And the food he eats was chosen carefully, at $42 a bag.

"So I've had him on an all-natural, grain-free diet since he was a puppy," said Cason.

There are a lot of options on any pet food aisle: Organic dog food, certified organic, frozen dog food, beef, chicken, salmon and kangaroo are some of the many options, and the prices vary.

 "Higher protein content, I looked for now gluten or fillers," said Cason.

Cason says she thinks the expensive food is better for her pet.

But price point and presentation doesn’t always mean the best choice for your pet, according to Veterinary Nutritionist Allison Wara.

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

Pet food in the U.S. is regulated by AAFCO, the Association of American Feed Control Officials.

  • "Complete" means the product contains all the nutrients required.
  • “Balanced" means the nutrients are present in the correct ratios.   

Otherwise, it'll read something like intermittent or for supplemental feeding, and that’s not something you want for your dog, according to Wara.

Good wholesome pet food is why Luke Johnson opened up his own pet supply store, Luke and Co. Fine Pet Supply and Outfitter in Capitol Hill, with options for different budgets.

"Just because you want to feed a good food to your dog doesn't mean that you have to spend a ton of money. We have food here that is less than a dollar a pound and there's no corn or animal byproducts in it," said Johnson.

Sometimes animal byproducts can contain feathers, beaks or nails. That’s why the label is key.

"Increased transparency about where the sourcing, where the meat is coming from. Where are the vegetables coming from?" said Johnson.

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