Do's & Don'ts of Pet Nutrition

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Pet owners spend more than $18 billion on pet food every year. With so many pet food products on the market, many owners aren't sure which is best for their animals. Here are some do's and don'ts for feeding your pets.

9-year-old Labrador mix Jessie has a voracious appetite. Her owner Josh Rosoff feeds her dry dog food twice a day topped with yogurt and pumpkin.

"She is happy with both meals, and she can enter a marathon for eating," Josh said.

With so many pet foods to choose from, picking the right product can be difficult. Veterinary nutritionist Dr. Lisa Weeth says it's key to look at the labels and make sure they say complete and balanced. Also choose foods that meet the standards of the Association of American Feed Control Officials or AAFCO.

And while companies use terms like natural, gourmet and premium to grab a buyer's attention, Dr. Weeth cautions that doesn't mean the products are necessarily better.

"The premium foods have a premium price tag associated with them but not necessarily higher quality ingredients."

Veterinarians say how much you feed your pet is just as important as what you feed them. More than half of dogs and cats in US are considered overweight or obese.

"Obese dogs tend to live a shorter period of time," Dr. Weeth said. "If you're lean you live about two years longer."

That's why vets say it's important to know your pet's ideal weight. Jessie used to be 30 pounds heavier. Josh put her on a diet four years ago to get her back to where she should be at 75 pounds.

"She actually at 103 had some cholesterol issues and those disappeared when her weight came down," he said.

And he also makes sure she gets plenty of exercise so she lives a long, healthy life.

Vets say there are some foods owners should never feed to pets such as grapes, raisins, onions and garlic because they can be toxic.

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