POSTED: Wednesday, November 9, 2011 - 11:33am
UPDATED: Wednesday, November 9, 2011 - 11:40am
NBC NATIONAL NEWS — When it comes to pet food, the options are almost as varied as people food.
Real food, better known as "natural food" is a growing trend among our furry friends, so we wanted to know: what does a natural diet actually entail?
For Doctor James Bianco, it's a no-brianer.
"They are worth their money, absolutely. They're worth their money because they promote healthy skin and healthy coat, they promote a healthy immune system," said Veterinarian Dr. James Bianco.
Natural food will say "natural" on the packaging, but that isn't the only word you will want to look for.
A word worth writing down: A-A-F-C-O, it's the pet version of the F-D-A.
Next, look at the ingredients.
"The first things you look at, the type of meat. Is it a meal, is it a meat by-product, or do you have corn or soy as a first ingredient. What you want to see is meat," said Bianco.
National pet store chains are growing their inventory.
Many have a section devoted to natural options, but Doctor Bianco recommends the mom and pop shops in your neighborhood.
"Personally, I feel that going to the smaller, non-national chain type stores is where you're going to get your best information. Many times when you have the owner there, they're very knowledgeable," said Bianco.
Store manager William Carpenter says he tells his clients to look for meats, potatoes and cranberries in the ingredient list.
"The majority of our customers like the all-natural foods," said Carpenter.
A 30-pound bag of dry dog food can cost anywhere from 45 to 55 dollars, but there may be some hidden money savers.
Your dog will eat a smaller quantity of food, and you might have fewer trips to the vet.
"As veterinarians, we see dogs on the more premium diets with healthier immune systems, healthier coats, less gastrointestinal problems," said Bianco.
Overall, pet lovers say that they can see a difference.