ATLANTA -- One of the biggest expenses for pet owners over the life of a pet is food.
A Consumer Reports study finds Americans spend $20 billion a year on food for their pets. A big chunk of that is going toward premium brands, but do pets really need them?
Consumer Reports says no. They researched pet food nutrition last year and found that food that is labeled "complete" meets minimum standards set by the industry.
One of the least expensive dog foods was Ol'Roy dry dog food at Walmart, which was .34 cents per pound. Some of the more organic and premium dog food was as high as $2 or more per pound. Less expensive foods often contain corn combined with animal by-products. More pricey foods feature lamb and rice or organic meats.
But Veterinarian Dr. Stephenie Smith cautions against buying the cheapest brands and urges consumers to look at ingredients. "The lower cost foods are filled with a lot of fillers, so they have to eat twice as much and defecate twice as much to get the nutrients they need. So you end up spending twice as much in order to get the same amount. So just like human if all you eat is fast food you'll notice it in weight gain and start to feel slugish. And it's the same way with cats and dogs."
In addition, dogs that have sensitive stomachs, allergies or other health issues may require specialty brands.
According to Consumer Reports, Target, Walmart and Costco have among the lowest overall prices on pet food. It found the highest prices at Internet retailers.
Scratch and dent as well as liquidation retailers also have dog food bargains. Global Freight Liquidators in Norcross has name brand dog food in 40 and 50 pound bags for as low $18.95. (.47 per pound)'
Pet owners can also ask their veterinarians to recommend a brand of food that is line with their individual budgets.
Another way to save on pet care is to have your dog or cat spayed or neutered at the Atlanta Humane Society for $20.