We all know that there is a huge range of price differences among pet foods, especially dry dog foods. All dogs (and cats) do need dry food for their teeth and gums to be in condition and stay healthy. So while those pretty little packages of wet food are gulped down by our pets as super tasty, they still must have dry, hard food.

Read the ingredients. The first ingredients should be meat (chicken, beef, turkey, salmon) and then there will be a long list, including preservatives. Don’t let preservatives alarm you! We eat them, too; they give the products shelf life. But meat byproducts and corn should not be among the first three ingredients of the dog food you choose.

Expensive foods are usually loaded with extra oils, including salmon oil, and fatty acids that help the coat as well as the general health of most animals. Those of us with more than one or two pets, especially large dogs, can rarely afford to buy exclusively those expensive foods. But they can work as supplements to your regular food.

Big hint: never change your pet’s food drastically overnight. Do it gradually adding a little of the new food to the old food until you reach the mix you want, or change to the food you have chosen for your pet. Sudden changes in diet upset the intestines and result in gastro upset, usually including diarrhea.

If you use one of the major, national brand store-bought foods (Purina, Pedigree by Mars, Iams, etc) you will find most give your pet what he needs. You can add to those what makes the expensive foods so pricy: salmon oil, probiotics, fatty acids and/or oils.

Even fresh, steamed snap beans, cut-up carrots, pumpkin, and frozen or fresh peas help lift the value of a packaged dry food.

But again, make these changes gradually so your pet’s stomach is conditioned to receive these new foods. You might also try chopped turkey, cooked liver or cooked, chopped beef (no greasy additives, please!) to give your pet more nutrients in each meal.

Here’s a tip for all foods: open the bag and take a look at the food as you run your hands through it, making sure no spiders, gnats or other bugs are in it.

All it takes is one microscopic hole in the bag, and bugs get in.

Return the bag to the store and it will refund your money.

Finally, if you keep your pet food in a plastic bin, make sure to scrub the bin at least once a month. Oils are absorbed into the plastic, eventually spoiling whatever goes into the bin gradually.

ARNO benefit Sunday

The Second Jalopy Jubilee benefiting Animal Rescue of New Orleans will be from 3 p.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday at The Mill Bar, 5808 River Oaks Road S., Harahan.

There will be music, food and raffles, custom cars, restored antiques and libations. Donation is $5.

Charlotte Bass Lilly is CEO of Animal Rescue New Orleans, a 501c3 nonprofit. ARNO operates a volunteer-based, no-kill shelter in the Elmwood Industrial section of Jefferson Parish and depends upon people from all over the country who have followed them since Katrina. Contact ARNO at arno.advocate@gmail.com, http://www.animalrescueneworleans.org or (504) 571-1900.