If you have price-shopped dog food lately, you know there is a huge range of price differences, especially for dry food. It is important to know that dry dog and cat food is essential for your pet’s health and to keep their teeth and gums in good condition.

While those pretty little packages of wet food may look appealing and are often gulped down by our pets, they still must have dry, hard food. So, how do you know which food is best, and does more expensive equal better?

Read the ingredients. The first ingredients should consist of meat (chicken, beef, turkey, salmon) and then a long list including preservatives. Do not let preservatives deter you; we eat them too, and they are what give the product its shelf life. However, meat byproducts and corn should not be in the first three ingredients of the dog food you choose.

The expensive foods usually contain extra oils, including salmon oil, and fatty acids that help your pet’s 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 buying only those expensive foods. This type of food can be bought in smaller quantities, however, and added to your pet’s regular food to enhance it.

Never change your pet’s food drastically overnight. If you are making a switch to a new food, do it gradually by adding a little of the new food to the old food until you reach the mix you want or have completely changed to the food you have chosen for your pet. Sudden changes in diet can cause your pet to have an upset stomach and diarrhea.

If you use one of the major national brand store-bought foods (Purina, Pedigree, Iams, etc.) you will find that they generally give your pet what he needs and you can always enhance those foods with salmon oil, probiotics, fatty acids and/or oils — the ingredients that make the expensive foods so pricey. Even freshly steamed snap beans, cut-up carrots, pumpkin frozen or fresh peas add nutritional value to a packaged dry food.

Additionally, chopped-up turkey, cooked liver and cooked, cut-up beef (minus the greasy additives) help to give your pet more nutrients in each meal. But again, make these changes gradually so your pet’s stomach is eased into these new foods.

Regardless of what kind of dry food you decide to buy, make sure you check the date on the bag prior to purchasing.

Once you get home, open the bag and examine the food with your eyes, running your hand through the food making sure no bugs are inside.

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

If you keep your pet food in a plastic bin, make sure to scrub out that bin at least once a month. Oils are absorbed into the plastic and can gradually spoil whatever goes into the bin.

Events

SHOPPING PASSES: Animal Rescue New Orleans will be selling shopping passes and will have adoptable dogs from noon to 4 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 2, at Macy’s at Lakeside Shopping Center, Metairie. All proceeds from the shopping passes go to ARNO. For information: adopt fromarno@yahoo.com.

YAPPY HOUR: The LA/SPCA will be the beneficiary of a Yappy Hour to be held from 2 p.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 3, on the patio at Felipe’s Mid-City, 411-1 N. Carrollton Ave., New Orleans. Leashed pets and their owners will relax outside, with doggie treats for the pooches and drink specials for the dog owners. For every margarita or sangria purchased, LA/SPCA will receive $1. For information, call (504) 288-8226 or visit felipesneworleans.com.

LOST OR FOUND PETS: In Orleans Parish, you can send a photo, description of your pet, date lost/found and your contact information to lostandfound@la-spca.org. In Jefferson Parish, send to molsen@jeffparish.net and bbourgeois @jeffparish.net, and in St. Bernard Parish, send to cluna@sbpg.net.

Traci D. Howerton is social media editor of Animal Rescue New Orleans, a nonprofit, volunteer-based, no-kill shelter. Contact ARNO at arno.advocate@gmail.com, call (504) 571-1900 or visit www.animalrescueneworleans.org.