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A cartoon of a dog and cat.

Dogs and cats are the most popular pet species in the United States.

What's in it for Spot and Puff?

By Pauline Oo

From eNews, April 21, 2005

In 2004, 36 percent of U.S. households had a dog and 35 percent had a cat (more than 60 million dogs and nearly 70 million cats), according to the American Veterinary Medical Association. (Fish, birds, and horses are other common pets.) And pet owners spend about $13 billion a year on food for their canine and feline charges.

Pet food labeling is regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, and many states have also adopted rules set forth by the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO), an advisory council made up of feed control officials from all 50 states, Canada, Costa Rica, and Puerto Rico.

Pet food labels should have:

Marshall Stern, University of Minnesota animal nutrition professor, offers the following tips to better interpret pet food labels:

Most owners feed their dog or cat commercial pet food because it is convenient, cost-effective, and reliable, says Stern. "You can feed your pet a homemade diet, but it's very difficult to be fair to the animal and meet all of its nutrient needs," he adds. The pet food you choose should achieve "vitality and health, good coat quality, healthy skin condition, and proper body physique and muscle tone."