KANSAS CITY, MO (KCTV) – Brooke Nelson is a regular at Bar-K with her rescue dog Kona, who loves the riverfront dog park. Nelson says she loves Kona more than anything after saving the dog from being euthanized.

“Amazing she’s just the sweetest dog,” she said. “I cannot imagine her not being here. My kids just absolutely love her!”

Nelson feeds Kona a premium brand of dog food, one she decided on with her veterinarian after getting a little overwhelmed in the dog food aisle.

“I was just like, ‘I have no idea what to buy,’” she recalled to KCTV5 News.

She’s not alone with that overwhelming feeling. From kibble to canned, from fresh to bagged, there’s something for every budget and every taste in the pet food aisle.

The problem is that all dog foods are not all the same nutritionally.

One option currently booming with pet owners is fresh delivery. Just like the human version, home delivery meals are fresh and made from natural ingredients like beef, turkey, chicken, veggies, rice and fish oils.

While these may seem like the healthiest options, Kansas City veterinarian Dr. Libby Robertson says pet owners often question how good the food is for their pets.

“My answer is do very diligent research on the company that is providing these prepackaged meals,” she advised. “I think the cost is awfully high for any perceived value.”

While a premium bag of good dog food can set pet owners back about $65 a month, fresh delivery is usually much more expensive.

The service from NomNomNow quoted a price $122.99 a week, but only when using a 20% trial discount. Competitor The Farmer’s Dog said it would cost $170.66 for two weeks of meals. Pet Plate also had a 2-week quote of only $103.42, but that was with a 25% first time discount.

Robertson also noted that while the food products are fresh, it’s critical for people to do their due diligence when choosing a delivery company based on the dietary needs of their pet.

“Some of these nutritional companies may be producing decent diets, but I want research behind them. So find out what research they have, who is on staff, do they have veterinarians on staff to help provide balanced and complete nutrition for these diets?”

Robertson added that pet owners also have the option to cook fresh items for their pets themselves but noted that there is a right way to do it.

“Most of the universities that have veterinary schools have veterinary nutritionists on board and they can help you develop a diet,” she said. “I think [it would cost] less than $100 to have them develop a home-cooked diet with you for your pet and their specific health needs.”

Robertson also warned that pet owners should also be aware of tubes of refrigerated pet food sold in local grocery stores, noting that people may be paying a premium for packaging.

“From what I can tell, that fresh food in the refrigerator looks and acts and seems to be just like the canned diets,” she told KCTV5 News. “It just happens to be in the refrigerator.”

Some pet owners have opted for a raw diet, but pet owners may want to skip that, too. The FDA and veterinarians warn the risk of bacteria, including salmonella and listeria, are much higher with raw pet foods.

For most of dogs, good old-fashioned kibble is still the primary go-to meal, and Robertson says several brands with several price points have done tremendous amounts of research and offer very well balanced, nutritious meals.

One step Robertson says pet owners can take is to make sure they choose a brand with a label from both the USDA and the Association of American Feed Control Officials, or AAFCO, on the side.

“The quality of the ingredients is where the differences and the balance of the ingredients, so you do want to get a properly labeled USDA and AAFCO statement should be on every bag or package to tell you that.”

The best advice for pet owner with any questions about what to feed their furry pals - be sure to check with a veterinarian.

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