Large-breed, small-breed, senior, puppy, light, diet, canned, dry, organic, raw - when it comes to selecting pet food, the choices are endless. So how does a pet owner decide what brand and type is best for their dog or cat?

Large-breed, small-breed, senior, puppy, light, diet, canned, dry, organic, raw - when it comes to selecting pet food, the choices are endless. So how does a pet owner decide what brand and type is best for their dog or cat?

Basically, there are three basic types of pet food: grocery, premium and super-premium, explained Barbara Stancel, manager of the Upper Arlington Pet People store. The difference between the types often comes down to nutritional value.

"We select the food we sell based on the ingredients - for example, higher meat content and less filler," Stancel said. "If the food does contain filler, it will be whole grains like brown rice versus rice hulls and glutens."

And just because a dog food is more nutrient-dense, don't assume it's more expensive.

"Price doesn't constitute the best ingredients," said Rochelle Lavens, owner of Heidi's Homemade in Grandview. "Price doesn't dictate what you are getting. Some grocery-store brands are more expensive than premium brands."

In the long run, buying the more expensive dog food can sometimes save you money because there's less waste and pets don't require as much at each serving.

When you're comparing brands in the store, be sure to read the ingredient label, Stancel advises.

"The first five ingredients are the majority of the pet food," she said. "Owners should also ask their vets - they can give them suggestions on what to buy."

Pet food can also be selected based on the animal's breed, age, size and any special issues, like allergies. Both Lavens and Stancel agree that samples are the best way to determine if a pet will like a new food. And don't forget to keep the packaging so you remember which brand was a hit.

Pets who have found their perfect food match will be alert and energetic, will shed less and will have no gastrointestinal distress, Stancel said.

Heidi's Homemade treats and other organic pet foods contain ingredients that are great for pets, like garlic, ginger, carob and coconut oil. Lavens suggests adding supplements like powders and oils to whichever food you're feeding your pet. Fish oils, for example, contains beneficial fatty and amino acids.

"Some people also add raw food a few days a week," Lavens said. "Besides meat, it contains bone, organs and some vegetables added in. It's more nutritious than plain meat."

Picking the right pet food should not be taken lightly.

"In the long run, the right choices can help you save on vet bills," Stancel promised.

For more dog and cat news, events and health tips, click to the Heavy Petting blog