1. Look closely
Before you buy pet food or treats, check ingredients, expiration dates, the place of manufacture and whether the food carries the AAFCO statement, which ensures the food is nutritional for the animal and the life stage mentioned on the label. If you don't recognize an ingredient, or if it's not clear where the product was manufactured, call the company's customer relations line.

2. Home hygiene
Wash food and water bowls daily, and keep utensils and counters clean. Store kibble in a cool, dry place and keep opened cans in the refrigerator. Don't buy bags so large they get old, and don't store refrigerated food for more than a few days.

3. Human food is for humans
Many foods that are quite appetizing to people are actually unhealthy for our pets to eat. Ingredients like garlic, onions or raisins can cause poisoning, and the sweetener xylitol, found in everything from chewing gum to toothpaste, can cause a life-threatening reaction.

4. Keep it healthy
Pets and people have different nutritional requirements, so talk to your veterinarian about the best diet for your pet. If you want to make your own food at home, it is very important to include specific nutrients; for example, copper, an essential mineral for cats and dogs, is present in beef and lamb liver, but not poultry. Exercise very careful hygiene in handling the ingredients. People should follow all safe handling instructions as they would be preparing food for themselves, so no contaminants reach your dog’s food.

5. Stay alert
Any pet food can be recalled for a variety of reasons. Check the FDA recall list and sign up for safety alerts at the Humane Society's website.

6. Mix it up
Some owners rotate food and treat brands to lessen their pet's exposure to any potential hidden contaminants. Homemade treats with human-grade ingredients are another way to decrease risks. If you opt to feed your pet a homemade diet, first consult a veterinarian who is knowledgeable about pet nutrition.

7. Watchful eye
Whenever you feed your pet a new food or a new package of a customary food, observe his reaction. If he shows symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhea or lethargy, stop feeding the product and take your pet to the veterinarian. Keep the packaging and any leftover food in case you need to file a complaint.

8. Avoid these foods

  • Jerky-style treats
    Dried meat, vegetable or fruit chew treats for dogs are the leading suspect in hundreds of dogs’ illnesses and deaths, and an exact source of the problem hasn’t been found. Avoid any dried jerky treat—you can make your own with a food dehydrator or in the oven and know your pet is getting safer, wholesome ingredients.

  • Unnamed meat sources
    You should be able to read and understand a pet food label and know that more than “poultry” or “meat by-products” are in the food. Avoid foods that are heavy on grains like corn, which may have more carbohydrates than your pet needs. Whether making your pet’s food at home or buying it at the pet store, try to choose ingredients that don’t come from factory farmed animals.