Some dogs will happily eat any dog food that you put in front of them (along with any food that you don’t put in front of them, but is within reach). Other dogs will literally turn up their noses at pricey dog food that you suspect has a higher nutritional value, ounce for ounce, than that fast-food burger you ate for lunch. So how do you make sure the food you’re feeding your dog provides the proper nourishment but isn’t overly expensive?

Fortunately, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration does ensure that the ingredients used in pet food are safe and appropriate for consumption by the animal, and that the food is produced under sanitary conditions and truthfully labeled. But we all want our dogs to eat the best possible food and like to eat the food that you give to them—without it costing you an unreasonable amount of money—so keep these three things in mind as you shop:

1. Know the difference between chicken meal and chicken byproduct.

Hill’s Science Diet

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Chicken meal is made from chicken flesh and skin that has been ground up, cooked, and dried. It is a source of protein in some dog foods. Chicken byproduct is manufactured similarly and is also a protein source for some dog foods, but is made from the remainder of a chicken from which the parts intended for human consumption have been removed. It’s composed of heads, feet, bones, organs including spleens and intestines, and undeveloped eggs. The ratio of each chicken part in byproduct can vary from batch to batch.

2. Feeding guidelines can differ from brand to brand.

Blue Buffalo

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That means you may not need to feed your dog as much of a higher-priced food as you would a lower-priced food. When you compare foods, don’t just look at the per-pound price. Do the math to figure a per-feeding price: figure out how many feedings a particular brand will provide for your dog, then divide that into the cost.

3. A food that one dog won’t tolerate well can be ideal for another dog.

Runny stools, gas, vomiting, and other maladies may occur with a particular type of food that other dog owners rave about. It’s difficult to tell what’s going to happen with your dog when you put him or her on a new diet, so be sure to mix the new food in with the current food on a one-to-three ratio (one part new to three parts current), increasing it slowly week by week, to make it easier to introduce the new food. And don’t buy a super-large bag at first, even though those are more economical, because if your dog has a bad reaction to it, you’ll be stuck with it all.