Community Animal Hospital Blog

Pet Nutrition Myths

0 Comments Posted by CommunityAHAdmin in Uncategorized on Tuesday, December 29th, 2015.

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Nutrition should be a point of conversation in every annual check up exam for your pet, especially for puppy & kitten exams, when proper nutrition is imperative.  I’m always very encouraged when owners take the initiative to research what foods are best to feed their pets.  There is a plethora of information about pet nutrition at owner’s finger tips this day and age.   I do, however, give owners disclaimers that everything you find online, hear about by word of mouth or from the pet food store associate, may not be 100% accurate.  This blog will focus on the most common myths about pet nutrition that the doctors of Community Animal Hospital hear of.

  1.  Home cooked foods are healthier than packaged pet foods.
    There are some situations when I specifically recommend clients give specific home cooked meals to their pets.  This is typically when a cat or dog has an upset stomach and we want to feed them a bland, easily digestible meal.  I offer prescription (canned or dry) foods that meet this criteria as well as for owners to cook up some boiled chicken breast and white rice.  The home cooked diets are fine to feed your pet for a short period of time but are not nutritionally sound enough for long term use.  In 2013, the Veterinary School at University of California Davis performed an analysis of over 200 home-prepared diet recipes for pets. Some recipes were from blogs, breeder websites, veterinary literature and other sources.  Their findings were impressive, showing that 95% of these diets were below minimum standards for essential nutrients according to AAFCO’s guidelines. This means, that these diets would not even be allowed to be sold as pet food at a store due to their deficiencies.
  2. Canned food is better than kibble (or vice versa!)
    Sometimes, owners ask me if they should feed their pet wet or dry food and which one is better.  For the average healthy dog or cat, there’s no single benefit to one or the other.  For some situations, one version may be better for a specific pet.  For istance, if I meet a cute young Dachshund puppy, I know that this is a breed of dog that is predisposed to developing dental problems later in life so I would typically recommend that this puppy gets used to eating dry food only.  Dry food has a lesser tendency to add to plaque and dental tartar development than moist foods.  On the other hand, I typically recommend owners feed only moist foods to pets with kidney or urinary diseases to help get as much moisture into the pets’ bodies as possible.
  3. Grain free diets are superior
    Trends in human diets have shifted recently with a focus on gluten-free foods.  Gluten is a protein mixture found commonly in grain foods.  There are some diseases in people, like Celiac’s disease, in which gluten-free diets may be helpful.  As a society, are we pushing too many human health concerns onto our pets?  I personally feel that this be the case for gluten concerns.  Grain-free diets are highly marketed now in pet food stores but are these diets necessarily better for your pet’s health?  The research is truly lacking to suggest that there is any benefit.  There is one uncommon disease in dogs that a grain-free diet could potentially help, called gluten-associated enteropathy.  Soft-coated Wheaten Terriers have a higher risk than other breeds for this problem.  Signs of the disease include weight loss and chronic diarrhea.  Grains do contain some proteins.  There are protein associated skin allergy problems well documented in pets.  To treat this specific type of skin allergy, veterinarians use a modified meat protein source (not necessarily avoiding grains) and have good success with these special diets.  Is it possible that some dogs are allergic to the proteins found in grains and would do better on a grain free diet?  Sure, individual pets can have various sensitivities.  Statistically, pets are much more likely to be affected by a meat protein sensitivity than a grain sensitivity, if the skin condition is even food-related at all!
  4. Dogs and cats evolved to eat raw food, making this a better option than kibble
    The Dachshund that I treated in the clinic this morning is quite the distant cousin of the Gray Wolf that may be in the woods/forests of the Eastern Shore.  These two different, distinct species are separated by millennia of different evolutionary tracks, making it very difficult to compare the diets of these two species.  A similar thought process can be applied to my cat, Zack, against a leopard in Africa.  Raw foods have been advocated in certain years by some people, including some veterinarians.  This became somewhat of a controversial subject, whether there is any benefit at all.  More concerning are the the potential health risks to our pets and owners, when a raw diet is fed.  This subject drew attention from the American Veterinary Medical Association in 2012, so a research panel, including board-certified veterinary nutritionists, looked into this very thoroughly.  Their conclusion was that we should not feed raw food to pets.  There was no statistical evidence to suggest any benefits from this diet.  There was, however, statistical evidence of higher risks to pets and pet owners.  Several studies proved that raw food diets predisposed pets to developing illnesses from bacteria-contaminated food, many of which can be transmitted to humans.  More concerning to me, was the higher risk of a pathogen, called Toxoplasma, which can cause miscarriages in humans.  With a lack of benefits and more risk, I typically discourage owners from feeding raw food. If I met a client that does use this diet, I explain my concerns and provide the owner with information from the AVMA (found here).  The FDA has also taken a similar stance, discouraging raw foods being fed to pets.

 

Some pets do require special foods for certain diseases or situations.  Complicated cases, may actually require a veterinary specialist’s input.  Just like for internal medicine or surgery, there is a board certification process for specialists in Veterinary Nutrition.  Hungry for more info?  The American College of Veterinary Nutrition has a great website (found here) with helpful information of pet food.  Not sure what food you should feed your pet?  Before you google, please give us a call at Community Animal Hospital to discuss what diet would be best for your pet!

Michael C. Owen, DVM Associate Veterinarian Community Animal Hospital

Michael C. Owen, DVM
Associate Veterinarian
Community Animal Hospital




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