If you haven’t read Part I of this blog, we encourage you to do so to learn more about different pet nutritional needs and selecting your pet’s diet.
Here in Part II of this blog, Dr. Adams shares her honest, professional opinion on popular pet diets. You can watch Dr. Adams’ Facebook Live video to learn more or review the summary below.
Current Pet Diet Trends
Before deciding on a diet for your pet, it is vital to do your research. Online, look for trustworthy sources such as veterinary clinics or veterinary colleges (as they’re often the ones conducting studies on pet nutrition.) You should also consult with your family veterinarian. They can make referrals to a board-certified veterinary nutritionist® as needed.
If you are considering non-kibble or canned diets for your pet, please be aware of the following information.
The biggest challenge with raw diets is that veterinary research has NOT found any proven benefit to feeding a raw diet over a commercial diet (kibble or non-raw canned food).
Instead, studies have found several negatives:
- Raw foods, including freeze-dried, have nutrient deficiencies
- Even raw foods with appropriate nutrient composition can be contaminated with harmful bacteria like salmonella – which is dangerous to both pets and humans!
- The FDA website has a whole page focused on raw foods and pets, including resources and studies.
- It’s important to note that the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) does not support raw diets. In addition, most veterinary professionals don’t recommend them.
Some pet owners feel they can’t trust what’s in packaged pet food, so they prefer to cook their pet’s food themselves to give their pets the best. This is certainly an admirable goal, but the challenge is in doing it right! Consider the following:
- Most recipes for homemade diets, that are not formulated by a board-certified veterinary nutritionist®, do not contain the appropriate breakdown of nutrients such as fat, protein, vitamins, and/or minerals.
- There isn’t evidence that homemade diets provide a strong benefit, especially for an otherwise healthy pet.
- If you are determined to provide homemade meals as your pet’s primary source of nutrition, it’s important to work closely with a veterinarian or a board-certified veterinary nutritionist® to ensure you are providing the correct nutrients in every meal.
BEG (Boutique/Exotic/Grain-free) Diets
A lot of owners may choose a grain-free diet for their pet because they believe that their pet has an allergy to gluten or a grain allergy. The reality is that:
- Research does not support that dogs or cats are in any way sensitive to gluten, nor that eating gluten is harmful to their health.
- Pet owners may believe that gluten and grains are responsible for their pet’s itchiness. However, food allergies are usually to the protein in the food – not the grain. If your pet is scratching, rubbing on furniture, licking its feet, or has recurrent anal gland issues or ear infections, consult with your family veterinarian or a board-certified veterinary dermatologist about allergy testing or a food trial.
The more concerning issue about BEG diets is that studies are showing a link between them and Dilated Cardiomyopathy (DCM), a type of heart disease that can lead to abnormal and life-threatening arrhythmias. The following is what we currently know.
- The link between BEG diets and DCM is not fully understood, but it is suspected to be related to the primary carbohydrate source – primarily peas, lentils, or potatoes.
- DCM was previously recognized as a genetic condition in certain large and giant breeds of dogs and was rarely found in small and medium-sized dogs. However, since BEG diets became popular, DCM cases have cropped up across all different sizes of pets.
- The FDA and Tufts University websites have a great breakdown of studies surrounding BEG diets.
- If your pet is on a grain-free diet, please speak to your family veterinarian about other options. The risk of fatal heart disease is not to be taken lightly.
Of course, most pet parents want what’s best for their pets, but the BEG diets mentioned above can have very negative repercussions for your pet’s health. Fortunately, studies have found that many pets who acquire DCM while on a BEG diet regain their heart health once they are eating a commercial diet. However, some pets’ disease process will not reverse, even after they are no longer eating a BEG diet.
Supplements for Pets
There are thousands of supplemental products out there for our pets! The truth is – if your pet is eating a well-formulated, complete and balanced diet, they don’t need supplements.
Now, two popular types of supplements that pet parents are discussing are:
- While probiotics may not provide significant health benefits, they can be helpful for pets with gastrointestinal (GI) disorders. However, not all probiotic products are effective. A study evaluating 25 veterinary probiotics found that only four contained the labeled ingredients, and only two were effective.
- Many of these products are prescription-only, so you’ll need to consult with your veterinarian. They can help you determine which one will be most effective for your pet.
- Research has proven that dogs benefit from Omega-3 fatty acids for joint disease. As mentioned in Part I of this blog, omega-3s can help slow the progression of arthritis in dogs, so they are great for pets with arthritis or large breed dogs who are at risk of developing mobility issues.
When it comes to supplements, it’s important to rely on scientific evidence and consult with your veterinarian or a board-certified veterinary nutritionist® before giving them to your pet. Despite marketing claims, most supplements likely provide little benefit, and some may even have harmful ingredients. You can utilize Consumer Lab to learn more about what’s in specific veterinary (and human!) supplements and vitamins. Always be informed before making any decisions!
Although CBD products are gaining popularity as more states legalize marijuana, dosages aren’t standardized. There is not a lot of veterinary research on the benefits of these products for pets. Without research, we lack scientific or medical evidence to support or refute the use of pet-specific CBD products. Our best advice is to consult with your veterinarian.
As always, be open and honest with your family veterinarian or board-certified veterinary nutritionist® when choosing your pet’s diet, supplements, or any other products. Allow an expert to walk you through whether or not this diet/supplement/product will be able to achieve your goals for your pet’s health.
If you are looking for a board-certified veterinary nutritionist® in the Twin Cities area, ask your family veterinarian for a referral or ask about a consultation with Dr. Churchill at the University of Minnesota. View the American College of Veterinary Nutrition for a board-certified veterinary nutritionist near you.
- What You Need to Know About Grain Free Dog Food and Heart Disease (From Animal Emergency & Referral Center of Minnesota’s Dr. Rose, DACVIM (Cardiology))
- 6 Things You Should Know About Your Pet’s Nutrition (From Animal Emergency & Referral Center of Minnesota’s Dr. Thell, an emergency veterinarian)
- Diet Associated with DCM (From Tufts University: Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine)
- Pet Food Decisions (From Tufts University: Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine)
Information provided by Rachael Adams, DVM and Cassie Panning BS, CVT, VTS (Nutrition).