Healthy Pet Diets – It’s what’s for dinner!
As a pet owner, finding the right diet for your furry friends can be difficult! There are a lot of articles online with conflicting information and unreliable sources. While federal and state regulations require animal food to be safe to eat, an FDA pre-market review isn’t mandatory for animal food to be legally marketed and sold. This can sometimes mean that despite a food brand’s good marketing, they don’t always make the most nutritionally balanced meal for your pets.
BEWARE: Unhealthy Pet Diets in Disguise
Boutique companies, Exotic ingredients, and Grain-free diets have been building an increasingly negative reputation in the veterinary field. In July 2018, the FDA released a statement linking these diets to the development of dilated cardiomyopathy (a condition in which the heart’s ability to pump blood is decreased) in dogs. These diets have also been linked to taurine and vitamin D deficiencies, both nutrients that are essential for cardiovascular support and disease prevention.
- Boutique food brands are attractive to consumers because of their all-natural, small business feel. Just because the company is small, artisanal, or boutique, doesn’t mean they produce wholesome, balanced food. Likewise, large food brands don’t always use substandard ingredients. In fact, larger food brand companies that have been around for longer are usually a more reliable source for healthy pet food.
- Exotic ingredients are attractive to consumers because they want to “switch things up” or spoil their pets. Let’s be honest, duck, kangaroo, buffalo, or fava beans sound way more interesting than chicken. However, companies that use these ingredients aren’t always making sure the formula is balanced with the correct amount of vitamins, minerals, and proteins. Studies have shown a correlation between vitamin deficiencies, heart disease, and these exotic ingredient formulas.
- Grain-free diets are probably one of the most misunderstood fad in the pet food industry right now. Pet food formulas market their food as “grain-free,” using lentils, legume seeds, and potatoes instead. Whole grains actually contribute valuable ingredients (vitamins, minerals, fatty acids, and fiber) to a pet’s diet. Both cats and dogs are very efficient at digesting and utilizing nutrients from whole grains. Pets can, however, suffer from food allergies. While this is rare, and more likely to be an allergy to a protein source, grain-free food can be beneficial to a small percentage of pets that have grain allergies. Ask your veterinarian if a grain-free diet is truly what your pet needs.
Raw and Vegetarian Diets
A raw diet typically consists of raw meat and organ, with some raw fruits, veggies, and some dairy. A pet owner might be interested in this option for their pet because a diet with raw ingredients is all natural or easy to purchase. You know what ingredients your dog is eating and it gives the pet owner more control. While it’s possible to find pet formulas for a vegetarian diet, there are significant health risks to imposing these restraints on your pet’s diet.
Home-prepared, raw, or vegetarian diets can be unbalanced, inhibiting your pets to get the nutrients they need. Sometimes these recipes and formulas sound great, but aren’t actually supported by nutritional science. Even though you may know someone who swears by a raw diet, there is not a lot of evidence that suggest a raw diet offers benefits over cooked diets. However, there is substantial evidence that these diets are associated with dental fractures (from bones), bacterial and parasitic infections, and other health concerns.
If you are interested in implementing one of these diets at home, you should be consulting a board-certified veterinary nutritionist. Our clinics offer therapeutic food planning for patients with illnesses that can be better managed with diet. When changing your pet to a raw or vegetarian diet, it is important to weigh them every two weeks and test for vitamin deficiencies after three months. A drastic change in weight, a low body condition score, or vitamin D deficiency are all signs that your pet’s diet is lacking.
Choosing the Right Food
City Way Animal Clinics carry and prescribe Royal Canin diets for patients to better manage their health issues. Royal Canin prescription diets have both canine and feline food formulas for weight management, skin and food sensitivities, urinary health, kidney health, digestive health, diabetes support, and formulas for multiple sensitivities. If you’re interested in what you could be doing to treat your pet’s ailments with dietary formulas, talk to your vet at your next appointment.
Over the Counter (OTC) Diets
Our veterinarians recommend Purina ProPlan, Purina One, Iams, Eukanuba, and Hill’s Science Diet as great options for your pet. Royal Canin also carries formulas that do not require a prescription and are catered to your pet’s lifestyle, size, age, and breed.
Several of these over the counter and prescription diets are available through our online pharmacies. To shop online for your pet’s foods and medications, visit:
Look on the Bag for More Info
- When purchasing pet food, look for the “AAFCO Statement” (Association of American Feed Control Officials) or the “Nutritional Adequacy Statement” on the back of the bag. These nutrition claims indicate the food is complete and balanced for a particular life stage, such as growth, reproduction, adult maintenance, or a combination of these. If the food does not meet the complete and balanced requirements, then it is intended for intermittent or supplemental feeding only. Under AAFCO regulations, this statement must be substantiated by the state and the pet food manufacturer.
- Check the ingredients list. Ingredients are listed in order of weight, including water weight. Fresh meats and vegetables are high in water content and will be listed higher than similar amounts of dry ingredients, even though they may contribute fewer nutrients.
Updated on July 1, 2019, to reflect this updated report from the FDA: https://www.fda.gov/animal-veterinary/news-events/fda-investigation-potential-link-between-certain-diets-and-canine-dilated-cardiomyopathy