One thing that comes up in every appointment is food. As with everything, there is a lot of information, both good and bad, about this topic. Whether it be from the internet, television, your local pet food store, your neighbor or from your veterinarian, people want to know or think they know everything about pet food. Here are some of my thoughts:
MANUFACTURED FOODS IN GENERAL ARE BETTER FOR YOUR PET
I know quite a few clients that are making food for their dogs and I know that they are doing it out of fear of feeding something bad. I feel quite certain that people that are preparing their own food for their pets are probably feeding higher quality meats and vegetables than are most pet food companies; however, I am afraid that you may be missing certain amino acids and vitamins or amounts thereof. I consulted with a veterinarian who is board-certified in nutrition who makes her own supplements. She told me she has yet to find one supplement that can be added to homemade diets that is right for every dog. Therefore, she has to use a combination of different ones each time. That tells me that the majority of you making homemade diets are going to miss important ingredients. This will catch up with our pets in time with some common problems being heart and vision-related. All pet foods sold need to fit certain guidelines and have all of the right nutrients and are often studied to prove this.
BEWARE OF FAD DIETS
Grain-free and RAW diets are commonly talked about diets that are relatively new to the market. Just as with diets in people, more and more are likely to come to the market and our conversations. What we need to realize is that not all of these have been proven to be better.
In some cases, such as grain-free, I like what they offer. But it is not necessarily the grain-free part that I like. What I like, is that they tend to not have a lot of by-products and they tend to have one, high-quality protein source. This tends to be good for food-allergic dogs and makes it easier for us as veterinarians to try and figure out what your pet might be reacting to if they are having issues that may be related to food. People that care enough to spend money on these foods also tend to not feed a lot of low-quality treats to their pets. The elimination of by-products, bad treats and excessive numbers of protein sources may be the reason pets do well on grain-free diets and not the grains themselves. I might be wrong, but I think we need to keep an open mind.
RAW diets are not as straightforward to me. There are no published studies that show any benefit. Those that find a benefit in their pets may be doing so because they have eliminated some things such as treats that may have caused problems. They may also find that their pets have benefited from higher-quality meats. But raw diets carry a big risk of E. coli and Salmonella spp. infections and may not meet the requirements that manufactured pet foods do.
CONSULT YOUR VETERINARIAN
As with any medical issue regarding your pet, please, please consult your veterinarian. We may not have all of the answers, but we have the contacts and the resources to find out the answers to the questions we have. There are a lot of well-meaning people working as breeders, trainers and store employees, but they do not have the knowledge, skill level and training of a veterinarian.