The vet’s office: Going beyond the shelf lives of common pet diet myths
By Dr. Elizabeth Knabe, DVM
Wildwood Animal Hospital and Clinic LLC
The pet food industry is a very crowded, competitive market, and facts tend to get buried in favor of marketing hype. Concerned pet owners feed what they think is best for their pets and will often read about foods and ingredients online before purchasing food. They rely on what the companies write about their foods and what other pet owners provide in testimonials.
Veterinarians, who are board-certified in nutrition and who do not work for pet food companies, can provide facts to dispel some of the myths about pet foods.
One myth involves carbohydrates, which are important for providing quick energy. This can help spare protein to be used in body repair processes, so a diet balanced in protein, fat, and carbs is better for dogs than one mainly made up of meat.
The type of carbs does not matter much since gluten intolerance in dogs is extremely rare. Dogs can digest wheat, which contains gluten protein, as well as they can tapioca or potato, which do not. They also benefit from grains that provide B vitamins and fiber, which helps the digestive tract work.
The grain-free selling point of reducing pets’ allergies is also really a myth, according to nutritionists. The true incidence of food allergies in pets is low. Less than 1 percent of skin diseases and less than 10 percent of all allergies involve foods. This does not mean your veterinarian does not consider them when diagnosing causes of allergies, but they are not as high on a vet’s list as they are on a typical pet owner’s. Most pets diagnosed with true food allergies are allergic to an animal protein such as chicken, beef, or dairy rather than protein in corn, wheat, or soy.
Nutritionists also consider that pets need nutrients such as protein, fat, carbs, vitamins, and minerals to maintain good health. Ingredients providing those nutrients are listed on the bags or cans of food.
What is important to know is a list does not tell if the required nutrients are present in sufficient quantities. For pets undergoing the stresses of growth, pregnancy, or hard exercise, the need for nutrients will be high. These pets may do best with diets shown in feeding trials to have adequate nutrients to support them. Food labels will state whether feeding trials were done so that customers are assured the nutrients will be there in adequate amounts.
Wildwood Animal Hospital and Clinic LLC is located at 210 Airpark Road in Marshfield and online at wildwoodanimalhospital.net.