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Pet food myths

Dr. Queeney’s Top Pet Food Myths!

As promised, here is a compilation of some of the most common confusions about pet food that we, at the Animal Hospital at Lake Brandt, run into on a daily basis. Remember, myths are rumors unfounded in truth, while facts are facts. The facts provided here are based on findings of scientific nutrition research.

MYTH: It is important to feed a grain-free food, because… somehow grains are bad.

FACT: While there is no evidence that feeding grain-containing food causes negative health outcomes in dogs or cats, there are studies that show that properly processed grains are a highly digestible source of nutrition (click for science!, more science!).

I like to make the analogy to gluten free foods for people. If you have a sensitivity to gluten, eating less of it will probably make you feel better. If not, then a gluten-free diet provides no health benefit. Zero. The same thing goes for grain-free diets for dogs. Some dogs have food allergies, but they are not very common. If your dog is in the < 1% minority of food-allergic dogs that have a grain allergy (most food allergies are caused by meats and dairy), then a diet free of grains may be beneficial.

MYTH: Raw food is safe because the dog’s gastrointestinal system is acidic enough to kill foodborne pathogens.

FACT: Nope! Check out this study in which a majority of raw diets tested contained salmonella. When the feces from dogs fed raw diets was tested, 30% of the samples contained live salmonella. Salmonella is not only a risk to your pet. Dogs lick their butts (I know, gross!). Does your dog ever lick you? Do your pets get on the furniture? In bed?

MYTH: Meat must be the first ingredient in good foods and animal by-products are low quality ingredients.

FACT: By-products are what is left over when the grocery store cuts have been removed from the animal. There is a lot of usable food left that can go to good use. By-products can contain ingredients like organ meats that are not seen as appetizing to human consumers in this country. Animal by-products are very nutritious. In fact, by-products provide more essential nutrients than meat alone! Pet food regulations do not allow by-products to contain hair, feathers, hooves, horns or intestinal contents. Does your cat catch mice or birds? Does he spit out the by-products?

MYTH: If I follow the feeding guidelines on the food label, my pet won’t get overweight.

FACT: Every pet has a different metabolism. The guidelines are a good place to start, but you must periodically monitor your pet’s body condition score and adjust feeding appropriately. The amount of food recommended on the bag assumes no other sources of calories in the diet. This means if you feed treats, dental chews, etc. you must account for those calories as well. Here is a nice calorie calculator that can be used to help you determine how much to feed your pet (and of course you can give us a call for guidance).

There are a lot of bogus claims and myths out there and you have to be an educated consumer in order to make good choices. So the next time someone at the pet store makes a food recommendation based on questionable claims, say, “Show me the science!”

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