By Deb Haines
Recently there have been many nutrition related questions on PVC. Rather than the veterinarians spending time replying to every single one, we thought it would be best to post a file that covers all the nutrition basics you need to know
.Everyone wants to know which pet food is ‘best’. The answer to that is complicated, and therefore you should read this article written by a veterinary nutritionist from Tufts University on what questions you should ask any pet food company you are considering. If the pet food company meets these criteria it is far more likely the pet food will be excellent for your pet’s long-term health.
PVC Nutrition: By Dr. Maria Patink …….To give you a short list, the most commonly recommended pet food brands (at this point) are, in no particular order: Royal Canin, Purina Pro Plan, Hill’s and sometimes also Eukanuba. These companies meet all the criteria listed in the article above, and they go above and beyond the minimum threshold of nutrition research required in regards to bioavailability of nutrients and ensuring that the diets are balanced for long term health. These companies also have fed innumerable pets over decades with no issues.
Next, let’s address grains, in particular. There has been a lot of false advertising in the last few years by a number of disreputable pet food companies implying grains are ‘bad’. This is a myth. Here’s a link to Ohio State’s nutrition page that discusses the actual definitions of the buzzwords and what the truth is about them. This page is also written by a veterinary nutritionist.
Additionally, less than 1% of pets have a grain allergy. So as of now, there is no reason to recommend feeding a grain free diet for the vast majority of pets. Given the research that is coming out showing dogs developing dilated cardiomyopathy from being fed the grain free diets, there is every reason to avoid them. Here is a link to a UC Davis article summarizing what is currently known. https://www.vetmed.ucdavis.edu/news/uc-davis-investigates-link-between-dog-diets-and-deadly-heart-disease
Finally, there are a number of myths that veterinarians don’t get nutrition classes, that we are taught nutrition by food companies, and that these companies also give us kickbacks for recommending their products. None of this is true.
1) Prior to veterinary school, people will have varying amounts of nutrition knowledge depending on what their undergraduate degree was, but most will have at least one class (that is usually 3 hours/week for a semester). During veterinary school, we all get nutrition classes (again, usually 3-4 hours/week for at least one semester) taught by experts in the top of their fields and who are boarded specialists in veterinary nutrition, and they are employed by the veterinary school and are absolutely NOT from a food company.
2) Other than an occasional pizza lunch or a few pens, we get absolutely nothing from food companies. We certainly don’t get free food for our own pets, never mind anything else as ‘compensation’. Pet food retail in the vet clinic sells for a very low mark up, which is minimally more than the cost of stocking it. This markup needs to cover the time taken for a person to make and place orders to keep food in stock, receive the orders, restock the shelves, and to cover the space the food takes up in the clinic (shelving, electricity, heat, the building itself etc). Veterinary clinics do this for convenience for the pet owner, the clinics make their money to pay staff and bills etc by operating as hospitals, not as pet food stores.
3) Veterinarians are often paid by salary or by the hour (meaning their take home pay doesn’t vary in the least bit, no matter what they recommend or don’t recommend). There are some veterinarians who receive some production, but that is only on the medical procedures they perform, it doesn’t include medications or nutrition recommendations, so when you hear these recommendations know that it doesn’t have anything to do with making money. It is truly meant in the best interest of your pet. Your veterinarian is part of the team that wishes to keep your pet healthy and happy for as long as possible!
RAW DIETS…A Healthy Choice Or A Raw Deal?
Veterinarians here on Pet Vet Corner strongly advocate against raw feeding for puppies and adults.
The benefits people see with raw likely come from the fact that they’re providing high-quality ingredients, and there’s just no compelling evidence that a balanced home-cooked diet is inferior to raw in any way.
If you want to maintain the benefits of raw feeding in your adult dogs but make sure it’s a balanced diet we generally send people to balanceit.com for home-cooked diets.
What is your take on raw diets for dogs as veterinarians?
Dr.Dina Wild…. No. Not nutritionally complete unless you formulate with an actual nutritionist. Increased risks of infectious GI disease such as campylobacter, Salmonella and pathogenic E. coli in both the pets and people in the household. I do not believe any of the vets here, including myself will advocate raw fed diets. If you want to home prepare food, that’s fine but COOK it. There is so much that can go wrong nutritionally with home prepared diets. You MUST get a nutritionist involved to make sure the diet is properly balanced.
Dogs that are fed raw meat based diets have substantially higher incidence of infections compared to those fed commercially prepared diets. In addition, there are also parasitic conditions that can be transmitted. One of many peer-reviewed papers: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29326391
Dr. Sara Jane….agree – no! The CVMA (Canadian Veterinary Medical Association) also has a position statement strongly discouraging the use of raw diets for the reasons Dr. Wild mentioned above amomg others. I personally have had 2 patients this year alone die after choking on bones fed as part of raw diets.
Dr. Jennafer Glaesemann… I likewise agree! Raw *might* be a good idea in very, very specific situations where the pet needs a limited ingredient diet or we’re in palliative care mode and just trying to encourage any food intake. However, honestly, I would still recommend cooking food due to the increased risk of GI pathogens for both the dog eating the food, the humans preparing and handling the food, and as the bacteria pass through the dog’s gut…and out. I have never recommended a raw diet and I have not come across any research supporting such practices compared to other diets that are safer and more controlled.
Dr.Milala Welsh...+1 to what my colleagues have said. There’s a reason people generally cook their meat. And the risks are the same for our pets.
Dr. Maria Patinka… As everyone has said. Emphatically, NO!
The CDC, AVMA, CVMA (and I am sure there are others that I am forgetting) all have strong position statements explaining why it is not safe for pets or for people.
The summary is: there is not one single research documented benefit. There are, however, a large number of downsides that are well documented by research.
What about a raw diet formulated by vets? And if you cooked the meat before feeding would that cut out the risk of spreading bacteria?
Dr. Maria Patink…If you wish to work with a veterinary nutritionist to get a diet that you can cook at home, here is the link
You should know that there was a study done on the people who fed this way and that they quickly stopped being exact enough to make the food balanced over the long term and that is a major concern.
It’s part of why veterinarians recommend feeding a research based diet from a company that meets WSAVA guidelines (unless your pet has super complicated allergies/health issues and may need a home cooked diet).
Dr. KM True…that is the safest way to do it is to formulate with the help of a Veterinary nutritionist. As far as I know there are only three or four Veterinary Nutritionists in North America that will consult with owners on Raw diets – likely because the liability is too high.
Can I Give My Dog Raw Eggs?
Dr. Dina Wild…Sounds like a dandy way to give your dog Salmonella. There is no nutritional benefit to feeding ANYTHING raw. If you want to feed an egg, scramble it up and cook it. If you’re feeding a balanced diet there is nothing to be gained by it. Egg yolks are a good source of Omega Fatty Acids, hence the resulting nice hair coat, but that can be achieved much safer with fish oil. Egg shells are only calcium carbonate which a balanced diet should be providing plenty of. There is zero need to be feeding egg shells.
WSAVA Global Nutrition Committee: Recommendations on Selecting Pet Foods Link….. https://wsava.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/Selecting-the-Best-Food-for-your-Pet.pdf
What should i feed my pet ? …..http://vetharmony.org/…/16/what-food-should-i-feed-my-pet
Raw diets healthy ? …..http://vetnutrition.tufts.edu/…/raw-diets-a-healthy…/ Grain free diets……http://vetnutrition.tufts.edu/…/grain-free-diets-big…/
Here is the information you need to know if you are considering feeding or are currently feeding your pets a raw diet.
As the research is entirely conclusive that there is absolutely zero benefit to feeding a raw diet, and many risks to people around and animals fed raw diets, there are many position statements written about it.
It’s also important to know that this doesn’t apply solely to canines. The same risks and issues are present for felines. They are also at an additional risk of taurine deficiency which causes heart disease (and if not fixed), eventually will result in death.
As practicing veterinarians, we see many pets that are sick, and some die, because they are fed a raw, unbalanced, and contaminated diets. We also see people get sick, and some die, because they are exposed to the pets being fed a raw diet. As a result, we are passionate about following the conclusions of the research here. There is not a single provable benefit to feeding a raw food diet, and there are many proven risks.
We recommend that you use the following information to select an appropriate diet available on the market.
Or you can follow this link to contact a veterinary nutritionist and get their help to formulate a balanced, cooked, species appropriate diet. http://www.acvn.org/
The following blog is a fantastic summary, written by a veterinary nutritionist that references the overwhelming amounts of research we have.http://vetnutrition.tufts.edu/2016/01/raw-diets-a-healthy-choice-or-a-raw-deal/
Raw Diets For Cats, A healthy choice or A raw deal?
Dr. Maria Patink … There is absolutely zero evidence that cats get any benefit from eating a raw diet and tons of research showing there are many harms from doing so.
Here’s a blog written by a veterinary nutritionist going in to more detail.
Royal Canin has a lot of research behind their products, and I would *strongly* recommend you keep your cat on it. Many of the pets I have seen being fed raw (against veterinary advice) end up with urine pH imbalances and urinary blockages (which can be fatal) and/or urinary crystals/stones.
Ignore all the people with zero animal nutrition training telling you anecdotes, they have absolutely zero value.
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