Your Pet’s Nutrition

The American Animal Hospital Association recommends five vital assessments of patient health at every examination to ensure the highest standard of care. Nutrition, the newest assessment, affects health throughout life and can play a vital role in your pet’s long term outcome.

At KBVH we couldn’t agree more. As humans we know how important a balanced and nutrient rich diet is to our long term health. Why should this be any different for our pets? It can be confusing, though. There is a lot of information out there, some of which is based on solid research and some that is not.  Should I be feeding a breed specific diet? Should I be feeding my pet differently now that she’s older? Do I need to find a food with meat as the fist ingredient? What about raw diets?

Below is some information that should help to answer these questions.

Pet Nutrition – Myths and Facts

 The Corn Myth

MYTH: Corn is just a filler.

FACT: Corn is NOT a filler. It is a superb source of nutrients such as:

  • Essential fatty acids – for healthy skin and coat.
  • Beta-carotene, Vitamin E, Lutein – nature’s antioxidants.
  • Highly digestible carbohydrates – for energy.
  • Quality proteins – for muscle and tissue growth.

 MYTH: Corn is poorly digested.

FACT: Cooked corn is highly digestible. The protein in corn is more digestible than that of rice, wheat, barley or sorghum *

MYTH: Corn causes food allergies in pets.

FACT: Corn is a very rare allergen in dogs and unreported in cats. In fact, beef, dairy, wheat, lamb, chicken, egg and soy together comprise 93% of the food allergies in dogs.** Studies show that corn causes no more food allergies than any other grain.

 By-Products as Ingredients

By-products are common ingredients in both human and pet food. Vitamin E, gelatin, chicken stock and beef bouillon are all by-products. Lamb meal is also a by-product, as it is a secondary product derived from lamb production for human use.

MYTH: Pet foods that contain ingredients listed as “by-products” are inferior.

FACT: Many by-products are excellent sources of nutrients for pets. With extremely rare exceptions, all pet foods contain by-products.

Common by-products in pet foods are: 

  • Animal Fats – chicken fat is a by-product of chicken processing
  • Animal Proteins – lamb meal, fish meal, and salmon meal are all ground proteins.
  • Pork, Chicken and Beef Liver – internal organs of animals. Organ meats, such as liver, kidneys and heart are highly nutritious and highly palatable.
  • Beet Pulp – dried residue from sugar beets.
  • Tomato Pomace – comes from tomato skins, pulp and seeds.
 The Truth About Meat First

MYTH: “Meat – first” foods are better.

FACT: Healthy pets need nutrients and a complete balance of amino acids from both meat and non-meat sources. Meat is not the only source of protein available, either. Other ingredients, like corn, can provide it as well.

MYTH: Grain-free pet foods are better.

FACT: There is no nutritional foundation to support a grain-free diet, and foods that have grains are just as digestible as grain-free foods. The term “grain-free” is misleading, as all grain-free foods contain carbohydrates from other sources, such as the sweet potato, which has more carbohydrate than corn.

MYTH: More protein is better.

FACT: Animals cannot store protein. Excess protein forces the kidneys to work harder when they have to convert it into waste, which is excreted in urine.

MYTH: Dogs are carnivores and need mostly meat.

FACT: Dogs are omnivores and need a balanced diet of proteins, carbohydrates and vitamins from a variety of sources including meats, vegetables and grains. This aids in controlling excess nutrients that may be a risk for long-term health.

What about Raw Food Diets?

Raw food (particularly meat and eggs) are usually not recommended by veterinarians. Food poisoning, parasitic infection and nutrient deficiencies are all potential outcomes of feeding raw food. Many of the microorganisms present in raw meat can be passed on to people, these can present a very real hazard to the health of your family. If you wouldn’t lick the cutting board after chopping raw chicken, then consider what happens when your dog eats raw chicken and then gives you a kiss!

Bones, both raw and cooked are not safe for your pets. they can damage teeth and cause obstruction in the mouth, throat, stomach and gastrointestinal tract in both dogs and cats.

A raw food diet can result in improper bone development, where normal growth is not supported. If a raw food diet is something you feel very strongly about, it is important to be knowledgeable. Read peer-reviewed studies and talk to your veterinarian about supplementing your pet’s diet with the appropriate nutrients and vitamins.

Your pet’s raw diet must be balanced. 

Low Ash Content In Cat Food

Although for years the generic “ash” content of cat food was blamed for feline lower urinary tract disease (FLUTD), ash is merely the residue from the burning of minerals, and doesn’t really indicate the kinds of minerals, nor the amounts and types of each. Within the ash, there is calcium, magnesium, potassium and other trace minerals. Cats require a certain amount of ash in their diets so it cannot be eliminated completely.

FLUTD is not a simple disease caused by a single factor, such as ash content. There are a number of disorders that make up this complex disease, including idiopathic cystitis (in 70% of cats with FLUTD), bacterial infections, and crystals and stones (struvite, oxalate, urate, etc.).  

WHY A BALANCED DIET IS SO IMPORTANT

TOO LITTLE

TOO MUCH

Poor growth

PROTEIN

Worsening of kidney disease

Flaky skin

FAT

Obesity leading to diabetes

Inability to maintain water balance

Anorexia

Fatigue

Hair loss

SODIUM

Hypertension

Heart conditions

Constipation

Seizures

Spontaneous fractures

CALCIUM

Bladder stones

Poor growth

Dull coat

PHOSPORUS

Bone loss

Hardening of soft tissue

Hyperparathyroidism

Soft stool

DIETARY FIBER

Constipation

Anorexia

Poor growth

Rickets (vit. D)

VITAMINS

Hypercalcemia (vit. D)

Skeletal deformities (vit. A)

Anorexia

Retarded growth

Muscle weakness

MAGNESIUM

Struvite (bladder stones)

Reference and Further Readings:

American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) References. The Pet Food Association of Canada follows the guidelines set out by AAFCO

Cat and Dog Food Nutrient Standard – published by AAFCO

Pet Food Labels: Reading Between the Lines – by Joan M. Smith, AAS, CVT

* Murray SM, Fahay GC, Merchen RN, et al. Evaluation of selected high-starch flours as ingredients in canine diets, Journal of Animal Science 1999; 77; 2180-2186** Small Animal Clinical Nutrition, 4th Edition