Don’t force food fads on pets: Five things people should know

with vegetables

ATLANTA –  It seems like we hear about a new diet every week that promises to help us lose weight, increase energy and promote better health.

But foisting the latest diet trends on pets can have serious consequences for their well-being, said Dr. Susan Wynn, a BluePearl Veterinary Partners  clinician who, after completing a residency in veterinary nutrition, devotes her practice to nutritional counseling and holistic medicine.

While humans may experiment with different fads – low-carb, gluten-free, paleo or  raw – changing your pet’s diet shouldn’t be done lightly. And there are a number of misconceptions surrounding the subject of pet nutrition these days, Wynn said.

Here are five of her recommendations:

  • Many people have been led to believe that “grain-free” food is better for pets and may help  reduce allergies. But Wynn said she’s seen more pets who are allergic to meat than grain. “In healthy dogs, there’s no reason to avoid grains,” she said.
  • The idea of a “paleo” or low-carb diet for pets comes from the mistaken belief that dogs are carnivores and, because they evolved from wolves, are intended to eat an all-meat diet. But dogs are actually omnivores, Wynn said. And evolution’s original plan for dogs and wolves  – to reproduce frequently and live short lives – is actually the opposite of what we now want for our pets, she added.
  • For many of the same reasons,  some pet owners tout the benefits of a raw food diet. But according to the Pet Nutrition Alliance, studies have shown that homemade raw food diets can be unsafe because they may expose pets to dangerous bacteria and have the potential to cause serious illness.
  • Wary of the many recalls and health scares associated with commercial food, some people have started their making their own pet food. Wynn said a homemade diet can be very beneficial in many cases, but food alone typically won’t suffice – owners need to include dietary supplements  to provide a balanced diet. Check with a veterinarian or nutritionist for help determining what is necessary.
  • Be sure to see your family veterinarian every year to ensure your pet doesn’t have any health issues that would make certain types of diets off limits.

The good news is that people are becoming increasingly aware of the role proper nutrition plays in their pet’s health, Wynn said. Those interested in learning more should consult with their family veterinarian or a nutritionist, she said.  Other good resources include the Pet Nutrition Alliance and World Small Animal Veterinary Association’s Nutrition Toolkit.