Base your decisions on your pets’ diet on science, not trends

Saludos, gente bonita! Welcome to the Dallas Voice Food issue. In this column, I will present important ideas related to nutrition for our dogs and cats. My goal is to provide some guidelines and some pros and cons. Different veterinarians and pet nutritionists that have different perspectives, but in the end, pet parents have to make the decisions they feel would be best for their babies.

I do recommend that you not make decisions based on social media statements or what seems to be popular at the moment, as many of these trends may not have any scientific background or supportive data.

One of the most commonly discussed and controversial topics in pet nutrition is whether to feed your pets a raw diet, a home-cooked meal or, if you are feeding them traditional pet food, whether to use dry food or wet food.

Raw diets may seem like great options, but they can contain harmful bacteria, and the nutrients are commonly not well balanced for dogs and cats. They can also contain bones which, if ingested, can lead to negative issues and even life-threatening complications.

These raw diets are typically high in protein as well, which is not ideal for some life stages or for pets with certain diseases like chronic kidney disease. Lastly, raw diets tend to be much more cost-prohibitive than other options.

That being said, if the food is handled well from the source all the way to your home, and if the nutrients are well balanced, it may be a good option for some dog and cat parents. I personally do not recommend raw diets, but some parents swear by them, and if they work for your babies, then they work for you!

Home-cooked meals can be a great option for some pet parents, but they also tend to have an imbalance of nutrients and are time-consuming. They can also lead to more accumulation of tartar on some of our babies’ teeth.

While I am also not a fan of home-cooked meals, I do believe this to be a much better option than raw diets, as long as they are well-balanced and handled correctly.

I am certainly more of a fan of dog and cat dry food options, especially a few select brands. As long as they are high quality brands, both dry and wet forms are typically excellent sources of nutrition for our pets, in general terms.

Needless to say, it is important to make sure we are feeding the right diet for the right stage in life. Stay away from “all life stages” food products, as puppies require different nutrients than do adults and senior babies. I also do not recommend high-protein diets unless you may have a working dog (police dogs, for example).

Certain cats and dogs may have specific diseases that prompt your doctor to recommend a prescription diet. These diets are made specifically and carefully for unique health conditions that your cat or dog may be experiencing, including kidney disease, heart disease, gastrointestinal disease, obesity and others.

Another relatively new controversial topic is grain-free diets. Many pet parents have chosen grain-free diets for different reasons, including the quality of the product and the chance to mimic more what the wild counterparts would eat before cats and dogs were domesticated. While this may seem to make sense, cats and dogs have evolved genetically from their wild ancestors and actually benefit from grains. The grain just has to be from a high-quality source and in the correct amounts. I believe most of the issues with diets with grains were related to how some companies made dog food with low-quality grains and used excessive amounts as fillers. However, diets these days are quite different from those diets from the past.

Another important factor to keep in mind is that there may be a correlation between grain-free diets and heart disease with some of our pets. There is still ongoing research on this topic, but for now, we veterinarians are recommending to stay away from grain-free diets until official and conclusive data is offered.

Along those lines, by-products in our babies’ food are not a bad thing. They just have to come from reliable and high-quality sources.

Curious fact: Allergies to chicken are actually not that common at all. In fact, food allergies are one of the most rare type of allergies in pets. They do exist, but, as veterinarians, we do not encounter them often. When a dog or cat may seem to have an issue with chicken, it typically is something different and can be as simple as just eating something outside of their normal diet.

A common question I get is related to how much to feed our babies. The answer is simple: Each diet is different, but the packaging will say how much to feed, according to weight. I also recommend feeding at specific times, usually breakfast and dinner. I recommend leaving the bowl outside for not more than an hour or so and then picking it up to make sure we can monitor closely their appetite. When the bowls are left outside all day, we may not realize their appetite is reduced until some time after the problem may have started. Please keep in mind that this is a general recommendation, as each baby may have different requirements or situations that may merit a different feeding schedule.

Quite interesting stuff, right? I am sure some of this information may shock some of us, but it is important to be aware of it, as social media, unfortunately, can be a double-edged sword — spreading some useful information, surely, but also spreading false information, too.

I hope this has been a learning experience that will translate into healthier and happier pets and families. As always, I am here in Addison, if you may need me. Thank you for reading and big abrazos for everyone.

Dr. Josh owns Isla Veterinary Boutique Hospital, 14380 Marsh Lane, Ste. 110, Addison (next to Tom Thumb). Contact him by phone at 972-738-1111 or visit his website at