VETERINARY SERVICES | NUTRITION AND DIET
From the very first day you bring a new pet home through the final days of its life, nutrition plays a critical role in your pet’s overall health and well-being. Many pet owners take nutrition for granted, in part because the availability of so many nutritionally complete commercial diets has taken much of the guesswork out of choosing a suitable diet for a pet. However, did you know that your pet’s nutritional needs change with age and activity level? Did you know that specially formulated diets can assist in the management of various medical conditions, including kidney disease, diabetes, arthritis, and heart disease? Do you know how many calories your pet should have each day and whether you are over- or underfeeding? Are you comfortable reading and interpreting pet food labels?
Click here to download a Pet Food Label Answer Book provided by Hill’s
Whether your pet has special dietary needs or simply needs to shed (or gain) a few pounds, our nutritional counseling services can help you accomplish your goals and keep your pet in good health. We offer counseling in dietary selection and feeding practices for pets during various life stages, such as growth, pregnancy, nursing, and the “golden years.” If your pet has a medical condition, we can help you select the most appropriate diet to suit your pet’s needs.
It can be easy for a pet owner to become overwhelmed by the available selection of pet foods, all of which claim to have specific benefits for pets. We can offer expert advice to help you negotiate the complicated array of choices. Let our nutritional counseling service help you achieve and maintain optimal nutrition for your pet.
A Word on Raw
Raw meat diets are not recommended by nutritionists because of the potential for contamination by pathogenic (disease-causing) organisms such as Salmonella, Campylobacter, E. coli and many others. This risk is the same for raw frozen meats, since freezing does not kill bacteria. Even if a dog or cat does not get sick from eating contaminated meat, they can shed the organisms through their feces and also spread them by touching things with their mouths after eating a contaminated meal. This presents a risk to any animals and humans sharing the environment who may have immature or compromised immune systems (including patients being visited by therapy dogs). Clients feeding raw meat should observe proper hygiene, including storage of meat away from human consumables, disinfecting all kitchenware and preparation surfaces immediately after use, discarding any food not eaten at mealtime, thawing frozen meat in the refrigerator, and washing hands thoroughly after handling food or cleaning feces.
Some clients opt to make their pet’s food from a desire to use all organic ingredients and support local farmers, others because of concerns over pet food manufacturing practices and outsourcing. There are also medical reasons for a homemade diet. For pets with food allergies or intolerances, clients can prepare diets using only those proteins and glycoproteins their pet handles well, and avoid additives and preservatives that may cause reactions. For pets with multiple medical conditions not served by one diet, a homemade recipe can accommodate these needs. And for pets who won’t eat their prescribed diet, a homemade diet can be formulated to provide the therapeutic effect in a more palatable form.
It is crucial to have your pet’s homemade diet formulated or evaluated by a certified veterinary nutritionist. Most recipes in books and on the internet are not properly balanced for the life stage and breed of the pet, resulting in nutrient deficiencies or excesses that may take years to manifest. And most vitamin/mineral supplements recommended in these recipes are either made for humans (and are therefore inappropriate for animals) or made for animals eating commercial diets that already contain additional nutrients (and are therefore insufficient for animals on homemade diets). Pets on homemade diets should also receive frequent physical exams, blood work and fecal tests to track health.
To find a certified veterinary nutritionist, consumers can contact the American College of Veterinary Nutrition (ACVN); their website is www.acvn.org and contains information for the general public as well as referring veterinarians. Consumers can also set up a consult with Dr. Rebecca Remillard (ACVN certified) at www.petdiets.com. An inexpensive option for pets with no medical problems is www.BalanceIt.comwhich provides simple recipes with appropriate pre-made supplements, but for pets with any medical concerns a full nutritional evaluation is needed. For clients already feeding a favorite recipe, it can be submitted to a nutritionist for review to ensure proper balance. A nutritionist should also be consulted for commercial diets that don’t mention adherence to AAFCO nutrient guidelines or completion of AAFCO feeding trials; the manufacturer should be able to provide a complete analysis of their diet that the nutritionist can then evaluate (or the food can be sent to an outside laboratory for complete nutrient analysis). Once a homemade diet has been designed, it should be followed without any changes or substitutions, as even the smallest alteration may have significant consequences.
To print out our information on homemade diets, please view our PDF “Homemade Diets”
Just like people, dogs can show allergic symptoms when their immune systems over-react to common, every day substances. Even though these substances are harmless to most animals, pets with allergies will have a reaction to them, sometimes severe. Allergy reactions include skin, digestive and respiratory symptoms. Any pet can develop allergies at any time during his or her life, but there are some breeds that seem prone to allergies.
Pets with a food allergy will commonly have itchy skin, breathing difficulties or gastrointestinal problems like diarrhea and vomiting. The process to identify the foods the pet may be allergic to can include eliminating certain foods while still providing the important nutrients the pet needs for proper nutrition. Please talk to us today if your pet is exhibiting any of the following signs:
- Itchy, red, moist or scabbed skin
- Increased scratching
- Itchy, runny eyes
- Itchy ears and ear infections
- Paw chewing/swollen paws
- Constant licking
Please see our Food Allergies Handout for more information.