Common Veterinary Nutritional Myths and Misconceptions
The internet is a wealth of information. However, we should keep in mind that it is a source of misinformation as well. Sometimes, when you take a closer look at a webpage, you may find that the owners and authors have little to no applicable education or expertise in the field or on the topic.
Today I’ll touch on some of these myths as they pertain to what we’re feeding our pets.
Common Nutritional Myths
Myth 1) – Dogs are carnivores. It is more “natural” for them to eat high-protein diets.
Dogs are actually omnivores. Both dogs and cats are of the taxonomic order “Carnivora,” but this does not mean that they are true carnivores, in that their diet consists primarily of meat. In fact, pandas are also in this order, and are herbivores, subsisting entirely on plant material for food.
Myth 2) Cats should not eat carbohydrates because they are carnivores and because of the risk for diabetes.
Carbohydrates are utilized efficiently as energy sources for cats, and there is no current research supporting increased carbohydrate intake and diabetes in cats.
Myth 3) My pet should be fed a “holistic” pet food, as this is a healthier option.
There is no legal definition of “holistic” food under laws devoted to pet foods. Therefore, the term “holistic” can be put on any pet food bag regardless of the ingredients used. Be careful with “organic” brands as well; unless there is an official USDA Organic seal on the bag, the ingredients are likely not entirely organic.
Myth 4) Pet foods containing ingredients listed as “by-products” are inferior.
By-products are common ingredients of both human and pet food. A “by-product” is simply something produced in the making of something else. For example, while processing soybeans, the by-product Vitamin E is produced. Vegetable oils, such as flaxseed oil, rice bran oil, corn oil, and soy oil, are all by-products extracted from the seeds that are processed for consumption purposes.
Myth 5) Chicken “meal” is an inferior ingredient to regular chicken.
Chicken meal, or any other meat meal put into pet food, is made from the same parts of the chicken or other animal and contains the same nutritional value. The only difference between chicken and chicken meal is the moisture content (chicken meal has had more of the water removed in processing).
Myth 6) Corn is simply used as cheap “filler” and provides no nutritional value.
Corn is a well-rounded, nutritious ingredient; it provides protein, antioxidants, fatty acids, and carbohydrates. Corn is not a common cause of food allergies in pets. In fact, the protein in corn is more digestible than that of rice, wheat, barley, or sorghum, and corn is implicated in fewer allergy cases than other common protein sources such as beef, dairy products, wheat, chicken, egg, lamb, or soy.
Myth 7) Raw diets are more “natural.”
Your dog or cat will obtain all the same nutritional value from a cooked meal that he or she does from a raw meal. Raw meat and eggs present significant health hazards for both you and your pet, and even more so for any children or immunosuppressed individuals living in the house. Furthermore, pets eating a raw diet are at a higher risk for intestinal obstruction, fractured teeth, and gastrointestinal perforation due to bones.
You can read more about choosing the right food for your pet by visiting Dr. Ashley Gallagher’s blog, Friendship Tails.
To learn about pet food labeling go here: http://www.fda.gov/AnimalVeterinary/ResourcesforYou/ucm047113.htm
Dr. Dana Kuehn joined Friendship in 2005 and is our Chief of Primary Care Services. She is originally from Minnesota, where she completed a BS in biology and graduated from the University of Minnesota College of Veterinary Medicine in 1995. She completed a rotating internship in small animal medicine and surgery in Hollywood, Florida and continued on as an associate in the practice for 10 years. Her professional interests include endocrinology, ophthalmology, soft tissue surgery, and urology.
* Featured image courtesy of Your Pet Health.