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Nutritional Counseling

What is the right diet for my pet?

From the time your pet is first weaned until the final days of his life, nutrition plays an integral role in his health and well-being. It can be easy for a pet owner to become overwhelmed by the large selection of modern diets available for pets these days. Pet store employees may seem to have your pet's best interest at heart, but at the end of the day they are trying to send you home with a more expensive (and not necessarily nutritionally complete) diet. We can help you navigate the complex world of dog and cat diets. Some things to consider when choosing a diet for you pet:

  1. Your pet's nutritional needs change with age and activity level. A playful puppy will need a different food than a sedentary senior!
  2. Does your pet have any health conditions? There are diets that can improve the health of your pets kidneys, urinary tract, GI tract, and even his heart!
  3. Does your pet have any allergies? This is one of the most common issues with diet we encounter in our practice. If your pet is routinely itchy, or has some chronic GI issues, he may have a food allergy.
  4. Is your pet overweight or obese? Indoor formulas may be a good place to start, but if your pet is not losing weight, a change in diet or portion size may be needed. Don't forget the treats! Just like in humans cutting out snacks is one of the quickest ways to help your overweight pet drop a few pounds! You can offer your pet carrots or apples as healthy treats instead.

If you have questions about which diet is right for your pet, please feel free to give us a call.

Diet Glossary

All-Natural? Holistic? Raw? Grain-Free? What do these terms mean for your pet? Check out our guide to navigating the confusing (and often misleading) world of modern pet diets!

  1. By-products are a valuable source of energy, vitamins and minerals for your pet.
  2. AAFCO1 defines by-products as suitable for animal food; they are the clean internal organs including liver, lungs, heart, as well as cartilage, bone and muscle tissues.
  3. Quality by-products are safe and used by pet food companies that follow strict guidelines and standards.
  1. Grains such as corn and wheat are excellent sources of quality protein, vitamins, minerals, and fiber.
  2. Many grains are more digestible sources of protein than meat.
  3. No evidence to support claims that grains cause health problems excluding the rare dog with a true allergy.2
  4. Many "grain free" diets substitute with potato or tapioca (for the grains), which contribute fewer nutrients than grains.2
  1. Wheat gluten is more than 80% protein, 99% digestible and has an amino acid profile similar to other proteins (meat).
  1. Chicken meal is dehydrated and defatted chicken and provides a very digestible source of concentrated protein.
  1. Does NOT contain omega-3 fatty acids for your pet.
  2. Most veterinary research supporting benefits of omega-3 fatty acids including benefits in dermatitis, arthritis pain, kidney inflammation, and heart disease3, have been done evaluating EPA and DHA (found only in certain marine plants and fish).
  3. Flax requires conversion by your pet to achieve EPA and DHA, a conversion which is "uniformly poor".
  1. Food elimination trials are the only way to diagnose food allergies in dogs.
  2. Not all diets are created equal. One recent study showed that none of the over the counter (venison) diets tested were suitable for an elimination trial since they all were tainted with common pet food proteins.4
  3. Your veterinarian is the most reliable source for accurate information and management of your pet's health.
  1. No official rules govern labeling of organic pet foods but they must comply with USDA National Organic Program regulations.
  2. No scientific data to back up the claim that organic is healthier for pets.
  3. Organic diets frequently use flax seed as source of fatty acids. Flax seeds do NOT contain EPA/DHA.
  4. Is a description of process (under which plants/animals are grown/raised), does NOT refer to quality of the raw material.
  1. The FDA does not advocate a raw meat, poultry, or seafood diet for pets.
  2. No published, peer-reviewed articles supporting health claims for raw diets.
  3. Published reports exist of gastroenteritis and death in animals eating contaminated raw meat foods.
  1. Solely from plant, animal, or mined sources not having been produced by or subject to a chemically synthetic process; exceptions include artificially synthesized vitamins, minerals, or other trace nutrients.
  2. All Royal Canin and Hill's diets contain ingredients (meat, Cereals, Fat) of natural origin.
  1. Not defined by AFFCO and therefore cannot be accurately used to describe a pet food.


1American Association of Feed Control Officials establishes ingredient definitions and uniform guidelines as to what is appropriate for animal feeds.
2Heinze, C.R., Pet Food 102: Myths and Misconceptions. Central Veterinary Conference, 2011
3Kirk, Claudia, NAVC Proceedings, The Use of Long Chain Omega-3 Fatty Acids in Inflammatory Bowel Disease, January 2011, wvw.ivis.org
4Raditic, D, et al. 2011, ELISA Testing for Common Food Antigens in Dry Dog Foods Used in Dietary Elimination Trial, MSPCA Angell Animal Medical Center, Boston, MA. Association of American Feed Control Officials. In: Noel PJ ed. Official Publication. 2011. Stone GG, et al. Application of polymerase chain reaction for the correlation of Salmonella serovars recovered from greyhound feces with their diet. Journal of Veterinary Diagnostics and Investigation 5:378-385, 1993. Shaw M, et al. Streptococcus zooepidemics in small carnivorous mammals fed uncooked horsemeat. Journal of Zoo Animal Medicine 15:161-164, 1984