How to Find Quality Pet Nutrition Information Online

Pet owners commonly seek out dog and cat food information online, whether it’s product reviews, advice on alternative diets, or how to manage your pet’s weight.

But how do you know if the information you are looking at is trustworthy and accurate?

The World Small Animal Veterinary Association has created two helpful guides for finding quality dog and cat nutrition information online.

 

Here are a few important tips (be sure to check out the full guides and other great pet resources on the WSAVA website):

  • Research the credentials of authors of the materials you are reading.  Advice from a certified veterinary nutritionist is more reliable than information put out by pet owners and pet food companies.
  • Be aware if a website’s address is a .com (commercial), .edu (educational), or .org (non-profit).  This can make a difference in the quality of the information.
  • Check to see if any statements or claims are backed up by legitimate sources.  Does the article link to any references, and are they quality references?  Research studies are better sources than promotional materials.

  • Make sure the information you are reading is recent and up to date, as veterinary medicine is always changing.
  • Be especially careful of any anecdotal information, such as pet owners stating that their pets were “cured” by a particular product.

  • Many articles about the “best” pet foods or ones that rate pet foods come from websites that get financial compensation if you click on a product link (such as Amazon affiliate websites).  View these sites with plenty of caution.
  • When in doubt about any information about pet nutrition you find online…ask your veterinarian for guidance and advice!

 

Vets Explain Health Risks of Homemade Cat Food Diets

Researchers at the University of California–Davis have found that homemade diets for cats are often lacking in essential nutrients and could even contain potentially toxic ingredients.

The study, shared in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, evaluated over 100 published recipes and found significant problems with almost all of them.

Most of the recipes, even those written by vets, lacked three or more essential feline nutrients, such as zinc, iron, thiamine, and vitamin E.

Some of the recipes contained ingredients that are toxic to cats, including garlic, onion, and leek.  Some also included bones, which can damage the gastrointestinal system.

Many of the recipes also lacked adequate preparation and feeding instructions, forcing readers to make assumptions about how to make the food and how much to feed their cats.

Feline health experts note that the trend of homemade pet food diets, while popular for dogs, can be trickier for cats because of their unique nutritional requirements as true (or “obligate”) carnivores.

Cats require certain specific nutrients (like taurine) that are only found in animal proteins in order to survive.  The safest option for cat owners is to buy high-quality commercial cat food.

Sometimes vets will recommend a homemade diet for medical reasons, but it’s important to follow a diet that has been created by a certified veterinary nutritionist.

 

The Most Common Food Allergen Sources for Dogs and Cats

Many pet owners struggle with adverse food reactions in their dogs and cats.  It can be difficult to determine what exactly is causing the reaction, and if the reaction is a sign of a food sensitivity or a true food allergy.

The term cutaneous adverse food reaction (CAFR) is used by vets to describe food sensitivities, food intolerances, and food allergies that affect the skin.  The digestive system may or may not be involved in pets with CAFRs.

Veterinary researchers reviewed dozens of scientific studies and published an article listing the most common food offenders for dogs and cats that experience CAFRs.

The most common allergens for dogs are beef, dairy products, chicken, wheat, and lamb.  Less common sources include soy, corn, egg, pork, fish, and rice.

Cats also experience adverse food reactions.  The most common sources for cats are beef, fish, chicken, wheat, corn, dairy products, and lamb.

Talk to your vet if you suspect your pet has a food allergy or intolerance.  Many vets will advise you to try an elimination diet that removes a suspected food source like beef or chicken.  Always make pet dietary changes with guidance and supervision from your vet.

True food allergies tend to be less common than food sensitivities.  If your pet’s skin is affected (as in a CAFR) and not just the digestive system, there’s a better chance that it’s an allergy and not simply a digestion issue.

 

Dogs and Humans Share Similar Gut Microbiomes

The human microbiome (the many microorganisms that live in and on our body) is a popular topic in science news these days.  Researchers are especially interested in how the microbes that live in our intestines impact our health and well-being.

Our pets have microbiomes too, and a recent study of the canine gut microbiome has found that humans and dogs share many similarities.  Dogs are more like humans in the gut microbiome than either pigs or mice.

Why are we so similar?  The study authors suspect that it has a lot to do with similarities in our diets.

The researchers randomly assigned two different diets to a group of dogs.  One was high protein/low carbohydrate and the other was a lower protein/higher carb diet.

The genes of the dogs’ gut microbes were sequenced using poop samples.  They were then compared to the genes of the gut microbes of humans and other animals.

The researchers found that we share more similarities with dogs than with pigs or mice.  They also found that dogs on the high protein/low carb diet experienced more changes in the gut microbiome than dogs on the higher carb diet.  This was especially true for overweight dogs.

Humans show similar gut microbiome changes when our diets are altered as well.  The researchers note that both dogs and humans with healthy body weights have more stable gut microbiomes, while obesity can lead to less stable gut microbiomes and an increased sensitivity to dietary changes.

 

 

Holiday Pet Safety Tips from the AVMA

Are you keeping your pets safe this holiday season?  Lots of tempting food and decorations around the house could lead to an unexpected holiday visit to the vet!

Here are a few common-sense holiday pet safety tips from the American Veterinary Medical Association.

Certain people foods are toxic or unhealthy for our dogs and cats.  Make sure these popular holiday food items are out of reach:

  • Chocolate, sweets, and baked goods (the artificial sweetener xylitol is toxic to dogs)
  • Turkey skin and bones
  • Onions, raisins, nuts, and grapes
  • Alcohol
  • Raw yeast dough

Some holiday decorations can pose health hazards to pets, including:

  • Unsecured Christmas trees (and Christmas tree water that contains additives)
  • Tinsel, lights, and ornaments
  • Flowers and plants (including amaryllis, mistletoe, holly, and poinsettias)
  • Potpourri and lit candles

Here’s a cute infographic on holiday pet dangers from the AVMA that you can keep as a reminder!