Pet Nutrition Myths and Facts

Nowadays, pets are part of the family and owners want to know how best to feed them. Pet owners come across many pet food brands, and there is a lot of misinformation on the internet and in pet stores about pet food diets. Here are some common pet nutrition myths and facts:

Myth: Natural or holistic means organic.
Truth: Natural, holistic and organic are not interchangeable. Only foods that contain 95% organic ingredients can be certified as organic under USDA and AAFCO regulations. Natural means something is produced or exists in nature, but doesn’t necessarily mean that something is healthy or safe. Holistic is not legally defined under pet food laws so a pet food company can claim their diet is “holistic” regardless of the ingredients chosen.

Myth: Pet food containing ingredients with “by-products” is inferior.
Truth: By-products are common ingredients in both human and pet food. A by-product is simply something produced in the making of something else. Processing soybeans, for example, creates the by-product vitamin E. Vegetable oils (such as flaxseed oil, corn oil and soy oil) are by-products extracted from the seeds that are processed for consumption purposes. Chicken fat is a by-product of the chicken industry. Other examples of by-products that are often consumed by humans are Jell-O, beef bouillon and lamb meal.

Myth: Corn in pet food is just a filler.
Truth: A food ingredient that supplies no nutrients and serves no nutritional purpose is a filler. Corn is a nutritious ingredient packed with protein, carbohydrates, vitamins and fatty acids; and corn flour is more digestible than wheat flour.

Myth: Corn is a major cause of allergies in pets.
Truth: This is a common misconception, but corn is implicated in fewer allergy cases than chicken, beef, lamb, dairy, wheat, eggs or soy.

Myth: Grain-free diets are bad for dogs.
Truth: There is growing evidence to suggest that grain-free diets are harmful to dogs. The FDA is investigating a possible dietary link between canine heart condition called dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) and dogs eating certain grain-free pet foods. The foods of concern are those containing legumes such as peas or lentils, other legume seeds, or potatoes listed as primary ingredients.

Myth: Reading the ingredient list is the best way to assess the suitability of pet food.
Truth: Appropriate amounts of precisely formulated nutrients are just as important as ingredients.

Myth: Bone and Raw Food (BARF) diets are the best nutrition for pets.
Truth: There is no scientific data to support beliefs that BARF diets are hypoallergenic, increase longevity or benefit the pet at all. Several published studies show BARF diets can cause food poisoning and bacterial contamination in pets and humans handling raw food. Pets eating a BARF diet are also at an increased risk of gastrointestinal obstruction, fractured teeth, and a bowel perforation. Finally, most BARF food diets are not balanced and too high in protein, while deficient in calcium and phosphorus.

Please contact your veterinary professional if you have any questions about nutritional health or want feeding recommendations tailored for your pet.

Written by: Laura McKenny, DVM