As a pet owner, you’re understandably passionate about feeding your furry companion the best food possible to ensure a long and healthy life. However, you’re likely overwhelmed with marketing gimmicks, conflicting information, and family and friends’ opinions. Persuasive marketing on diets, ingredients, and optimal nutrition for your pet can make wading through all the differing opinions and choosing what works best for your four-legged friend a tough task. But, you’re in luck. Your Walnut Creek Vet Hospital team is here to dispel common pet nutrition myths, and to separate fact from fiction to help simplify your nutrition decisions.

Myth: The most expensive food is the best choice for my pet

Fact: Although the pet food that costs the most should be the best, that is not always true. While you often get what you pay for, the most expensive bag of kibble is not always the best option for your pet. Many times, flashy marketing and buzzwords, such as “organic,” “holistic,” “human-grade,” and “all-natural,” are what drives cost, along with pet owner perception. Of course, pricier options may often have higher quality ingredients, but a $40 bag of food can provide your pet with the same nutritional value as the $80 bag, so avoid basing your pet food choice solely on cost. 

Myth: My pet will stop eating when they’re full

Fact: Some pets will stop eating when they’re full, but many keep turning to their full food dish out of boredom. Pets faced with a never-empty food bowl and little mental and physical enrichment may spend most of their time gorging themselves. Pet obesity is a serious problem, with more than half the U.S. pet population overweight or obese, generally because of overfeeding. Rather than filling your pet’s empty food dish, carefully calculate their caloric requirements and measure their daily allotment.

Myth: Corn is only a filler ingredient for pets

Fact: True, corn is a relatively inexpensive ingredient, but it’s an excellent nutrition source for pets. Ounce for ounce, corn has twice the level of antioxidants of an apple. Corn also provides protein, energy, and linoleic acid, which is an essential fatty acid for dogs. 

Myth: Dogs need to eat only meat like their wild ancestors

Fact: Dogs can easily digest grains and grain products because of their longer digestive tracts. While true carnivores—like cats—thrive on a meat-based diet because of their relatively short intestinal tract, dogs and their wolf ancestors are perfectly capable of digesting grain and other carbohydrates. While wolves eat wildlife to survive, they don’t subsist only on the animal’s muscle, but also eat the stomach and intestines, which are often packed full of the plant material from their herbivore prey’s diet. So, although your fierce Chihuahua may have a wolf in their family tree many millennia ago, they do not need a meat-only diet, as they have become highly domesticated and have adapted to a balanced diet of protein, fat, and carbohydrates.

Myth: By-products are bad for my pet

Fact: By-products are a common pet food ingredient, as they contain vital nutrients for a healthy pet. Beet pulp, tomato pomace, and organ meats (e.g., liver, kidney, spleen, heart, lungs) are a great protein source and provide your pet with many essential amino acids, vitamins, and minerals. 

Myth: Pets with allergies do best on a grain-free diet

Fact: Pets can have allergies to corn and other grains, but rarely. Most pets with food sensitivities cannot tolerate certain proteins, such as beef, chicken, or lamb, rather than the grain in a diet. Pets with true food allergies do best on a hydrolyzed diet, which is formulated to make the protein molecules too small for the body to recognize as an allergen. If you’ve noticed your pet scratching, licking, and chewing, schedule an appointment with your Walnut Creek Vet Hospital veterinarian, rather than switching to a grain-free diet. Our team can find the source of your pet’s itching through diagnostic testing and a food trial to determine if they have an environmental or food allergy. 

Grain-free diets are also under investigation by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), because a concerning number of unusual heart disease cases have been potentially linked to grain-free, boutique, and exotic-ingredient diets. Dog breeds that typically do not develop dilated cardiomyopathy have recently been diagnosed with this heart condition in increasing numbers, with a grain-free diet a common factor. Before switching, speak with our veterinarian to determine if a grain-free diet is a safe and healthy choice for your pet.

What to feed your pet is a tough decision, especially when you are confronted with so many options and opinions. Remember, your Walnut Creek Animal Hospital team is always here to help you weed through the myths and misconceptions concerning your pet’s health care, especially about proper nutrition.

Each pet is an individual and requires a customized nutrition plan for optimal health. For help choosing the proper diet for your pet’s unique needs, contact Walnut Creek Vet Hospital for a nutrition consultation.