I am writing in response to the inaugural All About Pets article on pet nutrition. First, I would like to applaud the idea of writing a column dedicated to the health and well-being of our beloved pets. I feel compelled to address the theory that all pets benefit from and need an ever-changing variety of foods and that “feeding the same thing for years” eventually causes deficiencies.
As a veterinarian for small pets, I meet many animals suffering from allergies (food and/or environmental). Diagnosing a food allergy with an elimination diet trial requires selecting a hypoallergenic food (homemade or commercial) that the animal has never eaten before. The continuous modification of food ingredients therefore limits the hypoallergenic food choices we have left for diagnosing and treating food allergies.
Although some animals have “guts of steel”, sudden dietary changes can cause many animals significant distress, including vomiting, diarrhea, constipation, flatulence, pain, and lethargy. It’s always best to gradually mix in new foods over at least a week to allow your pet to adjust to the change.
Assessing and comparing nutrient levels between pet foods via Guaranteed Analysis is problematic because this information does not take into account the variation in water content between foods. A better approach is to judge the quality of a pet food based on the manufacturer’s nutritional expertise and its quality control measures.
I want to point out that The Dog Food Advisory website is written by a human dental school graduate who does not appear to have professional training in animal nutrition. Alternatively, the Clinical Nutrition Service of the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University provides unbiased, science-based nutritional information for pet owners (https://vetnutrition.tufts.edu/petfoodology/).
Ashlee Albright, DVM