The keto diet, the paleo diet, juice diets — every day, people are coming up with new and improved fad diets for themselves. As we embrace new diets and styles of healthy living, humans increasingly want to share these trendy experiences with their pets. But which fad diets and pet-food trends are good for pets and which aren’t?
It’s important for veterinarians to advise pet owners on these questions by playing the role of pet nutritionist. Here’s what pet owners should know about a few of the latest pet-food trends and diet crazes.
The Raw-Meat Diet
The concept behind a raw-meat diet is similar to the paleo diet for humans. Our canine companions were bred from wolves, so shouldn’t they have the same diet as wolves? Let’s find out:
Why people like it: There’s some data to support that going raw can have multiple health benefits, such as shinier, thicker fur; healthier skin; improved eyesight; stronger teeth and gums; and higher energy levels. Raw can also mean homemade, allowing pet owners to be sure there are no added artificial ingredients that canned dog food might include.
What they should know: As we know well, raw meat has a risk of containing unhealthy bacteria and even parasites. Feeding a pet raw meat at every meal means an increased risk of pathogens or contaminated meat. In fact, in 2012, the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) officially advised against the raw-meat diet, stating that any protein that has not been processed to remove pathogens raises the risk of illness for dogs, cats, and the humans who share their home. This becomes especially true when owners neglect to consult their vet before switching their pets to a new fad to learn which meats and nutrients help or harm their pets.
The Grain-Free Diet
Grains are pets’ source of essential carbohydrates, but some pet foods have been swapping out wheat, rice, and corn with potato starch and pea flour. As it turns out, this pet-food trend may be on its way out the door.
Why people like it: The grain-free diet would be advisable if a dog has a grain allergy. If an owner suspects their dog has a high sensitivity to grains, they should consult their vet before making any dietary decisions — grains are among the rarest allergens a dog can be affected by.
What they should know: If a dog has been eating grains regularly and they’re healthy, there’s no reason to take them off grains. Not only will sudden changes to their diet upset their stomach, but there can also be a risk of heart problems from the lack of natural grains dog foods contain. As recently as this year, the FDA has been conducting an investigation on certain brands of grain-free pet foods after reports of heart disease and heart failure, especially in larger breeds of dogs.
The Homemade Diet
Some pet owners prefer hand-making meals at home. But is it worth the effort?
Why people like it: A homemade diet means total control over ingredients. When an owner expresses interest in this trend, veterinarians should ask about their recipes to verify the pet will be getting their necessary proteins, fibers, carbohydrates, and vitamins. This is a good opportunity for a vet to keep themselves in the loop with their client and their dog’s diet.
What they should know: The downside of a homemade diet? It’s time-consuming and it can be expensive. Purchasing the various veterinarian-approved ingredients such as vegetables, meats, and grains can begin to add up, not to mention the amount of time it will take to prepare a meal that guarantees healthy results. If a pet owner isn’t up to the commitment, they should stick to the kibble.
Regardless of the pet-food trend a pet owner might follow, clients should be consulting you, their veterinarian, before making any major changes to their pet’s diet. After all, a veterinarian communicating nutrition with their clients and pets isn’t just a fad — it’s a necessity.