Is Eating Grain Like Sleeping with the Devil?


The good news—pet owners are increasingly focusing on their pets’ nutrition. The not-so- good news—they are reading about niche diets on the internet.

According to US Bureau of Labor and Statistics data, the pet food market is on a growth trajectory, with $29.5 billion spent on pet food in 2015,1 including in some growing niche markets such as grain-free diets.

Many pet owners believe grain-free diets are better for their pets because they assume they are more natural, carbohydrate-free, and less likely to result in health problems such as allergies, but this is not the case.

Better for Pets?

No credible evidence has been found showing grain-free diets are better for pets, nor do any nutritional foundations support this claim. Therefore, veterinary healthcare teams need to educate pet owners about the definition of nutrition and the difference between nutrients and ingredients.

Nutrition, Nutrients, & Ingredients

  • Nutrition is defined as the relationship of food and nutrients to health.
  • Pets need nutrients to maintain health.
  • Ingredients are the vehicles that provide the nutrients.
  • Proper nutrient intake is essential for pets’ normal development, overall health, and disease management.
  • Nutrients have numerous metabolic roles essential to normal physiologic function that can be compromised by insufficient or irregular intake.10

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The Misperceptions

Pet owners frequently encounter misinformation about grains in pet foods. Here are some of the most common misperceptions:

  • Whole grains may be fillers in pet foods:

Filler implies the ingredient has little or no nutritional value,2,3 but whole grains do contribute vital nutrients such as vitamins, minerals, and essential fatty acids to pet foods.4 Various grain products also provide protein, which may be easier for the pet to digest than some proteins from meat. Most dogs and cats (>90%) can utilize and digest nutrients from grains normally found in pet foods.2-4

  • Grain-free pet foods are carbohydrate-free: 

Grain-free pet foods typically contain carbohydrates from other sources such as sweet potatoes, which have a higher carbohydrate level than corn. Grains are carbohydrates, which are an important energy source, and one of the 6 basic nutrients (ie, water, protein, fat, carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals).

Veterinary teams must remember that the variety of grain-free diets on the market means a variety of nutritional profiles, which affects not only carbohydrates but also protein, fat, and other nutrients. Grain-free diets lower in carbohydrates may indicate a higher amount of fat and calories. Some grain-free diets merely substitute grain with highly refined starches (eg, potatoes, cassava) that may deliver fewer nutrients and less fiber than whole grains and are not considered cost-efficient.4 In other grain-free products, the grains are replaced with beans, peas, or lentils, which may provide carbohydrates but are not necessarily any better for pets than grains and may lead to GI upset.

  • Grains cause food allergies: Food allergies and insensitivities are abnormal responses to a normal food or ingredient.5 Food allergies in pets are uncommon (ie, <1% of skin disease, <10% of all allergies6,7) and grain allergies are even more uncommon. The significant factors in the few pets diagnosed with a food allergy are more likely animal protein (eg, chicken, beef, dairy),8 which reflects the commonality of ingredients in pet foods rather than their increased tendency to cause allergies.
  • Grains cause gluten intolerance: Celiac disease is an inherited autoimmune disease seen in humans that has been associated with hypersensitivity to gluten proteins in wheat and related grains such as barley and rye. Gluten intolerance is extremely rare in dogs and nonexistent in cats. Only one inbred family of Irish Setters is known to have manifested GI signs from consuming gluten.9
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The growing grain-free category of the expanding pet food market is perpetuating the misperception that grain is bad for pets. Also, pet owners increasingly consider their pet’s diet as important as their own. Consequently, various human food trends have found their way into the pet food market, especially those believed to center on pets’ wellness. Remember, grain-free diets offer no more health benefits than a diet with grains, and each diet should be considered based on the overall nutrient profile rather than individual ingredients. However, some owners will adamantly believe their pet should eat only grain-free food; the veterinary team should follow pet food selection recommendations (see Resources) and apply the recommendations to the grain-free pet foods that are available. Veterinary team members need to focus on nutrition as medicine aimed at maintaining wellness, managing diseases, and strengthening the human–animal bond by helping pets live long, healthy lives.

1Team members should focus on nutrition and educate clients on the truth vs the hype about niche diets.

2Encourage clients to get information on pet nutrition from the practice team and not the internet.

3Team members should research and recommend a credible brand that focuses on optimal nutrition while providing for client choice (for clients who absolutely want a grain-free product).


Bones, Muscles, and Joints

Keep your pet moving and grooving this spring!

Schedule their yearly checkup today! Pets of all ages can have musculoskeletal disease (muscles, joints, bones). They can have aches and pains like we do. But sometimes these diseases are hard to spot. Think about your furry friend for a moment… Have they stopped jumping on you when they greet you at the door? Have they stopped perching on the window sill? Is your pet acting “old?” These changes in activity may be due to weather, age or good training. However, to guarantee your pet is at their best, we have to rule out they don’t have a hidden musculoskeletal problem.

Infections, hormonal imbalances, nutrition, blood disorders and arthritis the way they play, move, eat and cuddle! The good news is we have ways to prevent, cure or manage these conditions, so your pet can continue to have a good quality of life. We are committed to the wellbeing of your pet for their lifetime. The best way to do this is to book your pet’s yearly checkup today. Make an appointment and together, we’ll keep your pet’s bones, muscles and joints (and the rest of your furry friend) in good working order! post_image_healthy_BJM2

Nutrition! Calorie Intake! Body Condition! Oh my!


This lab is not heavy because of muscle..actually has significant loss of muscle over the hips. But too heavy everywhere else. Not healthy, folks. This poor dog hurts.


This stuff is SO important, guys.  We saw another handful of pets today (not going to name names) who were carrying some extra pounds and my joints just groaned for them.  Please read this great bit courtesy of Ohio State University.


Basic Calorie Calculator

Pets’ energy (Calorie) needs to maintain a healthy weight for their life stage depends upon several factors. First, the energy to perform essential body functions like digestion, respiration, heart functions, brain functions, etc. (Resting Energy Requirements or RER), which can be calculated by multiplying the animal’s body weight in kilograms raised to the ¾ power by 70, for example, a 10kg (22lb) adult neutered dog of healthy weight needs RER = 70(10kg)3/4 ≈ 400 Calories/day. One also can use the charts below to estimate resting calorie needs.

Resting Calorie Needs for Adult CatsResting Calorie Needs for Adult Dogs

The RER is then multiplied by factors to estimate the pet’s total daily energy needs. (See Table 1). Individual pet needs can vary by as much as 50% from calculated values however, so these are only starting points for estimating the amount of food to be provided daily. The amount is then adjusted up or down as needed to maintain a healthy body condition score.

Table 1. Known life stages and corresponding factors used to estimate daily energy needs for dogs.
Neutered adult =1.6 x RER
Intact adult =1.8 x RER
Inactive/obese prone =1.2-1.4 x RER
Weight loss =1.0 x RER for ideal weight
Weight gain =1.2-1.8 x RER for ideal weight
Active, working dogs =2.0-5.0 x RER
Puppy 0-4 months =3.0 x RER
Puppy 4 months to adult = 2.0 x RER

As mentioned, these calculations can only give crude, “zip-code” level estimates of your pet’s Calorie needs (and so how much to feed), which can change with time and circumstances.

For example, some dog breeds also require more or less energy by the inherent nature of their breed. For example, an active Jack Russell Terrier versus a miniature poodle. Although both are about the same size, the highly active nature of the Jack Russell Terrier compared to the slower pace of the miniature poodle can result in very different energy intakes to maintain a healthy body condition.

For the long term, you will adjust the amount you feed your pet to keep it in a healthy, moderate body condition score according to the Body Condition Scoring Chart shown below:

Body Condition Scoring Chart 1Body Condition Scoring Chart 2

Veterinarians also use Muscle Condition Scoring to determine your pet’s health.

Estimating Protein needs

The muscle condition score also helps estimate whether or not the pet is receiving enough protein. In healthy pets, coat and skin quality also can be affected by the amount of protein (and a number of other nutrients) consumed. Animals use protein as a source of the amino acids they cannot make, and of nitrogen for the ones they can make. As long as the diet has the proper balance of available amino acids, whether they come from plant or animal sources does not make any difference to the nutritional health of the pet.

Although energy requirements vary greatly, protein needs are fairly constant, with adult dogs generally needing at least 1 gram per pound, and adult cats at least 2 grams per pound. Younger and geriatric pets may need more; young pets for growth, and old pets because they appear to be less able to utilize dietary protein than are younger animals. Within reason, more protein is not generally dangerous, but may be wasteful.

While pets with a healthy muscle condition score, coat and skin quality are probably getting all the protein (and other nutrients) they need, problems with these body systems can be due to a wide variety of nutritional and non-nutritional problems, which can be diagnosed by a veterinarian.


Guide to Dental Health for your Pets


Just as people need to take care of their teeth, pets also have important dental health needs. If issues arise with a pet’s teeth or gums, these infections can cause serious health issues. Plaque will accumulate on a dog or cat’s teeth just as it does on humans’ teeth. Left to fester, this plaque will become tartar, which breaks down the gums. A gum infection could spread to other areas of the body, causing serious illness. A veterinary dentist can assist pet owners with dental care for a beloved animal, which can help ensure a healthy and long lifespan.

Professional Dental Care for Pets

Preventing dental problems for a pet is crucial for overall health. An adult dog or cat needs regular visits with a veterinarian or veterinary dentist to examine the mouth and teeth. The examination should occur every year for cats and small dogs and every two years for large dogs. This oral examination can also involve a dental cleaning when necessary. Usually, a professional will perform a dental cleaning with the pet under general anesthesia.

Daily Dental Care for Pets

Pet owners can also assist with tooth care to keep a pet’s mouth healthy. Feeding a dog or a cat dry, crunchy food is one line of defense, but this is not the only task needed to keep teeth healthy. To prevent periodontal disease in a dog or a cat, an owner should perform daily tooth-brushing on the animal. Special pet toothpastes are available, often in flavors that will appeal to the pet. A soft-bristled tooth brush is ideal. Pet owners can use a toothbrush designed for animals, or they can use a soft-bristled brush designed for children. While it may seem excessive to brush a pet’s teeth every day, veterinarians liken pet tooth care to the care of human teeth. Just as people brush their teeth several times a day, pets also need to have the plaque removed from their teeth daily.

General Health Care for Pets

Because pets are an integral part of the family, it’s important to monitor their general well-being to make sure they stay healthy. Sometimes symptoms might appear that could indicate illness. The amount of food and water a pet takes in throughout the day is an important indicator of well-being. If a pet suddenly stops eating or drinking the typical amount or begins consuming more than usual, this could suggest a health problem. Sudden weight loss or weight gain could also indicate a health issue. Unusual behavior, sluggishness, difficulty moving, and unusual lumps could also be symptoms of an underlying health problem.

Importance of Diet

Pets’ diets are important for ongoing health. Just as people need to eat nutritious foods every day, pets also have nutritional needs. While the ingredients of pet foods will vary, choose foods with high-quality ingredients that will enhance pet health. Pet owners must store pet food correctly, depending on the type of food. Moist food must be covered and kept cold until consumed. Dry food should be stored in the original packaging or a sealed container. Keep dry food in a dry location with temperatures below 80 degrees Fahrenheit. Pet food and water dishes should be washed daily to keep them clean.

Getting Professional Care for Pets

Annual visits to the veterinarian will help ensure ongoing pet health. As a veterinarian examines a cat or a dog, the professional will assess health, watch for symptoms that could indicate a disease, and check for parasites that could cause illness. The veterinarian will also perform vital health services that include heartworm prevention and vaccinations. Having a pet spayed or neutered helps maintain pet health, and it often reduces behavioral problems. Keeping a pet well-groomed has a number of benefits as well. Brushing the pet’s fur keeps it healthy and neat. The process of grooming also ensures that you catch any infestations of mites, fleas, and ticks to resolve them before they become serious.