Ask the Veterinary Nutritionist

Do you have a specific question related to pet nutrition?

Our database contains over 1200 questions asked by pet owners and veterinarians.  Enter a search term, then use the "topic" filter if you would like to narrow your search further.  If you don't find an answer here, submit your question and a nutritionist will respond to your questions as best possible. Email responses will come from intelligen@aciemails.com.

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  • I am getting a new dog soon (no known health issues) and I have a serious gluten allergy. Even cross-contamination or breathing gluten can affect me. Could you take a look at this brand link [omitted] and tell me if this is nutritionally complete and/or if there might be any other issues? Thank you so much.
  • The product has a complete and balanced claim for all dogs except growing large breed dogs. However the issue for you is NOT only is this dog food gluten free but is the food made in a gluten free plant. It is unlikely that this company has its own dry dog manufacturing plant and more likely the food is made by a Co-packer. If the Co-packer makes dog food for other companies that use gluten grains, then likely all dog foods made in that plant contain some gluten. Cross contamination is highly likely. Depending on your level of sensitivity, you may want to make your dog's food yourself in your own kitchen. 
  • Hello, I feed my dogs a good high quality kibble but also add in raw food, and other things like duck feet, quail eggs etc. i don’t want to go 100% raw because having them on kibble still makes it easier when we are gone camping for a week, rushing in the morning before work and what not. My question is, I don’t know how much raw food I should be adding to my dogs kibble. My lab is 8 months old, and eats 1 1/3 cup 3 times a day. I take out about 1/3 cup of kibble to add his raw but I just eyeball it. I’m very worried about making him overweight. My other dog eats 1/2 twice a day, I also take out some kibble and add raw to his dinners but again, just eyeball it. It would be nice to know how much raw to kibble exactly I should be feeding. Thanks!
  • We do not recommend feeding raw meat or eggs to household pets.
    Most kibble are nutritionally complete and balanced. If you any ADD single food items (raw or not) to the kibble, you are then Unbalanced the nutrient profile you just paid good money for.
    At best most commercial kibble have a 10% margin, so at best you can risk adding up to 10% of any food without Unbalancing the diet.
    Simply put, either feed the kibble or balanced homemade recipe. You can mix two balanced diets, in any portion you wish. 
  • Hi,
    Some people recommend switching proteins quickly or often to build "immunity" for "the gut" so that it is less sensitive to changes. Is there any evidence to suggest this is beneficial?
    Is Vitamin B destruction from cooking significant enough to alter how a raw vs cooked home diet should be formulated?
    Thank you!
  • Is there any evidence to suggest this is beneficial? NONE.
    Is Vitamin B destruction from cooking significant enough to alter how a raw vs cooked home diet should be formulated? There are many "B-vitamins" and yes 2 of them are partially denatured by over cooking. There are not enough B vitamins in any raw diet to meet the dog's requirement, so it is a moot point. Feeding a raw or cooked homemade diet, a vitamin supplement is always needed to meet current canine recommended daily intakes. 
     
  • Good morning,
    I have a dog that may had Addison disease. Do these recipes include all the nutrition I need?
    Thanks
  • Yes all recipes in the automated HMD recipe module for healthy pets are nutritionally complete and balanced.
    Yes all the dietary recommendations we make for a pet with a medical condition are nutritionally complete and balanced as well.
  • My 11 year old beagle had kidney disease and pancreatitis. Hard to find vet food to support both, can you recommend a home based diet?
  • We understand your problem and have experience in these areas.Correct there are no low fat renal diets on the market for most cases. We are most willing to make dietary recommendations which may include a homemade diet OR other commercial products for your dog with renal and pancreas disease.  When your pet has a medical condition, the dietary recommendations should be done specifically for that patient. For a pet with medical condition(s), you may begin at www.PetDiets.com / Services / Nutrition Consult, select ‘Pet Owner’, and then select a consultation type. The fee is $500 (USD) which includes a teleconsult (phone or video conference with a nutritionist). Written recommendations are sent to you and your veterinarian within days of the conference. Follow-up questions can be handled by phone or email and there are no additional fees for fielding questions or helping to resolve immediate unforeseen problems.
     
    We will need more information about your particular pet, dietary history, and current medical data to make specific suggestions. Diet recommendations for pets with a medical condition are done individually. We most often can incorporate current dietary recommendations and principles into one diet and complete that request in less than 5 business days of the teleconsult.
     
    IMPORTANT: We work as a specialty consultant to your veterinarian. Your primary care veterinarian is a vital partner in the care of your pet and must provide us with the most recent or relevant medical records (MR) (fax 1800.649.2043 or email VetNut@att.net) at your request. Per AVMA and most state regulations, you the owner must request to have your records sent to us. You can check with us at any time to see if we have received the medical records after you have made that request of your local or specialty veterinarian(s). All nutrition consults must involve a local or specialty veterinarian with whom you have established a Veterinarian/Client/Patient relationship (VCPR) per state Veterinary Medical Board regulations. We will attempt to obtain the signed VCPR form for you after we have received the MR. This is not optional and cannot be sidestepped. We will send our written recommendation to your veterinarian by fax and email. You will be asked to provide this contact information in the consult form.
     
    We can, on paper, balance most any reasonable dietary request. The fee covers the review of the medical record, product research, and recipe formulation. The homemade recipe instructions are quite detailed yet give options and allow for substitutions if appropriate for the medical problem(s). Unique dietary requests for individual patients are what we do best. The homemade formulations involve protein and energy sources, vegetables if appropriate, and a single, readily available specifically designed vitamin/mineral supplement. We give the daily food amounts in grams for each food per day but you can make batches for several days if you wish. Adding vitamin and mineral supplements to homemade diets for dogs or cats can be cumbersome and difficult to do properly. We most often suggest a veterinary all-in-one supplement designed specifically for dogs or cats fed a homemade diet.  However, other supplement options (human over-the-counter products) are possible if appropriate. Most times, we can design a diet that accommodates more than one pet in the household if needed.
     
    There is an additional charge of $250 to reformulate the diet if a major change in ingredients or supplements that were not previously specified or if the pet should develop another medical condition. We guarantee that our dietary recommendations will be nutritionally complete and balanced for your pet’s medical condition(s) according to the most current dietary recommendations.
     
    Please let us know if you have trouble ordering the consultation online or have additional questions.
     
  • Hi. Our dog is a Pit Bull/Australian Cattle dog mix and has allergies. We tried an elimination diet with the guidance of our Dermatology Vet but his allergies didn’t abate.
    We also did Cytopoint injection which the first time or two he received it seemed to help but the last one not at all. Guessing he is allergic to something in the environment. Wondering if you would suggest we do an allergy test for environmental factors only. Believe they can be costly and wondering if they are accurate. Not sure if this information is relevant but our dog also has an autoimmune disease. We have made homemade food for him and he loves it but it didn’t seem to affect his allergies either way.
  • The environmental allergy test has been validated.
    The blood allergy test for food has not been validated - but they'll take your money to run the test.
    If positive on the inhalant test, then do a food elimination trial if clinical signs persist.
  • Hi. I am making to a diet for my pet under the guidance of a holistic vet.. but I think this question is more for a vetinary nutritionist so I hope you don't mind me asking. I've spent so much money trying to formulate the best way to feed my baby.
    I need a vitamin E suppliment and I just use one capsule 268 mg per 1.5 kgs food. So the active ingredients are natural mixed vitamin E tocepherals -d alpha d beta d gamma and d delta, and I wanted to check please that a tiny amount of the other Ingredients arent toxic to cats. These are silica , whole rice concentrate and soy, from which the vitamin E is derived. I know soys not great but it's not much. Thanks very much.
  • Vit E in the form of beta, gamma and delta are not biologically available to the cat and do not fulfill the 'Vit E requirement'. Please beware. Most homemade diets formulated by 'Vets' in general, are not nutritionally complete and balanced. There is no requirement that a 'holistic' vet has had adequate nutritional training. I would strongly suggest having the recipe checked by a Veterinary Nutritionist before feeding.
  • I've read through a lot of the questions/answers here and it seems like your biggest concern with every homemade diet is that they are (or in most cases are not) "complete and balanced".

    My question is, why is this so important for dogs but not for humans? HHS and USDA publish dietary guidelines for humans, but I don't know any humans that actually stick to that. Most that would be considered healthy just do their best to eat their veggies, not too many carbs/fats and get a moderate amount of protein, and seem to do just fine, even though they aren't getting an EXACT complete and balanced diet.

    For dogs, if you are giving quality homemade ingredients + a complete vitamin/mineral supplement, why isn't this good enough?

    I give my dogs (70lb active doberman, and german shepherd) approx 1lb 73x27 (slow and low cooked) ground beef, 2 ounces steamed and mashed veggies (broccoli, peas, apples, spinach, kale etc), table spoon salmon oil, 2 ounces rice or sweet potato, lightly scrambled eggs, 1000mg bone meal supplement, 1000mg taurine supplement, and "Rx Vitamins for pets, Rx essentials for dogs, high potency multiple vitamin and mineral mix". Occasional add ins include (sardines, canned salmon, organ meats).

    I plan on having blood work done, since they've now been eating this a few months, but I just have a hard time understanding the emphasis on doing and EXACTLY "balanced and complete", and how kibble cooked at a high temp lacking nutrients (but then they are added back in after the fact), is considered superior to you, then feeding real ingredients, and adding in supplements.

    Additionally, what about people who feed kibble, but then add in additional foods like an egg or cooked meat, or a multivitamin? Now their diet is no longer balanced and complete? Are they harming their dogs as well?
  • The key to understanding the wisdom behind "complete and balanced" lies in understanding cellular and intermediary metabolism. But let’s use a simpler example: the engine in your car: it needs gas, oil, water and oxygen to run. All those items must be present (it cannot run with even one of those missing) - this is the definition of ‘complete’ nutrition for your engine - all that is needed is present. But all those inputs are not needed in the same ratio or at the same time, so there has to be a finely tuned ‘balance’ of these inputs to get the engine to run efficiently. And the demand on that balance driving at 20 mph is different than driving at 120 mph – this would be analogous to the nutrition required by a maintenance dog vs. a growing dog.
     
    "why is this so important for dogs but not for humans? 
    It is important for people. Just b/c some people do not follow those guidelines does not mean the guidelines are not important. As it is recommended that you wear a helmet when riding a motorcycle, but some people opt out of wearing one.

    "HHS and USDA publish dietary guidelines for humans, but I don't know any humans that actually stick to that"
    There are guidelines cited for good nutrition for people. Agreed some people do not follow them and do suffer the consequences ultimately for diminished nutrition.

    "For dogs, if you are giving quality homemade ingredients + a complete vitamin/mineral supplement, why isn't this good enough?"
    Quality is the standard of something as measured against other things of a similar kind. So it is a relative measure and I assume you mean a high vs low quality diet. To a nutritionist that is the combination of ingredients that meet or exceed the recommended daily nutrient intake of that animal or person. Most pet owners have no idea what they mean when they say "high quality dog food" b/c they do not know how to evaluate a pet food. The label regulations were never intended to be used as a measure of quality. Yet some pet owners use what they read in the ingredient list to “evaluate a pet food”. That is like using a wrench when you should be using a screwdriver to get a job done. It is very rare that a pet owner even ask or look at the nutrient profile which is the sole reason for feeding a pet food. And yes some ingredients provide a better array of nutrients than others but that information is not available on the label. All those pet food evaluation web site are simply a mirage.

    "I plan on having blood work done, since they've now been eating this a few months" 
    That will be a waste of time and money on your part because routine blood test done by vets does reflect diet's nutritional balance or adequacy ........

    "Additionally, what about people who feed kibble, but then add in additional foods like an egg or cooked meat, or a multivitamin? Now their diet is no longer balanced and complete? Are they harming their dogs as well?"
    Yes they have paid for a balance product and then unbalanced it when they feed at home.  It makes no sense to me either.  I presume it is b/c they do not understand the concept of “complete and balanced” as a defined legally binding term for the pet food industry.

     
  • I have been feeding my three Boston’s the attached homemade food recipe. The vet approved this recipe and says their weight is perfect. My older dog who is 11 and about 20 pounds seems to be fine on it my other (2) are closer to 30 pounds and 2 years old. I am feeding the (2) of them 2 cups a day plus a small snack at bedtime (pumpkin and oatmeal or a raw egg). About a month ago we were mixing it with dry Fromm and have since removed the dry kibble. They seem like they are starving and have lost some weight. I am wondering what I could add to fill them up or do I just need to feed them more???? I really don’t want to add the kibble back in.

    https://thebark.com/content/dog-food-recipes-puppy-stew
  • I am not surprised dogs would lose weight on that recipe. There is NO claim of nutritional adequacy and in reviewing the ingredients I doubt the recipe meets 2019 AAFCO Canine Recommendations.
    Please also know that "Vets" have no official capacity to "approve" any diet. They can recommend one but cannot "approve". I strongly suggest for the long term health of your dogs, that you either:
    1. Get a recipe formulated by a canine or veterinary nutritionist.
    2. Get that recipe corrected by a canine or veterinary nutritionist.

     
  • I have a 3.5 year old spayed German shorthaired pointer who recently tested very low serum phosphorus, everything else in her blood work has checked out perfectly (kidney, liver etc). Tested negative for heart worm, pro BNP tested normal, phosphorus was run on two separate machines in two different labs and came back with the same result (same blood sample, did not do a separate draw).
    After discussing with my primary vet, no medical reason has been identified and she is asymptomatic. I am wondering if the deworming medication she received 5 days prior to the blood draw could have produced this result.
    Dog is currently being fed a home prepared raw diet balanced to NRC standards, calcium:phos, copper:zinc, vit A and vit D levels have been considered in the formulation.
    Do you offer a recipe review service?
    The only potentially plausible explanation would be a vitamin D deficiency but I do not understand how that would occur when sufficient levels are being fed.
  • Yes we do offer a HMD diet review (with corrections if needed) through our Nutrition Consult Service. You may begin at: https://www.petdiets.com/Consultation at any time.
     
    NRC is not actually the guideline we recommend for healthy dogs. NRC actually has 3 different categories and it is not clear which category has been used in OTC pet foods. We use NRC bare minimum values for some nutrients in some medical conditions, e.g., phosphorous, copper. We use the AAFCO guidelines for healthy dogs b/c those contain a hefty margin of safety due to known and unknown interactions between ingredients which may decrease the absorption of any nutrient.
     
    Another consideration: One reason for cooking the food is to destroy anti-nutrients. Anti-Nutrients are compounds in raw ingredients that inhibit or compete or destroy essential nutrients. Avidin in raw egg whites bind Biotin is one example. The avidin is destroyed during cooking and the biotin is then made available to the animal. This web site https://draxe.com/nutrition/antinutrients/ lists 10 of the more common anti-nutrients.
    This is another reason Nutritionists recommend feeding a cooked diet that rarely gets mentioned or explained.
     
    Vit D is a good example of a nutrient that may appear to be adequate on paper but then not adequate in the dog, and the Vit D requirement is also a nutrient for which there is considerable variation between animals, as well as people. So there is some validity for your suspicions.
     
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