Ask the Veterinary Nutritionist

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  • My vet prescribed Purina Pro Plan Veterinary Diets HA Chicken Flavor dry food for my dog who has occasional gastric problems. I have a problem with the top 3 ingredients being corn starch, hydrolized soy protein isolate, and partially hydrogenated canola oil preserved with TBHQ ( a known carcinogen ), as well as a few others. I have done a lot of online research on these ingredients and I'm not very happy with what I found. My questions are : 1. Is this a good food for dog. 2. Are these ingredients really as bad as they sound.
  • 1.      Is this a good food for dog?  I would have no concerns feeding to my dog if such a food trial was needed.

    2.      Are these ingredients really as bad as they sound? No ... all the ingredients used in the food are FDA and AAFCO compliant. 


    Remember discounting and fear mongering over ingredients by some pet food companies is a marketing ploy. If you cannot attract customers to your product, then dis the competitor’s product to the point of confusion. Then of course, unknowledgeable people repeat what they have read or heard, over and over again on the web, creates mass hysteria and now nobody is thinking for themselves.


  • All of my research says "Talk to your veterinarian regarding kidney diet for your K9". All the veterinarians want me to buy the canned kidney diet formula that they sell at their office. It is so processed and poor quality! Talking to your veterinarian about proper nutrition is like talking to your medical doctor about holistic health and nutrition for yourself.

    My dog is a 15 year old Chihuahua. His weight is normal and he has good dental hygiene. Additionally, he was having digestive issues and intestinal pain. All three veterinary clinics were not able to help me to get him healthy. They actually recommended that I give him Tums. I took matters into my own hands and introduced canine probiotics and digestive enzymes to his diet. In less than one week he had no symptoms and was eating like a champ. He no longer throws up and his stool is normal.

    None of the veterinarians here will help me regarding preparing food for my dog. Every time they recommended the canned formulas he got sicker and sicker. Right now I am giving him omega-3 oil chews, probiotics, Dr. Mercola's digestive enzymes, a multivitamin from the vet's office, grass-fed lamb or beef ( reduced portions), some egg whites with a little yolk, white rice, canned organic pumpkin, steamed zucchini or riced broccoli/ cauliflower, or green beans and collard greens. PLEASE help me with any suggestions!
  • To slow the progression of the renal disease which cannot be stopped, several studies have confirmed that lowering the phosphorous intake is important.
    NO over the counter commercial food is low enough in phosphorous to meet the current renal recommendations.
    Only a product sold through vets can legally be lower in phos; hence why vets carry certain pet foods or write a prescription.
    Please do not think ill of them - they are in fact providing you with a product that you could not otherwise obtain.

    So you should probably NOT be adding all those extra foods and supplements (
    probiotics, Dr. Mercola's  digestive enzymes, a multivitamin) which  add phosphorous and fed a diet appropriately lowered in phosphorous.
    You should determine the phos content of your diets b/c it does not appear to be nutritionally complete or balanced. 

  • I'm looking for someone to help me understand the importance of AAFCO feeding trials. First of all, even if I go to AAFCO's website, I cannot find a document that outlines what the trial entails. Nevertheless, opinions about it abound. The main thing that caught my attention is that it is only a 6 month trial on 8 young, healthy dogs, and only 6 of the 8 have to make it to the end of the trial. How does this translate into an accurate investigation as to whether an ingredient is being under or over-supplemented and whether there will be ill effects from more chronic ingestion of other, potentially toxic, ingredients? Thanks!
  • The full AAFCO feeding trial protocol is available in the AAFCO manual ($150). See
    We do offer phone consults ($300/hr) on such topics.
    Please let me know if you would like to proceed with a consult.
  • My 13-year old black lab, 60 pounds, has been diagnosed with kidney disease. She will not eat any of the canned or dry food recommended by my vet. I located a recipe for homemade dog food for dogs with kidney disease at this website:

    My vet wants me to find out if this is a diet that is adequately balanced for my dog's nutritional needs. Are you able to evaluate the diet and make any recommendations? For example, can cooked chicken or ground turkey be substituted for the ground beef?

    The ingredients are listed below, with all items pre-cooked then mixed together, with about half pureed. Thanks in advance for your help. Charles Kenyon

    2 lbs. lean ground beef
    1 pint liquid egg whites or 12-15 egg whites
    1 lb. green beans
    1 large sweet potato
    2 cups brown rice
    2 cups pumpkin
    1/2 cup fresh parsley chopped or 3/4 cup dried parsley
    1 large apple chopped
    2 tbs. coconut oil
  • There are several different kinds of canine renal disease. This recipe is not appropriate for any of them. It is not nutritionally complete or balanced. It is excessive in protein, deficient in calcium, essential B vitamins, omega 3 fatty acids, and has an inverse Ca:P ratio … which will hasten the demise of your dog even it did not have renal disease.  

    Note to the wise … see your veterinarian and shy away from those wanting to play one on the web.

  • What is the relationship between a diet's recommended portion and the complete and balanced threshold? In other words, if in order to feed the correct amount of calories for my dog's weight, I have to reduce the portion significantly, is she still getting complete and balanced nutrition?
  • Most commercial products have a 10-15% leeway built in, i.e., you can feed 10-15% less than that recommended on the feeding chart and still be within the daily recommended amount for most products.

    'Never say always and always say usually' ....

    However if you have to feed 75% or less of the recommended amount of food to get weight loss or proper weight maintenance, then you may be deficient on some nutrients and should find a more concentrated product.

    This is why weight loss diets are specifically formulated and why they are only sold through vets.

  • I looked up the ingredients of the Chef's Complete product that you recommend be supplemented and it contains 65% ash (which to me does not seem to have any nutritional value). Is there any supplement that does not contain that or at least so much of that?

    Thank you.
  • The laboratory test called 'ash' is the sum total of all the macro and micro minerals, and chelates of the vitamins.
    It is fact in the nutrients you are expecting to find in a vitamin mineral supplement.
    Every vitamin mineral supplement will have a high 'ash' content.

  • recently I was made aware of a notice from the FDA regarding grain free diets and a higher incidence of heart disease in dogs on a grain free diet. True?
    I feed my Brittany Merrick grain free back country and add Evanger's sweet potato as a wet food supplement. I have no reason to believe that she is allergic to grains but was of the mind that grain free was in general better for her. your opinion please.
  • Yes the FDA is investigating the relationship between canine Dilated Cardio Myopathy (DCM). The relationship or mechanism has not yet be clarified. Dogs do very well on grains and there is no nutritional advantage to feeding a grain free diet. It was a marketing ploy and worked!

  • Hi-I have changed my dogs food over since beginning of October to a different brand of kibble.
    The one he is on is grain free hypo allergenic and he seems to have quite a bit of wind now and then.
    How do I know if it’s the new kibble not agreeing with him? His toilet is all normal
    He is a 3 year old miniature schnauzer

    Thanks in advance
  • If you switched to a "no grain" food then you are most likely feeding a high level of legumes and they cause flatulence (gas).
    There is solid reason nutritionally for the 'no grain' fade (marketing ploy) so remove the legumes from this diet and breathe easier.
  • When we adopted our rescue dog we were told he had a sensitive stomach and have since tried several of the best dog foods available with no more than 2-3 days of relief before his diarrhea starts up again. We've decided to switch to a homemade diet and will be slowly adding ingredients (one per week) to find out what he can eat. At the moment his food consists of 80oz chicken, 40oz white rice, 29oz pumpkin, and 12oz green beans. We'll be adding cranberries, peas, and carrots over the next few weeks. I know that we need to begin adding in a calcium supplement but what other vitamins/foods do you recommend we add to his diet?
  • Diarrhea does not come from stomach issues but an intestinal problem; either small or large bowel, or possibly both. Your guessing at the ingredients to be included in a homemade diet is not advisable if you are looking for a remedy soon rather than later.

    You should be using as FEW ingredients as possible not more

    Green beans, cranberries, peas, and carrots have little to no nutritional value for the dog when attempting to balance a homemade recipe, but they do complicate/confound resolution of your medical problem.

    80% meat is TOO much

    You need a vitamin and mineral supplement - an amount dependent upon the deficiencies created by the main ingredients.

    You need a homemade diet formulated properly by a nutritionist, and if the medical issue with the intestines is significant, then you would be better off consulting with a Veterinary Nutritionist. See

  • My 8 yr old duck Toller retriever just had knee surgery. It was recommended by the orthopaedic vet surgeon that I put switch my dog to Hills j/d for joint health. I am a bit concerned about some of the top ingredients which I’ve read are of low quality and simply cheap fillers eg. brewers rice, powdered cellulose, soybean meal, just to name a few. Why do they use these if only that it is cheap? This food is considerably more expensive then what I considered was a good dog food recommended to me by my breeder.
  • You have been taking your nutrition information from the "blather" on the web.
    Those are not cheap, low nutrient dense ingredients and I personally have used the j/d product on several patients with success.
    You simply have to decide first from whom you will be taking your nutritional advice .... check credentials, licenses, diplomas and certifications and not testimonials.

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