Ask the Veterinary Nutritionist

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  • I am a practicing veterinarian. I always recommend hydrolyzed or novel protein diets as a food trial for allergic dogs. I am often met with owners telling me they are using "grain free" food as a food trial. Did I miss something in vet school, or is grain not what causes allergies in food but rather the protein source?

    Thank you!
  • You are correct .......... the immune system only responds to a protein, not a carb or fiber or vitamin or mineral.

    The no grain marketing bliz is out of control .... so hold on to the basic principles you learned and stay strong!

    It is extremely rare (1 case in the literature) where a dog was positively reactive to isolated rice protein. The only other case in the literature is a study where dogs become allergic to purified corn protein after it had been injected IV - like a vaccine. But again it was the protein fraction – not the carb.

    The one exception clinically is when the small bowel is so inflamed and denuded that it has lost its mucosal enzymes with the normal epi cells. This is where the final end stage CHO digestion enzymes normally reside. So end stage Carb digestion can be lost with IBD and that partially digested dietary carb passes to the Large Bowel and ....... diarrhea, gas, pain etc .... will occur. So I prefer to restart severe IBD cases with a novel protein and a moderately low carb content, usually use sweet potato, and as the SI mucosa heals, the end stage carb digestive enzymes will return as the epi cells come up from the crypts and mature on lengthened villi and enzymes function returns, etc.

    Make sense?

  • I am trying to find quality food for my cats and I ran across a brand "Dr Elsey" is his food a good choice ? and how much protein from a food source should a cat have, to much protein could cause kidney problems or CVD Right ?
  • Sorry never heard of that food or that person .... I would be suspect of the product.

    The recommended daily protein is 30-40% for adult cats.

    No excessive protein intake does not cause renal disease.

  • This is long. I hope it fits. Last winter we lost our beloved Dobie, Jack who was only 8 to ostiosarcoma. I have lost too many pets to one type of cancer or another. I have fed them crappy grocery store food to limited ingredient "higher end" kibble. I now feed both my 5 year old golden and 7 month old raw. Bravo blend, not a complete. I add probiotics, vitamins and a mushroom powder blend. My goal is to feed them to aid in their resistance to cancer as well as other life threatening disease. My vet has expressed her concern regarding the raw diet and suggested I contact you for advice so I may feed them a complete diet. I look forward to your suggestions and advice.

    I understand your goal but it is elusive. At the very least the diet (cooked or raw) should be nutritionally complete and balanced; and we can help you with that. 


  • I decided to change my canines from dog food to home made food. How can I find out how to make it a balanced diet?
  • If your pet has no medical issues, we have an automated module for owners to obtain a balanced diet for their healthy pet.


    Go to You begin the process by logging into your account or opening an account for you, your pet and link it to your Vet info, then click on 'Services:’ drop down to “Homemade Diet Recipes’. Select the “See all ingredient options” to see all of our food options or one of several specific diet types (high or low calorie, etc.). You may select ingredients similar to those you are now feeding. The software will re-balance your diet properly and suggest vitamin & trace mineral supplements. The cost is $25 for the first recipe and $12 for each thereafter purchased at the same time. Recipes are available for immediate download after payment.


    Thank you for visiting!

  • Researching ways to minimize the reddish brown staining on my white dog's "beard," the conventional internet wisdom seems to be 1) avoid beet pulp and 2) feed a grain free dry food. I believe both of these suggestions to be based on false information. Sugar beets are not red like vegetable beets and processed sugar beet pulp is brown. I guess the thinking is that the carbohydrates in grain are supposed to be converted into sugars that yeast feeds on so that the dog's tears are stained. This also strikes me as unscientific and faddish, like the incorrect assumptions made about gluten sensitivity.

    Am I on the right track or is there some truth to these oft repeated recommendations?
  • No 
    There are normal pigments in the tears, salvia and sweat which become most noticeable on white hair (anywhere on the dog). Pigments in saliva cause beards to be off colored or anywhere the dog licks excessively, i.e. front feet.

    The best way to manage chronic epiphora (excessive tearing - not excessive 'staining' as commonly seen on the web) is to correct its cause.
    Tears should normally go into the tear duct through the punta (a hole) at the medial (nose) side of the eye which empties in the nose and ultimately swallowed, so normal tear production and flow produce no stains.
    Tear duct obstruction, imperforate puncta or other punctal abnormalities, and medial lower lid entropion are the most common causes of tears flowing out over the eyelid and if the hair is white and the condition is chronic, then it "looks" bad. So basically if the dog has excessive tear stains, then the dog should be seen by a Veterinarian or Ophthalmologist to find the reason WHY the tears are not flowing normally through the duct and into the nose. So all those products sold to cover-up, remove or bleach the stain (H2O2) are not solving the initial problem = wasting $$$.

    The only possible relationship with diet is that if the dog is allergic to a food protein (cannot be allergic to a starch or carb as commonly repeated), skin and membranes can also be inflamed and narrow or close tear duct.
    So when clients say they switched the food and the tear staining disappeared, they are really telling me the dog was having a reaction to some ingredient in the food last fed and that the current food does not contain that offending ingredient - nothing magically about the current food really.

  • I read recently that Blue Buffalo is being sued for high levels of lead in their products. The FDA guidelines for an acceptable amount of lead vary considerably by food so I am wondering 1) if you consider lead in pet food to be a problem that the industry should be addressing more aggressively, 2) or if you feel that Blue is unique in failing to check their products and 3) how does lead get into pet food to begin with? For your information here is the link from Pet Food Industry magazine: Blue Buffalo faces lawsuit over alleged lead in dog food | -
  • 1) If you consider lead in pet food to be a problem that the industry should be addressing more aggressively. In general, no, because it should be on the routine 'to be checked' list when ingredients are accepted by the plant.

    2) Or if you feel that Blue is unique in failing to check their products. If the diets contained lead, then yes they failed to sufficiently analyze their ingredients, and there are manufacturing plants that do not sufficiently check ingredients.

    3) How does lead get into pet food to begin with? Lead is pretty much in all foods from the soil, water, and air .... so it should be checked regularly before using an ingredient regardless of the ingredient source.

  • Are there any books on the science of small animal nutrition that you could recommend for a pet owner who doesn't have a background in this field? I'd like to learn more, just for my own benefit and curiousity. Not for giving advice or a nutrition job. Thank you.
  • Probably the best one is free online by chapter that was originally written for veterinary students - Small Animal Clinical Nutrition
    Any chapter can be downloaded at You can pick and choose your topic(s) this way although the clinical nutrition aspects might be too indepth .. or maybe not depending on your level of medical knowledge and interest.

  • Which, is your opinion, is the better brand choice to feed my 2 year old goldendoodle with no food issues (major enviromental allergies though) Hill's Science Diet or Blue Buffalo and why?
  • Brand choice: Hill's 
    Why: they tell you the truth and are honest in their product presentation.
  • I"m beyond confused at this point. I just started feeding Purina Pro Plan large breed puppy for my 6 month Great Dane and my year old great dane. When I go to the purina site the pro plan giant breed adult is the food that they recommend. Am I feeding the wrong food ? Calories, fat and protein are less in the giant breed adult.
  • No not necessarily ...
    There is a gray area (12-18 months old) of when to change a large breed pup to an adult.
  • I have a eight month and a 13 month Great Dane. I have read and read trying to find the best kibble for them. After spending a lot on very expensive foods and reading review after review from consumers who love this food I have settled on Purina Pro Plan Large Breed Puppy. Would you recommend this food even though it has the "dreaded" corn gluten or is there another brand that you feel would be more suitable for a Great Dane.
  • Yes ... corn gluten is used to provide essential sulfur containing amino acids in the diet which are lacking in animal meats.
    So again yes I would receommend this food for a trial and have in the past.
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