Ask the Veterinary Nutritionist

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  • 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.
  • Our 5 yr old 1/2 Pug 1/2 Bichon just had emergency surgery to remove many many sodium urate bladder stones which from what I can tell are very uncommon. A few were large enough to get embedded in his urethra. The vet has put him on Hill's u/d, and the cost is ridiculous. After comparing the ingredients/percentages to his regular food, I find very little difference except that the protein is a little less. What is the difference, and what am I missing? We've never had a problem before. Angus is not a big water drinker, and I introduced a very high grade wild caught salmon kibble with about 28% protein about a month ago so I don't know if that could have contributed to the stones. I love my vet, but when it comes to nutrition, all he can say is that he has to eat the Hill's for the rest of his life to prevent a recurrence. I'm a retired chef so I'm certainly willing to go the extra mile and make something just as good or better at home for much less money. Thoughts?
  • Unfortunately, the features that make u/d appropriate for preventing urate stones are not on the label, e.g., purine content, urine pH and urine dilution.

    If you are interested in making a homemade diet, we can formulate one for you... but know that rarely if ever is a homemade diet less expensive than feeding the correct commercial diet.

  • I have a client that feeds Instinct raw dog food. I've always advised against feeding raw because of the possible contamination and illness it can cause because the product is not cooked to remove pathogens. Instinct claims this "We use Cold Pressure technology also known as High Pressure Processing (HPP) – instead of high heat – to provide all natural, safe raw pet food to every pet." Does this kill possible Salmonella and Listeria monocytogenes? Also, this patient (1 year old, FS, Border Collie) suffers from frequent diarrhea, usually due to Giardia, but sometimes there isn't an obvious cause. This is a very social dog (dog parks, agility training, doggie day care etc.) and is most likely picking it up from those areas. We have spoke with the owner about decontaminating the environment to prevent re-infection and owner has been compliant with that. I was curious if the raw food would contribute to the patient being more susceptible to infection with Giardia. Thoughts? Owner was under the impression that this raw food was safe based on this treatment, but if it isn't I was going to let her know to discontinue it.
  • Does this kill possible Salmonella and Listeria monocytogenes? Not always. This method does not make the food 100% safe. FDA recognizes only two official kill steps, which are cooking and irradiation. 

    Here is an FAQ on HPP: Of note is that HPP does not work on frozen product, and that the product needs to be above 32F prior to HPP and a point of potential failure in a packaging line.

  • My 7 year old shepard huskey rescue dog was just diagnosed with diabetes. His blood sugar was 302 and he will be on insulin twice a day. He is a survivor of mast cell cancer and has had ACL repair surgery. His normal weight is about 90 pounds. We have been feeding him Taste of Wild Wetlands (grain free): morning dry with wet topper and at night dry with water to make gravy. He also takes 2 phycox per day and 250mg milk thistle for elevated liver enzymes. He just had blood work and his liver enzymes are now almost normal. Our vet has suggested we change him to Royal Canin or Hills Prescription Diet. After reading the ingredients I am unsure these will give him what he needs. They are also the only foods they sell at that office. He is an active dog. The vet said his food should be at least 30% protein and less than 30% carbs. I called a local pet food store and they said another vet suggests Evo Grain Free or Propac Grain Free. If you could please help us find the best dog food at the best price, it would be so appreciated. He is much loved!
  • I am most willing to suggest appropriate commercial product recommendations or formulate a HM diet for your dog with diabetes.  When your pet has a medical condition, the dietary recommendations should be done specifically for that patient. You may begin at: at any time. BTW both the HIll's and Royal Canin diets are specifically desgined diabetic dogs would be an excellent place to start and yes they are nutritionally complete and balanced for long term feeding. Please do not ask the lady at the pet store for advice on your dog with a medical condition..... she does not hold a license to practice veterinary medicine.


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