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Hanford Veterinary Hospital Blog

The Skinny on Fad Diets for Dogs

Throughout the vast majority of the co-evolution between humans and dogs, dogs lived on the scraps and leftovers that their two-legged counterparts didn’t want. Modern dogs reap the benefits of an elevated status in most human societies, including the highly specialized science of canine nutrition.

A trip down the pet food aisle at any pet supply store will reveal that today’s dogs have more choices than ever before, including specialty diets such as grain-free, raw, and even homemade. With so much information out there, how do you know what’s right for your pet?

Your partners in pet care at Hanford Veterinary Hospital want to help you provide your dog with the best possible nutrition. Separating fact from fiction when it comes to fad diets for dogs is the first step!

Grain-Free Diets

Gluten-free and grain-free diets are hugely popular among humans, so it’s really no surprise that this trend has found its way into the pet food industry. The idea behind grain-free diets is that wild wolves don’t eat grains and including it in their domestic descendents’ diets may result in allergies or other health issues.

There is no evidence to support the idea that grain-free is better for dogs. Dogs are omnivores who have historically existed on any food they could scavenge. Most food allergies in dogs are caused by proteins such as eggs, meat, and soy, rather than grains.

Another major issue with grain-free diets is the link between foods made with lentils, peas, and other legumes and a dangerous heart condition known as canine dilated cardiomyopathy (CDM). The FDA reported these findings in 2019, and while more research is needed it is definitely something pet owners should be aware of.

Raw Food Diets

Raw food diets are also touted as being closer to what ancestral dogs ate, and therefore more easily digestible and nutrient dense than commercial pet food. Raw food diets may not be inherently bad for your pet, there’s no proof they are better than commercial pet food. It’s important to remember that domestic dogs and their diets evolved over thousands of years and they are capable of eating and deriving nutrients from many different foods.

Feeding your pet raw meat may also expose them to E.coli, Listeria, Salmonella, and other potentially dangerous bacteria. If you choose to go raw for your pet, be sure to take appropriate precautions in your kitchen to prevent the spread of food borne illness.

Homemade Diets

For those that enjoy cooking, homemade diets can be a fun way to bond with your pet and to control the quality and ingredients that go into their meals. The downside of cooking for your pet is that it’s easy to miss essential nutrients dogs need to thrive. One study found that 83% of home-cooked diets were not nutritionally complete.

Fad Diets for Dogs

Just like with humans, fad diets for dogs come and go. Before starting your pet on any new eating plan, be sure to check with your trusted family veterinarian. We can help you come up with a diet that meets your pet’s nutritional needs.

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