Your Pet’s Diet

kitten eating

The temperature is slowly creeping up to Chicago springtime levels, though all Midwesterners knew to brace for that inevitable April snowstorm.

Regardless of your gritty Chicago expectations, we hope you are starting or continuing all your flea and tick medications as well as your heartworm control. You can reference the previous post about this, but remember these are two separate medications that need monthly administration. If you have questions, call or bring in your animal. Also with the season changes come allergens. If your dog or cat is susceptible to allergies, watch carefully, and make sure they are not getting uncomfortable.

This month’s topic—your pet’s diet—is one of utmost importance and one that is too often influenced by non-doctors. Your dog’s and cat’s diet is a huge part of their continual care and health, so it is important to know your options.

This column can’t address every aspect of diet, but it can help you figure out if the diet you are using is right for your pets, specifically.

1. Don’t Go by Price

The cost of a diet does not indicate how effective or healthy it is. There are great diets available from your local grocery store. There are not-so-great diets available from your specialty organic pet store. You cannot let cost be what determines what you feed your pet.

2. Special Diets

The sex, age, and specific metabolic status of your animal are integral factors for determining what it should be eating. If you have three cats and two dogs in your house, there’s a chance that they may all benefit from different types of food. That being said, it is not always possible to feed every animal something different, so you need to make sure that you’re not feeding anything that has negative impacts. Puppy food would not be great for an older dog with kidney disease, and geriatric food for an elderly husky that needs to lose weight would not be healthy for a spry little one-year-old mutt. The same goes for cats.

Special diets have been formulated to address specific health conditions in dogs and cats, including:

  • Urinary disease
  • Stress
  • Skin Allergies
  • Kidney disease
  • Liver disease
  • Heart disease
  • General aging
  • Weight gain
  • Joint inflammation and disease
  • Recovery from illness
  • Diabetes
  • Hyperthyroidism
  • Puppies (small) / Puppies (large)
  • Hairball control
  • Indoor / Neutered

3. Grain-Free Diet / Raw Food Diet 

Because people’s passions about these types of diets can be fierce, veterinarians are sometimes hesitant to speak out about them. All owners, though, should know that both of these options may have benefits, directly or indirectly, but they are not all healthy and optimal for ALL patients. Please consult with us before switching to any diet, especially for the sick, for the immunocompromised, and for all puppies or kittens.

Grain-Free: It is rare that animals have grain allergies. It is possible, but rare. The perceived health benefits of a grain free-diet are thought to be tied to the amount of generally lower carbohydrates present. Sometimes the grain filler is replaced with other fillers (some with higher amounts of sugar). There’s never really been any conclusive proof that it helps, though nothing suggests that it hinders anything.

Raw Foods: This is a little more controversial, because raw foods can be dangerous, both to animals and to the humans around them. This is the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) bulletin on raw food diets. Please consult with a veterinarian AND your family physician before switching to a raw food diet.

Sometimes, we find that staying put on a diet that works is best. There are times when we hear that someone is happy with how their dog or cat is doing, but is made to feel guilty about their pets’ diet because it isn’t proper. Again, let us help, but we don’t like switching foods without a reason.

Enjoy the season change, and let us know if you have any questions.

Brett Grossman, DVM
Drew Sullivan, DVM
Medical District Veterinary Clinic at Illinois