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What NOT to Feed?

Surprising Food Facts From Local Vet

Story by Alyssa Travis, DVM, cVMA River Road Animal Hospital

There is so much marketing when it comes to pet nutrition, what’s popular may not be what’s best. Pet food fads come and go, and as a responsible pet owner it’s best to listen to your vet, not the TV or Facebook, when it comes to smart pet diets and proper nutrition.

Three things you SHOULD NOT be feeding your pet, but may not know…

1) Grain-free diets. This is a biggie! It was recently discovered that grain-free diets (as well as exotic-ingredient and boutique diets) are associated with an increase in a type of heart disease known as Dilated Cardiomyopathy (DCM). While these diets have become very popular, they are not healthier for your dog than diets with grain. Whole grains actually add important proteins, vitamins, minerals, essential fatty acids and fiber to pet diets. Allergies to grain are exceptionally rare in dogs (there’s a pervasive myth that lots of dogs have grain allergies). Grain- free diets have NOT been studied long-term and may contribute to disease in dogs and cats. The FDA, veterinary nutritionists, and veterinary cardiologists are working to tease out what specific components of these diets might be contributing to DCM. In the meantime – better safe than sorry! Switch to a diet with grain if you’ve been feeding a grain-free one. (For more information, -

2) Jerky treats. These ubiquitous treats cause kidney disease in susceptible pets. The mechanism still isn’t known, but it includes both foreign made (specifically China) AS WELL AS American- made products, and includes meat-based as well as sweet potato types. The damage to the kidneys appears to be reversible in the individuals – but we don’t want to take the chance with our babies, right? Right. There are plenty of other yummy treats out there!

3) Xylitol. This zero-calorie sweetener isn’t used in pet foods, but is increasingly common in human gums, cookies, breads, etc. If you’re eating zero-calorie/sugar-free and routinely share with your pet – check the label for this ingredient. If it’s eaten by your dog, it leads to a precarious drop in blood sugar that can lead to seizures and death.

BONUS ITEM: Antlers. No, they’re not toxic and they don’t cause damage to the heart or kidneys, but Antlers are harder than teeth and have caused many a dog to break a tooth – leading to pain in his mouth and your wallet. Choose something slightly softer, unless you enjoy paying your vet for dental work.

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