News & Events

July 2011 – The Pet Diet Dilemma

Interview with Dr. Page Wages about pet food. Dr. Wages talks about pet food and how it can affect your pet’s health.

How do you know so much about the different diets?

Nutrition became a passion of mine while I was in school.  I was in charge of selling dog food to all the staff and students in the vet school and would get lots of questions about which diet is best for certain things….my interest was piqued and the next 3 years were spent on researching foods, companies, etc.  I am very focused on preventive medicine…preventing diseases and problems before they start, and a good diet with nutrition matched to the patient is the cornerstone of preventive medicine.

Why is proper nutrition important for my dog and cat?

Proper nutrition is the most important thing you can do for your pet.  Talk to your veterinarian first before you choose a diet, as they will help you choose a diet tailored to your pet.  Like people, every dog and cat is different and diets are not all the same.  If your pet is on an appropriate diet, many problems such as kidney, cardiac, liver, and dental disease as well as hip dysplasia and obesity can be avoided as they age, helping many pets to live longer.

This label says organic-that means this is a better food, right?

If a label says “organic”, it does not necessarily mean the same thing as it does with people food.  In the pet food world, anyone can put “all natural” or “organic” on a bag.  Do your research, ask your vet.  There are a LOT of marketing gimmicks out there about pet food right now, making it sound appealing to the human food fads, but be careful when choosing a food.  “Organic” may mean more tummy upset and less manufacturing testing!

I want to cook for my pet!  Where can I get more information regarding recipes and nutrition?

If you are interested in cooking for your pet, start by consulting with your veterinarian about the appropriate, balanced diet for your pet.  Unfortunately, the internet is full of information out there written by people who don’t know a thing about dog and cat nutrition.  Be careful with trying homemade diets, as over or under-supplementation can cause a pet to become very sick.  Your vet can put you in contact with resources and veterinary nutritionists that can help you develop a diet specific for your pet.

Aren’t dogs descended from wolves, so shouldn’t they eat meat all the time?  Same for cats-if they found food on their own wouldn’t they eat a lot of wildlife?

Dogs may have descended from wolves, thousands of years ago, before we domesticated them.  While wolves live on meat and bone meal from their prey, they generally don’t live too many years, usually dying from disease or injury.  If a dog is on a diet too high in protein, over time, their kidneys will fail.  This is the scary thing to me about all the newer “high protein – back to nature diets”.  Dogs are omnivores, like you and me, and should be eating a balanced diet, usually no more than 22% protein, unless your veterinarian tells you otherwise.  Cats, on the other hand, are carnivores.  They will eat wild animals, but also need to eat their food, which is balanced at a higher protein than dog food (which is why dogs love cat food and cat feces so much!).  Interestingly, one the most common causes of death in cats is kidney disease at an older age due to the need to filter the higher levels of protein in their diet.  This is why senior diets for cats have a lower protein content (still high enough to maintain the proper balance for the cat, but low enough to prolong the onset of kidney disease).  Cat food also has added levels of taurine, an amino acid which protects the heart from diseases.

Is it bad to feed my pet only canned food?

Canned food is an interesting beast.  In dogs and cats with kidney and bladder disease, it is great, because the extra fluid volume helps to flush the bladder and kidneys. Also, some dogs and cats with intestinal disease are permanently on a more bland canned diet.   The flip-side is that canned food will stick to the teeth and tartar will build up faster.  So, if your veterinarian has recommended a canned diet for your pet, remember how important it is to brush those teeth everyday!  Dental disease not only affects the mouth and your pet’s well-being, but it can cause kidney, heart, and liver disease as well.

If you’re interested in learning more about how the food your pet is on impacts his or her health, please talk to your Raleigh, NC veterinarian!

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