Dr. Gary Borgman, Kissimmee Animal Hospital and Poinciana Pet Clinic
While a pre-vet student at the University of Missouri, College of Agriculture, I experienced very intense courses about formulating animal rations. These courses were focused on diets for farm animals and did not really touch on canine and feline nutrition. In veterinary school, we were then taught that it is not necessary to worry much about pet nutrition because the major pet food manufacturers such as Purina, Kennel Ration, Hills and others did the research in formulating very adequate diets. One notable exception was the Hills company, based in Topeka, Kansas which was a pioneer in developing a low protein but complete diet for dogs in kidney failure. Their first diet was called “k/d” (kidney diet) and it has extended the life expectancy of many dogs suffering from advanced renal failure. Today the Hills company remains the authority on special diets for specific medical/metabolic conditions. Along with the Royal Canin company and Purina, we now have a very large selection of specific canned and dry foods for dogs and cats with special needs. While nutrition of special need patients with specific medical conditions is well provided for, it is much more confusing to know just what to feed individual well pets.
When I inquire about current nutrition of my patients (both dogs and cats) I am often told that the owners are fans of the “grain-free” movement. I call this a nutrition movement, because the manufacturers have discovered that “grain-free” sells! It is all about marketing!
In recent months, it has become known in our profession that these “grain-free” diets have contributed to a rise in a serious and life-threatening condition known as dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) in dogs. It is now known that a deficiency of the essential amino acid Taurine is the culprit. Many manufacturers have been able to adjust these diets to get enough Taurine. We knew several decades ago that many dry cat foods diets were deficient in Taurine and led to feline DCM and sometimes death. So, it took a “grain free” era for dogs to bring this information to the forefront. It makes me wonder, what else fad diets are lacking!
All this begs the question, or I should say the questions about what an appropriate type and brand of food for my puppy is, my young and middle-aged dog or my senior citizen dog. These are great questions and we are happy to address all these concerns through wellness examination visits or over the telephone for established patients and clients. Generally, I believe Science Diet by Hills, Pro-Plan or Purina One by Purina, and the various Royal Canin products are all very good. There are other good diets but many not so good diets.
Side bar: There is plenty of information available on the internet. Three recommended sites are:
UC Davis: VetMed.UCDavis.edu/tags/nutrition
Tufts University: VetNutrition.Tufts.edu
The veterinarians and staff of Kissimmee Animal Hospital 407-846-3912 and Poinciana Pet Clinic 407-518-0880 are available to answer your questions about dog and cat nutrition or any other pet health issues. We are here to help and to serve.