How Do I know if Alternative Diets or Treatments Are Safe for My Dog?

How Do I know if Alternative Diets or Treatments Are Safe for My Dog?

Recently, it has become popular to question many previously held assumptions regarding diet, nutrition, and health care. Many concerns have been justified by both research and anecdotal evidence, leading to sweeping changes in popular culture. In some cases, these changes have made their way into the world of pet care, resulting in vegan diets for dogs, grain-free pet food, and daily raw meat regimens.

While the world of scientific research is always changing, there are a few things that are plainly hazardous for dogs and a few that can cause problems only in specific instances. Here is what you need to know about a few popular alternative diets and some things to avoid feeding your pet.

1. Raw Meat with Bones

While wild wolves are perfectly capable of tearing through the bones of fowl, deer, bovids, or any other prey animal, dogs have become somewhat softer during their domestication. Dogs are generally smaller than wolves and have a considerably weaker bite force. If you own a dog, you have likely been told to avoid feeding cooked bones to your pet at all costs. This is because the cooking process makes bones more likely to splinter in your pet's digestive system.

Raw bones are safer for canids, but they can still cause several issues, including digestive problems, E. coli, and choking. To avoid these issues, only feed your dog larger bones or tails and necks that are fresh enough for human consumption. If you wish to avoid any worries, however, you may want to steer clear of raw diets entirely.

2. Vegan Diets

Both humans and canids are technically omnivorous and can rely on a variety of food sources. Wild canids, however, are considerably more reliant on meat than human hunter-gatherers have historically been. For this reason, your dog will probably not be particularly excited when you decide to switch her to a plant-based diet.

Because vegan diets may lack the density of protein found in most meat diets, you should carefully consider your own motivations before giving your dog a vegan meal. Most owners that switch their pet to vegan-only diets do so because of their own ethics. Others do it because they find that traditional dog foods cause an allergic reaction in their pet. While it is possible to feed your pet an all-plant diet, doing so requires time and research. Never give your dog any foods that contain:

•       Nuts

•       Popcorn

•       Grapes or raisins

•       Caffeine

•       Onions or garlic

•       Tomatoes

3. Grain-Free Food

Because grain-free diets have become popular for humans, certain pet food companies have begun introducing their own lines of grain-free food. Unfortunately, veterinary cardiologists have recently discovered that dogs diagnosed with dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) have been found disproportionately to have been fed grain-free diets. Although this trend has not been rigorously researched to eliminate confounding variables, it is definitely a cause for concern. The presence of peas and lentils or insufficient quality controls, rather than the absence of grains may, in fact, be the cause of heart issues in many dogs, but more research on grain-free brands is still needed.

It is important to remember that dogs evolved alongside people and were likely given grains along with their normal meals throughout the domestication process. Unless your pet has significant wolf ancestry, you should not worry too much about the effect of grains in its diet. Rather, select quality foods that provide a full range of nutrients and are free of allergens or toxins.

4. Human Food Sources

Although it should go without saying, many pet owners simply ignore advice to avoid feeding their pets "people food." Foods that are perfectly healthy for humans can prove highly toxic to canines. Many of the salts and minor ingredients that people take for granted are quite harmful to pets, so you should never give food to your dog without doing research first.

Despite what pet stores would have you believe, the best person to talk to about your pet's diet is your veterinarian. Whether you simply have a question about your pet or require expert veterinary care, Pet Hospitals of Hawaii can help.

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