I have heard all of the cynical talking points put forth about veterinarians and their expertise in making nutrition and pet food recommendations:
Many veterinarians have simply given up talking about pet food and nutrition because increasingly, pet owners do not listen to us. There has developed a cult like dogma when it comes to pet food where breeders, groomers, pet store workers, and just peeps people they meet at the dog park know more that veterinarians do about nutrition in their view. Now in light of FDA’s initial findings being posted about their investigation into dog foods causing a deadly heart disease in breeds that it was never before seen, particularly so in the grain free varieties, people are to coming to me (and all of my colleagues) in droves asking for a dog food recommendation. They are utterly distraught they disregarded our advice and went instead with one of the many dog foods on the FDA list, which is expected to grow as the investigation continues.
(For the complete list of dog foods on the heart disease list, visit this article: https://www.nbcnews.com/health/health-news/fda-names-16-brands-dog-food-linked-canine-heart-disease-n1025466)
Just yesterday, I had a client guiltily telling me how bad she felt because she thought she was doing right by her little dog by feeding Arcana (one of the worst on the list) because “it was so highly recommended.” I told the lady that I did not doubt her love and intention do the best she could for her dog, but as gently as I could, I asked her if any one of the glowing recommendations came from an actual veterinarian or certified veterinary technician. The answer was no. In fact, in the many conversations I have had in the wake of the FDA’s preliminary findings, the answer has been 100% no.
There is a small part of me that wants to simply say to pet owners flocking to ask my advice on what to now feed their dogs that wants to say, “What do I know, I am just a veterinarian who received no nutritional training in veterinary school, gets my nutrition information spoon fed to me by pet food companies, and has my nutrition opinions tainted by the all expense paid cruises the pet food companies send my family and I on every year?” I am not alone among our colleagues in those sentiment. That is how jaded we have become about talking about pet food. It is so bad at this point that when I attend symposiums put on by specialists at conferences discussing cutting edge new therapies to treat diseases, they often jokingly say things like, “And the best part is your client may actually go for it because it is grain free.”
Thankfully, the responsible veterinarian in me instead takes over but in a more guarded fashion than in the past. Rather than name any specific brands that I recommend and endure the big frown or cringe that inevitably follows because pet owners were told by some non-veterinarian “expert” how toxic these foods are, I simply state 3 criteria by which I recommend a particular brand of food:
1.) The company has at least one veterinary clinical nutritionist on staff (that is a doctor of veterinary medicine that also has a PhD in pet nutrition)
2.) The company performs feeding trials on actual pets that monitors growth, bone density, longevity, stool samples, urine, coat quality, skin health, general health, etc. The trial subjects are also monitored for development of diseases, you know, such as DEADLY HEART DISEASE.
3.) The company’s diets are certified by the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO). This is not a governmental agency, but a private pet food watch dog agency that offers voluntary participation for pet food companies that want to invite them in to inspect their operations to ensure they are meeting minimum pet food quality control standards.
And I leave it at that. The client will soon enough figure out which companies follow these guidelines. Since my article is in print and I do not have to endure the frown and cringe, I will share with you which three companies fulfill all three criteria:
That’s right, out of the millions of pet foods that bombard your senses as you enter the pet store, only three pet food brands that fulfill the minimum standards of pet food exist.
Dr. Roger Welton is a practicing veterinarian and highly regarded media personality through a number of topics and platforms. In addition to being passionate about integrative veterinary medicine for which he is a globally recognized expert, Dr. Welton was also an accomplished college lacrosse player and remains to this day very involved in the sport. He is president of Maybeck Animal Hospital , general partner of Grant Animal Clinic, and runs the successful veterinary/animal health blogs Web-DVM and Dr. Roger’s Holistic Veterinary Care. Dr. Welton fulfills his passion for lacrosse through his lacrosse and sport blog, The Creator’s Game.