Hi, I'm Dr. Becca Byrd from Heritage Oaks and Northern Oaks Bird and Animal Hospital. I'd like to talk to you about pet nutrition today. For both dogs and cats, we'll discuss a few myths, facts, and things people ask me. One of the primary things I'm asked is, how do I know how to pick a healthy diet? There are so many options on the internet, advertising sites, and marketing terms that go out there, making it very confusing. Many people come to me with questions and think they've done the best job by looking for four-star dog food or dog food with terms like holistic, grain-free, or natural. The reality is a lot of these are not legal terms. They're not legally defined. They're things that somebody has put on there because they look trendy or because they have ingredients that are appealing to humans. So we turn around and want to feed them that food because we want to do what's best for our pets. I find a lot of these diets that are not necessarily healthy but are marketed as being healthy appeal to our heartstrings. If you love your pet, you'll feed it like family, which implies that if you don't, you do not love your pet. We really want to talk about the bottom line and what we want to do.

Dr. Becka Byrd
Northern Oaks Bird & Animal Hospital

In 2018, there was a big study put out by the FDA on some boutique, exotic, and grain-free foods. You really haven't heard about some of the brands before the study, but people were buying them because of some of their marketing claims. We found that a large and significant number of cases reported cardiac disease at a young age to the FDA. The only commonality was these foods. From that point forward, the Council of Veterinary Nutritionists, who are all board-certified nutritionists, recommended feeding only the brands that do AAFCO-certified feeding trials. There are only four brands that do that, and they're Hill's Science diet, Royal Canin, Purina Pro Plan, and IAMS. These guys get a bad rap from advertising companies sometimes, but these foods have micronutrients that meet the needs of each specific pet within the life stage they are guaranteed to meet.

By doing the testing and feeding trials necessary to demonstrate they meet those needs, you can be assured that your pet will have the nutrition it needs. We see the proof in their coats, activity level, and ability to hold weight. It makes a difference. We haven't seen cardiac issues in these foods, so we encourage you to choose one of the foods within these companies that we know meets their nutrient profile. We do know that no food is good for all life stages. If it's labeled for all life stages, it has to be a puppy or kitten food because it must meet the nutrients of a puppy or kitten. So don't get caught up in food that says it's for all life stages, and don't get caught up in food with human products that you feel sound good for a dog because dog nutrition is very different than human nutrition.

A lot of people will feed their dogs twice a day. That makes a great plan because then you don't have a hungry dog in the evening that then has reflux in the morning. The same is true for cats. We try to feed pets mainly twice a day, limit the amount they get at each feeding, and measure it. That way, we know if they're missing a meal instead of free feeding and missing it if they do skip a meal. So knowing what they eat, how much they eat, and that they're eating a good quality diet is really important. Talk it over with your veterinarian if you have questions. Most of us will be happy to direct you to an appropriate diet. And remember, we're not in bed with a dog food company or a cat food company. We'll send you anywhere to get it. The people who are more interested in being connected to the food will be the manufacturers who are marketing their own food. Thanks for joining me today.

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