The pet industry in the U.S. is estimated to be worth about $72 billion. More than $29 billion of that comes from pet food, according to a Forbes report. While the food for humans is highly regulated, pet foods are highly unregulated. So how do you know which foods and health products to choose for your pet?
Walk into any major pet store, and you will find a lot of options when it comes to pet food. There are plenty of options also to be found online on sites like Chewy.com and PetFlow. So bewteen grain-free, gluten-free, and keto options, among others, how do you know what’s really the best choice for your pet?
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“There’s a lot of trends out there for both humans and pets,” said Dr. Dawn Tucker, who has been caring for pets at the Animal Emergency and Critical Care for more than a decade. She has helped many animals who have been brought in due to issues with food and diet changes. If you’re thinking about introducing a new food to your pet, she says to first talk to your primary care veterinarian.
“I know a lot of people go gluten-free, but if a pet isn’t sensitive to gluten, and it isn’t harming them, I don’t see any reason to shy away from it,” she said. “There are lots of animals that can tolerate wheat, that can tolerate rice, that can tolerate different kinds of grains, so unless your pet really has an issue with those ingredients, I don’t really see a reason to shy away from them.”
What about putting your pet on a keto diet? While the Ketogenic diet has been found useful for treating seizures and some cancers, this is still being researched for both people and animals. Again, Dr. Tucker says to talk to your primary care vet if you’re thinking about introducing it to your pet.
“There are a lot of different reasons why a dog can be having seizures. While some types of seizures may be responsive to a keto diet, not all types of seizures will be,” said Tucker.
Now Tucker there are some foods you should not give to your pets.
“Adding fruit can be difficult to dog food, one, because we have toxicity with raisins and grapes, that can be devastating for owners, so you need to be cautious about what you are thinking about adding,” she said.
She also advises against pets eating spicy foods.
CBD pet products are also becoming more popular. Many of these items promise to treat your pet’s pain, anxiety, and even epilepsy. Pet Business predicts the CBD market for pets will grow from $64 million in 2018 to $810 million in 2024.
“These alternative treatment can be wonderful and do great things, but they’re also not a benign product,” explained Tucker. “They can cause a lot of problems if they are used incorrectly. In addition, your veterinarian is going to be very concerned about the production of the product and how pure it is, and they will be the one to advise you as far as where you’re getting your product from because they’re not as regulated as the medications they get in to their practice.”
Once you have talked to your primary care vet, and you’ve settled on a pet food, the next step is to introduce it slowly.
“Here in the emergency clinic, we see a great deal of animals due to changes in their diet that have been taken on too quickly,” she said.
Tucker says diet changes should be taken over a period of seven to ten days under a vet’s supervision.
“You should still have enough of the old dog food that you’re feeding primarily that as you add a small amount of the new dog food. And then gradually, you are adding more of the new– and gradually reducing the old until all of the old dog food is gone and you’re just feeding the new.
If your pet develops any soft or loose stool or vomiting, you should back off on the new and go much slower,” said Tucker.
Now if your primary vet has prescribed a particular food, Tucker says to go with their direction. This is to prevent some of the issues diet changes can bring on.