Hillside Mythbusters: Food Edition
by Matthew Lang R.V.T.
Myth: The Ingredient list is the best way to pick a pet food.
BUSTED: While it is tempting to buy a pet food with a lot of fancy ingredients, you must remember that animals need nutrients not ingredients. Nutrients are the vitamins and minerals that are vital to your pet's health. Ingredients are also listed by weight with the heaviest ingredients at the top and lighter ones on the bottom. This often includes water content in fresh meat and vegetables. This means that these watered down ingredients may contribute less nutrients even though they make up a larger portion of the diet. Your best bet for picking a diet is to look for an AAFCO (The Association of American Feed Control Officials) Seal and to choose a diet that was tested by "Feeding Trial". This is the gold standard of nutrition testing and means that it not only follows AAFCO diet formulation guidelines, but also was fed to groups of animals and deemed safe to consume.
Myth: By Products are unhealthy and shouldn't be fed to my pet.
BUSTED: When pet owners think of by products they think of the worst possible things imaginable, such as, feet, hair, horn, snouts, tumors, feces, and feathers. The truth is none of these things make it into your pet's food! What is really in animal by products are organ meat, blood, and sometimes ground bone. To most owners these still sound like disgusting items, but to your pet they are both delicious and nutritious. They provide vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients vital to your pet's health. Also you may be eating by products already and not realizing it if you eat anything with gelatin (which comes from cow collagen). So remember, "There's always room for cow collagen"! (Not as catchy as the original, but more accurate).
Myth: Corn is bad for my pet and is just filler.
BUSTED: Corn has become one of the most persecuted grains (not the G-word! more on that later) in pet foods and it is time to stand up for this amazing little guy! First of all, filler is defined as something added that has no purpose or in the case of food no nutritional value. This is far from true! Corn is actually a highly digestible grain (Oh, there it is again!) that is a great source of protein, fat, and fiber. Also when corn is harvested for pet food the healthiest part of the kernel goes into....your pets food and humans are left with the syrupy substance known as high fructose corn syrup.
Myth: Grains are bad for animals.
BUSTED: As I alluded to in the previous myth, grains also receive a bad rap. Owners often believe they are just filler or cause allergies. While some grains may cause allergies, it isn't as common as allergies to protein sources. Proteins are large molecules and in some animals it can trigger an allergic reaction. Grains can be a nutritious part of your pet's diet. Does that mean grain-free diets are bad? No, they just have to be fed with caution since they are often higher in fat and can cause weight gain.
Myth: If a pet food label says it has chicken/beef, ect... the majority of the diet has that protein source.
PLAUSIBLE: When it comes to pet food labels you often have to read them very carefully since the wording makes all of the difference as to the percentage of a protein source is actually in a diet. Hopefully this guide will help to show how much protein is really in your pet's diet.
Chicken, Beef, Lamb...etc....
If a package says Chicken, Beef, or any other protein source it must contain at least 70% or more of that protein source. This is on an as fed basis once water is removed from that protein source.
Chicken, Beef, Lamb...etc.. "Dinner"
These foods will have 25% or more of that protein source and water is included when weighing that protein source before it is added.
Chicken, Beef, Lamb...etc.... "Platter" or "Entree"
These foods will have at least 3% of the labeled protein source.
Chicken, Beef, Lamb...etc...."Flavor"
These food will have less than 3% of the labeled protein source.
Myth: I should feed an organic, natural, holistic diet
PLAUSIBLE : Of the three words I just used, only two really carry a legal definition. Organic diets meet regulation established by the USDA to certify them organic. Natural diets are diets made without any synthesized ingredients meaning all of the ingredients come from nature. Holistic ,on the other hand, has no legal definition. The same goes for labels such as "Human-grade" and "Premium". These are all marketing terms. Before you let that get you down, remember you can use these for anything! You can drive to work in your "premium" car that you filled with "holistic" gas.
I hope that these myths help educate, inform, and entertain. It is getting harder and harder to select the proper diet for pets with all of the growing number of new diets added to the diets that are already on the market. I hope this was a fun and easy way to learn about proper diet selection and as always feel free to call the clinic. I also hope we can do more "Mythbuster" segments in the future and look forward to any and all suggestions! Until then have a "premium" day!
--Jayme, Hillside Veterinary Technician
Have you ever found yourself in a vet clinic in pure shock? That’s exactly where I found myself one afternoon. I brought my dog, Woodrow, in for an examination because he got into the trash can and was experiencing vomiting and diarrhea. I fully expected him to have what we refer to in the veterinary world as “garbage gut”. I already had in my mind that we would probably do some fluid therapy, medications to help his gut, and a bland diet. Boy was I ever wrong. Upon palpation, Dr. Betsy felt “something” in his abdomen, and told me we needed to obtain radiographs for further evaluation of his abdominal cavity. I immediately thought, “Great, I sure hope he does not have a foreign body!”. The first radiograph flashed upon the screen. Having been in this field for quite some time, I knew what I saw was not good. His spleen was very large, and there was also a mass. Often, these masses we find on the spleen are usually not good news, they are aggressive tumors, and many times they rupture and the patient bleeds internally. On the inside, I was devastated and on the verge of tears.
I pushed through, and completed his radiographs. We radiographed his abdominal cavity and his thoracic (chest) cavity. Thoracic radiographs were needed in this situation because of the likeliness that the tumor was malignant. These radiographs allow us to verify if there is any evidence of metastasis (malignant growth secondary to the primary source). Happily, there was no evidence of growths in his chest.
We then switched gears, and prepared Woodrow for an abdominal ultrasound. Due to the highly vascular nature of these tumors on the spleen, we needed to check for any bleeding coming from the tumor. We scanned his abdomen, and there was not any evidence of active bleeding- which was great news! You see, if there was active bleeding, and the tumor turned out to be malignant, all those cancer cells were now spread all over his abdominal cavity. This would make his prognosis very grim, and would also make it an emergent situation for Woodrow’s life.
Still in a state of shock, we collected all the necessary blood work to prepare him for surgery the next morning. Woodrow needed a splenectomy. I was still processing all of this. I thought I would just be giving my dog some medications, bland diet, and fluids. Instead, I was preparing my senior dog, my best friend, for major surgery the next morning.
Surgery morning came fast. I was still in shock that morning, and was in tears. I was not in any position to monitor anesthesia for him, or have anything medically to do with Woodrow’s surgery. That morning, I was just his mom.
Dr. Betsy took him into surgery while Matt monitored his anesthesia. As a nervous mom, in between patients, I would go to our surgery window and check on things. Each time, Dr. Betsy and Matt delivered good news, and kept me calm. They knew exactly what I needed to hear at all the right times. Matt gave me all his vitals at each window visit, and made sure my Woodrow stayed warm, his blood pressure, heart rate and respiratory rate all remained normal. The spleen and tumor were so large, Dr. Betsy needed a surgical assistant to help her retract and hold the spleen up. Luckily, Melissa was available to scrub in, and assist Dr. Betsy. Woodrow’s surgery was two hours long, and finally the tumor was out! Dr. Betsy dissected a few samples to send off for pathology to confirm what type of tumor it was. Now the waiting began for the pathology report.
After the surgery was over, his care did not end there. My teammates made sure Woodrow had nice thick blankets, warming elements, made sure his IV catheter and fluids were still flowing appropriately, all the right post-operative pain medications, and monitored his vitals while in recovery every five minutes until he could sit up on his own and able to maintain a normal body temperature. They all made sure that he was kept comfortable and clean while in hospital that day.
I am so blessed and thankful to work at such a place as Hillside. All my teammates and doctors took such amazing care of my old man. The even more amazing thing is, is that Woodrow did not receive special treatment, or “extra” care because he is my pet. This is the level of care we provide for all our patients. We take such great pride in our profession, and that day I could feel and appreciate it on a different level- as a dog mom. I always knew what excellent care we provide, and how hard all of us work to give everything we have to our patients- which is why I love working at Hillside. Since that day though, I have an even greater and deeper appreciation for what we do each day. I love that we can offer our clients and patients lab work, ultrasounds, radiographs, blood pressure measurements, medications, fluid therapy, etc all in the same day, and often have the results within minutes to hours. There’s nothing worse than being caught off guard by the veterinarian giving you all the possibilities about what could be wrong with your fur kid, but I am so thankful that we have all the needed diagnostic tools that we used in Woodrow’s case to get him diagnosed. Thank you all my co-workers for keeping me calm that day, and for providing Woodrow with the best care possible!
To our clients, from all of us at Hillside, we thank you for trusting us and allowing us to care for your fur kids. It is an honor and privilege to provide medical care for the furry members of your family.
OH! Woodrow’s pathology report came back, and I am happy to report that his tumor was benign! He is still enjoying life, and living it to the fullest…… on the comfy bed!
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