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Abbotsford Animal Hospital

Don't Believe the Hype

Dog on couch

A sensational headline “Grain free foods are linked to heart disease in dogs”. How did this happen? What caused the shift in how we feed our pets?

Why has there been such a push to grain free food? Is it because the Veterinary community has been recommending these diets? Have the Veterinary Universities published studies endorsing  the benefits of grain free? Or did it occur due to the Hype caused by a blog by a person, who has had a dog their entire life, who is sure that they cured its bad skin, arthritis, epilepsy, anxiety, and bad breath by changing to a grain free food?

Grain free diets came about by the realization that some medical conditions can be resolved by removing certain ingredients from an individual’s diet. These individuals have a sensitivity to certain ingredients and it is this specific sensitivity that was causing their issues. By removing the causative agent, that specific patient would have a reduction or even resolution of their problem. Most common issues treated this way are skin and stomach/bowel problems.

Flash forward several years and we have the grain free food craze. “Grains are bad for dogs!”; “Your dog has the spirit of a wolf, so feed it like one”. These are tag lines we are all familiar with. Combined with the onslaught of conspiracy theories revolving around pet food manufacturers, with slick marketing and a general distrust for those who have the knowledge to explain the pros and cons of such diets and we get what we pay for. Vast number of animals are being fed foods that have no foundation in science; and the consequences are the complications that such actions have brought.

This is not the first “Hype” I have seen in over 25 years of practice. Shark cartilage, echinacea, tea tree oil, coconut oil, raw food, anti-vaccine, grain free food and most recently medical marijuana/CBD.

Each of these crazes has come with their own set of problems. That is not to say that there is not some basis in fact for us to look at new/natural methods to treat and prevent illness. 

This most recent problem of grain free food being linked to canine heart disease, is an example of an unproven, unsubstantiated product being disseminated for mass consumption is a cautionary tale for all of us. Just because something is good for one pet with a specific condition does not mean it is good for all. It may actually be causing harm.

That’s my pawspective.

Abbotsford Animal Hospital - Caring for Pets for People in York Region, Aurora, Newmarket, King City, Richmond Hill and the GTA.

Dr. Jory Bocknek

Dr. Bocknek joined Abbotsford in 1994 and became a partner in 1996. Special interests include ophthalmology, ultrasound, behaviour, and physical rehabilitation.