Written by 2018 Pawster Scholarship Winner – Melynda Price
In the past few years dog and pet welfare has risen exponentially around the world. More owners and pet enthusiasts are becoming not only more concerned but aware of what their pets are consuming and using. This is most likely due to the fact that dogs have always been a member of one’s family, so why would we not care about the foods they consume just as we do for ourselves and our human family members. The shift of awareness over what our dogs eat could be linked to the new found wisdom that diet and disease go hand in hand. This paper will explore new concerns with dog nutrition and some ways to combat it.
With recent studies, researchers at the School of Veterinary Medicine at the University of California discovered that there definitely is a link between our pet’s diet and disease. This was found during research concerning taurine deficiencies in cats. According to Dr. Karen Shaw Becker, “As veterinary cardiologists continued to encounter cases of taurine deficiency-related DCM in dogs, and continued to search for a common link, diet was though to play a major role in the development of the disease.” (Becker, 2018). This was discovered through Taurine testing as it was found in cats with the deficiency usually had DCM or dilated cardiomyopathy, thankfully the condition can be reversed through the introduction of taurine that is able to be absorbed. This lead to a breakthrough, as it completely stunned veterinarians at the time. This could be a lead in why the pet community is becoming more concerned of what their pets should be eating to promote a longer and healthier life for their beloved dogs.
Nutrition in a Nutshell
From the studies done by the researchers in California, it is very apparent our pets can be deficient in many areas concerning health. A big movement as of late is supplements for pets, which is a new growing market. As stated by Burns, “A third of all U.S. households with dogs use supplements, as do about a fifth of households with cats.” (Burns, 2017).
Supplementing your pet for what they may lack individually is a great start to combat any health concerns and can be a preventative. Typically it is stated that if your pet is receiving a sound and balanced diet, there is not a need to supplement. This seems to no longer be the case as it has been shown with some higher end dog foods they are lacking in Taurine which was shown previously can be a major cause of DCM.
Not just Taurine and amino acids, but as of late fish oil, joint supplements, and probiotics are becoming the norm for most dog supplements. Fish oil is a popular supplement that can cover skin and coat health, joint health, and are fantastic sources of omega 3’s. Joint supplements such as turmeric, green-lipped muscle extract are just a few of the hundreds of the new joint health supplements that are on the rise. All are aimed at preventing the wear and tear of joints as our dog’s age as well as combatting inflammation. Probiotics are a new popular supplement, which seems to relate to the newer dog foods that are aimed at sensitive stomachs. More pet owners are becoming aware of how their dogs eat and react to such foods.
Probiotics for dogs work in similar ways for humans, as it aids in adding “beneficial” bacteria to the gut to aid easier digestion. It can be helpful for the owners to identify what exactly is in their dog and what is not, to make the right choices in whether they should supplement or not. The basis of supplementing should be addressed the same way it should for humans. Only supplement if it is really what your dog or pet may need.
Grain-free or Not to Be
In just the past 20 years or so, the movement towards grain free dog food sprang into action. More and more dog owners are making the switch to feeding grain-free dog food. It is true that for the most part, dogs do somewhat well on a grain-free diet, but there have been concerns if the grain-free diets have been the cause of taurine deficiencies. Although this has been debunked that is not the lack of grains but rather the use of starch carbohydrates in conjunction with high heat process methods that have been linked to taurine deficiencies. It seems by switching to grain-free there are more fillers dog owners should be aware about. According to Dr. Becker, “Dogs and cats don’t produce a lot of amylase because their natural, ancestral diet is primarily meat, not grains (carbs).” (Becker, 2010).
As a replacement for grains; peas, lentils and potatoes have been a popular filler for most dog food brands. These will not kill your dog, but so long as they are not the main ingredients, it should be safe in small amounts. The issue is that with raw vegetation, dogs and cats can but have a difficult time with digesting them. That is why, for an example, if vegetables are given as a part of your dog’s diet, it is suggested they be blanched or cooked to some degree to aid in their digestion. It would seem that the switch to grain-free dog foods have now become a switch to lack of fillers (peas, lentils, potatoes).
With the pet industry booming, more dog owners are becoming more stringent in what their dogs not only use but consume. This is why to alleviate these new needs more dog food companies are coming up with better ways to feed our dogs. Just like our human counterparts, dog and pet diets are changing just as rapidly as our do. Grain-free diets, Raw Food Diets, and even homemade diets are quickly becoming the norm. A key takeaway is that not all pets and especially dogs are the same. Individual needs and concerns should be addressed and what is considered the norm should be taken with a grain of salt. Ultimately it is your dog, but wouldn’t you want the best for your best friend?
Becker, K. S., Dr. (2010, January 10). Pet Digestion Problems | Why Pets Need Digestive Enzymes.
Retrieved September 24, 2018, from
Becker, K. S., Dr. (2018, July 09). Are Dogs With DCM Taurine-Deficient? Retrieved September 24, 2018,
Burns, K. (2017, January 14). Assessing pet supplements. Retrieved September 24, 2018, from