Blogger and veterinarian Dr. Ryan Llera talks about pet nutrition and the importance of a balanced diet for your companion.

Mediaplanet: Why is it crucial to ensure your pet’s diet is nutritionally balanced?

Dr. Ryan Llera: Every pet is different; there is no universal diet for all. There are different diets for various conditions or life stages. Higher amounts of certain ingredients or off ratios can lead to problems with the kidneys, the development of crystals in the bladder, heart disease, or digestive problems.

MP: How common are food intolerances in pets?

RL: Food intolerances are mildly uncommon. More have become apparent in recent years but it may be a better recognition of the problem. They can show up as skin allergies, as well as vomiting, diarrhea, or weight loss. Most commonly, the protein source is the culprit.

MP: What is the biggest misconception about pet food these days?

RL: Grains are bad and raw foods are better. Grain-free and raw diets are prevalent in the industry simply due to marketing. The actual incidence of grain-related problems in pets is less than 1 percent. Raw foods come with the risk of being improperly balanced and infectious from bacterial transmission. This is not to say some merit may be there, but more research is needed.

MP: What key ingredients are necessary in a pet’s food?

RL: A balanced amount of protein, carbohydrates, and fat is needed. How those are determined is going to be based on the individual needs of each pet. For example, a specific medical condition or body weight status. Vitamins, minerals, and some amino acids also help complete the meal.

MP: What are some ingredients a pet owner should absolutely avoid and why?

RL: This is more of an issue for home cooking or raw diets.  Fatty substances should be avoided due to the risk of pancreatitis.  Known toxic substances, such as garlic, onions, grapes, raisins, and the artificial sweetener xylitol, can be fatal.

MP: What role does a pet’s food play in their oral health?

RL: The type of food, as well as bacteria in the mouth, and to some extent breed will influence oral health.  Moist foods, while beneficial for other reasons, do no service to the teeth as they don’t function like dry foods which can help scrape the teeth.  Short of brushing your pet’s teeth daily, dental diets and harder, larger kibbles do the mechanical cleaning they need.

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