Pet Nutrition: Myths and Misperceptions

By April 29, 2016 February 28th, 2019 Uncategorized

Unfortunately, the first place many of us go for information these days is the Internet and much of the information is often inaccurate and misleading.  This blog will deal with some of the more common myths the veterinarians in Markham deal with surrounding nutrition, specifically questions and concerns about corn, by-products and grains.  Many beliefs consumers have about nutrition are simply not scientifically valid.

For decades corn has been used in pet foods, but recently people have come to believe that it is “a filler and poorly digestible”.  By definition a filler is a product put into food that has no nutritional or beneficial value.  Corn does not fit that description.  In fact depending on how it is added, corn can provide protein, fat and starch.  It is also a source of linoleic acid, and some essential amino acids required in the diet of both cats and dogs.  In addition, when properly ground and cooked one study concluded corn gluten meal was shown to be more digestible than either fresh poultry or beef.  The veterinarians in Markham  also deal with many pet owners concerned that “corn is a common cause of food allergies”.  In reality any source of protein in the diet can cause potential allergy issues.  However, of the latest reports the top food allergies reported in cats and dogs respectively are fish, wheat and dairy products in cats and beef, wheat and dairy products in dogs.  Even more interesting is that recently chicken replaced wheat as a top allergen in dogs.  Other studies following food allergens in dogs and cats with food hypersensitivities didn’t even list corn as being identified.  This shows that although an animal could develop an allergy to corn, the veterinarians in Markham note it is not a top food allergen.

Secondly, the veterinarians in Markham often deal with pet owners who are critical of by-products, mostly because they have a misconception of what by-products are.  A by-product is simply a product that resulted from making something else, like molasses is a by-product from sugar manufacturing.  In fact in some situations a by-product may have a higher nutritional value than the main product from which it was separated.  So, while a pet owner may be reluctant to purchase a pet food that may contain by-products such as the heart, lungs, liver, spleen and kidneys, they are spending a lot of money on treats made of them.

Lastly, one of the biggest myths in pet nutrition follows a similar trend on the human side, that is to avoid feeding diets that contain any grains.  Grains can provide protein, antioxidants, fibre, essential fatty acids and other benefits.  So, like corn, grains are not “cheap fillers”.  Marketing by some manufactures will have consumers believe that peas and potatoes are superior to wheat, rice and corn, however, we are encouraged to eat whole grains because of the associated health benefits so why not our dogs and cats?  Also, since grain-free diets often contain other carbohydrate sources, believing that a grain-free diet is therefore a low carbohydrate diet is a mistake.  Studies identifying food allergens in cats and dogs with food hypersensitivities have also shown that the proteins provided in grains made up only one of the top seven food allergens in cats and two of the top seven in dogs which shows they are no more likely to be “a common source of food allergies” than animal-based proteins.  The concern over gluten sensitivity is one of the things that has driven the grain-free trend on the human side as it can trigger problems for people with celiac disease.  However until recently, only one breed of dog with this condition had been identified, Irish setters.

The veterinarians in Markham understand that you want to provide good quality nutrition for your furry family members.  Please contact us so we can answer your questions and and deal with any concerns about your pet’s nutrition.  It is important to the veterinarians in Markham that as more misinformation is published and spread from person to person that you get accurate information on your pet’s nutrition and health.

If you found this blog informative, please share it with your friends on Facebook .


Dr. Ernst Marsig, veterinarian in Markham

Practicing Veterinary Medicine in Markham for a Long and Happy Life of ALL Your Pets.

Animal Hospital of Unionville, a veterinary clinic on the north side of  Hwy 7, serving all pets in Markham, Richmond Hill, Scarborough, Stouffville, and North York since 1966. We are your family vets for dogs, cats, pocket pets (rabbits, chinchillas, gerbils, mice, rats, hamsters, guinea pigs, skinny pigs, etc.), ferrets, and birds (budgies, cockatiel, parrots, amazon, cockatoo, love birds, conures, African greys, finches, canaries, etc.).

Disclaimer: No part of this website constitutes medical advice. Readers are advised to consult with their veterinarian.

Leave a Reply