Why Healthy Animals don’t need dietary supplements or special foods.

Why Healthy Animals don’t need dietary supplements nor special foods such as Grain-free diets.


Let’s get some ‘given’s out of the way first: The unwell, ill-thrift allergic pet does need special dietary considerations and restrictions.

However, the same does Not hold truly for a well, normal pet; when we add unnecessary items to a diet or feed a ‘fad’ or exotic’ or boutique’ ‘restricted’ diet to a pet without a ‘leaky bowel’ or sensitive skin, major nutritional disease can occur.

I am going to cover a couple of topics: Vitamin B deficiency from feeding probiotics and secondly the return of an old-foe not seen for 20yrs+: Heart Muscle Failure from nutritional or Food imbalance/deficiency-in this case Grain-Free diets!!

This food induced issues are  caused by a feeding ‘fad’ that occurred because owners and food makers extrapolated that because a tiny % of ill animals needs a special food or supplement, then all pets, even healthy pets needed the same.It doesn’t work like that.

My neighbour may have a problem with egg products, I have a problem with cheese, another a problem with peanut butter. Eating my neighbour’s egg-free diet is of no benefit to me any more than not eating cheese, will cure the peanut butter allergic person etc..

More on the food-induced heart muscle weakness later but first:


I am not talking about ill animals who have had chronic diarrhoea or are recovering after a long course of antibiotics taking a probiotic. I am talking about the widespread addition of these supplements to healthy pets on balanced diets. Not only are these supplements not needed, probiotics can do harm.

The B Vitamins are so important in our pets, especially older cats and dogs as B Vitamins are utilized by the body for a variety of intestinal and neurological processes. Actively impairing a healthy pet’s ability to absorb cobalamin is a negative step for the dog or cat.

A recent peer-reviewed scientific paper, https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/jsap.12845 in an eminent science journal reports that probiotics can significantly negatively impact on a pet’s absorption of a Vit B-cobalamin-even after just a 2-week course…

The paper also noted a transient effect on Folate;however the level did return to normal when the probiotic stopped so there was less concern there.

(My left field thought was: Dropping the folate level in a breeding or pregnant animal must be a concern as well so hopefully pregnant women taking probiotics are doing so only if strictly under a qualified medical doctor’s advice and not from a health shop assistant).

The take-away message here is:Unless your pet has been specifically prescribed probiotics by your vet, please do not just add this product to your pet’s diet. Do not fall for false marketing-where generic or poor-quality dog rolls and pet foods are promoted in significant part because of their probiotic content. If your pet is not ill, or does not have special dietary needs, do not feed supplements to a balanced diet.

2) Next is the issue of dogs with a ‘broken’ heart; suspected to be caused by being fed a deficient fad diet low in grains.

Grain- free diets are a fad; a very dangerous fad.

One percent of pets have a food allergy.

Yes, that % soars if the pet has skin disease issues: but most times those skin allergies are caused by protein from animal sources, only a tiny % would be actually allergic to grains.

What you can have is an overload of carbohydrate in a diet to which the animal becomes intolerant. If the level of carbohydrate is lowered, not removed, then over several weeks the pet will return to normal re diarrhoea signs etc.

What has happened is owners are just reflexing putting their perfectly healthy pets on ‘grain-free’ diets in the belief that that is the best diet for their pet.

As vets, we have been unable to convince owners who make this decision that this is not in the best interests of the dog-they bring their healthy dog into us, the dog is healthy and the owner is positively zealous about their decision, nothing we vets say would change their mind so we have backed off.

Now we have specific proof that feeding grain-free carries a high risk of induced cardiomyopathy in a dog not normally at risk of this condition. Cardiomyopathy can occur genetically in certain breeds of dogs; what has distinguished the food induced cardiomyopathy from genetic cardiomyopathy is the food induced dogs get to recover over time if the diet is corrected.  Over 200 dog cases in the USA have been logged with the FDA; affected dogs consistently ate foods containing peas, lentils, other legume seeds or potatoes as main ingredients over a time span ranging from months to years.

One of big alerts is where a brand highlight the ‘Natural’ aspect of their diet.

Another red flag is where  kangaroo and lentil  are heavily featured as main ingredients as there was a correlation with this diet in USA dogs found  with the cardiac issue. To my horror, I discovered these ingredients are found here  in a  dog-roll format: did we learn nothing about the damage feeding some of these roll formulations did to the brains of dogs due to the additives in the  rolls destroying Vitamin B ?  Now we have these rolls  grain-free…Madness in my opinion.

Thirty years ago, we saw cats and dogs with specific types of heart disease (and blindness in cats) that were caused by poor quality pet feeding both home and commercial based. Properly balanced foods came in and those diseases disappeared. To think we are back in last century again is heart-breaking both for the pet, owner and the vet…

So next time some one promotes a ‘grain-free’ ‘natural’ or ’boutique’ dog food, best remain sceptical.

If you have put your healthy dog onto one of these diets without your vet’s advice:contact your vet and over the next 5-7 days, wean them off it and put them on a fully tested (and by that, I mean have undergone AAFCO feeding and rated safe) food.

Do not take any verbal or written guarantees-ask for the AAFCO result from boutique food producers.

All Hills and RC diets are AAFCO rated so *safe to select within that range for starters so you can get a balanced diet into your pet ASAP.

Some months down the track you can modify the diet a little but for now-get feeding the proper foods.

However,  the one single Hills food I would NOT recommend dogs get switched to is Hills Metabolic Canine. Canine Hills Metabolic has the opposite problem to grain- freem this Metabolic  has  far too much wheat  grain in it, given from what I have experienced with some of my  overweight patients. These otherwise normal but overweight dogs  developed ear and anal sac issues on Metabolic but not when fed the wonderful Hills  R/D reducing  weight control diet. I have reported these cases to Hills.  Apparently I am the only vet who has done so…That does not mean other vets are not seeing this issue, perhaps they are  seeing them or perhaps the connection has been missed.   As this post is about food alerts, then in the interests of full disclosure, it is  only fair to include an issue with Hills even though the rest of their diets are exemplary.