As a pet owner, you want to provide your pet with the best diet, but, with so many pet foods to choose from, selecting the right one can be overwhelming. The plethora of pet nutrition information—much of it being false—found online makes the decision even more difficult. How do you tell fact from fiction? Here are the facts on boutique pet diets to help clear up the confusion so you can choose the best food for your pet.

What are pet boutique diets?

Boutique diets are pet food diets manufactured by small companies that often have not conducted extensive research or food trials, or whose food may not have been approved by a board-certified veterinary nutritionist. This may be due to budget restrictions, but the lack of oversight puts your pet’s health at risk.

Many boutique diets can include potentially dangerous exotic proteins and exclude important nutrients your pet needs. These small manufacturers often attempt to capitalize on the latest trends in human diets. For example, as gluten-free foods grow in popularity among people, many pet owners believe this kind of diet could be a healthier choice for their pets, so they seek out grain-free or low-carbohydrate pet food options.

Are boutique diets risky for pets?

Boutique diets and grain-free diets were developed because owners wanted healthier food options for their pets. Pet owners who themselves were trying out popular diets to lose weight, for example, wanted to extend the same health concerns to their four-legged family members. However, pets have different nutritional needs than people, and these trendy diets often don’t provide the nutrients necessary for dogs and cats, which can put their health at risk.

Recent studies have linked grain-free diets to dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM), which causes enlargement and weakening of the heart. Companies often replace ingredients with what they consider healthier options when they formulate boutique or grain-free diets, which results in tampering with the delicate balance and healthy nutrient level. Existing ingredients are being replaced with chickpeas, lentils, and exotic meats, which may not be appropriate substitutions.

DCM can lead to other heart conditions, such as congestive heart failure, and can even result in death. In cats, DCM is the result of an associated nutrient deficiency. In dogs, DCM is related to genetics in certain larger breeds, including Irish wolfhounds, Great Danes, boxers, and Doberman pinschers. Several theories link DCM and grain-free diets, including a taurine deficiency in the food, although the theories are changing constantly.

How do I choose the best food for my pet?

If you find yourself in the pet supply store looking for the best food for your pet, be sure to read the product labels to determine which products have gone through the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) feeding trials. The AAFCO screens dietary formulas to ensure they adhere to its complete-and-balanced standards, including that no animal testing was involved.

Dogs are omnivores, whose main food sources should include both meats and plants, whereas cats are carnivores who need primarily meat. When selecting your pet’s diet, consult our veterinary team. We can guide your choice and ensure you provide your pet’s specific dietary needs. Many specialized diets are available, such as those formulated to support growing puppies and prescription diets for pets with diabetes or urinary issues.  We recommend diets that follow the World Small Animal Veterinary Association’s global nutrition guidelines, including:

  • Hill’s Science Diet
  • Royal Canin
  • Purina
  • Eukanuba

Pets on a balanced diet should not need vitamin supplements. If you suspect your pet is vitamin-deficient or needs a dietary supplement, consult our team before changing your pet’s diet.

Are you having trouble choosing the right diet for your furry friend? Do you have questions about boutique or grain-free diets? Contact us, and our team can help you make an informed decision.