Nutrition Resources for Pet Owners

There is, as we all know, a tremendous amount of misinformation on the internet concenring virtually any subject. Yet the internet is an unqeustionably powerful information resources, likely indispensible for anyone seeking to be an informed consumer. For pet owners, the quantity of information about pet nutrition is overwhelming. Yet the quality of most of this infomration is poor, with little in the way of scientific evidence backing claims made, and with advertising and other commercial messages often indistinguuishable for legitimate and useful information resources.

So I have put together a brief list of useful informational resources for pet owners concerning dog and cat nutrition. These resources are produced by board-certified veterinary nutritionists and academic institutions or consortia with solid credentials in veterinary nutrition. I may not necessarily agree with every single statement in these resources, but I consider the sources trustworthy and the information reliable.

The objection will inevitably be raised that many of these individuals or organizations have some connection with the commercial pet food industry. This industry does support the majority of the research and education in veterinary nutrition, which raises the legitimate question of potential bias. That said, the claims and statements made by academic veterinary nutritionists are most often backed by research evidence, and this evidence does not become magically irrelevant just because of potential funding bias.

While any industry-funded research must be scrutinized carefully to ensure appropriate methodological techniques are employed to reduce the risk of bias, and while in a perfect world all research would be sponsored by independant government agencies or through funding mechanisms that prohibited any connection between funder and researcher, this is not our current reality.

All individuals have their biases, whether ideological, financial, cognitive, or other, and the purpose of the techniques of science are to minimize the influence of such biases on our understanding. The opinions of individuals promoting and/or selling unconventional diets or disparaging commercial diets are not free of bias, but they are often free of real scientific evidence. It is not the individual nor their affiliations that is ultimately the most salient feature in evaluating the reliability of factual claims, it is the quality of the data.

I invite anyone who is legitimately concerned about the influence of industry on the veterinary profession’s understanding and approach to nutrition to do more than complain. Provide real evidence to support your own claims or those of others you believe have a better approach.  Support the generation of better evidence with less risk of funding bias. Encourage the highest standards of research design and reporting to minimize the risk of bias.

World Small Animal Veterinary Association

Nutrition Toolkit

Selecting the Best Food for your Pet

The Savvy Cat Owner’s Guide to Nutrition on the Internet 

The Savvy Dog Owner’s Guide to Nutrition on the Internet 

Calorie Needs for Healthy Adult Cats

Calorie Needs for Healthy Adult Dogs 

Pet Nutrition Alliance

Pet Owner Resources

Frequently Asked Questions


Nutritional Guidelines

Preventive Care

Body Condition Score Chart

Muscle Condition Score Chart

Nutrition Calculators & Charts

Food Safety

Food Safety Guidelines

ASPCA and Pet Poison Helpline

Pet Food Recall Alerts

Pet Food Information

Home-Cooked Diets

Ingredients in Pet Food

Nutrition Myths

Pet Health

Feeding Guidelines For Dogs and Cats

How to Evaluate Nutritional Health Claims and Detect Fraud on the Internet

Keeping Your Pet Healthy

Nutritional Consultation Services

Nutritional Needs for Specific Diseases

Nutritional Supplements

Weight Management and Obesity

Tufts Veterinary School Nutrition Service

Frequently Asked Questions

Home-cooked Diets

Raw Diets

The Ohio State University Veterinary Nutrition Support Service

Pet Owner Resources

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12 Responses to Nutrition Resources for Pet Owners

  1. v.t. says:

    Excellent resources, skeptvet, thanks for this!

  2. Frances says:

    I will admit to bias – I prefer to control what my animals eat myself, just as I prepare my own meals from basic ingredients. But why, exactly, is it considered so much more difficult to feed dogs and cats an adequate and appropriate diet than it is to feed ourselves and our children? No one has ever suggested that one either needs to be a fully qualified human nutritionist, or eat only commercially prepared balanced meals (perhaps, of course, we would be healthier if we did!). The principles of a healthy human diet are widely promulgated and understood, even if we too often are persuaded by commercial interests to eat highly processed foods designed with the exact balance of salt, sugar and fat to have us coming back for more (is it any wonder we have lost confidence in manufacturers of processed foods?). Why cannot there be equally straight forward veterinary advice on feeding our animals that focuses on nutritional needs, rather than “buy a balanced pre mix” or “pay for a professional consultation”? I have not yet read every one of these references, but so far none of them tells me what I should do if I simply want to feed my animals unprocessed real food (except not too!).

  3. skeptvet says:

    There is nothing wrong with feeding a home-cooked diet, but it is more difficult to prepare a nutritionally appropriate one than most people realize. For one thing, the dietary needs of our dogs are very different from our own, and yet we tend to select ingredients that seem healthy from our point of view, a perspective driven by experiences and tastes not really relevant to the needs of our dogs. What looks healthy to us isn’t a good guide of what is truly healthy for them.

    And the idea that we should be able to put together a healthy diet for our dogs without expert help because we don’t need such help to choose our own diet doesn’t really work. We don’t actually select a very good diet for ourselves most of the time. Most of our diets are not anywhere near optimal precisely because we select our own foods and are driven by taste preferences that we evolved when the nutritional environment was very different. We seek sugar salt, and fat in excessive amounts because calories and salt were scarce in our ancestors’ environment and it was evolutionarily advantageous to seek these nutrients. Now that we have easy access to too much of these, simple willpower and general knowledge of nutrition aren’t enough to overcome our instincts. We all know we should be eating mostly minimally processed fruits and vegetables with small amounts of lean protein, but most of us don’t succeed very well. It’s kind of a cop-out to blame advertising or the formulation of processed foods for these choices when the knowledge of how to eat better is readily available.

    And when people do try to eat “healthy,” they often go in for crazy nonsense like the Paleo Diet or some other fad. So honestly, we might very well do better if we had an expert nutritionist to guide us in formulating our own diets!

    In any case, I am not saying it is necessary to feed a commercial diet, only that extensive research has found most homemade diets and recipes are not nutritionally adequate, so without some expert advice we seem to do a lousy job of it. And what I am saying is that these commercial diets are very likely healthy and better for our pets than the stuff we cobble together out of our own notions about nutrition, as well as being more convenient. So I don’t see the need to seek alternatives other than that it fulfill our psychological desire for control over our pets’ health, for which control over their diet is a proxy for us. We think we can keep them healthier and prevent bad things from happening if only we get their diet right, and in chasing this notion we actually select diets which, most of the time, aren’t as good for them as the ones already put together on the basis of good science and lots of professional expertise.

    You’re welcome to feed whatever you feel is best, but the evidence suggests your dogs will be better off if you stick with a commercial diet or get a nutritionist to help you, even if it doesn’t seem that way to you.

  4. Frances says:

    Good reply – what I actually did was to research canine and feline nutritional needs, check, set up spreadsheets to calculate calories/protein/etc for the various food stuffs, use all my background as a research librarian to evaluate the advice on the various websites, and finally ask the staff at my vet’s to run an eye over what I proposed! The most useful advice I found was on, by the way, if only because it includes references that can be checked.

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  7. dogowner says:

    So are there any nutritionally balanced ready-to-go recipes out there?

    My dog recently got sick. The vet suggested home cooking as a potential option for her in the future since she’s reacting badly to some foods and needs a low fat diet. I’d like to be all read up on this so that I know where to start, what ingredients to see if she can tolerate, and maybe have a few recipes I can bring in to the vet to ask about.

  8. skeptvet says:

    First off, I would check out the book Dog Food Logic, which provides a great, science-based perspective on pet nutrition.

    So far, the evidence doesn’t suggest that “ready-to-go” recipes work very well. The best bet is to have a consult with a veterinary nutritionist who can formulate a diet specifically for your dog. There are a couple of online resources where you can do this:

    Here are a couple:

  9. Me says:

    I’ve had a veterinary nutritionist formulate a renal diet for one of my dogs, however, getting a diet formulated for my other, healthy dog would be expensive. Do you have any thoughts on rotational feeding (as in not the same carb, fiber, and protein all the time)? Perhaps supplemented with Balance-It original formula?

  10. Deb says:

    Thank you, this is a great list! The Merck Veterinary Manual has the complete list of AAFCO and NRC nutritional requirements for cats and dogs, along with an explanation of the various classes of nutrients, their sources, energy and caloric requirements, etc.

  11. thekitty says:

    Thank you. I would take of the World Small Animal Veterinary Association website as “reliable” seeing as how it is partnered with major pet food companies. I wouldn’t want any conflicts of interest!

  12. skeptvet says:

    That, of course, assumes that the information provided but the SAVA, or by pet food companies for that matter, is inaccurate. accepting funding odes introduce the potential for bias, but it’s not an automatic disqualification for scientific information.Show me a particular inaccuracy based on peer-reviewed evidence, and I will be happy to acknowledge it.

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