You can find sensational and frightening headlines everywhere. Self proclaimed consumer advocates dedicate lots of time on a myriad of causes ranging from how you should not live near power lines to what chemicals are creeping into your food when you microwave it. The scariest stories catch the most attention and they are the ones that go “viral”. If you watch social media, you can kill fleas with baking soda mixtures and cure cancers with a colon cleanse. We all know that if it were that easy, our world would be a very different place. These people prey on our hopes and desires to find a “quick fix”. 

How do you know which ones have merit? I cannot tell you whether or not you should be afraid of many things, but I can tell you if I think your pet needs to be on a grain free diet. Your veterinarian can help you with this issue.  I will not use my psychic powers or my crystal ball to tell you though, because there is no shortcut.  I will employ my other "magic powers" in the form of diagnostic equipment and medical training.  If a breeder or a self proclaimed nutrition expert tells you that your pet requires a grain free diet, you need to ask to see the results of the food trial and diagnostic testing.  You also need to know the name of the veterinary professional that made the diagnosis for future reference because if your pet is truly allergic to grains, it will be a lifelong challenge. I am not sure why it is such a "hot topic" and I know how convincing these headlines are, but I am telling you that you can spend A LOT of money and time searching for special diets that your pet will eat and you may be burning your money and your time. Spend your money on premium pet food.  I am certainly a believer in "you are what you eat" so high quality diets are vital to good health, but it is much harder to have a nutritionally complete diet when certain ingredients have to be avoided. Spend your time reading labels and talking with your veterinarian. Being "grain free" is difficult and expensive.  Just make sure that this is the place that you really need to pour your time and money.  I searched the web and my medical charts to find out how many pets are truly grain allergic and I found several internet sites (not posted by veterinarians) that all say "many". I do not know exactly the number they mean, but "many" is not accurate. They cite no medical sources. In my experience during 16 years of clinical small animal practice and 2 month medical externship specifically with a veterinary allergist, it is a rare diagnosis and a very common misconception based on anecdotal evidence. 

The greatest "consumer advocate" is your vet.  He or she KNOWS your pet and knows you. With a few publicized exceptions, veterinarians are like other animal lovers...good people with big hearts. We will always try to help you wade through all the free advice out there and choose what is right for you and your pet. 

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Dr. Kathryn Primm is a veterinarian and author. Her first book is Tennessee Tails: Pets and Their People, and you can visit her author site at http://www.drprimm.com/