Find out if unusual dog food ingredients can help improve your pet's health.

Cailin R. Heinze, VMD, MS, DACVN, Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University @C_HeinzeVMD

Find out if unusual dog food ingredients can help improve your pet's health.

Venison, kangaroo, alligator, duck, rabbit, bison and even eel-these are all trendy exotic meats you may be seeing in pet foods. At the same time, it seems more common proteins like chicken, tuna and beef have earned a bad rep. Pet owners often buy foods containing exotic meats because they believe their pet suffers from a food allergy or they think that these more unusual meats may be "easier to digest."

Yet food allergies are actually pretty uncommon in pets-less than 1% of pets suffer from a real food allergy. Most gastrointestinal and skin issues are actually due to other factors in the diet, such as too much fat or not enough fiber-or they are caused by environmental allergens, such as pollen. In addition, there's no science to show that exotic meats are easier to digest than more common proteins.

Bottom line: Exotic meats can be expensive and are no more nutritious than conventional meats. If you think your pet has GI issues or an allergy, talk with your vet; diagnosing a food allergy requires feeding a specific diet that warrants vet supervision. If your pet does have a food allergy, you'll need to feed your pet a protein it's never eaten before-and that's when exotic meats can be helpful.

Cailin R. Heinze, VMD, MS, DACVN, is an Assistant Professor, Clinical Nutrition Service, Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University

July/August 2014
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