May 23, 2010 - Taking the Guesswork Out of Selecting Healthy Pet Diets

Straightforward facts and simple, accessible ideas for ensuring pets thrive through diet

New York, NY – Americans spend more than $18 billion dollars a year on pet food products, clearly signifying a deep investment in our pets’ nutritional health. Nevertheless, ingredient uncertainty, pet food recalls and the on-going struggle to truly know what foods are best, presents frustrating challenges for pet parents wanting to keep their pets healthy. New York City veterinarian, Francisco DiPolo, D.V.M., C.V.A., of TriBeCa’s Worth Street Veterinary Center, understands the confusion pet owners face and is offering straightforward facts and simple, accessible ideas for ensuring pets thrive through diet.

“These days, pet owners are literally bombarded with industry jargon, food scares and an onslaught of speculation regarding what foods are most beneficial for our family pets,” says Dr. DiPolo. “In 2009 alone, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration recalled 976 pet food items, leaving pet parents concerned and confused. These instances only give us a glimpse at the issues pet owners face when attempting to select healthy pet diets.”
While ongoing improvements in the manufacturing of commercial pet foods seem to indicate a positive shift in the industry, as veterinarians, our experience shows many diets may only maintain life instead of actually promoting optimum health and longevity. A well-balanced diet can be easy to achieve, even for busy New Yorkers!”

Manhattanites, Justine and Martin Hansen love their Lhasa Apso, “Misty,” like a child. Sowhen she developed chronic diarrhea and vomiting and lost interest in food, they consulted with Dr. DiPolo who coached them on creating a nutritional plan that, they say, “literally transformed her.” “Misty is seven-and-a-half years old now and living like a puppy,” explains Justine. “She loves food now, more than ever, and couldn’t be happier. We prepare home cooked meals, like rice, sweet potatoes and boiled chicken, but also give her some good canned foods. Sure, we invest a bit more time in this routine, but witnessing her enjoy life for the first time makes us not think twice about it.”

Image: "Misty"

So, how can pet owners achieve complete nutrition? “The great news for New Yorkers, is that we are surrounded by boutique retailers selling high-quality foods,” says Dr. DiPolo. “I urge my clients to purchase foods that list ingredients that make sense. For example, if a product label shows real vegetables, fiber, a source of protein, fatty acids and vitamins as nutritional information, chances are it’s worth a shot. I’d recommend combining good quality canned or dry food with some homemade nutrients.”

Dr. DiPolo's Top Five Tips for Ensuring a Healthy Pet Diet:

1) Give Raw Vegetables as Snacks – “In dogs, I recommend providing a variety of raw vegetables, including sweet potatoes, green beans, peas, broccoli, carrots, kelp, and alfalfa. Because these are also human foods, they can be purchased at local markets. Cats do well with proteins and fats and adding vegetables to their meals will provide some needed fiber."

2) Add Fatty Acids - “Adding a source of fatty acids, such as a quality human-grade fish oil, is a great idea. I’d recommend a mercury-free brand.”

3) Include a Good Multi-Vitamin - “Yes, they’re available for pets too! Pet owners should consult with their veterinarians as to which brand and dose is best for their pets. There are many readily available to pet owners.”

4) Make them an Occasional Home Cooked Meal (Also the Most Cost Effective)
 - “It may surprise pet owners to know that home cooking can also be the most cost effective. Naturally, cooking for larger dogs can get pricier. People should consult with their family veterinarians concerning recipes that are most suitable for their pets. I always guide my clients on how to prepare homemade meals and suggest pet owners do plenty of research before getting started.”

5) Provide Supplements - “Supplements are a good way to address potential nutritional imbalances. This isn't an exact science and every pet is different. I tend to conduct a BioNutrional Analysis (BNA). A BNA looks at minor deviations from an ideal number in a pet’s blood, which can indicate certain nutritional imbalances. With this knowledge, it is often much easier to pinpoint and adjust specific requirements of an individual pet.”

A peek into why mass-marketed foods often miss dietary needs:
According to Dr. DiPolo, “Food issues often start with nutrient and mineral deficient agricultural soils. That deficiency can transfer to crops and inevitably compounding in the processing of commercial foods,” which he says “is just the tip of the iceberg.” Nutritional experts across the country conclude mineral deficiencies alone subject animals, as well as humans, to more diseases, premature aging and a variety of sicknesses. 

Dr. DiPolo’s best advice for pet owners is to trust their instincts and understand their options. “As a rule of thumb, look for recognizable ingredients. The best pet foods are made with the kinds of ingredients we’d be willing to serve our human families. Doing so can ensure pets live long and full lives. After all, who wouldn’t want to make sure their best friends live the best lives possible?”

Media Opportunities: Francisco DiPolo, D.V.M., C.V.A., is available for interview. Please contact Julie Robbins at (626) 981-3342 or [email protected].

Image: Dr. Francisco DiPolo and patient

About Worth Street Veterinary Center:
Worth Street Veterinary Center was founded with a mission of providing New York City pets with the best, most compassionate and greenest veterinary care possible. Located at 77 Worth Street in a beautiful landmark building, the hospital offers modern conveniences for pet owners and top-notch integrative medicine for pets. A pick up and delivery service accommodates the busy schedules of New York pet owners, while the most advanced medical and surgical practices combined with time-tested holistic treatments provide a positive and comprehensive veterinary experience for pets. The building’s veterinary partners include a groomer, doggie day care, agility training for dogs and hydro and physical therapy for dogs, making Worth Street Veterinary Center a one stop shop for pets of all ages, health levels and physical needs. Worth Street Veterinary Center is located at 77 Worth Street in TriBeCa. For more information, please visit