Nutritional Consultation FAQs

1)    What is the purpose of nutrition consultation?

a)    A nutrition consultation is performed to help pet owners determine the best feeding options for their dog(s). A primary care veterinarian may also contact a certified nutritionist on the behalf of their client and patient for the same purpose.


2)    I have an overweight dog who desperately needs to lose weight and my vet recommended a prescription food that contains mainly cornmeal and peanut hulls, is this really the way to go? I don’t feel comfortable feeding this to my dog.

a)    Peanut hulls in “weight loss” dog foods don’t have any nutritional value whatsoever and only provide bulk to fill up your dog. Think of it as similar to adding a few shredded sheets of newspaper to your morning cereal – your stomach will feel full and you might eat less, but do you want to eat that? And will such a meal leave you satisfied?

b)    If your dog needs to lose a few pounds, there are better, healthier ways to accomplish that than depriving him or her of tasty, healthy food. For many dogs who lead a leisurely life in comfort, their meals are something to look forward to, something that livens up their daily routine and gets them excited. Why take that away from them? To lose weight, a dog must consume less calories than the body needs to maintain weight, so you have to either decrease food intake or increase exercise, or both. If a dog is so overweight that normal exercise (walks, playing fetch etc.) would pose a risk of injury, modifying the diet is the only viable approach outside of low-impact exercise like swimming.

c)    While not all commercial foods contain poor quality fillers like peanut or soybean hulls, most pet food companies still steer consumers to low-protein, low-fat food formulations full of unnecessary carbohydrates. Those foods are not really conductive for weight loss, but provide a large profit margin for manufacturers because grains are cheaper than meat ingredients, especially good quality ones. Luckily it’s not difficult at all to make a few changes to your dog’s diet that will help him or her to reach the ideal weight while still providing healthy, tasty, food without questionable ingredients.


3)    Do you have a list of high quality dog foods or supplements that you recommend?

a)    No, we do not provide a list of “Top 10 foods” or anything similar. We focus on the application of the Volhard diets and supplements. We do recommend other products if we feel they are suitable for your dog and complement the Volhard feeding protocol. Just like humans, all dogs are individuals with different requirements and just because some do well on a particular brand does not mean it’s ideal for every dog.

b)    When you book a consultation, you will be sent a detailed questionnaire so we can learn as much as possible about you and your dog. After you complete it and send it back to us, you will receive detailed suggestions for improvements. These improvements will equate to about as much money as you would pay for a bag of high-end dog food.

c)    Available Consultation Packages include a list of quality food, treat, and supplement products suitable for your dog’s individual needs as well as answers to other food-related questions you may have.


4)    My veterinarian has recommended a specialized diet (aka, `therapeutic” or “prescription '' diet) that my pet doesn’t want to eat. I do not feel comfortable feeding this food.

a)    You want the best for your pets and when they're sick, sometimes that means buying expensive prescription pet food. Because that food requires a prescription from your vet, it's reasonable to think you're buying medically necessary, pure, high-quality active ingredients to make your pet well. However, what you’re actually getting may be a hard pill to swallow. “There is no medicine in prescription pet foods. There's nothing ‘prescription’ in the food at all,” said Dr. Karen Becker. Because of the ingredients they use - mostly synthetic vitamins and minerals and low quality proteins and fillers, palatability is a huge issue. A prescription diet might be a short term solution, contact us for a long term solution that will not create additional problems to the one you are fixing.


5)    My dog suffers from two or more conditions that require different (and even competing) specialized diets.

a)    It’s not uncommon for pets to require one diet for their body’s propensity to form urinary stones and another to help manage their diabetes, food allergies, and/or dietary intolerances. When this happens you shouldn’t stress. Consider it a perfect opportunity to consult a VDN nutritionist!


6)    There’s nothing specifically wrong, but my dog doesn’t seem to thrive on any one diet.

a)    Nutrition is truly the foundation of health. Low-quality food will not allow the body to thrive. We help you read an ingredient label and understand what “junk” dog food looks like. This allows you to make an informed decision about your dog’s nutritional goals. We will recommend the VDN diet we think your dog will thrive on and help you transition if that's what you choose.


7)    I make very specific dietary choices for my family and want to extend those to my dog, is that appropriate?

a)    We are a holistic family. How can I do this with my dog too?

i)        Holistic dog foods are foods that are balanced. Not only to provide dogs with optimal nutrition, but also to support overall well-being. Ingredients are selected with their unique purpose in mind. Whether it is to provide high levels of fatty acids or to include more digestible proteins, ingredients are purposefully included. Since every individual dog has different nutritional needs, there is a significant degree of variation among types of holistic dog food blends.

ii)       Dogs fed low-quality kibble may appear to have dull eyes, a flat non-shiny coat, a lack of energy, excessive defecation, flatulence and digestive complaints.

b)    We are Vegetarian. Can my dog eat strictly vegetarian food?

i)        No. Dogs are in the Order Carnivora, however physiologically (in body function) we know that they can digest certain plant proteins if sourced correctly, processed appropriately, and are fed in the right ratio. The dog's digestive tract is not long enough to only digest grains and plant proteins. Dog’s are physically built to eat meat. Grains in the gut create acidity/alkalinity issues. Dogs need organ meat to provide necessary whole food vitamins and minerals.

ii)       They can thrive on a wide variety of foods. This is an evolutionary advantage that they developed as they ate scraps from our ancestors. We at VDN do not recommend a strictly vegetarian diet for dogs.


8)    My dog has been experiencing anxiety. How can nutrition help?

a)    We have yet to meet a dog that doesn’t experience some form of anxiety whilst living in a 21st century home. Not only can anxiety be experience-driven, but we have discovered like humans, certain genetic mutations may be present when forming or degrading neurotransmitters in the body. We have also found that forms of anxiety and depression can be created or accelerated from cytokine inflammation in the body. Depression, anxiety, and general mood are also closely linked to poor gut microbiota and the gut-brain axis. We often incorporate a naturopathic wellness package that encompasses lifestyle changes and incorporates a fresh diet, genetic checks, nutritional deficiency tests and functional medicine.


9)    My dog has arthritis and their mobility is hampered- how can I help them using food?

a)    Arthritis can be due to genetics, poor breeding (although arguably this could be down to genetics also), being overweight, small breeds with short legs and long backs, large breeds, old age and of course general wear and tear with extremely active dogs. Extensive research in humans has shown certain foods such as wheat, gluten, dairy, legumes and rice can cause issues in the integrity of the gut lining called the ‘one cell epithelial’. ‘Leaky gut syndrome’ has been linked to many inflammatory conditions such as arthritis. A specific raw/ketogenic diet, herbs and nutraceuticals can significantly reduce inflammation, stiffness, pain, and further degradation.


10) My dog has been experiencing digestive issues such as diarrhea, constipation,   and anal gland issues. How can nutrition help symptoms of an overactive immune system, possibly caused by parasites, pathogens, food intolerances or allergens?

a)    There can be further immune complication such as intestinal bowel disease (IBD) when the digestive lining becomes inflamed and/or ulcerated. Over 70% of the immune system resides in the gut, so understanding digestive issues and what is going on is imperative in managing symptoms and disease. We look at a wide range of approaches and protocols from elimination diets, food testing, cytokine testing, nutritional deficiencies, immune support, gut healing and replenishment. Reasons can be simple or complicated but often greatly influenced by genetics and the environment.


11) My dog will not stop itching. I have been told they may have food intolerances.

a)    Itching is one of the most prevalent problems seen by vets today. It’s become our life’s work to understand how and why this happens, as we receive clients every day with the same issues. A complex understanding of the allergic pathophysiology and immunity help us better understand the disease and treat your pet, naturally and successfully. In short, itching and allergies are due to an overactive and underachieving immune system, influenced by genetics, nutrition, and the environment.

b)    At VDN, we understand that regardless of what your dog is reacting to, it’s ultimately about modulating the immune response. We always start from ground zero helping to find the offending culprit, working with the Volhard natural diet, possible elimination diets, nutritional deficiency tests, immune support, supplements and many lifestyle changes to help achieve an itch-free pet.


12) My dog has been diagnosed with either a kidney or bladder disorder? Help?

a)    Although two very different diseases, we often use the same types of natural diet and supplement protocols to help support these difficult diseases, depending on the individual pet. We’ve discovered some tremendously helpful protocols. Despite research and veterinarians pointing to low protein diets in both diseases, we have found it’s the quality and easy assimilation of good and easily digestible protein over low amounts and poor quality protein.

b)    We can support your pet with a specified and researched natural and fresh diet, supplementation and lifestyle changes that are imperative to such a disease.


13) I need to switch foods. My dog has been diagnosed with pancreatitis!

a)    Pancreatitis is almost 50% more commonly found in dogs than in humans (most likely due to ultra-processed foods). Acute and chronic pancreatitis are dynamic inflammatory processes. Immune cells play a critical role in pancreatitis and understanding the process your pet is going through is integral to an effective plan.

b)    Pancreatitis is often considered in isolation to digestive issues or bowel disease, however, it is closely related to digestion and liver function. Leaky gut is linked to many disease states and closely correlated to a lowered gut immunity in pancreatitis. Gut integrity can become compromised by inappropriate foods, food intolerances, allergens, poor microbiota, dysbiosis, parasites, toxins and so much more.

c)    Whilst at the beginning of treatment we consider an appropriate fresh, low-fat diet, there are many fresh foods and supplements that can be given, that defy the conventional method of a solely bland and fat-free diet.


14) My Vet has told me my dog has stones and a UTI- now what?

a)    Dogs can be prone to developing urinary ‘stones’ and infection called UTI’s. There are different types of stone composed of different minerals and compounds. Examples of these are struvite, calcium oxalate, urate and cystine. These stones form due to urine pH, output, genetics and other factors.

b)    Your dog can also suffer from a bacterial infection in their urinary system, leading to discomfort in the lower urinary tract. Urinary incontinence, congenital anatomic abnormalities and tumors are amongst other conditions that may affect the urinary tract in dogs.

c)    Our approach isn’t just about following a particular fresh diet but understanding the deeper issues such as poor microbiota, food intolerances, food allergies, gut dysbiosis, hormonal changes and endocrine disruption, that may be the contributing trigger.


15) I am confused with the increasingly opposing information on the best foods for my dog? I want to optimize my dog’s diet and have an expert take the confusion out of the stressful decision?

a)      It’s difficult for consumers to keep up with the evolving science and theories; no wonder we get confused. With dog food, the situation is even more complex.

b)    The internet and other media outlets are rife with articles about dog food and nutrition, dog food ratings and reviews, blogs and the like – many authored, again, by those well-meaning but uninformed people who don’t know all that much about dog food formulation or nutrition science. And why would they, or how could they?

c)    The nutritionists at VDN study nutrition regularly and follow the science. We can help demystify the marketing and hype, and we help you interpret the ingredient list. Many pet owners select diets based on ingredients in the ingredient list that sound good to them, rather than on the diets that are most nutritious and made with the best nutritional expertise and quality control. Pets need nutrients, not ingredients.

d)    Remember some of the warehouse pet stores make recommendations by store employees that may be promoting the food that has the highest profit margin, the store’s private label brand, or the ones with the best marketing, rather than what is really the best food for your pet.


16) How do I know if my home cooked meal is complete and balanced? Am I creating deficiencies? Is it less expensive than buying Volhard?

a)    It’s important homemade dog food is “complete and balanced,” meaning it meets all of the dog’s nutritional needs. This is especially important with a developing puppy. If you are not auditing the diet regularly then you cannot know if the diet is deficient in a particular macro or micro nutrient. Over time deficiencies may cause disease or malformations.

b)    In most cases, it is significantly more expensive to prepare a nutritionally complete diet at home than to purchase a good quality commercial diet, especially for a large dog. Additionally, most owners do not factor in the costs of proper supplements for home-cooked diets, which can cost up to several dollars per day, depending on the size of the dog, on top of the costs of other ingredients.

c)    Prep time is also an expense as you need to constantly prepare ingredients, shop and store food.

d)    Because home-cooked diets are not tested for safety and nutritional adequacy like most commercial diets, even healthy dogs eating home-cooked diets should have more frequent veterinary visits and laboratory tests (blood work, urine testing, HTMA testing) than similar dogs eating commercial diets, which also add to the expense.