Grain Free Diets! Are They Worthwhile!


Grain Free Pet Food Diets! Are they good?

In veterinary medicine, nutrition can play a key role in a pet’s overall health. We use a number of diet types to help us achieve good health depending on what the pet’s underlying problem is. Two common ailments that we address with diet are: Food Allergy Dermatitis and Digestive Upset. In this article I hope to touch on the strategies for treating these two conditions through nutrition, and tie in what role grain free diets play. Grain Free Diets are marketed aggressively, but their value is ambiguous. There may truly be value in them, but some skepticism is warranted.



For Food Allergy Dermatitis the strategy is first to diagnose if the pet truly has a Food Allergy. How we do this is by putting them on a very specific/ hypoallergenic diet for 6 plus weeks, with no treats, no anything – just the specific hypoallergenic diet. If their skin condition improves then we have evidence that there is an underlying Food Allergy Dermatitis.

The diet itself is a single novel protein source and a single novel carbohydrate source. By ‘novel‘ we mean using sources that are uncommon which the pet is unlikely to have ever been exposed to. Since the body has never been exposed to these sources, it is unlikely to have developed an allergy to it. We have a number of commercial hypoallergenic diets that we sell, the most common is Duck and Potato. The Duck is a protein source that most dogs have never been exposed to and Potato is a carbohydrate source that most dogs have never been exposed to. Some pet stores carry similar products and in some cases they are reasonably good, however the diets we carry have very specific ingredients that are never substituted and the machines that they are processed on are committed to only that line of food so that there can be no cross contamination.



For Digestive Upset we use a couple of different strategies : hypoallergenic, bland, high fiber, and (possibly) grain free. The hypoallergenic diet is just like above, a single novel protein source and a single novel carbohydrate source. We have the pet fed this as an exclusive dietary trial hoping to see improvement in the digestive problem.

Bland food is another strategy we use for digestive upset. With this diet we are not trying to provide a hypoallergenic food – we are merely feeding food that is very easy for the gastrointestinal system to digest. We are not worried about the protein and carbohydrate sources, just whether the ingredients are easy to digest. Chicken and rice are commonly used, but diets commonly have corn, beef, etc in them too.

Hi Fiber food can be beneficial for certain digestive diseases. Again, in this circumstance, we are less concerned about the protein and carbohydrate sources and more concerned about the fiber level and how digestible the fiber is.


Now then, where do Grain Free Diets fit into all of this?

Gluten free diets have become a very useful tool for treating human problems. Some people have true  Celiac Disease and their gastrointestinal system reacts badly to gluten, so they cannot have it. Some people have sensitivities to gluten and their gastrointestinal system simply functions better without it. In our little group here at Q Street Animal Hospital we have 4 out of 11 that are on gluten free diets. It is a genuine dietary issue for humans, so it is reasonable to think that it is a dietary issue for our pets. Do pet’s benefit from gluten free diets??? = The ‘verdict is still out’. There is not widely accepted information to support this. I believe many pet foods are loosely associating ‘grain free’ with ‘gluten free’, and they genuinely are similar in many respects. SO, there may truly be benefits from using a grain free diet in pets. Some pet’s may digest it easier and have improved overall conditions. BUT, it’s a bit vague.

  1. CLEARLY, ‘grain free’ diets are not hypoallergenic diets (because they do not use single novel carbohydrate and protein sources)
  2. NOT so clearly, are they bland and easy to digest?  They vary, and that is not their focus.
  3. NOT so clearly, are they high in digestible fiber?  They vary, and that is not their focus.
  4. Vaguely – some individual patients may genuinely benefit from a grain free diet, especially when we consider how much (somewhat similar) gluten free diets help people.


There can genuinely be some value in Grain Free Diets, but it is a little vague. The value in it is more borrowed from the value that gluten free diets provide for people. More than anything it is a marketing tool. Many people have embraced the idea of Grain Free Diets and I don’t want to discourage them, but I do want them to seek solid information and to be skeptical!

PS – I have not specifically addressed cats! In general terms all the same things apply, but their diets are much more hotly debated and rightfully so = they are true carnivores (eat meat) whereas dogs are omnivores (eat lots of stuff). Maybe we can do a whole article on that some time in the future.

At Home Dog Neuter Attempt

At the beginning of November a Pit Bull mix was abandoned in front of Safeway. A good Samaritan saw that the dog needed help and rescued him. The dog is young (around a year old) and very sweet. We are calling him “Buddy”. He was not only lucky to be rescued because he was abandoned but because he also had a gaping wound where his scrotum should be and he needed medical care. We were able to provide corrective surgery, treat with antibiotics, and he is now happily healing. This wonderful lady that rescued him is caring for him, but cannot keep him. She is working with Luvabull Rescue group to find him a home. He is young, healthy, and very friendly – so we believe he will find a good home soon.



The reason I’m writing about this (not just because it seems to have a happy ending) is that there is an educational opportunity here. The previous owner of Buddy tried to neuter him using a technique called ‘Banding’. Banding is a routinely done method for neutering livestock, mainly young sheep and cattle. The tight rubber band restricts circulation causing the scrotum and testicles to shrivel and eventually just fall off with little complication. Unfortunately sometimes it occurs to people that if it works on sheep and cattle, why not on a dog! So we’ve seen a few cases like this over the years and I’ve spoken to colleagues in the profession that have seen numerous cases as well. The problem is that it doesn’t work on dogs. They’re anatomy is different enough such that instead of cutting off circulation, the band just cuts into the skin creating a large wound. Dog’s lick the wound and inadvertently perpetuate infection. So . . .  it’s a mess!



We just want to pass the word and try to educate people that ‘Banding’ is not an acceptable way to neuter dogs. From a legal standpoint it is considered animal abuse. There are readily available avenues for neutering in our community. We perform many surgeries including neutering, we use safe anesthetic protocols, sterile surgical technique, plus pre and post operative pain control. We do our best to provide this at a discounted service to encourage spaying and neutering for the sake of reducing pet over-population problems. Even though we do our best to keep costs down, understandably they can be a limitation for some people. We are fortunate to have two low cost spay and neuter clinics in our area, Willamette Animal Guild and Eugene Spay and Neuter Clinic. So, people have numerous options.



In Buddy’s case we feel that he’s had the best possible outcome (not that more dogs should be abandoned at Safeway!).  A great deal of credit goes to our good Samaritan who rescued him, is fostering him, authorized us to do corrective surgery, and is coordinating with Luvabull to find him a home. We are glad to have played a roll in his happy outcome (anticipating that it will continue to be a happy outcome!). If you would like to contact Luvabull, their information is =

Rescue Group Pets That We’ve Helped With : Photos and Excerpts

We work with a number of shelter organizations and rescue groups in the area : most notably West Coast Dog and Cat Rescue, Luv-A-Bull and Luv-A-Little, Lane County Animal Service, Greenhill Humane Society, and Willamette Animal Guild. The following are photos and excerpts on rescue pets that we have helped with.


Meet Tyler, a young – soon to be neutered – male cat. A little skittish, but sweet. With a little time and a loving home, he’s going to be a great cat/ friend for somebody. He came to us for general health care and will be available for adoption through West Coast Cat and Dog rescue.





This is Myconos, an approximately 2 year old neutered male cat that came to us from West Coast Dog and Cat Rescue group. Very nice cat, ready to be adopted.



One of our team members, Brandy, has been fostering a pregnant cat (Daphne). These adorable kittens were born just last week. Brandy’s daughter named them, MacKenzie, Melissa, Kristina, Autumn, and Stacey (wonder where she got those names?) Daphne and the kittens are West Coast Cat and Dog Rescue pets. They will be open to adoption through ‘West Coast’ soon!
Meet Beau! He is a LuvABull rescue dog. He is incredibly sweet! He visited us to get some radiographs done. Everything checked out good! He has some stiffness issues that are vague. We (Q Street and LuvABull) are still in the process of trying to figure out why he has musculo-skeletal pain and stiffness.






West Coast Dog and Cat Rescue took in 5 cats from a hoarding situation. We got to know (and care for) 4 of them; Curacoa Meow, Kitty St. Kitts, Oahu 2, and Maui. They are all sweet. The two that are pictured are Curacao Meow and Kitty St. Kitts (coolest names ever).











This is Whitney. She is a Lane County Animal Shelter Cat. Whitney just had surgery to remove cancer from her ear tips. White cats are prone to sunburn and subsequent skin cancer (squamous cell carcinoma). Fortunately, most case respond well to having the cancerous area removed. She is sweet and should heal quickly, THEN, she’ll be looking for a new home!








Meet Peaches 2. This is kind of a funny picture, don’t be fooled she’s not hissing – she was very well behaved. Just caught her in a funny pose. She is from West Coast Dog and Cat Rescue group. We provided basic service care for her, getting her ready to be adopted. She is looking for a home.










Meet So Shai. She is a shy yet very sweet dog being cared for by Luv-A-Bull / Luv-A-Little rescue group. She stayed with us for a day and had a combined procedure in which we spayed her and performed some corrective work on her teeth (extracted baby teeth that had never fallen out and were causing periodontal disease around the canine teeth). If she isn’t already spoken for, she’ll be looking for a home too.







These are some kittens in foster care with West Coast Dog and Cat rescue. They are young and very sweet (barely hold still for a picture). They are healthy and in a couple months they’ll be looking for a good home.









This is Peabody. He is a very friendly cat that was at Lane County Animal Service and is now in the care of West Coast Dog and Cat Rescue group. He was visiting us to evaluate his eye condition = Entropion (lower eyelids roll in and the hair rubs the eye). He is a good candidate for corrective surgery and will likely have it done soon.










Meet Cookie. A young poodle from our friends at the rescue group Luv-A-Bull / Luv-A-Little that needed some dental work. Very sweet dog that after a little visit here has all healthy teeth (extracted a few incisors and cleaned all the rest).










This is Hugo. He’s a rescue kitty from West Coast Dog and Cat Rescue. He has a scarred right eye which is stable. He has a scarred right ear too, it was so damaged that the ear canal was completely occluded and predisposed to constant ear infections. We did a surgery called a Lateral Ear Wall Resection to open up the ear canal and relieve the underlying predisposition to ear infections. He’s been a great patient and we look forward to seeing how he looks as it heals (it looks a bit rough right now – so our picture is of his “good side”!). Hopefully we’ll get to take a follow up picture in a couple weeks.








Meet Truman. He is a rescue kitty from West Coast Dog and Cat Rescue. We provided some basic veterinary care for him today. He has a healing abscess on his right cheek, he was recently neutered, and is FIV positive. He was a fighter, now he’s a “lover” (and needs a home).








Meet Luna. She visited us today for some basic veterinary care. She is from the rescue group = West Coast Dog and Cat Rescue. She needs a home and is very sweet. She is deaf and has some special needs



MAY 2012 Newsletter

Q Street Animal Hospital Newsletter May 2012

Happy spring to everyone,

This past February and March we offered a special on Dentals 10% off! (which included the dental, extractions, dental radiographs, antibiotics, and pain medication if needed). We had a great response and did 60 + dentals and normally would do maybe 20 in that same time frame. We feel like we were able to offer a worthwhile value and numerous people were able to take advantage of the opportunity.

The down side was that we’ve been realizing that there were even more people that wanted to do it, but didn’t know about it. So, we decided to offer the same deal for May! And to advertise it better, with a newsletter, facebook updating, and web-page notification ( Please visit our web page and in the featured articles section there is an article on dentals which explains why dentals are so important, it also explains the anesthesia, and the dental procedure.




Other noteworthy items from the writer and editor here at Q Street Animal Hospital:

For Dog Owners

  • Flea season is upon us. Quality flea products                                                                   can be a tremendous help, but there are so many products. Some products combine features such as heartworm  prevention, tic control, and ear mite elimination. As a part of our exams we can help tailor the right product to your pets needs.
  • Skin and ear allergies with secondary infections are everyday conditions that we see. If your pet’s ears are smelly and/ or if their skin is itchy with rashes = bring them in. Skin and ear conditions can be challenging, but in the vast majority of cases we can achieve dramatic improvement.




For Cat Owners         

  • Fleas again are a big issue. Most cats respond well to consistent monthly flea product use. Although, some products have not been working as well as they used to – so be sure to discuss it with us in your next exam.
  • Yearly exams to check your cat’s health helps us to know your cat better and to catch problems early. Updating vaccines can be very important for preventing contagious diseases. Vaccine protocols vary depending on your cat’s exposure level and figuring out which vaccines are appropriate for your pet is best determined within an exam.
  • Outdoor cats roam and get into more trouble in the warmer months. We see a lot of cats that get nasty bite wound abscesses from late night fights.  Ideally try to bring them inside at night, this will reduce the likelihood of bite wounds substantially. Some bite wounds seal over and fester for days, the abscess meanwhile causes surrounding tissue to necrose and eventually slough. Whenever possible, bring them in for an exam if you know they got into a fight. We can usually find the wounds and treat them before they go through any “festering” process.




Enough talk about gross stuff. Again, please check out our Website ( There are not only featured articles on Dentals, but on Skin and Ear disease as well. There is also a medical library that is great for looking up specific disease conditions. Plus there are numerous links. For FUN, check us out on facebook!










Q Street Animal Hospital

Good 'ol one eyed Reuben

Newsletter   Feb. 2012

Happy 2012 to everyone. Hopefully the New Year is treating you and your pets well! Getting to know you, our clients, is an ongoing privilege and caring for your pets is our passion. We look forward to seeing you and your pets in 2012.




We have a few new things to share: Laura, one of our certified veterinary technicians who has been with us for 3 years, has moved on. She has taken a management job with the City of Eugene Spay and Neuter Clinic. We wish her well and thank her for all of her hard work. At the same time we welcome Demi, a certified veterinary technician with many years of experience. She is settling in and doing a great job. Our last bit of news is that we are now seeing Rabbits, Rats, Guinea Pigs, Hamsters, and Gerbils!






Rescue Kittens

Community Services For the past 7 years the doctors and medical team have strived to make improvements and be progressive. We’ve made many changes to the practice to better serve our clients. Many of you don’t know that we are also committed and involved in many community services.

  • Greenhill Humane Society – We help out as needed, providing radiographs and some medical care. Dr. Swanson has served on the board of directors and helped set up their current surgery suite.
  • Lane County Animal Services – We’ve gotten to know many of our fellow colleagues there. We intermittently provide medical and surgical care to patients.
  • WAG (Willamette Animal Guild) – Our practice manager serves on the board of directors, doing her part to diminish dog and cat over-population issues.
  • West Coast Dog and Cat Rescue – We’ve had a close relation ship over the past 2 years, providing medical and surgical treatments to over 100 patients.
  • Luv-a-Bull – We’ve enjoyed getting to know and develop a relationship more recently with them. We’ve treated over 30 patients within the last year.
  • Greenhill Humane Society TNR (Trap, Neuter, Release) program – We donate time spaying and neutering feral cats.
  • ProBono – We donated products and provide services for them as well.





Grade 3 dental disease

February is Dental month, which we will extend through March. Take advantage of this opportunity to make your pet’s mouth feel good and to enhance their overall health AND get 10% off! Whether there are obvious problem teeth or you are simply interested in doing preventative maintenance – give us a call.  If interested, take a look at our featured article on Dental Disease (it includes more pictures like this one and information on how we handle dental disease here at Q Street Animal Hospital).







If you haven’t had a chance, please visit our website at (If you’re reading this = then you’re already here!).  Within the web site there are educational articles, staff information, and a guided photo tour of the clinic. Also, visit our facebook page (Q Street Animal Hospital) and see some fun photos.