Like many pet owners, you may have spent hours researching the best food for your pets, as well as the variety of brands available. You may have discovered that pet food manufacturers have become experts at marketing — they have to, in order to stand out in a packed market. Sometimes, those marketing efforts become confusing to the consumer.

Today, we’re going to wade into the deep waters of pet nutrition and discuss grains and grain-free pet food.

Fact: Whole grains are a healthy source of vitamins, minerals, carbohydrates, essential fatty acids, and protein.

Fact: Grains help keep calories and fat at lower levels in pets foods, according to the Pet Nutrition Alliance (PNA).

Fact: According to the PNA, “Grains provide a good source of fiber, which promotes normal bowel function, maintains the health of the [gastrointestinal] tract, and helps in the management of certain diseases [such as diabetes mellitus and colitis.] 

Let’s review your pet’s basic nutritional needs. Dogs and cats need the following six nutrients in some form:  

  • water
  • vitamins
  • minerals
  • carbohydrates
  • fat
  • protein

Notice that carbohydrates are on the list of basic nutritional needs. Since “carbs” are a necessary part of your pet’s diet (they provide energy), pet food must contain an ingredient which provides this important nutrient. When a pet food manufacturer removes grains as the source of carbohydrates, it must be replaced with something else. Sometimes, the substitution is potatoes, sweet potatoes, or cassava. Other substitutions are beans, peas, or lentils. None of the substitutions are substantially better for your pet than grains, and some may provide less fiber, fewer nutrients, or even cause gastrointestinal problems (vomiting, diarrhea, flatulence.)

Definition: Gluten is a mixture of proteins found in wheat, barley, brewer’s yeast, and rye. (Source)

So how did the grain-free / gluten-free idea show up in pet food? As with other trends in animal health (antioxidants, glucosamine supplements, probiotics), grain-free diets are a carry-over from human health needs. The grain-free diet follows on the heels of an effective celiac disease / gluten intolerance awareness campaign. Relatively few people actually have celiac disease, requiring them to abstain from grains, yet many people (who are unaffected) have applied this diet restriction to themselves. Since pet owners are more conscientious than ever about what they feed their pets, the grain-free trend has shown up in pet food.

Pet food manufacturers are constantly monitoring trends to give the consumer what he or she wants. Does this mean the pet is getting something it needs? Not necessarily. The pet food companies are in the business of selling food. These days, that means hopping on hot topics in order to differentiate themselves in a crowded market. And although pets have been shown to benefit from antioxidants, glucosamine, and probiotics, there is “no credible evidence…showing grain-free diets are better for pets, nor do any nutritional foundations support this claim,” according to veterinary nutrition expert Kara M. Burns.

[End of part 1]

Coming up next: Part 2 – Is there a grain of truth behind the health claims of grain-free pet foods? And should you change your pet’s diet?

This article is based on the peer-reviewed article researched and written by Kara M. Burns, MS, MEd, LVT, VTS — “Grain-Free Pet Foods: Fact vs. Fiction” published in Veterinary Team Brief, Vol. 5, No. 2.

Image courtesy of Vintage Holiday Crafts.


You might also enjoy: Erin Go Bragh, a mini-tour of Ireland, by Jennifer Miele

Therapy dogs are known to be a great help to children who are nervous about reading in front of adults. If you don’t have a dog at home (or even a willing cat), we have good news: Norfolk Public Libraries are on board with therapy dogs to help children read.

Tales to Tails is available at three branches in Norfolk: Barron F. Black Branch (E. Tanners Creek Dr.), Blyden Branch (E. Princess Anne Rd.), and Slover Library (E. Plume St.)

Visit NorfolkPublicLibrary.org for a full list of classes and registration forms.

Click the photo below to enlarge, for more information and to meet a therapy dog!

Hello! If you’re familiar with my normal posting schedule, you know that I normally post to Facebook on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, and save Tuesday & Thursday for blog posts. Today, I’m switching it up a bit, because, despite being a megacompany worth over $200 billion, Facebook is a mis-managed disaster today. I say that because I’ve spent the past hour attempting to post two items to our business page, and Facebook’s “Publish” button refuses to cooperate!


So I now present the Monday “Facebook” posts:

It’s a tie for Sweethearts of the Day:
best buddies Bella and Bentley E.
Lookin’ good, too!


It’s tough to spot the signs of heartworm disease!
Left untreated, heartworm disease
is dangerous for a pet!
Let’s do a simple heartworm test
during your pet’s yearly checkup.
Schedule your pet’s annual exam today
to keep them healthy!
Call us at 757-583-2619.


The Little Theatre of Norfolk is staging the zany British comedy, “Noises Off” — and we’d love you to come experience the wacky world of theatre!

Called the funniest farce ever written, “Noises Off” presents a manic menagerie as a cast of itinerant actors rehearses a flop called “Nothing’s On” – only hours before the curtain goes up. Slamming doors, clattering tea sets, shattering windows, and slippery sardines all figure in the plot of this hilarious and classically comic play. Yet, the show must go on; despite the catastrophe being played out on stage and the vicious antics among the actors backstage.

Following the success of last season’s hit show, “The Women,” director Kathy Strouse returns to helm the madcap action of “Noises Off.” Will the actors be ready to take their places? Will everyone make it out alive? And why in the world are there so many plates of sardines?

During intermission, enter the raffle drawing to win one
of several prizes, including this British-themed gift box,
put together by the show’s producer — Jennifer Miele.

Click to enlarge gift box contents

Click to enlarge gift box

“Noises Off” run every Friday, Saturday, & Sunday from March 10 – April 2, 2017
Friday, Saturday..………………….8:00 P.M.
Sunday Matinee……………………2:30 P.M.
Adult ……………………………………………………$18.00
Senior Citizens, Students, and Military ….…………$15.00
Children under 17………………….…………………..$ 9.00

Get tickets!

Little Theatre of Norfolk
801 Claremont Ave.
Norfolk, VA 23507
(757) 627-8551

Animals + cake = a darn good day.


Get ready for the



March 18, 2017
10:00 am – 4:00 pm

The Virginia Zoo


Come see the First Annual Virginia Zoo Cake-a-thon on Saturday, March 18 from 10 am to 4 pm in the Zoo’s Admin Classroom located next to the Membership Office!

Three different competitors will each create a cake that they feel represents The Virginia Zoo and its mission to help save and protect the world’s wildlife by inspiring a passion for nature and taking conservation action at home and around the world.

Guests are invited to vote on their favorite cake from 1-3 pm, then stick around to taste test the cakes at 4 pm.

*The cost for this event is free with regular paid admission!

The contestants:

Dulce Momentz


Dream Cake