Grain Free Pet-Food: Fact or Fiction

The Misperceptions

There are some frequently misperceptions about grains in pet foods. Here are some of the most common ones...

 

Whole grains may be fillers in pet foods...

Filler implies the ingredient has little or no nutritional value but whole grains do contribute vital nutrients such as vitamins, minerals, and essential fatty acids to pet foods. Various grain products also provide protein, which may be easier for the pet to digest than some proteins from meat. Most dogs and cats (>90%) can utilize and digest nutrients from grains normally found in pet foods.

Grain-free pet foods are carbohydrate-free...

Grain-free pet foods typically contain carbohydrates from other sources such as sweet potatoes, which have a higher carbohydrate level than corn. Grains are carbohydrates, which are an important energy source, and one of the 6 basic nutrients (ie, water, protein, fat, carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals).

Grain-free pet foods are generally lower in fat...

Because there are so many grain-free diets on the market, this means a variety of nutritional profiles, which affects not only carbohydrates but also protein, fat, and other nutrients. Grain-free diets lower in carbohydrates may actually indicate a higher amount of fat and calories. Some grain-free diets merely substitute grain with highly refined starches (eg, potatoes, cassava) that may deliver fewer nutrients and less fiber than whole grains and are not considered cost-efficient. In other grain-free products, the grains are replaced with beans, peas, or lentils, which may provide carbohydrates but are not necessarily any better for pets than grains and may lead to GI upset.

Grains cause food allergies...

Food allergies and insensitivities are abnormal responses to a normal food or ingredient. Food allergies in pets are uncommon (ie, <1% of skin disease, <10% of all allergies) and grain allergies are even more uncommon. The significant factors in the few pets diagnosed with a food allergy are more likely animal protein (eg, chicken, beef, dairy), which reflects the commonality of ingredients in pet foods rather than their increased tendency to cause allergies.

Grains cause gluten intolerance...

Celiac disease is an inherited autoimmune disease seen in humans that has been associated with hypersensitivity to gluten proteins in wheat and related grains such as barley and rye. Gluten intolerance is extremely rare in dogs and nonexistent in cats. Only one inbred family of Irish Setters is known to have manifested GI signs from consuming gluten.

Still have questions?

We can help! You can chat with us on Facebook Messenger or come in to see us to discuss more about better nutrition for your pet. But remember, nutrition is only part of the equation for a healthy pet! Exercise, socialization at a young age, companionship, regular veterinary visits, consistent year-round preventatives and more are all important too!