Common Truths and Misconceptions about Grain-Free Pet Food
There is no doubt that the pet food market has seen huge growth over the last few years. One of the largest areas of growth in pet food recently has been those diets that are “grain-free.” I would like to address the common truths and misconceptions about grain-free diets and to caution owners that grain-free diets are not always the correct diet for your pet. Grain-free diets do not offer any more health benefits than traditional diets that include grains.
Grains are Not Just Fillers
I believe one of the biggest reasons pet owners will turn to grain-free diets for their dogs and cats is because they believe that grains only serve as “fillers” in their animals’ diets. This is not true. Many grains can contribute essential fatty acids, vitamins, and minerals as well as some portion of good quality protein for pets. Many of these grain proteins can be more easily digested by pets than some meat proteins. So the theory that grains are only fillers simply is not true. We must also remember that grain-free diets are not carbohydrate free diets Sweet potatoes contain more carbohydrates than corn does, so a grain-free diet can be higher in sugars than one that contains grains.
Many owners feed grain-free diets because they believe their animals have food allergies. Current studies show that food allergies account for less than 10% of pets’ allergies and less than 1% of pet’s skin diseases are food allergy driven. Food allergic pets often have vomiting and diarrhea. Most food allergies are driven by animal proteins like dairy, beef, and chicken rather than corn or rice or barley.
Pet Food Requirements Have Not Changed
Another concern about the rapid development of diets that are grain-free is that many of these diets have not been fed in commercial feeding trials and are only diets whose formulas have been computer generated. AAFCO, the governing body over pet food, has not changed their requirements for ingredients safety or testing. Many of the grain-free diets also have higher fat and calorie levels which can mean unhealthy weight gain in pets if these diets are not fed appropriately. Some grain-free diets that contain peas or beans can lead to a higher risk of GI upset in pets. Gluten intolerance is extremely rare in dogs and cats and does not justify unproven, gluten-free diets.
We Can Assist in Finding the Right Pet Food
If you as a pet owner want to feed a grain-free dog or cat food, please be sure to consult with our veterinary team members so that they may assist you in finding properly balanced grain-free diets that will fit the needs of your pet.