How to Spot a Good Pet Food – Part 2
Grain-free foods fad or fact?
Grain-free diets are rising in popularity, with many pet owners believing them to be the ‘best’ or ‘healthiest’ food for their pets. So, how beneficial are grain-free foods for our pets or are they just a fad? To help you decide here is the low-down on what’s what in the world of grain-free foods.
Why are grains used in commercial pet food?
Grains such as rice
, maize (corn)
are commonly used in commercial pet foods. They contain carbohydrates and are often, rather unfairly, thought of as ‘fillers’ by many pet owners and a hallmark of an inferior quality food.
Although, carbohydrates are not strictly essential to our pets, they do a lot more than just ‘fill’ your pet up and provide valuable nutrients such as energy
which are needed to fuel your pet as well as help keep their digestive tract healthy
The inclusion of carbohydrates also means that valuable fats
, which would otherwise be used up for energy, are available for use by your pet’s skin
and immune system
. This all helps to keep your pet’s skin and coat looking healthy and glossy and their defence system in good order.
Are carbohydrates good for my pet?
Since their descent from carnivorous wolves, dogs
have evolved to scavenge
different types of food and have become omnivores,
just like us. This means that they are now genetically adapted1
to eating a diverse diet
, including carbohydrates such as cooked grains
, potatoes fruits
which their wolf ancestors cannot.
are strict carnivores
and although they are less well adapted to eating carbohydrates compared to dogs, they too can digest them. However, they do benefit from being fed on a diet high
in animal protein
in carbohydrates -
the exception being during lactation when carbohydrates provide the best source of energy for milk production3
Also, there is the often the assumption that grain
also means carbohydrate
, which is not the strictly true. Potatoes and sweet potatoes as well as fruits and vegetables will often be used in place of grains in these foods.
Could my pet be allergic to grains?
With more and more of us self-diagnosing ourselves with gluten and wheat allergies or intolerances, there is a tendency to believe our pets have the same problem too.
The chances of your pet having a food allergy is actually relatively low, with only 0.1%
of the cat and dog population reportedly affected by a true food intolerance2.
The most common allergies are to animal proteins
such as beef
, whereas grain allergies affect only a small minority of pets2
. For those pets diagnosed with a true grain allergy, then feeding a grain-free diet will be essential to their health.
What is gluten and can it affect my pet’s health?
Gluten is a protein found in wheat
and oat flour
and can affect dogs. However, gluten sensitivity
is relatively rare and largely confined to some Irish setters.
The other condition that gluten is linked to in dogs is canine epileptoid cramping syndrome,
which can affect border terriers. Both these conditions can be managed by feeding a gluten-free diet.
So, whether you do or don’t decide to feed your pet on a grain-free diet, the most important factor when choosing any food for your pet is to make sure that it is complete
and will meet all your pet’s nutritional needs.
Why not check out our range of tasty pet foods (including grain-free options) on www.dogtor.vet.
Anna Cherry BSc (Hons) BVSc MRCVS
(veterinary surgeon at dogtor.vet)
- S. Myths and Truths About Clinical Nutrition In Dogs and Cats. ECVIM-CA. 2016
- C. Cats and Carbohydrates: What is the Impact? AAFP. 2013