The Scoop on Grain-Free Pet Foods

Dog and cat laying on grass

This month, I’d like to talk to you about a subject that’s near and dear to my heart. Finding the perfect pet food that reflects both your expectations and represents the best veterinary science has to offer. In particular, we’ll be taking a closer look at grains in dog and cat foods, addressing the top three concerns of pet parents. Are these concerns valid or are they misrepresentations of reality? The truth may surprise you!

The Belief Grains Are Responsible for Allergies

Food allergies or adverse food reactions are abnormal reactions to ingredients found in everyday foods. Recent estimates indicate that less than 5% of skin diseases in dogs and cats are accurately diagnosed as being caused by a food allergy. Even though the incidence of adverse food reactions remains unclear, a lot of pet parents believe that grains are prime suspects. However, the most commonly identified food allergens among dogs and cats are proteins in beef, dairy, chicken, soy and corn. Food allergies can cause itchy skin alone or even gastrointestinal problems as well.

The place where many pet parents get confused is comparing canine or feline food reactions to celiac disease in humans, which is a heritable autoimmune disease associated with a hypersensitivity to gluten proteins in wheat, barley, and rye. There has been a very rare similar heritable gluten sensitivity described in a small number of dogs with the symptoms being weight loss, weakness, vomiting and diarrhea, but celiac disease and adverse food reactions in companion animals are rare.

The Belief Grains Have No Real Nutritive Value

Whole grains, like the ones used in many of our foods, contain the entire kernel. Whole grains are used in human and pet food because they pack a nutritional punch. Not only are they a good source of carbohydrates, they also contain essential fatty acids, amino acids, dietary fiber, vitamins, minerals, protein and even antioxidants! They add to the nutritional profile of the food, which means that they add to your pet’s nutrition as well. The grains used in our foods meet or exceed the criteria of the European Community, which currently exceed U.S. standards for quality.

The Belief That Pets Can’t Digest Grains

Some pet parents believe that carbohydrates from grains are not easily digested by dogs or cats. Like other mammals, cats and dogs have a metabolic need for carbohydrates in the form of glucose. Glucose fuels many parts of the body, including the brain, nervous system, red blood cells, the kidneys, and the female reproductive organs during pregnancy and lactation. If the diet fails to provide sufficient carbohydrates, the body can manufacture glucose by robbing it from amino acids (the building blocks for protein) and triglycerides (in fat), but this is hardly ideal. Both dogs and cats will utilize glucose from ingested carbohydrates to meet their needs. Additionally, both species have sufficient digestive enyzmes to allow for the efficient digestion of properly cooked carbohydrates. We know that not only is the quality of the grains important, but also the manner in which they are cooked. Our foods are prepared in such a way that the grains are broken down during the cooking before they enter the intestines, allowing them to be digested more easily.

So What is the Truth?

The key take-away from all of these points … you must feed the food that most closely meets your own standards and expectations for your pet kid. After all, you know them better than anyone! For all of you who want the best grain-free option for your companion animal, I’m pleased to tell you that our two latest foods are both grain-free!

Grain-Free Formulas That Are Nutritionally Balanced

Like all our foods, our new grain-free foods offer excellent, balanced nutrition. Rather than relying on grain content, these natural formulas do have carbohydrates such as peas, potatoes and a selection of healthy vegetables in the grain-free dog food. Ideal for all life stages, our newest nutritious foods provide another great option for pet parents who want the best for their dogs and cats. For detailed information about these products, including ingredients, guaranteed analyses and more, visit our site at lifesabundance.com today.

Thank you for all you do to make the world a better place for companion animals.

Dr Jane Bicks  Dr. Jane Bicks

References

Verlinden A, Hesta M, Millet S, et all. Food allergy in dogs and cats: a review. Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr 2006;46:259-73

Carciofi AC, Takakura FS, de-Oliveira MC, et al. Effects of six carbohydrate sources on diet digestibility and post-prandial glucose and insulin response in cats. J Anim Physiol Anim Nutri 2008;86:2237-46..

Carciofi AC, Takakura FS, de-Oliveira LD, et al. Effects of six carbohydrate sources on dog diet digestibility and post-prandial glucose and insulin response. J Anim Physiol Anim Nutri 2008;92:326-36.

Garden OA, Pidduck H, Lakhani KH, et al. Inheritance of gluten-sensitivity enteropathy in Irish Setters. Am J Vet Res 2000;61:462-8.

Blaza SE, Booles D, Burger IH. Is carbohydrate essential for pregnancy and lactation in dogs? In: Burger IH, Rivers JP, editors. Nutrition of the dog and cat: Waltham symposium No. 7. Cambridge (United Kingdom): Cambridge University Press; 1989. p. 229-42.

Eisert R. Hypercarnivory and the brain: protein requirements of cats reconsidered. J Comp Physiol B 2011;18:1-17.

Westman E. Is dietary carbohydrate essential for human nutrition [letter to the editor] Am J Clin Nutr 2002;75:951-3

Kienzle E. Blood sugar levels and renal sugar excretion after the intake of high carbohydrate diets in cats. J Nutri 1994; 124:2563S-7S.

Thiess S, Becskei C, Tomsa K, et al. Effects of high carbohydrate and high fat diet on plasma metabolite levels and on IV glucose tolerance test in intact and neutered male cats. J Feline Med Surg 2004;6:207-18.

Laflamme D, Izquierdo O, Eirmann L, Binder S. Myths and misperceptions about ingredients used in commercial pet foods. Vet Clin Small Anim 2014; 44:689-98.

Hore P, Messer M. Studies on disaccharidase activities of the small intestine of the domestic cat and other mammals. Comp Biochem Physiol 1968;24: 717-25.

Hoenig M, Jordan ET, Glushka J, et al. Effects of macronutrients, age, and obesity on 6- and 24-h postprandial glucose metabolism in cats. Am J Physio Regul Integr Comp Physiol 2011;301:R1798-807

Association of American Feed Control Officials. Official publication 2013. Champaign, IL: Association of American Feed Control Officials, Inc; 2013.

Thompson A. Ingredients: where pet food starts. Top Companion Anim Med 2008;23:127-32.

Comments (13) -

  • Marty Slagowitz

    4/29/2015 11:34:39 AM |

    My pet suffered from continual scratching. Blood testing revealed a specific count allergen reaction measure >4,300 to grain mites.
    We switched to a grain free diet and his condition improved significantly.
    Research revealed that grain mites exist in a lot of foods. E.G.,in 21% of cereals sold for human consumption.

    So in our case, the allergen wasn't in the food itself but in the mites existent in the product.
    We froze, as recommended, the to be used dog foods for a while. We subsequently discontinued doing that and the scratching remained mostly gone.

  • Janet Roberts

    4/29/2015 2:23:37 PM |

    Thank you for clarifying a complex and confusing subject.  It's good to know Life"s Abundance offers options for different needs.  Thanks for all you do, Janet Roberts

  • Le Ann Frost

    4/30/2015 2:52:16 AM |

    I can't wait to share this article.  It's comprehensive information on grains in pet food that all pet parents can benefit from and will help them make an educated decision that is best for them and their pet.  
    Thank you, Dr. Jane.

  • Carol Kreppel

    4/30/2015 3:22:44 AM |

    Your the best Dr. Jane!

  • Debbie Dameworth

    4/30/2015 7:30:36 AM |

    Thank you, Dr. Jane, for the great explanation as to how our carbs are processed in our dog and cat foods.  I know you do any exceptional job of making sure you have the best holistic ingredients to give our pets a healthy food source.

    You are the best,

  • Rebecca Forrest

    4/30/2015 8:59:04 AM |

    Virgil and I appreciate having this option to offer to both dog and cat parents. We haven’t needed grain-free yet for our own animals, but I can tell you that our greyhounds LOVE the new grain-free dog food. We bought some samples, and I ended up accidentally cutting one of them open. Our dogs simply hoovered those kibbles up off the floor!

    Of course we already use all the Life’s Abundance treats, but I’m convinced that we could use the grain-free food as an additional, VERY inexpensive treat for our dogs!

  • Donna

    5/2/2015 10:39:44 AM |

    Great explanation of grains in pet food. I see so much confusion on this issue.  Love having both options. My dalmatian loves the new grain free food, but he loves everything Life's Abundance so I'm not surprised!!  Thank you Dr. Jane!!


  • Kim Gardner

    5/4/2015 6:53:08 PM |

    Thanks for adding another great product to our already stellar lineup!!!

  • Megan Smith

    5/5/2015 1:20:24 AM |

    Thank you for this very informative and well-referenced article, Dr. Jane.  There are so many myths about grains and grain-free, that it's nice to have the actual science and facts.  I will continue to use the All Stage food, but may order some of the Grain-Free just to try.  My dogs have had ZERO skin irritation issues since switching to Life's Abundance food, treats and shampoo.  Still, for those who need it, I am glad we can now offer a grain-free pet food alternative.

  • Stacey

    5/5/2015 3:42:59 AM |

    Great info and article!  We will share it with more pet parents. thanks

  • David MInzel

    5/7/2015 1:44:05 PM |

    The most sensible and valid discussion on grain free I've ever read!

  • Mary Beaudry

    5/24/2015 12:59:48 AM |

    Want to thank you so much Dr. Jane, for the All Stage, it's increased our cat's health overall, very impressive! Always believed grain-free was the only way to go before Life's Abundance came into our lives, but now we understand the true crux of the matter simply through the positive changes in our beloved cats. The All Stage will always be our mainstay but now we and our clients have another incredible formula, Grain Free, to better fit the needs of all of our bundles of love!

  • Blair

    9/27/2016 10:13:26 PM |

    Great information and article that really explains the difference between the grains, food allergies and our beloved pets. I know there is a lot of confusion out there and this article explains everything so nicely.

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