3 Things To Know About Grain-Free Dog Food And Cat Food

3 Things To Know About Grain-Free Dog Food And Cat Food

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 addressing the top three concerns of pet parents when it comes to grain-free dog food and cat food.

Are these concerns valid or are they misrepresentations of reality? The truth may surprise you!

1. Are Grains Responsible For Pet Allergies?

While your pet could have a grain or gluten allergy, the chances are rare. 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.

2. Do Grains Have Any Real Nutritional 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.

3. Do Pets Digest Grains Well?

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 we now carry a grain-free dog food and cat food

Grain-Free Formulas That Are Nutritionally Balanced

Like all our foods, our grain-free dog food and cat food 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 and cat 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, check our website today!

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

Dr Jane Bicks  Dr. Jane Bicks


Comments (19) -

  • 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.

  • Ilene Greising

    8/10/2018 3:24:11 PM |

    Thank you for keep pet parents informed. I was planning to feed our dog your grain-free dog food, but wanted to ask your opinion on the following:

    "FDA investigating link between grain-free diet and heart disease in dogs.
    RALEIGH, N.C. — The Food and Drug Administration is investigating a link between grain-free diets and heart disease in dogs, a trend noticed by North Carolina State University's College of Veterinary Medicine.
    Boutique diets for pets are all the rage to pamper pups, but new information seems to reveal that a grain-free diet isn't the very best for dogs, and may turn out to be downright disaster.
    "It's unnecessary for your dog to be on a grain-free diet," said Dr. Ariel Robelen.
    NC State's College of Veterinary Medicine noticed a disturbing trend. Breeds of dogs that previously had no predisposition to heart disease were developing heart disease. And the constant - each of those dogs was on a grain-free diet.
    "They become lethargic, they may stop eating, their activity will drop, exercise and tolerance, so the signs can overlap with people who have heart disease, but it's not the same physiologically as a heart attack," said Dr. Steve Marks.
    Michael Wilson brought his dog, Arrow, to see the doctors at NC State who saw the cardiomyopathy, changed his diet and reversed Arrow's trajectory.
    "I started to notice he was really lethargic and didn't want to play," Wilson said.
    Marks said if it were his dog, "I would probably change to a commercially balanced diet, and I would get off the grain-free diet."

    The FDA announced they are investigating the link between grain-free diets, heavy in peas, potatoes and lentils, with heart disease, and NC State's cardiologists and nutritionists are working together to come up with more answers.
    Please and thank you.

  • Life's Abundance

    8/23/2018 3:57:23 PM |

    We are aware that the FDA is alerting pet parents about reports of a heart disease called canine dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) and diets containing “peas, lentils, other legume seeds, or potatoes as main ingredients.” In other words, ingredients typically found in raw, vegan, exotic, home-prepared and grain-free foods.

    It is important to understand the FDA says “the underlying cause is not known, but it is thought to have a genetic component”. That is why there is an investigation of this issue.

    We have been involved in discussions within the veterinary and nutritional communities, and are closely monitoring all developments. Below are answers to common questions regarding this situation.

    What is DCM?
    It is a disease of a dog’s heart muscle that results in an enlarged heart.

    Is DCM genetic?
    Breeds more frequently affected include large and giant breed dogs. It is less common in small and medium breed dogs with some exceptions.

    Which dogs are more likely to have DCM?
    At present, it appears there may be three sub-sets of dogs to consider:
    *Dogs that are genetically predisposed to DCM. Heart disease is common, affecting 10% of all dogs, with even higher rates in Cavalier King Charles Spaniels, Doberman Pinschers, and Boxers.  
    *Dogs experiencing dietary taurine deficiency.  
    *Dogs susceptible to DCM for reasons unrelated to diet.

    Is it safe to continue to feeding our Grain-Free food?
    We have always held the position that taurine is important for dogs and include it in all of our dog food recipes, including Grain-Free. What makes us different from most other brands is that we guarantee the amount of taurine in all of our dry dog food formulas.This means that each meal is guaranteed to supply your dog with this important nutrient!

  • Ilene Greising

    8/24/2018 10:26:07 AM |

    Thank you for taking the time to address my concern...I am at ease concerning this issue.  Could you please tell me the amount of Taurine per cup serving?

  • Life's Abundance

    8/24/2018 11:22:11 AM |

    We're so pleased! And we're happy to help. Our Grain-Free dog food formula contains a guaranteed minimum amount of 0.15% Taurine per standard measuring cup. All of our nutritional information is included on the individual product pages on our main site (just click the header at the top of this page).

  • Ilene Greising

    8/24/2018 11:58:32 AM |

    Thank you !

  • Chris Bourg

    12/31/2018 10:46:40 AM |

    Hello, this is a great article and some good, recent replies!  Thank you all!  As a recent customer of the NC State Vet School for my cat, they referred to this article and said we should take our cats off your grain-free food OR have the food analyzed to get the amount of Taurine. Well, no need to get it analyzed because you have the guaranteed minimum analysis already posted on your website!

    However, all of this begs the question of the optimal amount of Taurine needed per cup. Is there a standard minimum? (Again, for me specifically, this question is related to cats.) I see your grain-free cat food has 0.20%. Some other products are double this amount, so just wondering. Thank you!

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