Thursday, July 25, 2024

Is Grain Free Dog Food Bad For Dogs

Does Grain Free Dog Food Cause Heart Disease

Ask the Vet: The Issues of Grain-Free Dog Food

Recent news stories report a link between legume and potato levels in dog food and heart disease. As a result, some pet parents are choosing to avoid grain-free recipes. Once again, grain-free doesnt mean a food necessarily has legume or potato levels look at the ingredient make up to determine if its a food youre comfortable feeding.

What Does The Latest Research Tell Us About Grain

So far, we havent established the exact cause of what appears to be diet-related DCM, but the latest research is pointing to the possibility of grain-free diets as a factor. Studies have shown that many dogs given a diagnosis of DCM will often have an improvement in cardiac function, with a diet switch to a grain-inclusive food.

Grain-free foods often include a relatively high proportion of peas, lentils, legumes and/or potatoes to balance the diet. Whether these ingredients or the lack of grain is the cause is yet to be established.

Good For Dogs With Food Intolerance

Grain-based diets often cause food allergies as a result of digestive problems. There are dogs that are intolerant to gluten, a common protein found in wheat, oats, barley, and rye, among other cereal grains. If your dog is gluten-intolerant, a grain-based diet can damage the lining of the small intestine and interfere with its absorption of vital nutrients. You should have other sources of carbohydrates besides grains for such a dog. Need more information? See our latest article Are Grains Bad for Dogs? for more information.

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What Is The Best Dog Food To Avoid Dcm

I prefer a dog food without corn, wheat or meat by-products. I also prefer a dog food with animal protein rather than plant protein, and for it to come from specific animal meal, such as poultry meal, lamb meal, beef meal or fish meal. Here are definitions of common ingredients in pet foods from AAFCO.

The Essentials: What To Feed Your Dog

Pure Balance Grain

Vets Dr. Erica Irish and Dr. Leslie Brooks explain exactly what you need to know to properly feed your dog in one helpful breakout box.

Always speak with your vet about your pets diet, especially if you plan to deviate from traditional dog food or your dog has any health issues/allergies.

Dry dog food. This is easier to feed and can help reduce plaque on teeth.

Wet dog food. This is better for pets with no teeth, with kidney issues, and may be more enticing as its odor is stronger. But it can cause buildup on teeth since theres no crunching to clean the teeth.

Age-specific food: Adult and senior dog food may have fewer calories to maintain weight when dogs age. Senior foods may have extra ingredients to help with joint health. Pregnant/lactating dogs may benefit from eating puppy food, younger dogs with arthritis, senior food.

Grain-free food. Avoid it. Its linked to heart issues .

Table food. Avoid it. It can be toxic, caloric and home-cooked diets may be deficient in vitamins .

Organic food: Assuming its not grain-free, you can feed your dog organic food, though there are no added nutritional benefits from organic food for dogs.

Low calorie/light food. Check with your vet first overweight dogs can have underlying health problems. Make sure to ask about the quantity.

Raw food diets. Avoid these. Theres no scientific evidence to support them, but dogs and humans have a much higher risk of contracting bacteria such as Salmonella or Campylobacter.

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Why Were Asking The Wrong Questions

Okay, now Id like to discuss why some grain-free diets ARE bad for your dog. Confused yet?

When it comes to dry dog foods, there are massive differences in the quality of the diets on the market. There are a lot of really bad diets with grains and a lot of really bad diets without them.

On the contrary, there are good diets that contain grains, and good diets that dont.

What we really need to be talking about is not grain-friendly vs grain-free , but instead be discussing how much FILLER is in your dogs food. And make no mistake if its not required nutritionally by your dog, its filler.

Thats right:

  • Soy
  • Etc

I like to call ALL of these ingredients fillers, binders, carbs you pick your favourite term.

Your dog has NO dietary requirement for ANY of it. In fact, too much of any of these ingredients are going to lead to health problems in your dog. I know, because I see it every single day in my store.

The sugars present in these carbs feed cancer, they create inflammation in the body, they wreak havoc on digestion, and they allow yeast to flourish ESPECIALLY in the volumes we see in most dry diets. They cause dental disease and spikes in blood sugar that over time can lead to type 2 diabetes .

You may be shocked to learn that most dry diets are over 30% carbs! In fact, most are higher than 40%.

If your dog has no nutritional requirement for these fillers, why are they found in their dry food in such abundance?

Good Health Begins With The Gut

When it comes to choosing a diet for your dog, the health of their gut should be at the forefront of every decision. They only get one digestive system in their lives, and any damage can unfortunately be long lasting and irreversible. Do your research, understand your pooch and make choices based on their preferences and health.

Of course, all dogs need a healthy supply of animal protein to get all essential amino acids. Meat should be the number one ingredient on every dog food recipe. Percentages are important, but they can also be misleading. Some brands may include fresh and dried meat in the same category, so be sure to take a closer look at the ingredients list. And for those that have vague terms and are not transparent run a mile!

Our philosophy at Scrumbles is to focus on gut health. We include probiotics in our range of dry dog food and dry cat food, as well as slippery elm in our range of wet dog food and cat food for digestive health, stool quality and healthy immune systems.

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The Evolution Of ‘puppy Dog Eyes’

Generally when dogs develop a food allergy, its to a protein, Gelzer said. So, veterinarians will often switch to a food with a different protein source to treat the problem.

One of the big problems with DCM is that dogs dont show symptoms of the disease lethargy, exercise intolerance, shortness of breath until theyre very sick, Gelzer said.

She points to the example of clients who came in with a very sick dog that was diagnosed with DCM. The family had a second dog that seemed healthy, but because both were eating a grain-free dog food, Gelzer suggested bringing in the second dog to be checked.

What we dont know is if used in these diets in place of grains are causing the problem. Its also possible that could be some kind of toxin.

When we evaluated that dog, it also had decreased heart function, but it was still subclinical, she said. The dog didnt look abnormal because it was at an early stage.

Are All Grains Okay

Oregon family shares warning about grain-free dog food

This information doesnt mean you can feed your dog any ol low quality dog food full of rice hulls and corn gluten. Its always important to choose the best quality dog food for your dog. If you are feeding a food with grain in it, the grains or other carbs should only be a small part of the food. Dogs are still carnivores and they do need quality sources of meat protein. What it means is that you dont have to feed your dog a grain-free food in order for him to be healthy. There are lots of high quality dog foods available which have low to moderate amounts of grain from good sources.

Of course, if you feed your dog a grain-free food, it probably contains other carb sources. Kibble requires some carbohydrate source to hold the food together so it can make a batter or dough to go through the machinery and be made into dog food. Even the best grain-free foods add carbs to the recipe. And dogs need carbs from a dietary perspective. They are a good source of energy for the brain and nervous system.

Are grain-free dog foods a fad? Well, to some extent, yes. Most dogs dont need to eat grain-free food if they dont have any allergies to grains. If you simply want a high quality dog food for your dog, there are lots of good foods that have low to moderate amounts of grain along with great ingredients. But it wont hurt your dog to eat grain-free food. On the other hand, it wont hurt your dog to eat a high quality food with some grain in it either.

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Why Do Vets Not Recommend Grain Free Dog Food

Food and Drug Administration officials warned last week that dog owners might risk their pets lives by relying on grain-free diets because they might risk a life-threatening heart disorder called dilated cardiomyopathy. Fewer than 600 dogs in the United States may have a relationship between diet and heart disease, based on preliminary research.

Why Is Grain Bad For Dogs

Leaving grains out of your dogs diet, however, might be a far greater health risk than keeping them in. According to a warning from the Food and Drug Administration released last week, grain-free food might be giving dogs a life-threatening heart problem called dilated cardiomyopathy, or DCM.

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The Health Benefits Of Grain

Wilson says that there isn’t substantial scientific evidence regarding the benefits of feeding your dog a grain-free diet.

The main benefit of grain-free dog food would be if your dog has a direct allergy related to grains. Then, your vet may recommend a grain-free diet.

However, Wilson says grain allergies are very rare, and it’s more common for food allergies in dogs to be linked to the protein source rather than the grain source.

“Very few pet owners ever really needed to avoid grain-containing diets for medical reasons, but there was a perception that grain was somehow a nutritional ‘villain’ and eliminating it completely was the next big thing,” says Greenstein.

What Should I Feed Instead Of Grain


The FDA hasnt reported any DCM cases from pets fed a raw diet. Taurine is found in all fresh meat diets, especially those with organ meat. If you want to feed a grain-free dog diet without having to worry about risks that come from the alternatives to grain, a fresh, whole food meat-based diet is the simplest and best solution.

You can easily avoid deficiencies in all amino acids, including taurine, by feeding your dog the diet he evolved to eat. And dont forget to include organs like heart, liver, kidney, and lung. And then your dog will be getting plenty of amino acids and you wont have to worry about the poor quality proteins in commercial grain-free dog foods.

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Why Is The Fda Investigating Grain

The U.S. FDA Center for Veterinary Medicine is investigating a possible link between dogs who eat certain grain-free dog foods and canine dilated cardiomyopathyknown as DCMwhich leads to a decreased ability for the heart to pump blood. The agency’s July 2019 update stated that 91 percent of foods reported in DCM cases were grain free 93 percent of reported foods contained peas and/or lentils and 42 percent contained potatoes/sweet potatoes. No single animal source was predominant.

The trigger for the FDA’s investigation was cases of DCM showing up in breedssuch as golden retrieverswithout a genetic predisposition to get this disease. What isn’t clear to the FDA yet is the exact source of the problem.

“Is it the lack of a grain source? Or is it the alternate carbohydrates like peas, lentils, and potatoes?” asks Jessica Romine, DVM, DACVIM, who is a veterinarian with BluePearl Veterinary Partners in Southfield, Mich. “They haven’t figured it out yet. I doubt that any single ingredient will explain everything,” she says.

Conditions That Dcm Can Lead To

  • Heart murmurs
  • Exercise intolerance
  • Congestive heart failure

It’s believed that the high amount of legumes in grain-free diets is to blame for this problem.

“Legumes have been used in dog food diets previously, as they are a source of plant-based protein. More recently, though, they have been used in a much higher proportion in certain diets, which are often labeled as grain-free diets,” says Wilson.

When the FDA looked into the diets of dogs with DCM, 93% of products that the dogs ate contained peas or lentils.

However, the FDA is still investigating exactly why a grain-free diet puts dogs at higher risk for DCM, says Rebecca Ruch-Gallie, DVM, an associate professor in clinical sciences at Colorado State University. But Greenstein says that the absence of grains in the diet appears to affect the bioavailability of key nutrients like taurine, which is important for heart muscle health.

The good news, Ruch-Gallie says, is that researchers found that DCM reversed when the grain-free diet was discontinued, and grains were reintroduced into the diet.

Aside from the DCM risk, there are other health drawbacks associated with going grain-free. When you cut out grains from the diet, Ruch-Gallie says your dog is missing out on:

  • Protein
  • Fiber

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If You Feel Your Dogs Food Is Connected To Dcm:

Based on the FDAs report, here are our first take-away points:

  • No matter what your dog eats, if she has any signs of DCM including decreased energy, cough, difficulty breathing, and episodes of collapse you should make an appointment to see your veterinarian ASAP, preferably one who can refer you to a veterinary cardiologist.
  • If you feed your dog a food that contains any potatoes, peas, lentils, or other seeds of legumes , look at the ingredients list. If the food contains one or more of these ingredients high up on the ingredients list, has several of these ingredients, and/or is a limited-ingredient diet typically, one containing only one animal protein source and one or two carbohydrate sources the possibility is good that the food is one of the type that is being looked at as possibly causing a higher incidence of DCM.
  • In contrast, foods that are not limited-ingredient foods and contain just one of those ingredients, or that have one or two of these ingredients fairly low on the ingredients list , are not the kind of diet that has been connected with DCM.
  • If you feed your dog a diet that meets the description of the foods that have been described by the FDA as potentially problematic , consider these points:

Does Taurine Deficiency Justify Linking Dcm And Grain

FDA Warns About Grain Free Dog Food And Heart Problems

The link between taurine deficiency and DCM is well established, however, it is premature at this time to link DCM and grain-free diets.

In fact, not every dog diagnosed with DCM thought to be linked to grain-free food had low levels of taurine. This may indicate other factors also have a role in DCM development, such as inadequate levels of certain other amino acids.

A study released in 2019 noted one such amino acid, carnitine, which has also been linked to development of DCM. Plant-based proteins do not contain carnitine and thus could contribute to deficiencies. This study also pointed out that various factors can influence taurine synthesis and absorption in dogs, such as sex and size., while nutritional factors can increase dietary requirement for taurine, reduce the supply, or increase excretion.

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Often In Wrong Proportions

Another problem with grains in dog food is the fact that most dog food brands do not put the right quantities of grains. This is because they are used as fillers rather than actual dietary components. This leaves a lot of dog food and treats with more grain than is necessary or even healthy for the dog to be consuming.

As a result, they end up missing out on important nutrients from other dietary components, especially animal proteins and micronutrients from fruit and vegetable ingredients. If you want your dog to have the best proportions, consider moving to grain-free dog treats and food options like proper carnivorous diets

The Benefits Of Grain

There are some different pros and cons dog owners should consider when looking into grain-free dog food.

If your dog has a grain allergy, of course, you can put him on a grain-free diet, which should address his health issues. Additionally, grain-free pet foods could be beneficial if your dog has digestive issues, since carbohydrates can be difficult for some dogs to digest.

Dog foods with grains may use wheat gluten or corn meal, which are cheap fillers that have little nutritional value and reduce the quality of the kibble or wet food. However, many grain-free dog foods will not use fillers, and instead may use better quality ingredients.

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The Fdas Investigation Of Grain

Many of the cases of DCM have involved dogs that were fed grain-free diets, suggesting that diet may play a role in this disease. This alarming trend led the US Food and Drug Administration to launch an investigation into whether diet and other factors are putting pets at risk of developing DCM.

The FDA has since released a series of reports summarizing the investigations findings. You may be wondering what these findings mean for your pets, and which foods are safe to feed them.

Are grain-free diets bad for dogs? What is causing the recent outbreak of DCM cases? Although the FDAs investigation is still ongoing, heres what you need to know and what you can take away from the latest news on this serious disease.

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