What We Do Know
First Question: What is a grain? Well, in pet foods it includes corn, soy, wheat, barley, oats and rice. Grains are used in both dry and canned pet food to provide carbohydrate, protein and fiber. They are used to help bring into balance the nutrient profile of a specific diet.What does grain – free mean? It means the food should be free of grains, although some foods labeled as grain free contain barley – which is a grain. The term also implys that having grains is somehow bad for your pet. Grains are not bad or good. They are a type of food.
What About the Food Allergic Pet
In my practice, food allergy is a common problem. FOOD ALLERGY IN DOGS AND CATS is caused by your pets immune system misidentifying a food protein as foreign and potentially harmful, then OVER reacting to it leading to an adverse reaction . The culprit can be ANYTHING that has been a part of your pets current or past dietINCLUDING animal proteins and plant proteins .
Dog Food Allergy Or Food Intolerance
If your Shih Tzu seems to be having trouble with her diet, another thing to consider is her symptoms.
Sometimes, people assume their pup might have a food allergy when in fact the real culprit is food intolerance.
Your vet can obviously help you solve the mystery, but keep these considerations in mind when it comes to food allergies versus food intolerances:
- Common symptoms of food allergies are chronic itchiness, ear infections, skin lesions .
- Common symptoms of food intolerances are gassiness, diarrhea, vomiting, upset stomach.
Although dogs can exhibit a mix of the above symptoms for both food allergies and food intolerances, this is a breakdown of which symptoms are more common for each food aversion.
Here are some more differences between food allergies and food intolerances:
- A food allergy involves an immune response.
- Food intolerance does not involve an immune response.
- A true food allergy is actually not very common in dogs.
- Food intolerance is much more common than food allergies.
Depending on whether your pup is suffering from a food allergy or food intolerance will determine what type of treatment you Shih Tzu will need.
Although either issue would most likely require a change in diet, when it comes to allergies, there are a host of other possibilities that can be the cause of your pups allergic response.
Ultimately, every dog is different, and what is a great choice for one pup might not be the best option for your Shih Tzu.
What Does This Mean For Our Patients On Grain
Pet owners searching for better answers are swayed by marketing, catch phrases, convenience, fancy packaging and perhaps overwhelmed by the glut of good and bad information online. But we all have the same intention. We want to provide our pets and patients with a happy and healthy long life.
The circulating news stories suggest that if we all revert to feeding our pets grains in their dry kibble foods, health will return.
However, we are not to assume that ALL grain-free food is unhealthy or that ALL grain-free food causes heart disease.
Keep the basics in mind about diet. Dont let clients run back to a diet with grain thinking it is protective to the heart. That is not the answer. What is in the food matters certainly as much as what is kept out of it.
Here are several practical ideas and tips about diets and taurine to help clients avoid more health risks with each new pet food fad.
I suggest veterinarians strive to provide the building blocks of health, evaluate pet food recipes, and focus on prevention.
Look for fresh, balanced, moisture-appropriate food for a carnivore. We can keep animals and their hearts healthy with the foods they are designed to feast upon. Use a fresh, species-specific diet as a sensible starting place to create health.
Remember that taurine is nearly non-existent in many plant-based proteins. We must evaluate ingredients in both dog and cat diets for taurine, regardless of the AAFCO standards.
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Why Is There A Trend To Feed Dogs Grain
As with their own overall health and wellness, pet parents are now more aware of the importance and impact nutrition plays in our dogs overall wellbeing, and thats a GREAT thing! We are our dogs only advocates, and ensuring they are fed the best diet will certainly help them live long, healthy, and happy lives!
Home-cooked, whole food nutrition, and raw dog food diets are popular for our dogs now more than ever before. All-natural diets with no artificial additives and preservatives are becoming increasingly important when pet parents choose the diets to feed their dogs, and these types of diets can definitely be healthy and fulfilling for our dogs!
However, many pet parents have come to believe that what is healthy for us as humans is also healthy for our dogs. While pets have adapted to eating human food-based diets through hundreds and even thousands of years of living with humans, we should not necessarily make the same nutritional choices for our pets that we make for ourselves.
What Exactly Is A Grain
Grains serve as a source of carbohydrates to provide pets with energy, fiber and nutrients. These grains usually include corn, wheat, barley, oats, rye, rice, sorghum, millet, quinoa and chia seed. So naturally, diets that dont include these ingredients are considered grain-free.
Is a grain-free diet the same as a gluten-free diet? Not necessarily. Gluten-free diets exclude grains that contain gluten, such as wheat, barley, rye and oats, but can include other grains such as corn, rice or sorghum that are gluten-free.
At the same time, grain-free diets arent necessarily carb-free, either. To provide carbohydrates , grain-free diets tend to use other ingredients such as vegetables or legumes. Diets with these ingredients could contain more carbohydrates than diets containing grains.
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Are Items In The Ingredient List Real Food
Some dog foods contain long lists of indecipherable ingredients ingredients you need to be a chemist or other scientist to understand. If you dont know what something is, a quick Google search can help. But if you dont know whats in your grain-free dog food, its best to avoid that product. Better to know whats going into your dogs stomach in case they have allergies.
Some other troubling potential ingredients are propylene glycol, white flour, unspecified meat or meat meal, artificial colors, MSG, added gluten, corn syrup, sugar alcohols , nitrates and nitrites, rendered fat, vegetable oil, cellulose, and salt. None of these ingredients need to be in your dogs food, and dont belong in your grain-free choice.
Why Is Grain In Dog Food
Of course, the natural question is then raised: Why is grain added to most dog food in the first place if they dont need it? Simple. Theyre used as fillers. You have to remember, grain was originally developed to feed the masses, says Dr. Margolin, Dry grain is inexpensive, and helps to fill you up. However, theyre an unnatural source of dog nutrition. Going back to our paleo diet example, grains are not something an animal would encounter in the wild.
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Check The Ingredient List Especially The First Five Ingredients
Always check the ingredient list. Items are listed in a weighted orderso a dog food that has corn, beef meal, potatoes, peas, and chicken as the first five ingredients has more corn than chicken by weight.
What else should you know?
Meal” means that the water and fat have been removed. It does not include hair, horns, or nails but usually organ meat like livers, kidneys, hearts, etc.
Natural flavor does not mean organic. This flavor can come from any plant or animal source, and the product must contain enough to be detected.
Chemical-sounding names are usually vitamins, minerals, and other supplements.
Some dog foods will have probiotics added, such as Bacillus coagulans fermentation product or Lactobacillus acidophilus fermentation product. Probiotics are live cultures of gut microorganisms. They may be beneficial but would have to be added to dry dog food after baking to be effective.
In the end, the only way to figure out if its the best dog food for your pet is to try it out. If your pet has good muscling, a great haircoat, normal and regular poop, great energy, and a good appetite, youve probably found it.
What Makes Grain Free Or Non Grain Free Dog Food The Carbohydrate Source
Before we start, let us get clear on the bigger picture as to what both grain and grain-free ingredients are, carbohydrates. As a macronutrient, the starch in carbohydrates is a vital source of energy to fuel dogs activities. Carbohydrates are a rich source of fiber that support dogs digestive health. Carbohydrates nourish good intestinal bacteria and include essential nutrients like protein and key vitamins and minerals. As with most foods, the quality of the carbohydrate ingredient is paramount to its nutritional value. Higher quality ingredients deliver an abundance of nutrition especially when compared with over processed carbohydrates such as flour.
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Gluten Free Vs Grain Free Dog Food
Many people have tried gluten free or grain free diets as a way of potentially improving their health and well-being. Now, the dog owners among them are considering the potential benefits of these diets for their dog.
If youre considering feeding a grain free or gluten free dog food, you first need to understand how dog foods that are grain free and gluten free are alike – and how they are different:- Gluten is a general name for the proteins found in grains such as wheat, barley and rye. In pet food, gluten helps foods maintain their shape, acting as a glue that holds food together. So, if you are looking for a gluten free diet, then you will need to find dog foods that do not contain wheat, barley, or rye. – As the name suggests, grain free dog food recipes do not contain grains, such as wheat, barley, rice, oats, and rye.
Gluten allergies are rare both in humans and dogs. A small percentage of people have celiac disease and require a gluten-free diet since the gluten proteins found in some cereal grains cause damage to the villi in the small intestine and impair their ability to effectively absorb nutrients.2 However, less than 1% of dogs have a true sensitivity to grain. In dogs, this sensitivity is called gluten-sensitive enteropathy. It is a rare inherited disease reported only in a small number of Irish Setters in the UK. It is not the same disease process as celiac disease in humans.
Grain Free With Lily’s Kitchen
We have a delicious menu of nutritionally complete, grain free recipes for dogs at Lilys Kitchen, which are also free of common dietary allergens. Bursting with goodness, these delicious dishes and treats are ideal for dogs with sensitive tums or who are on a grain free diet.The proper meat in our food is either fresh or freshly prepared. No meat meal and no nasties in sight – just the very best natural ingredients, all chosen for their high nutritional content to help keep your dog in tip top condition.
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Weighing In On The Grain Debate: Is Grain
Carbohydrates have gotten a bad rap lately. Maybe people are going gluten-free because they have food allergies or they believe that itll help them lose weight. Should it apply to a dogs diet, though?
This trend has also made its way into the world of pet food, as many dry dog food and wet food brands have grain-free offerings. Pet owners may be wondering: Is grain-free dog food better for your pup? And should you put him on a grain-free diet?
When trying to decide whether or not to go grain-free, you should first learn about this type of food and whether or not itll be beneficial for your dog.
Is There Any Problem With Feeding Grain To Dogs
Wholegrains such as rice, spelt and rye are nutritious and healthy and do play a part in many dogs diets with no problems at all. They just need to be consumed in moderation, as nature intended.However, many everyday types of dog food contain a disproportionately high level of highly processed grain, such as wheats and other cereals. And sometimes, grains are even used as a cheap source of protein, in place of proper amounts of meat! Only around 15% of UK dog food is actually grain free.Along with this high cereal trend in dog foods, human diets have also had relied very much on wheat in the past few decades and the number of people suffering with either true gluten allergies or immune mediated diseases and sensitivities, has risen dramatically.Many dog owners who themselves have experienced great benefits from going gluten or grain free want their pets to have the same improvements to their lifestyle hence choosing to offer their pets gluten free foods.
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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.
The Difference Between Grain Free And Gluten Free
Another common misconception surrounding grain free dog food is that it is also gluten free. However, this is not the case. Gluten can be found in certain types of grain, including wheat, rye, barley and oats, but there are other grains which are gluten-free, including rice and maize. If you are unsure about the ingredients in your dogs food, always read the label carefully or ask a vet for advice.
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A Look At The Ingredients
The following chart shows that these cases may have something to do with common ingredients in grain-free dog food. The findings show high instances of cases reported in foods with ingredients such as peas, lentils, and sweet potatoes.
Image courtesy of FDA
And, to complicate the situation even more, some brands were reported more frequently than others, and some dog breeds also had more cases reported than others.
Image courtesy of FDA
With so many unknowns, its hard to pin down the exact cause of or contributor to these cases. But, as Dr. Patton shares, we should consider how these foods impact our dogs health, and we shouldnt limit our concerns to the risk of DCM. There are other problems that can result from some dog foods that have been labeled grain-free.
Are There Any Possible Disadvantages
No. These are still naturally hypoallergenic foods with a single animal protein in each food and with no added synthetic colours, flavours of preservatives. As with all our foods, we put massive care into sourcing the ingredients and cooking the food to ensure that we provide complete and balanced nutrition to keep your dog in top condition.
Puppies can eat grain free dog food, so long as it contains the right balance of nutrients.
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Problems With Grains In Dog Food
Problems arise when grains substitute for high-quality animal protein. Corn and wheat two of the top five ingredients known to cause food sensitivities in dogs are sometimes used in place of more bioavailable animal protein in dog food. Gluten has been implicated in contributing to a variety of inflammatory health issues. For example, Irish Setters from the United Kingdom are predisposed to gluten-sensitive enteropathy, a condition similar to celiac disease in humans.
To avoid problems, grains should be considered in their proper context as carbohydrates and used appropriately.
Potential Link Between Grain
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has found a potential link between canine dilated cardiomyopathy and dogs eating certain grain-free pet foods after reviewing more than 500 recent cases of DCM. In nearly all of these cases, the dog had been regularly eating a mostly grain-free product, the FDA report said.
Most of these products came from the brands 4Health, Acana, Blue Buffalo, California Natural, Fromm, Earthborn Holistic, Merrick, Natural Balance, Natures Domain, Natures Variety, NutriSource, Nutro, Orijen, Rachael Ray Nutrish, Taste of the Wild and Zignature.
These products contain a high proportion of peas, lentils, other legume seeds , and/or potatoes in various forms as main ingredients .
We at Canine Journal urge you to use caution when feeding your dog an entirely grain-free diet until the FDA learns more about the increase of DCM and its potential link to certain diets or ingredients.
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How To Transition To A Grain Free Diet
Its worth saying again. Any time you decide to change your dogs diet, make sure you check in with your vet first.
When you want to change your dogs diet, a good rule of thumb is to go slow. Dont just throw away their old food and replace it with the new stuff. This isnt going to go well for your dog. Theyve gotten used to the food you had, and it will take time for them to adjust to the new food.
The best way to slowly transition your dog to grain free good is to mix it into their old food. You can either mix a small amount in their bowl each time you feed them, or you can mix your container of food with the new food.
Each time you feed your dog, mix a cup of the new food with the old food. This method works well because each day your dog is eating a little more of their new food. They will slowly acclimate to their new diet. Eventually, youll have no more of the old food left and your dog will only be eating the new, grain free food.
Anytime you switch your dogs food, be sure to keep a close eye on them. Check their stools. You want to make sure they are not constipated or having diarrhea. Also make sure they are not having any other strange symptoms like excessive scratching, hair loss or lack of interest eating or drinking. Those signs tell you that something is wrong and you should consider contacting your vet.