Is Grain Free Better?
There has been much debate recently as to whether or not a grain free diet is beneficial to your pet. The main reason many owners prefer a grain free diet is that grain free is what most closely resembles the natural diet of the wolf. There has been so much that has happened to the modern dog’s digestive system through domestication that it is important to make sure they are receiving the vital nutrients, regardless of ingredients. Kelly Smith, representative of the American Animal Hospital Association says, “Grains, and any other single category or individual ingredients, are neither good nor bad. Rather, what is important is how the ingredients work together to create the full nutritional profile of the diet”. Energy comes from proteins, fats and carbohydrates. They can get that from a strictly protein diet, but then they would be burning the protein for energy, which is inefficient.
The grain free proponents also argue that grains can cause food allergies. Many people cannot tolerate glutens and so pass that logic to include their pets. Actually, humans and canines are biologically opposite. Food allergies in pets is relatively rare. When they do occur, the most common ingredient that causes food allergies is the protein source. Grain free does not mean starch or carbohydrate free. Kelly Smith goes on to say, “Most “no grain” diets still contain 40-60%starch but from a different source, such as potato, pea or bean, and hence is nutritionally the same.” These ingredients all come together to create a full nutritional profile.
Ryan Yamka, board certified companion animal nutritionist, explains that there is no scientific data that supports the notion that grain free is better than grains. In fact, grains are an important source of fiber, which plays an important role in intestinal health. Grains are not just “fillers” as many people are led to believe. Grains are added because they contribute energy and other essential nutrients.
From my own observations, corn has the worst reputation of all the grains as a filler. When pet owners see “corn” on the ingredient list, they immediately look for another option. According to a recent Ohio State University article written by the Veterinary Medical Center, corn provides a nutritious, affordable source of carbohydrates for energy, essential amino and fatty acids for healthy skin, coat and immune system function, and a variety of other nutrients. These nutrients are released during the manufacturing process, and are easily absorbed and utilized when included in complete diets.
In essence, do your research. If switching to a grain free diet, educate yourself on the formula you are entrusting to fuel your pet. There are many valid reasons for a diet change, but simply because it says “Grain Free” on the bag is not one of them.