Is Grain-Free Pet Food Good For Pets?

Last Updated August 11, 2020

Grain in pet food.While the term “grain-free” might sound as healthy as “sugar-free” nowadays, is it truly any healthy for your pets? Contrary to the popular and cultural embrace for these grain-free or gluten-free diets in recent years, science has offered little evidence to support this claim. So far, the only basis for these grain-free claims that holds true are for pets that are allergic to specific kinds of grain and even then, it is very unlikely for it to happen as the chance for your pets to be sensitive to grain is pretty small. According to Lisa Lippman, the lead New York veterinarian for the in-home veterinary service Fuzzy Pet Health, “It’s extremely, extremely rare for dogs to have a grain sensitivity… This misinformation is a battle we face almost every day in the clinic, and it’s something that’s definitely been a source of frustration for us since before [the FDA warning] even came out”. This means that the threat of your pet having “grain-allergies” is low and your pet is most likely not allergic to grain and therefore should be allowed to eat food that contains some sort of grain in them.

Lippman further states that the reason why pet food brands started creating “grain-free” pet food is only because consumers started to demand it without any basis aside from fake-news and misinformation.

“So what?” you may ask. Well, the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) is investigating the link of these grain-free pet food with a plethora of diseases in household pets, particularly dogs and cats. They even issued a list of brands to avoid because their products were linked with the disease that they are investigating. According to the FDA, the illnesses that can be derived from these “grain-free” labelled pet food can be severe, even fatal, which is definitely a point to consider when purchasing pet food. Their investigation includes cases gathered between January 1, 2014 and April 30, 2019, where the FDA received 524 reports of dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) for dogs and hypertrophic cardiomyopathy for cats. Out of these reports, around 570 pets were affected and around 125 deaths have been reported.

Cat and dog eating from a bowl.

Another problem with “grain-free” pet food is that other unwanted ingredients are being used to pad the nutrients of the pet food such as lentils, legumes, and potatoes. Deriving nutrients from these fillers almost makes the meal entirely vegan which is not really great for your pets.

So... Is Grain Bad For Pets?

Measuring grains.

Now you may be wondering as to why the trend of having “grain-free” pet food even became a thing. Well, aside from the reasons stated above, one reason is that we suddenly thought of grains as bad for our pets as it may be also bad for us humans. But wait, is it really bad for our pets?

Grains are packed with nutrients and they provide carbohydrate, fat, and antioxidants/vitamins. With some protein and a bit of fats, then your pets should have a pretty healthy and balanced meal in general. This is specifically for dogs, however, as they produce amylase, an enzyme that is key in the digestion of starch which is what most plant-based foods. Cats, on the other hand, should have a diet that is similar to wild cats where they hunt for their meal. But the thing is, they are still able to digest some grain as the animals they usually hunt are herbivores, so cats still get some sort of grain in their system. This ultimately means that cats do not necessarily need it, but it should be okay for them to consume grain as long as it is not predominantly made from grain - they still require meat.

What about Kibble?

Now that we established that grain is not necessarily bad for your pets, what does that say about that kibble brand that allegedly contains grain? Well, kibble is still kibble no matter what is inside it - it is still processed in a way that strips most of its nutrients and retain most of the unwanted ones. Simply put, even though it may contain grain, it is still not recommended for cats and dogs.

The Bottom Line

Long story short, unless your pet has an allergy to grain, it should be okay for them to consume it. Kibble is different though as it is still processed and must be avoided. Instead, provide them with a balanced and hearty meal (for your cats, and for your dog), complete with meat (not any other substitute!) for protein and all the other nutrients that they can get together with the nutrition that the right amount of veggies can provide.


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