Many of the top-brand dog and cat food varieties offer a grain-free option. But what pets should be given a grain-free diet—is this a necessity or could grain-free do more harm than good? Let’s take a closer look, and if you have questions, reach out to us at Deltona Animal Medical Center for advice.
A Look at Grains Used in Pet Food
Several different grains are traditionally used in dog food formulations, including:
Grain is sometimes called a “filler” ingredient, which is not technically true. Some grains offer substantial health benefits. For example, oats support cardiovascular health and are a good source of fiber.
Should Dogs and Cats Have Grain in Their Diets?
Just as it does for humans, grain can be a good source of nutrition for pets. Good grains deliver things like protein, linoleic acid, and important vitamins. While a grain-free diet can also be formulated to deliver these ingredients, sometimes, it is more sensible just to get a food that has some amount of grain. Only offer a grain-free diet if the vet has determined your pet has a grain allergy and recommends switching to grain-free food.
While a lot of pet owners assume their pet is allergic to grain, only about 10 percent of pet allergies have anything to do with food. According to Veterinary Practice News, vet nutritionists all agreed that wheat, soy, and corn rarely generate problems when it comes to pet allergies. Therefore, most dogs won’t need a grain-free diet unless they have been properly diagnosed with some kind of grain or food allergy.
Carbs in Grain-Free Diets
Contrary to popular impression, grain-free pet food is not necessarily low in carbs. To make up for the lacking grains, pet food manufacturers use other things like potato, peas, and lentils, so the food can definitely be carbohydrate-rich, sometimes even more so than a standard food with grain.
How to Find the Best Grain-Free Pet Foods
Grain-free pet foods have grown in popularity, so you can find a lot of brands available. However, not every grain-free food is a good option. Look for foods backed by AAFCO (Association of American Feed Control Officials). A few good brands include:
- Hill’s Science Diet
- Royal Canine
- Purina Pro Plan
Some low-quality foods, and even some big-name brands, have been linked to heart disease in dogs. Some pretty alarming research found that 90 percent of the foods linked to canine heart disease were grain-free varieties, specifically those that contained peas and lentils as the main ingredient.
Building a Homemade Grain-Free Diet for Your Pet
Some pet owners opt to take a DIY approach to building a grain-free diet for their pet, which is perfectly fine as long as you work with your vet and build a proper nutrition plan. Balance IT offers a good tool to use to build a well-rounded diet for a pet, with or without grains.