What's the Deal With Grains?


I am sure you have heard about grain-free diets. There seems to be an increase of marketing for grain-free diets lately. I have heard from clients that grain-free diets have either made a difference in their dog or that it did nothing for their dog. Was it the grains that made a difference or the protein source? I discuss why you shouldn’t be afraid to feed grains and discuss grain-free diets.

Why are grains so important?

Grains provide excellent sources of carbohydrates, essential amino acids, minerals, and vitamins. Wheat is responsible for starch, amino acids, zinc, manganese, vitamin E, thiamine, and niacin. Corn is responsible for starch, dietary fiber, amino acids, zinc, and manganese. Soy is responsible for amino acids, lysine, and copper. All these nutrients play a part in keeping your loved ones healthy and keeping their body functioning properly. 

The concern with corn

Corn seems to be one of the biggest concerns when choosing a pet food diet. The belief that corn is a cheap filler is not all that true. In high-quality diets, corn can be packed with essential protein, fat, carbs, vitamins, and minerals. The “cheap filler” thought comes from the belief that corn is not digestible. However when processed properly, corn is actually 91% digestible. Many leading pet food companies know that if corn is finely ground down, it is able to be digested and you get all the valuable nutrients from it.

Another concern about corn is allergies. According to Michigan State University Veterinary Medical Center, corn is rarely the cause of allergies. Food allergies often come from the protein source like beef or chicken. Also seen are allergies dairy products, wheat, soy, and egg. Environmental allergies can also be a huge contributing factor. To know for sure if your pet has an allergy, allergy testing is recommended.      

Pet food allergies and grains

According to the article, What Vet Nutritionists Have to Say About Pet Food Allergies, Grains, by Lou Anne Epperley, DVM, grains are often innocent when it comes to food allergies. It is believed that grain free diets were started by small pet food companies trying to appeal to the consumer and compete with the large well-known pet food companies. It seems pet food diets have become more about marketing and what appeals to us, the consumers, rather than the nutritional value of a diet.

On a side note, I am slowly starting to see gluten-free diets show up. This is yet another marketing tool. There is absolutely no scientific evidence that pets have gluten intolerances. But many humans have a gluten intolerance and view gluten as a bad thing. So the pet food companies are starting to jump on the gluten-free bandwagon, without any true evidence, and again appealing to the consumer to sell their product.

I can’t say enough about the importance of research and speaking to your veterinary professionals before deciding what to feed your pet. There is misleading information out there. If you have any questions, your veterinarian will be happy answer any of your questions.

Badger Veterinary Hospital proudly carries Royal Canin products. Talk with us about what a Royal Canin diet can do for your dog or cat.