The Great Grain Free Debate Continues

If you are a Happy Healthy Husse customer, you know that our pet nutritionist have never taken a “grain free for all” approach.  Feeding only grain free to our pets is yet another fad that took over the pet food marketplace in the United States without any long term science.  By 2015 about 30% of the pet food market in the US had become grain free, this is compared to 1-15% in European countries.  In France for instance only about 1% of the pets eat grain free pet food.

The recent warning from the FDA has grabbed the attention of many pet owners that rode the grain free wave.  The warning is about a higher than normal occurrence of canine dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) in dogs eating certain pet foods containing peas, lentils, other legume seeds, or potatoes as main ingredients.

Again, before everybody catches the most recent wave of knee jerk reaction to a trend let’s take a more educated look at the warning.

-The language in the FDA warning reads “pet foods containing peas, lentils, other legume seeds, or potatoes as main ingredients”. A high-quality food will not use a carbohydrate as the main ingredient. Carbohydrates should not be used to replace high quality animal protein. Carbohydrates are part of a balanced diet for dogs, regardless of if the carb is a grain or not.

All grains are not created equally. The grain free frenzy has been so popular in the United States because so many animals claim to be sensitive to grains. The fact of the matter is this is not the case in other parts of the world where grains are not genetically modified. I have found case after case after case of dogs that do beautifully eating high-quality GMO-free grains when they have always thought they had a “grain allergy”.  If you are feeding a grain free recipe you should still care about the peas or potatoes being free from GMO’s or carcinogenic pesticides as well. This is true for humans too!

A common misconception about grains are that animals cannot digest them.  Uncooked grains would not be easily digested by animals BUT neither are potatoes or legumes in their raw form.  So, if you are feeding a grain free kibble the carbohydrate; regardless if it is a potato, a bean or a grain it has been cooked at high temperature to make them easily digestible for your pet.

-High quality grain free pet foods are often modeled on the paleo diet. This means that food will contain a high percentage of protein and fat, and a lower carb content. Not all dogs will benefit from this eating plan. The dog that will do well on this type of diet is a very active dog that is of a healthy weight.

-Low quality foods will simply be choosing a cheaper ingredient (carbohydrate) than animal protein.  Just because the carbohydrate is not a grain it still should not be replacing high quality animal protein.   Grain free does not mean healthy…it may be the furthest thing from the truth.

Who should eat grain free? 

-Grain free foods do provide a low glycemic index; meaning the affect on glucose in the blood increases at a slower rate than that of other carbohydrates.  Grain free is often a good recommendation for some pets that are managing diabetes.  Some veterinarians will also prescribe a paleo style grain free formula for cancer survivors for this reason as well.

-Grain free foods that are based on higher portions of high-quality protein and fat will provide energy for very active dogs that are burning that fuel.  Working dogs or dogs with a very active lifestyle may be a good candidate for grain free.

-Obviously if you have a pet that has a diagnosed allergy to a specific grain this would be a reason to choose grain free.  While this is a very low percentage of pets it can happen.

For more detailed info on the warning or about DCM in general check out the following links.

Link to FDA warning: https://www.fda.gov/animalveterinary/newsevents/cvmupdates/ucm613305.htm

More about DCM: https://happytailsfromhusse.com/2017/09/20/the-silent-dog-killer-youve-never-heard-of/