What about Grain Free foods?

Is it just the newest fashion?

Dr. Masuma Barrett

There is so much out there about food…next to religion and politics, this seems to be a very polarizing subject.  So I request each one of you to “make it make sense”.  That is what I was taught by one of my veterinary professors.  No matter what you are trying to figure out, “make it make sense”, keeping in mind your time, budget and philosophy.

When you think about it, your dog is a wolf and your cat is a lion.  They are carnivores and their natural diet is meat.  Cats more so than dogs.  They don’t just eat muscle meat (thighs, breast) but they eat all the organs as well.  The body has to work harder when an inappropriate diet is eaten on a regular basis.  For humans, a diet of chips, donuts, coffee and soda will not help us maintain a healthy body.  In the case of our dogs and cats, grains are the equivalent of junk food.

What about the grains?

Just like donuts-and-Twinkies for us, grains are inappropriate in large quantities for carnivores.  They have adapted to eating grains and carbohydrates in our human world because of us, but those foods can still be harmful to them.  Grains are not a natural part of their diet.

They can contribute to allergies, hypersensitivities, inflammatory bowels, constipation, bladder stones, and urinary crystals.  The immune system’s response to a particular diet will be different for different individuals- indicating there is a genetic component to this.  So the best we can do is to stay as close as conveniently possible to their natural needs.

Choose a food that supports your pet’s natural dietary needs which is mostly proteins and fat, and only some appropriate carbohydrates.  Most dog and cat foods have too much “quick carbs” in the form of grains;rice, corn, wheat.  When these types of carbohydrates are the main ingredients, they contribute to obesity and may trigger allergies.

Many of the commonly seen diseases and symptoms- hot spots, skin infection, ear infection, chewing at the feet, vomiting, sensitive stomach- all can be side effects of an inappropriate diet. 

Why have we created a population of dogs and cats that are so dependent on that ONE brand of food that we panic when the store does not have?  We humans are told to vary our diet, eat healthy, drink lots of water and stay away from processed foods.  How is it that we cannot afford the same advice for our dogs and cats?

On the other hand, when asked “Can I feed people food to my animals”, the answer is: it depends.  If it is meats, vegetables and fruits, then yes.  If it is pizza and pasta, then no.  Humans created agriculture and a diet based on grains.  What did the dogs, lions, wolves and other carnivores eat before modern agriculture? Not grains.

Animals in the wild eat what they can- they don’t think of varying or not varying their diet.  We are told to not vary our pet’s diet- it’ll cause stomach upset…of course it will.  If the stomach is not used to it.

The most important message here is: we still have to make sure our pets are getting a balanced diet.  They cannot naturally “vary their diet” as they would in the wild, because we control what goes into their bowl.  But a balanced diet does not have to come from a bag or a can- it makes it convenient, that’s all.

If you have the interest in making your pet’s diet more natural, varied and balanced, we can help you with that.  If you don’t have the time or interest for that, you can still feed your pet a very high quality of manufactured food- but you have to be aware of what is IN it- read the ingredient list carefully and “make it make sense”.


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