Grain-free diets have become increasingly popular within the pet food industry in recent years. Clever marketing has lead us to believe that going grain-free is more natural for our dogs and cats and can result in fewer food allergies. But is this true? How can we know if our pet would benefit from a grain-free diet?
The first thing to know is that there is no evidence to support the claim that grains are harmful to our pets. Quite the opposite, in fact! Just like for humans, many grains – particularly whole grains – contain nutrients (vitamins, minerals, proteins, etc.) that are beneficial to dogs and cats. Okay, but what about allergies? Grains, especially corn, cause allergies in dogs, right?
Actually, no. Or at least, very rarely. Food-related allergies are one of the least common allergies in dogs, and in most cases, it is the animal protein to which dogs are allergic. Even more rare in dogs are gluten allergies/sensitivities. Two ways to know if your pet has a food allergy are allergy testing through a laboratory such as Spectrum Labs and performing a food trial. So, next time you visit the store, look for pet foods that emphasize high-quality nutrients (carbohydrates, proteins, vitamins, minerals) more than the ingredient list.
-Dr. Amanda Wagner
Grain-free diets: big on marketing, small on truth. Cummings Veterinary Medical Center at Tufts University. http://vetnutrition.tufts.edu/2016/06/grain-free-diets-big-on-marketing-small-on-truth. Published June 14, 2016. Accessed January 31, 2018.
Myths and Misconceptions Surrounding Pet Foods. The Ohio State Veterinary Medical Center. https://vet.osu.edu/vmc/companion/our-services/nutrition-support-service/myths-and-misconceptions-surrounding-pet-foods. Accessed January 31, 2018.
Spectrum Labs. http://www.vetallergy.com Accessed January 31, 2018.