AGAINST THE GRAIN.... Is This Pet Food Really Any Better?

By Katy Cable/A 4 min. Read

By Katy Cable/A 4 min. Read

In the last year of working with pet parents, I have seen the demand for "grain-free" pet foods rise tenfold. I have also noticed nearly every brand of commercial pet food now offers a “grain free” variety. But is "grain-free"really better? 

When discussing dog foods with pet-parents, I often see frustration that their dog's current "grain-free" food isn't helping with their allergies, tummy upsets, arthritis, or weight loss. Many times their conditions are getting WORSE! While it is impressive that so many concerned pet-parents are learning about better nutrition, once again I see the $$$ “big business” $$$ of pet food companies at it again. It begins with the beautiful displays and packaging which is often just a misleading marketing scam. The reality is they’re making record profits on cheap ingredients that are simply not good for our pets.

While a "grain-free" diet is certainly ideal for carnivorous canines who have difficulty digesting grains, if those grains are simply replaced by more starchy-high glycemic carbs, you are actually WORSE off.

“Grain-Free" Doesn't Mean “Carb-Free” Funny enough, most pet foods marketed as "grain-free" contain even higher amounts of carbs, they just come from other “grain-free” fillers like potato or corn.

In July an alert was issued by the FDA’s Center for Veterinary Medicine (CVM) warning grain free kibble may be linked to canine dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) It seems that pet foods which contain potatoes or legumes as the main ingredients, may be causing an increase in taurine deficiency-related dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) in dogs who aren't typically predisposed to this form of heart disease. Grain-free dry dog food is a new booming market segment, but it appears the high starch/carb content in these diets depletes the digestible taurine level in the food.

And while legumes and potatoes are called out as the problem, grain-free kibble is usually higher in starchy carbs than grain-based dry dog food. The higher the starch level in any pet food, the less protein is included. I’m Especially meat-based protein.

Once again, it’s IMPERATIVE to read those labels carefully. If you read the ingredients of many, many pet foods the way I do, you will notice the grains have often been swapped out for even less meat-based proteins and more starchy carbs such as: white potatoes, rice, and corn. These carbs quickly turn to glucose in the system and cause surges in blood sugar. And that is why many dogs eat and eat and eat without feeling satisfied. It’s no different than that CRASH we get after consuming a bag of potato chips or a candy bar. Out pets are getting obese and starving to death at the same time. 

The most important thing to consider when selecting ANY pet food, but certainly a "Grain-Free" variety, is choosing one that lists a premium animal or fish protein as the first two or three ingredients. There are several very popular brands that substitute nearly all the animal protein with starchy-BAD carbs and charge a premium for nothing more than a “grain-free”bag of corn, and brewers rice.

Following the protein, look for LOW-GLYCEMIC ingredients. Sweet potatoes in lieu of white potatoes. Peas, chickpeas, quinoa and lentils instead of rice, oats and corn. 

According to leading integrated holistic veterinarian Dr. Karen Becker, with Mercola Pets:
"Dogs are by nature scavenging carnivores and don't even have a carbohydrate requirement. We are putting into their bodies a bunch of foods that are metabolically unnecessary, that are setting up the same degenerative processes that are occurring in human bodies.”

You may wonder why pet food contains grains and/or other “bad-carb” fillers if they're not even nutritionally necessary. The answer is simple: -PROFITS! Grains, corn, rice and potatoes are cheap fillers, and this is why they're the main staples of most popular commercial pet foods. To create a high quality, meat-based pet food would cost substantially more. It’s much easier and less expensive for pet food manufacturers to load their foods with corn, rice and wheat and keep higher profit margins. That doesn’t mean great “grain-free,” “low-carb” pet food options don’t exist, but if you don’t dig a little deeper and do your homework, you may be getting PET FOOleD!*+

So, before you reach for that bag of “grain-free” food, READ THOSE LABELS! Let me know if you have any questions or would like some recommendations for your pet. Thanks for taking the time to read this and care for your pup! Pugs and kisses! -Katy 

+For more information on the pet food industry, I encourage you to check out the documentary PET FOOleD. Surprisingly, it’s not “as dry as dog kibble” but very informative and entertaining!