Grain free and gluten free diets have become very popular in recent years, which has led many to believe that this is the right diet for their pets as well. While grain allergies or sensitivities seem to be becoming more prevalent in humans, it is actually very uncommon for our pets, with grain allergies affecting less than 1% of dogs. More commonly, if an animal does have an allergy, that allergy is to the protein in the food, such as chicken, beef, or lamb. If you suspect your pet may have an allergy, you should always discuss with your veterinarian to determine what type of diet your pet may need.
A common technique used in food marketing is to market based on the ingredient being left out, such as grain or soy. We often see foods proudly presenting themselves as being free of a specific ingredient, and are left with the idea that this ingredient is bad. Consumers are led to believe that if a food is more expensive and has a lot of exclusions, it must be healthy. In reality, grain is an important part of a dog’s diet.
Grain provides our pets with fiber for digestion, carbs for energy, protein, and essential fatty acids. Grain free diets have also been known to cause unintentional weight gain, even when feeding the recommended amount of food. There is currently no data to support grain free diets being healthier or better for your pet.
The FDA is currently investigating a possible link between grain free diets and an increased occurrence of dilated cardiomyopathy, or DCM. This condition leads to a decrease in the heart’s ability to pump blood, and can end in congestive heart failure.
The current studies are being performed by veterinary cardiologists and veterinary nutritionists, and include the common ingredients used to replace the grains, like potatoes and legumes. This investigation stems from a spark in instances of DCM in breeds who are not commonly prone to the disease, but had been eating certain grain-free diets for several months or years.
Every animal is unique, and diets that may not be right for one may work perfectly fine for another. When deciding what diet is right for your pet, you should always consult with your veterinarian, and use caution when considering specific or exclusive diets.
Link to the FDA’s ongoing investigation into Dilated Cardiomyopathy.
Article written by: Norah