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Lifestyle

August 23, 2013

Vet Connection: Is a grain-free food right for your pet?

(Continued)

Some owners mistakenly believe that “grain-free” equates to low, or even no, carbohydrates. Dr. Susan Wynn, a well-known speaker on clinical nutrition and integrative medicine, remarks that “if the pet food is a dry kibble, it contains carbohydrates.” The manufacturing process to produce the dry diets (known as extrusion) won’t work unless a minimal level of starch is present.

Dr. Lori Huston, a certified veterinary journalist and author of the Pet Health Care Gazette blog, concurs. She mentions that many of the popular replacements for grains, like potatoes, can actually increase the carbohydrate content of the food.

Finally, a common myth is that our pets are unable to effectively digest the grains present in commercial diets. The reality is that dogs do quite well digesting grains and starches. Not only has decades of research proven this, but new genetic information shows our domesticated canine friends have many more copies of a gene for amylase than their wolf cousins. This important enzyme helps cut starch molecules and enables dogs to use grains effectively as an energy source.

All of the above reasons aside, is there a down side to feeding grain-free foods? In some cases, the levels of fat or protein may be higher than necessary for some pets, and that could contribute to health issues such as kidney failure. To quote Dr. Wynn, since “excess protein is not stored by the body, high-protein diets are often simply good for producing expensive urine.”

To investigate any food you are going to feed your pet, you should call or email the company to see if they have invested the time and funds to do a food trial on real pets. All the company needs to do is trial the food on eight adult pets for six months, or just two months for puppies and kittens, and make sure they are healthy at the end. You may be surprised to see how many companies have not bothered to do a food trial. The pet food industry is vying for your hard earned dollar. You want to find a company that is putting some of their earnings back into research to make sure the food is safe for your pet.

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