Grain free dog and cat foods are being promoted on TV ads and at your local pet speciality stores, but are they really healthier for our pets?  Not according to veterinary nutritionists Dr. Lisa Freeman and Dr. Cailin Heinze from Tufts University School of Veterinary Medicine.

“Interestingly, diets that contain more meat and less grain and other carbohydrates tend to be much higher in fat than diets that contain more grain and carbohydrates. As fat provides twice the calories of equivalent amounts of protein or carbohydrate, many of the highest calorie diets currently on the market are grain-free diets. ” – Dr. Freeman and Heinze, Veterinary Nutritionists from their article; Grain free.”Many people now assume that the potato or pea diet is superior only because it lacks grains. Much of this information is due to marketing by manufacturers who are looking for ways to make their diets stand out in a crowded marketplace.”

For example, sugar in potato is 5X that of Corn or Wheat, while the other nutrients are fairly similar.

nutritional comparison of carbohydrate sourcesSo who to believe?   The pet food industry is so over commercialized and over marketed that even your veterinarian may be confused!

Are grains just “fillers”?

Not at all, they provide important nutrients, balance calories, and provide needed fiber for the gastrointestinal tract health.  Many grain free diets substitute these healthy grains with calorie dense starches such as potatoes or tapioca that end up costing more, but with less nutritional value.  Allergies to grains are less common than to proteins, and the best diets to treat food allergies are actually hydrolyzed diets available by prescription from your veterinarian.If your pet is an ideal weight, has regular bowel movements, good breathe and minimal flatulence, then you are probably feeding a reasonable diet, especially if it is from one of the larger manufactures who are more likely to have stringent manufacturing controls and employ veterinary nutritionists.    If the company that makes your pet’s food can back up the claims on their bags with studies and feeding trials, that is ideal.

If your pet is over or under weight, has poor coat quality and irregular bowel movements, is picky, has accidents, or a lot of flatulence, it may be time to discuss nutrition with your veterinarian.  Don’t just look for a sign off that your current diet is ok, ask her what she feeds her own pets!




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