Is a Grain-Free Diet Right for Your Pet?

dog licking lips

There are a multitude of options when it comes to pet food – from boutique whole foods nutrition to grain-free, to exotic ingredients like duck and wild boar. It can be downright confusing to know what kind of diet is right for your pet! 

Grain-free diets are popular among pet owners for many reasons, the first of which is that grain-free or gluten-free is a trend among humans. But is eliminating grains from your pet’s diet good for your furry companion? Is it necessary for good health, or is it detrimental to most pets?

The team at Berks Animal Emergency and Referral Center is here to discuss a few things to consider before you jump on the grain-free diet bandwagon.

What Is a Grain-Free Diet

Over the past few decades, we have focused on pet nutrition as being one of the key contributors to vitality, good health, and longevity. We want to give our pets the very best, and that is wonderful. But a grain-free diet may not be all it’s cracked up to be.

Grain-free does not mean free of carbohydrates. Grain-free means food made without wheat, corn, rice or other grains. Instead, the ingredients in grain-free will often be legumes like peas and lentils, or potatoes. 

The importance of grains in pet food is that they provide carbohydrates which are needed for energy and offer a source of fiber for digestive health. Grains are also a source of essential protein, fat, and antioxidants. Most dogs do great with grains because they support healthy skin, coat, immune system, and other areas of the body. 

Dogs that are allergic to, or have problems digesting these grains, are rare. In fact, 99% of dogs are able to benefit from healthy grains.

Grain-Free and Heart Disease

In June of 2019, the FDA released a statement warning pet owners about grain-free and boutique diets. In the statement, the agency links a condition called Dilated Cardiomyopathy (DCM) to pets fed grain-free foods. It was suggested that these pets were taurine deficient and when given taurine supplements, after these findings were examined, some of the heart issues were resolved.

It’s still unknown why the number of pets that were affected by being on grain-free diets developed DCM, but the cases were convincing enough to be wary of grain-free foods.

Some of the following diets were listed in conjunction with the cardiomyopathy cases:

  • Acana
  • Zignature
  • Taste of the Wild
  • 4 Health
  • Earthborn Holistic
  • Blue Buffalo
  • Nature’s Domain
  • Fromm
  • Merrick
  • California Natural
  • Natural Balance
  • Orijen
  • Nature’s Variety, among others

Choosing the Right Diet for Your Pet

If your pet is eating a grain-free food, don’t panic. Your veterinarian can work with you to determine whether or not grain-free can truly be advantageous for your fur friend. If your pet has been diagnosed with a severe food allergy, the benefits may outweigh the risk. 

Each individual pet requires a complete health assessment before making the switch to grain-free. Please call us for more information or to schedule an appointment.