Grain free diets - are they better?

Choosing a diet for your dog is a task not to be taken lightly. Grain free and gluten free pet diets have become very popular.
With an increase in the number of people choosing to eat a grain free or gluten free diet there has been a corresponding increase in the number of grain free and gluten free diets available for pets.
Many people assume that grain free diets are ‘more natural’ and carbohydrate free. The growing number of these products on the market is giving the misperception that grain is bad for pets.

Grain free versus Gluten Free
Grain free diets do not contain grain whereas gluten free diets may or may not contain grain as an ingredient. Gluten is a protein found in barley, wheat and rye. Not all grains contain these proteins.
Most dogs do not require a grain free or gluten free diet.
Gluten intolerance is extremely rare in dogs. The exception is the Irish Setter and only in the U.K Irish Setters. Gluten intolerance is unknown in cats.
Proponents of grain free diets claim that grains are an unnatural source of nutrition. But dogs possess several genes that have been modified through evolution to allow them to digest carbohydrates easily. That includes grains. It is also a misconception that grain free or gluten free dog foods are the best for dogs with allergies. Grain allergies are very uncommon. Allergies are more likely due to an animal protein (e.g. beef, dairy or chicken). Grain free diets often contain carbohydrates from other sources such as sweet potatoes, which have a higher carbohydrate level than corn.
Carbohydrates (Grains) are an important energy source and one of the 6 basic nutrients required for a healthy life. There is no specific evidence that grain-free diets offer more health benefits than diets with grains, but if you need more information or want to discuss which diet is most suitable for your pet, come into the clinic and discuss it with us.

Axelsson, Erik et al. The genomic signature of dog domestication reveals adaptation to a starch-rich diet. Nature 2013;495;360-364.
Carlotti D.N, Remy I, Prost C. Food Allergy in dogs and cats. A Review and Report of 43 Cases Vet Dermatol 1990;1:55-62.

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