Is Grain Free Dog Food Bad For Dogs? The Reality Behind!!

  • 10/07/2019
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The risk of feeding grain-free diets to your dogs is all trending in the dog world.

Recent FDA surveys might have found a link or two between your dog’s health and grain-free diets.

But it’s still early days! It’s neither just speculation that you can throw off or hardcover proof that you can take home!

Awareness is the key here!

In a year ago report in the NY times, we got some real deal for you!

Let’s get to know the facts!

Grain-free dog food VS. regular dog food

A regular dog food will have all the proteins and vegetables along with grains. Some of the grains might include:

●      Corn

●      Barley

●      Oats

●      Rice

●      Wheat

For a grain-free dog food it replaces these grains by other carbohydrates like:

●      Potatoes

●      Pea flour

●      Lentils

●      Chickpeas

Ever heard of BEG diet?

BEG diet is a form of dog diet that includes no grains. It mostly consists of exotic meats like Kangaroo, duck salmon and vegetables, and fruits.

It might look healthy, but some of the ingredients like lentils, peas, and fava beans used as an alternative to grains can make a dangerous combination.

However, the relationship with such diet with any known health issues varies from dog to dog.

Why is the popularity of grain-free dog food rising?

With the internet bombarded with its and bits of information on allergy and its link to grain-free diets, the popularity of such foods is on the rise. The primary reason is the mindset of dog owners.

Here’s a stat that may look significant.

In 2011, grain-free dog food market share= 15%

In 2017, grain-free dog food market share= 44%

In 2019, it might be even closer to 60%, who knows!

Yes, there might be some dogs having stomach issues and allergies when fed grain-based diets, but the number is insignificant to impact the entire dog food market.

Although there is no high profile research to back the claim that grain-free diets can cause serious health issues, there is no conclusive evidence either that can prove grain-free diets as more healthy.

The worst possible outcome for feeding grain-free dog foods

Dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM)- This is the term you must know!

This is a deadly canine heart disease that might be linked to grain-free dog foods.

The issue cannot be pinpointed to the absence of grains only! It’s rather the replacements that manufacturers use for grains like chickpeas, lentils, legumes and beet pulp.

CVCA studied around 150 cases of DCM, and most of the dogs were on grain-free diets and with no genetic flaw. That does ring a bell!

Some dogs might develop DCM only because of their genetics. We will get to that later.

Let’s talk about DCM

The major cause of DCM might be something known as a taurine deficiency.

In such a condition, a dog’s heart may become enlarged, weak, and subsequent failure.

Early signs of DCM can be like:

●      Tired without playing or doing anything

●      Breathing problems

●      Loss of weight on regular diets

●      Irregular heartbeats

Some dog breeds are genetically prone to developing DCM or taurine deficiency. Some of them are Doberman pinschers, Golden retrievers, Labrador retrievers, American Cocker Spaniels, etc.

DCM in dogs with taurine deficiency vs. DCM in dogs without taurine deficiency

In a research study, 24 Golden Retrievers were reported to have DCM. But after using taurine supplements and changing diet, most of the dogs had positive results.

It doesn’t matter what food it is, some dogs have a natural deficiency of taurines.

Now, let’s compare this to dogs without any breed-specific taurine deficiency.

The DCM in dogs on grain-free diets had an advanced form of DCM. This means a greater risk of heart failure.

The confusion arises when some dogs with DCM seem to have improved condition when there was a dietary change from one grain-free diet to another.

And some dogs needed just extra taurine to become healthy again.

FDA report on grain-free dog food and DCM

The latest update from the FDA on diet and canine heart disease was conducted on July 2019.

FDA conducted an examination to find association of DCM cases with food that are labeled as grain-free.

Their main focus was whether the food was devoid of soy, white rice, barley and other grains and whether the food contained peas, beans, lentils, and potatoes.

The finding was astonishing:

●      90% of DCM cases were associated with grain-free dog foods.

●      About 93% of the foods had peas and lentils in them

●      42% had potatoes

FDA also presented the brands that have food labels falling in the DCM criteria. Some of these include:

●      Zignature- 64 reports

●      4Health- 32 reports

●      Blue Buffalo- 31 reports

●      Fromm-24 reports

●      California Natural- 15 reports

●      Orijen- 12 reports

●      Nutrisource- 10 reports

●      Rachel ray Nutrish- 10 reports

There is evidence yet to back up the claim that grain-free dog foods are the sole reason behind DCM. So, there is no need to get concerned about these brands.

What solution should you be looking at?

If you cannot pinpoint any issues of allergy or reactions related to your dog’s grain-based dog food, it’s never a good idea to move to grain-free foods.

You must keep digging more for unbiased dog food reviews and know more about dog food ingredients. It’s best to stick with dog foods that have a mix of high-quality grains, proteins, and manufactured by companies with years of quality control.

If you see any signs of DCM in your dog, you can take him to the vet and check the taurine levels.

The problem might be in the overall dog food industry, or it’s just a certain food is not for your dog.

Thoughts on raw diets

In recent years, many dog owners have shifted from grain-free commercial dog food to raw food.

The issue with raw food is that it becomes very expensive to continue feeding throughout the year. As there are thousands of pet owners from different income level, many of them will have a hard time maintaining such a raw diet budget.

There are many health risks also that you need to consider. The risk might be greater than feeding grain-free diets.

References

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/07/24/health/grain-free-dog-food-heart-disease.html

https://avmajournals.avma.org/doi/full/10.2460/javma.253.11.1390

https://www.southbostonanimalhospital.com/blog/is-grain-free-dog-food-linked-to-canine-heart-disease

https://vetnutrition.tufts.edu/2018/11/dcm-update/

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