Grain of truth

Pets (Singapore) - - Ask The Expert -

I’ve been read­ing up on grain- and gluten-free di­ets ever since they be­came pop­u­lar, but I found no con­crete sci­en­tific ev­i­dence to sup­port the the­ory that they’re bet­ter for dogs or cats. What are your thoughts on th­ese di­ets and how do they com­pare to kib­ble­based or raw di­ets?

It has been ob­vi­ous (to me) for many years that many com­mer­cial pet foods are way too high in car­bo­hy­drates—more specif­i­cally in cheap grains—and now this has been put for­ward as the cause be­hind al­ler­gies. The prob­lem is that the tar­get for this “cause” has been sim­ply la­belled as “grains” in one mass state­ment, but the truth is far more com­plex. We should look at ex­cess car­bo­hy­drates in gen­eral, and a de­fi­ciency in qual­ity an­i­mal pro­teins and fats.

It has be­come a com­monly held be­lief that all grains will cause al­ler­gies in pets, when the truth is that while some grains are gen­uinely al­ler­genic (like wheat for ex­am­ple), other grains are quite hy­poal­ler­genic, like oats.

The way grains are pre­sented to an an­i­mal makes a huge dif­fer­ence in how the body pro­cesses them. In the wild, grains in the diet would come from the gut con­tent of a prey an­i­mal; they would be whole grains, partly chewed and di­gested and soaked in gas­tric juices. This is a far cry from the cheap, bulk flour and cooked wheat and corn (of­ten at lev­els ex­ceed­ing 50 per­cent of the diet) that is added to modern pets foods such as com­mer­cial kib­ble. High car­bo­hy­drate lev­els put a strain on di­ges­tion and ab­sorp­tion, not to men­tion in­sulin me­tab­o­lism and trig­ger­ing in­flam­ma­tory path­ways.

There have been sev­eral stud­ies show­ing that a small amount of grain/ car­bo­hy­drate in a dog’s diet is ac­tu­ally ben­e­fi­cial to their over­all health and me­tab­o­lism.

Gluten is found in vary­ing amounts in dif­fer­ent grains, and not found in some grains at all. Wheat is very high in gluten; oats are low-gluen; and rice and sorghum have no gluten. I do be­lieve that some grains like wheat can cause di­rect al­ler­gies in dogs and cats, and can cer­tainly lead to some chronic bowel is­sues like ir­ri­ta­ble bowel syn­drome. Hence, I avoid wheat grains com­pletely, and use oats, rice or other low- or zero-gluten sources.

BVSc(Hons)Founder of Vets All Nat­u­ral P/L

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