Grain of truth
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