Grain Free Diet?  By now everyone has heard of this diet as well as Raw Meat Diet (That is for another blog), but what exactly is the benefit of grain free diets and why have they become so darn popular in recent years?

Well first and foremost, lets take a look at some supposed benefits of a grain free diet.

  • Fuller Longer – It is stated that animals stay fuller longer while on grain free diets and eat less frequently.  Good for a healthy weight right?
  • Food Allergies – Again stated that being on a grain free diet helps with food allergies, and causes less irritated and itchy skin in our pups.

I have recently gone through and gotten certified as a Pet Nutrition Coach, so am I stating I am an expert in all things pet nutrition and you should not consult with your Vet about your pets diet, absolutely not.  That couldn’t be more opposite of what you should do.  Am I saying I have gone through the courses, studied this and gotten an official certification as a Pet Nutrition Coach.  Yes. That is all I am saying, and that Grain Free diets was a key topic of our studies.

Now with that out of the way and the possible benefits of this diet, why is it so dang popular?  Simple.  Marketing.  Well it isn’t really that simple, however a massive push by large corporations and celebrities have endorsed the benefits of grain free diets and as everyone knows, when the right amount of money is put into marketing a product and there are benefits that sound really good, it will most likely succeed in reaching the masses.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying a specific diet is bad or good for your pet.  That is solely up to you and your Vet to decide on.  What I am simply saying is there is a reason it has gotten so popular in recent years and that most Vets actually endorse a diet that DOES consist of grains.  Here is why.

While a grain free diet is exactly that, grain free, it is not Carbohydrate free.  Those Carbohydrates tend to be added at levels much higher that foods that include grains.  Grains are an excellent source of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats, the alternate ingredients, tend to be high starch foods, with little to no protein or fats. Many of the foods include potatoes, chickpeas, taro, and tapioca.

Regarding the feeling of being full for longer periods of time…..Well….  The Carbohydrate alternatives in grain free diets tend to have lower levels of fiber content and can actually have decreased digestive times, causing the stomach to empty sooner, leading to decreased satiety (feeling full).

This obviously causing the animal to feel fuller for a shorter period of time than they would in a high fiber diet, including grains thus eating more.

With the exception of wheat, no grain is recognized as a common allergenic source.  For the product wheat gluten, celiac disease is uncommon in dogs, and a gluten-free diet is of no benefit, and actually deprives them of an excellent source of protein in the form of gluten.

A big topic of discussion when it comes to grain free diets is Dilated Cardiomyopathy (DCM), which vets have seen cases of DCM increase where the owners have been feeding either grain-free diets or boutique diets.  While taurine deficiency has been known to contribute to the development of DCM in cats and dogs, the absence of grains in the diets has yet to be officially proven to the increase in DCM, however that doesn’t mean it is or isn’t the reason for more cases being seen and Vets are reporting that the increase in cases has been among pets on these special diets.

When it comes to Taurine Deficiency, we have stated before that Dogs can and do develop their own Taurine much like humans, so a Taurine Deficiency in dogs is rare, however a cat cannot develop their own Taurine and need this to be included in their diets.  So by feeding your cat a Taurine free diet, you are essentially depriving your cat of the proper nutrition needed to live a long healthy life. (check out our Taurine blog for more information on that).

So with all of that said, obviously there is still a ton of research that needs to go into grain free diets and the only thing we would recommend is to work directly with your Vet as to what diet is perfect for your cat or dog and how to properly portion said diet to avoid any potential health problems.

If your pet is on a grain free diet, send us a message in the comment section and let us know how they are doing with it, positive improvements in health we hope.  Let us know and we would love to continue the conversation with you!