Alison posed the question a few weeks back, and I promised an answer. I wanted to read about it more before I jumped in with a response. Here goes, Alison. Hope it addresses your concerns.
The use of grains in dog food has begun to raise a bit of a controversy these days. Some vets recommend cooked grains because of their impressive nutritional content. One theory is that wild dogs consume grains when they eat the digestive organs of their prey. The theory goes that since grains are historically & evolutionarily a part of a dog’s diet, dogs can process them, need them, and should have them.
Lots of people are going grain-free in their own diets. (Not me. I love pizza & cookies too much). Dog diets tend to follow people diets. It stands to reason that some people would transfer their concerns about gluten and what-not onto their dogs.
However, is going grain-free the right thing for your pet?
Since going RAW a few months ago, I have been giving Pearl & Truman one ounce of wHOLe, uncooked rolled oats each morning. I mix it with yogurt & raw honey or applesauce, and let it sit while I cut other fruit or beat raw eggs to give the oats time to soften. Except for the various treats they eat a couple of times a day, that’s all the grains they have in their diet. But, I’ve been wondering lately whether I should give even that small amount to them.
Commercially produced convenience foods are full of grains and corn. They are cheap and plentiful. Large quantity for low price. (That’s what we’re all after, right?) They give bulk and boost calories.
But, according to the Encyclopedia of Natural Pet Care, dogs (& cats) do not easily produce enough of the enzyme amylase, which is necessary for digestion and assimilation of carbohydrates. The proteins in grains are therefore less digestible than animal proteins. The stress of difficult digestion can result in an irritated or weakened immune system over time, which then can result in allergies or other immunity issues.
One of the leading causes of allergies in dogs is soybeans, followed by wheat and corn.
If you’ve got a diabetic pet, check the food bag. Does it contain corn? They make sugar from corn, you know. Probably not the best thing to be feeding a diabetic animal. Just saying.
Sure, wild dogs have consumed grain-eating prey. But grains are not historically a substantial part of the wild, ancestral diet primarily because to be digested, grains have to be sprouted or cooked, and then chewed up good. Dogs have lived around farms for centuries, and have been tossed more than a few crusts of bread. But before the advent of farming, dogs most likely didn’t do a whole lot of baking.
Many of the nutrients in grains, such as B vitamins and trace minerals, are more readily available in other things like organ meats or vegetables that dogs have an easier time digesting. Plus, dogs simply don’t have a real need for complex carbohydrates.
If in the balance, the dog does not really need grains, then it’s probably best to remove them from the diet. It’s much, much easier to do that if you’re feeding raw, wHOLe foods.
pugs & kisses,