First, let me start by saying that many of the Grain-Free dog foods on the market are still considered healthy and perfectly fine to feed to your dog. I'm sure many of you have observed the recent overwhelming articles and vague reports about grain-free dogs as seen on tv, NBC nightly news, and Facebook. Are grain-free foods harmful to your pet, are grain-free foods healthy for your pet? Let's dive into the story a little further for an explanation.
Just in case you aren't a news observer, let me fill you in on what has been happening the last few weeks. There is an on-going study, that started several years back, at UC Davis of California regarding Golden Retrievers and the use of pea protein, peas, and pea starch in foods. They were seeing elevated levels of D.C.M (Dilated Cardiomyopathy) which reduces heart pumping function and increases the heart size. Symptoms of DCM includes fatigue, coughing, fainting, or difficulty breathing, all of which can result in cardiac arrest or alterations in the way the heart functions. I would like to point out, the study does not tell how many dogs were included the study, how many did not show these symptoms, or any other breeds involved in the study. The study does include that the dogs had several things in common including exotic proteins, small boutique manufacturers OR grain free diets which included the vegetable proteins as a main ingredient in the foods.
The lack of information put out by the media, and FDA created a frenzy in the pet marketplace, and a multitude of phone calls from concerned customers who don't have all the facts. I don't believe the entire study or report has been released as of this time. I do know that several retractions and additions will be made, as more information needs to be released by the FDA.
The study reported that the DCM was believed to be caused by a lack of taurine in the foods the dogs were eating. The use of plant proteins such as peas, legumes, lentils as a main ingredient artificially inflates the protein levels while lacking the required taurine that dogs need. Most of the grain free diets on the market do contain MEAT as a main ingredient, but is that enough? We have always believed that meat should be the main ingredient in all dog foods, since they come from a carnivorous ancestry - the wolf. While this further proves that meat and taurine levels are indeed important, it does not mean that we cannot feed a grain free diet. Most companies have indeed removed "by-products" which most of the time includes the organ meat, where the main source of taurine comes from. This was another instance of "no by products" movement in dog foods. There are other options such as duck hearts, chicken hearts, chicken necks, chicken liver, duck gizzards to serve as treats which can not only boost your dogs taurine levels, but provide a healthy snack if you are concerned about the level of taurine in your dogs' foods. (See our Fresh Is Best link for healthy freeze dried organ meat treats).
The fight against all different types of issues with dog food becomes prevalent when a particular subject or study is published. First, we saw the fight against by-products, then against grains, then against raw foods, now grain-free foods. Apparently, the way the news makes it sound, we shouldn't feed anything at all. The raw community is all grain-free but contains the necessary taurine levels since organ meat is included in all aspects of raw. Yet, this is a subject for our next blog, where we have interviewed several manufacturers and their opinions on this story.
Many veterinarians have also jumped the gun on this report, and have not gone on a fact finding mission. These are the same vets that are still recommending diets that only "they sell", to their clients, without realizing the very food they are now recommending include CORN, CORN GLUTEN MEAL, or SOY, providing an even worse diet for your dog. I spend a lot of time, research, trade shows, and training to learn about the foods I list and sell. I work with my customers on a one-on-one basis for what works for their dogs. Some dogs require grains, while others do not. As stated in the FDA report, foods that do not use MEAT as a main ingredient were top on the list of concerns. If your dog food has peas, pea protein, potatoes, lentils or legumes listed as the first ingredient on your bag, then a recommendation to review your dog food may be in order.
If your dog has an allergy problem, itching, scratching, hot spots, or other issues then please call us and let us work with you on what may work for your dog to alleviate their ailments. Gather information, review what you are currently feeding, gain your own knowledge. Remember that when you are searching for something on the internet such as "Are grain free diets bad for my dog", that those are the only search results that will be available to read. You also need to search the other end of that spectrum "are grain free diets good for my dog". You need to see ALL results, gather a lot of information, before making an informed decision. Don't jump the gun based on a 30 second news report, that didn't include all the information needed. As always, feel free to call us at Gulf Coast Pet Supplies (941) 921.7546.
Reference to the UC Davis Study: https://www.vetmed.ucdavis.edu/news/uc-davis-investigates-link-between-dog-diets-and-deadly-heart-disease
Reference to the FDA report: https://www.fda.gov/animalveterinary/newsevents/cvmupdates/ucm613305.htm