The Debate of the Grain Free Diet Simplified!

In a multi-billion dollar industry, why must we be deceived by fad diets only to find out that we could be killing our dogs. The two most recent controversies when it comes to kibble dog food lie in a grain-inclusive or a grain-free diet. To feed or not to feed grains? Decades ago the fad of grain-free diets emerged when there was a spike in dogs suffering from different cancers as well as liver and kidney disease. These health effects have been linked to the mycotoxins that were ending up in the food as a result of the grains included. Most recently, there is said to be a link between grain-free diets and heart disease, specifically dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM). So what’s really going? Is the absence of grains actually causing DCM in dogs?

The simplest answer is no, but let’s look at it in a bit more depth. The studies, carried out by Tufts University and funded by Purina, concluded that there is a possible correlation between exotic grain free diets and DCM. So what is DCM? DCM is a weakening of the heart muscles that prevents them from being strong enough to pump blood normally. There are certain breeds that are more susceptible to DCM, but the most recent frenzy that prompted the study was the increase in this disease in new breeds, previously not at high risk. What was discovered, was that these dogs had a deficiency of taurine in their blood causing DCM. So how are grain-free diets affecting these levels of taurine?

When grains were removed from our dogs diets, they were replaced with other fillers and binding agents through using legumes. Now legumes are a great source of plant-based

proteins, however, our dogs are not designed to eat a plant-based diet. When these legumes are being added to kibbles, they are replacing the amount of protein being derived from actual taurine containing meats. Now it is still being investigated, but the correlation between grain-free diets and DCM doesn’t seem to be caused by an absence of grains, but rather the addition of legumes.

Given that this study also stated “boutique and exotic proteins” as a correlation, this must be

considered as well. The exotic proteins that they are referring to are all recently trending meats for our dogs such as kangaroo, lamb, venison and rabbit. Now feeding these proteins in my opinion as part of a balanced diet has many health benefits, however the nutritional value of these proteins to constitute a complete diet on their own are not well studied. So now that we have a very brief understanding of this correlation, what can we do a pet parents to assure our dogs are not falling victim to these fads?

Obviously my first and simplest answer is that your dog should be eating a raw diet that is complete and balanced, but not everyone will follow this advice. What is more important, is to recognize if your dog is actually eating a balanced diet and not just believe the advertising

on the bag. If you are feeding your dog the same food, day in and day out, your dogs diet is absolutely not balanced and nor is it complete. If you are going to continue to feed kibble, my advice would be to make sure you are rotating your food. Don’t settle for feeding the same thing everyday, even if that bag says it is complete. Read the labels! If meat is not the first ingredient, move on!

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