Grain in dog food – yes or no? Some feed it without questioning. The others demonize it. And still, others feed only certain types of grain. But what about the hype about grain-free dog food? Grains can cause digestive problems and allergies in dogs. However, grain-free food can also make dogs sick.
Can Dogs Digest Grain in Dog Food?
Dogs are descended from the wolf, which is a predator and feeds on prey. Therefore, it seems clear to many that the dog is also a pure carnivore. But it’s not that easy.
The dog has accompanied humans for many thousands of years. When humans began to farm, the diet of dogs also changed. They hunted less and less and instead ate porridge, leftover food, and feces. Even in the feces of many wild dog populations that still exist today, only a small proportion of meat can be detected.
Such a development also results in genetic changes. Scientists have been able to prove this in several studies. Dogs have far more copies of genes that digest starch. Racial differences can be observed. Less original dog breeds that used to live very close to humans and come from agricultural regions have the greatest genetic adaptation to starch digestion.
Both wolves and dogs can digest starch, but dogs – it is now believed – far better. However, a dog cannot use whole grains. They are usually eliminated as a whole. So that the dog can digest them and utilize their nutrients, they have to be “open-minded”, e.g. by heating or rolling. Starch is one of the carbohydrates and is a valuable source of energy. Since dogs can only get their energy from proteins and fats, they are not necessarily dependent on this strength.
Why Feed Grain-Free Dog Food?
Although dogs can digest grain, there are several reasons that speak against grain-based dog food.
Grain as a cheap filling material
The reason that many types of dog food contain large amounts of grain is that it is cheaper than meat. But the dog’s digestion is not designed to eat mostly grain. It can therefore lead to digestive problems such as gas and diarrhea.
Grain-free feed does not contain gluten
The storage protein gluten, known as adhesive protein, is considered to be the cause of allergies and intolerances. Wheat and spelled contain a particularly large amount of it. Like humans, dogs can suffer from gluten intolerance. Some representatives of the Border Terrier dog breed also suffer from the disease Canine Epileptoid Cramping Syndrome, in which the affected dogs even suffer from epilepsy-like seizures when they are fed gluten-containing food.
Even if a lot speaks against the grain in dog food, this should not be demonized. Countless dogs get along wonderfully with grain-based food.
Identifying Good Grain-Free Dog Food
If a dog food is grain-free, that doesn’t mean it’s good dog food. The following points will help you to check the quality of grain-free dog food in stores.
In the best case, the composition of the dog food is declared open or semi-open.
This means that all ingredients are listed precisely and with details of the amount. Instead of “meat and animal by-products” (closed declaration), the packaging reads, for example, “chicken meat (50%), chicken hearts (10%), chicken liver (2%), …” (open declaration). Only a few manufacturers use these open declarations to protect their formulations. The half-open declaration without a quantity is more common, but in contrast to the closed one, it allows an approximate quantity ratio to be estimated.
The main component of your dog’s food is meat or animal components.
The composition listing is sorted by quantity. The components are named in descending order. The ingredients in front are contained in larger quantities. Make sure that the manufacturer divides rough components into individual values. A food with the list “Meat, potato flakes, potato starch, potato protein” contains far more potatoes than meat with a high probability. Due to the trick of the division, the meat comes first in terms of quantity and thus gives the impression that it is the main ingredient.
In addition to meat and offal, good dog food also contains fiber.
Fiber plays an important role in dog nutrition. These include those components that are difficult or difficult to digest that a prey animal also has (e.g. fur, feathers). Just as too much fiber can lead to digestive problems, too little does too. Potatoes, vegetables, psyllium husks, or pseudo-grains can be added to dog food as dietary fiber. Pseudograins are gluten-free grains like rice, amaranth, millet, quinoa, corn, and buckwheat. If you only want to feed gluten-free, this can be a good alternative.
The grain-free feed does not contain large amounts of legumes.
North American scientists discovered a link between DCM, heart disease in dogs, and low levels of taurine in the blood. Taurine is an amino sulfonic acid that plays an important role in heart function. While cats must ingest taurine through their diet, dogs can make it themselves. The majority of the sick dogs received grain-free food with a high proportion of pulses and potatoes from their owners at the time of diagnosis. It is therefore assumed that the legumes and possibly also potatoes in large quantities inhibit the formation of taurine.