Why vets say that you should never feed your dog a grain-free diet
dog fooddoes not contain wheat, rice, or other types of grains.
- Grains are usually substituted for legumes, which could cause dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM).
- When you cut out grains,
dogscan miss out on fiber, fatty acids, and protein.
Dog parents often treat their dogs as a member of the family, which means providing them with the utmost care and a nutritious diet. As a result, fad diets that are popular for humans can sometimes lead to fad diets for dogs.
For example, gluten-free dog food became popular around the same time that gluten-free diets (for humans) were all the rage, says Rebecca Greenstein, DVM, a Veterinary Medical Advisor for Rover.However, these fad diets aren't always good for humans, and the same goes for your pooch - especially if your vet didn't recommend it.
What is grain-free dog food?
Grain-free dog food typically does not contain ingredients such as:
The health risks of grain-free dog food
Although dog parents have good intentions when feeding their dogs a grain-free diet, it may actually be harmful. The FDA has alerted
Conditions that DCM can lead to
- Heart murmurs
- Collapse episodes
- Exercise intolerance
- Congestive heart failure
"Legumes have been used in dog food diets previously, as they are a source of plant-based protein. More recently, though, they have been used in a much higher proportion in certain diets, which are often labeled as grain-free diets," says Wilson.
When the FDA looked into the diets of dogs with DCM, 93% of products that the dogs ate contained peas or lentils.However, the FDA is still investigating exactly why a grain-free diet puts dogs at higher risk for DCM, says Rebecca Ruch-Gallie, DVM, an associate professor in clinical sciences at Colorado State University. But Greenstein says that the absence of grains in the diet appears to affect the bioavailability of key nutrients like taurine, which is important for heart muscle health.
The good news, Ruch-Gallie says, is that researchers found that DCM reversed when the grain-free diet was discontinued, and grains were reintroduced into the diet.
Aside from the DCM risk, there are other
- Essential amino acids
- Fatty acids
The health benefits of grain-free dog foodWilson says that there isn't substantial scientific evidence regarding the benefits of feeding your dog a grain-free diet.
However, Wilson says grain allergies are very rare, and it's more common for food allergies in dogs to be linked to the protein source rather than the grain source.Related Article Module: 21 of the best dog foods in 2021 for puppies, adult dogs, and seniors "Very few pet owners ever really needed to avoid grain-containing diets for medical reasons, but there was a perception that grain was somehow a nutritional 'villain' and eliminating it completely was the next big thing," says Greenstein.
Grain-free food may be appropriate if a dog has a grain allergy and if a vet recommends it, however, the diet does come with serious health risks.
All three vets are not proponents of grain-free diets for dogs, and they advise discussing any special diet plans with your vet.
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