One ingredient we see heavily discussed in pet food marketing these days is grain. Actually, to be correct it is NOT grain, grain free, what is promoted as all the sudden being the best since sliced bread. It is a subject causing many discussions between my customers and myself and it is certainly a controversial one. And as usual, besides making my opinion know, I go and see what the experts have to say about it.
Here is in a nutshell what I came up with so far.
Dr. Wysong, D.V.M. in his “How to apologize to your pet – Fresh and varied feeding with the Wysong Optimal Health Program” says: “Grains should be a smaller portion of your pet’s diet since they are technically not a natural food for carnivores. Raw organically grown rolled oats or raw barley flakes, soaked in raw milk overnight or pasteurized milk result in a treat many pets will relish. Porridges of oats, brown rice, millet, amaranth or quinoa can also be used occasionally. Sprouted grains, raised at home, make excellent additions to your pet’s diet and are eagerly accepted when combined with other foods. Small amounts of leftover table scraps such as cereals, sandwiches and homemade rolls and breads are beneficial additions to your dog’s or cat’s diet, provided they are prepared carefully and with whole grain natural ingredients.”
In his book “The truth about pet foods” he also says: “Within whole wheat, particularly in the germ and outer layers, are many minerals, vitamins, enzymes, proteins, fats and carbohydrates important for healthful nutrition. Ground whole wheat retains most of these nutrients, whereas fractioned white wheat flour does not. Synthetic vitamins are then added to impoverished white flour and this is, deceptively, called fortification.
Whole rice is highly nutritious. Once it is fractioned into white rice, unbalanced nutrition occurs, setting the stage for disease.”
The point he is trying to make is: “Once foods are milled, fractioned, blended, extruded, pelleted, dried, retorted, baked, dyed, breaded, fried, sauced, gravied, pulped, strained, enbalmed, sterilized, sanitized, petrified to permit endless shelf life and finally prettified, they become something entirely different from the wholesome starting materials.” He concludes: “In our age of convenience, packaged products are here to stay. However, as with everything in the market place, there are good and bad products. All creatures are genetically designed for foods directly from nature, not for the chemical potpourri resulting from vigorous processing. Good therefore means as close as possible to natural whole foods. Bad means highly processed food fractions and synthetics.”
Then I looked further through our store assortment and was anxious what Dr. Harvey, D.V.M has to say on the subject:
“I have been asked many times by people who feed their dogs a raw food diet about the use of grains as part of canine nutrition. I am aware that there is a great deal of controversy about the use of grains in the canine diet.
Since many of the people who ask about this are using Canine Health- The Miracle Dog Food , which is my pre-mix and the diet that I have advocated for over 25 years, I respond to their inquiries with the following information which is based on knowledge of chemistry and the facts.
For those who are using Canine Health- The Miracle Dog Food we look at the way in which the food is prepared “in reverse”. Canine Health is prepared with 6 ounces of protein to 7 1/2 ounces of water, which makes a total of 13 1/2 ounces. To this we add 1/2 to 1 ounce of oil and 3 scoops of Canine Health, which is a mixture of 6 different organic grains and 9 different vegetables and herbs. These 3 scoops equal 2 ounces of which one ounce is vegetables.
So the total amount of grain is approximately 1 ounce per pound of food, which is equal to approximately 6% of the total prepared recipe. In reality this is quite a small amount.
I use grain to provide glucose or storage glycogen, which is vital to a healthy canine diet. Every athlete knows that taking in pasta or grain loading prior to an athletic event, provides the necessary storage glycogen for the athlete to have sufficient glucose for muscle performance for the duration activity. This glucose is necessary for all muscle function.
I have seen that wheat, corn and soy can cause problems with animals so we do not put them in Canine Health. Our grains are certified organic, pre-cooked and freeze-dried which makes them easy to digest free of preservatives and incredibly healthy.
Some dogs do well on a completely grain-free diet, and for them I made Veg-to-Bowl , a grain free mix of wonderful dehydrated and freeze dried veggies. This mixture blended with meat and oils makes a wonderful grain free meal. But some dogs do better with grains, in fact, in my experience, many, many dogs improve dramatically when using our Canine Health with raw or cooked meat.
Nature made all muscle and brain function (99%) using glucose and oxygen. Carbohydrates, such as grains, are stored in the in the liver as glycogen this is then released as glucose in the blood as the body requires it.
For over 55 years most of the original commercial dog foods were made with 100% grain, using primarily wheat and corn. We know now that these grains were used because they were inexpensive fillers. Today most commercial foods still contain 40 to 70% grains.
I am not here to knock any other manufacturer, but I know that the companies who manufacture these foods don’t have even the slightest clue about good nutrition for dogs. What we do know, is that given in small amounts with lots of other nutritionally sound additions, grain is very beneficial to a dog’s overall good health.
I see that dogs do incredibly well and thrive on 6-10% grain in their diet. Dogs are able to utilize the glucose from grains, as athletes do when they are performing. We have come a long way in understanding how best to feed our canine companions. We now know how to do it better and improve our lives and the lives of our companions by providing the best nutrition possible.
I am positive that the real problem with commercial pet food is the added preservatives, coloring agents, poor quality protein sources and poor quality fat sources.
Feeding natural and healthy protein, rotating the source each week, adding good healthy oils, also rotated weekly, together with vegetables and a small amount of organic grains, will dramatically improve a dog’s health and well being. This is what I know makes the optimal diet for dogs.”
I would say listening to these two gentlemen it has become clear that the issue and controversy about grain is not the ingredient itself, it is the way how the commercial mass producing pet food industry is using it. There is nothing wrong with adding grain to our pet’s diet. I am sure some of you were shaking their heads in disbelieve while reading the above. They go “Dogs and cats eating grains? Not my pets. They are meat eaters and not rabbits.” Now I have to admit this is true. But nobody here is saying feed them exclusively grain. We are talking about adding fractions of it to the food. And, I fully agree with the 2 guys above. Otherwise, if my 5 cats wouldn’t like bread, why would I have to hide it from them. If I don’t, they look for it until they find the bag, grab it, disappear in their favorite hide outs, rip the bag apart and feast on the with pleasure. So much for a true carnivore. Or , I never saw my dogs turning their heads away from a handful of cooked rice added to their raw meat.
Whole grains in appropriate proportions, applied using common sense is the golden rule here.