In part 1 of “Pet food ingredient Grain: Controversy vs. chemistry” I started the discussion about an ingredient we see heavily discussed in pet food marketing these days: Grain. We took a closer look at what the experts Dr. Wysong D.V.M and Dr. Harvey, D.V.M had to say on the topic and concluded 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. Whole grains in appropriate proportions, applied using common sense is the golden rule here. Today let’s see what Steve Brown, co-author of “See Spot Live Longer” has to say about the issue on hand:
“Do Dogs and Cats Need Grains?
The natural, ancestral diet of dogs and cats included minimal amounts of grain, yet even the “healthiest” dry foods are half grain. Help your animals live longer by feeding them diets more appropriate for their bodies! Learn about the differences between the natural diet of dogs and cats and the modern diet of dry foods.
Dogs and cats are designed by nature to be primarily meat eaters
Dogs are scavengers. Their diet included almost any food that provided calories – but rarely grain. A major factor in the domestication of dogs was the food available at the human garbage dump: The “tamer” wolves, those least afraid of humans, over a period of tens of thousands of years, became our close companions. According to a recent study by biologists Ray and Lorna Coppinger, the natural diet of dogs included: ”Bones, pieces of carcass, rotten greens and fruit, fish guts, discarded seeds and grains, animal guts and heads, some discarded human food and wastes” (1)
Cats are more selective about food by nature and anatomy: Their ancestral diet consisted of small rodents. Their usefulness to humans had much to do with their eagerness to dispatch the rodents so plentiful around human habitats.
There is almost no grain in the natural diet of dogs and cats
The natural diet of both cats and dogs includes high levels of protein, fat, and water, and very little carbohydrate. The “recommended” diet of dry foods, which is the diet of most cats and dogs, is the complete opposite of this natural diet: High in carbohydrate, low in protein, fat, and with almost no water.
Dogs and cats do not need carbohydrates, and most veterinary textbooks agree:
Canine and Feline Nutrition ( co-authored by two scientists from Iams®): “The fact that dogs and cats do not require carbohydrate is immaterial because the nutrient content of most commercial foods include (carbohydrates).(2)
Small animal Clinical Nutrition III, written by the founder of Science Diet® (Mark Morris Sr.) and his son (Mark Morris Jr.): “Some question exists regarding the need of dogs and cats for dietary carbohydrate. From a practical sense, the answer to this question is of little importance because there are carbohydrates in most food ingredients used in commercially prepared dog foods.”(3)
The Waltham Book of Companion animal Nutrition: “There is no known minimum dietary requirement for carbohydrate….”(4)
More Grain, More Insulin, More Inflammation
A highly processed, grain based diet fed to an animal designed to thrive on a meat based, fresh food diet is very likely to produce symptoms of ill health over time. Diets to address disease most frequently address the symptoms that are the result of a lifetime of inappropriate food, not the cause of the symptoms. The optimum diet for a dog or a cat should closely resemble their natural diet.
A diet balanced heavily toward grain promotes insulin production and the production of inflammatory chemicals. Over-production of insulin makes it hard for the body to maintain its correct weight, and can lead to diabetes and other problems. An overabundance of inflammatory chemicals means more aches and pains.
Improve the balance of your dog’s diet by reducing grain, and you may not need the dangerous Non-Steroidal and Steroid drugs so commonly prescribed for dogs. Less grain means less inflammation! Toxic drugs make animals more comfortable, but are likely to shorten their lives.
Diabetic animals or those with any other medical condition making a switch to a more protein-based diet should be under the close supervision of a veterinarian.
It is our opinion that the best diet for a dog or cat is a fresh meat, bone and vegetable diet. We can’t always follow that advice due to financial constraints; the following suggestions will help you to move toward that goal. Every step helps.
Add Meat To Promote Health
Reduce the grain content of your animal’s diet by adding meat. The following steps can have a profound effect on your animal’s well-being! Please remember to reduce the total amount of dry food your pet eats.
Add up to 15% fresh meat, raw or cooked. This increases the protein and reduces the carbohydrate content of the pet’s food. This simple step will not unbalance the levels of any essential nutrient in your animal’s diet. Be sure that the meat scraps you’re adding are mostly meat! Your doggie bag is likely to have much more fat in it than meat. Fat is a very important nutrient but one that needs to be kept in balance. Every fat gram provides double the calories of a gram of protein or carbohydrate.
Don’t use “senior”, “lite” and “diet” foods. These varieties usually have fewer calories per cup because the manufacturer increased the fiber and carbohydrates, and reduced protein and fat, compared to adult maintenance diets. This is the opposite of what is needed, and has no scientific foundation. Older and overweight pets need meat, not grain.
Add canned food. Good canned food has no grain, and has more protein and fat than dry pet foods. “Complete and balanced” canned diets may be fed as an animal’s sole diet. For cats, we highly recommend switching all the way. Cats should not eat dry foods. Urinary tract problems and kidney failure in cats have been closely related to dietary water, which has a different effect on the body than water an animal drinks. It’s much better for the cat to eat her food with the water in it!
Add a commercially prepared frozen raw diet. As with canned foods, if these are “complete” they can replace all other food fed to your animals.
Research proper homemade meat, bone and vegetable diets and supplement with good dry food to cut cost. Homemade foods can be nutritious and affordable, but must be made correctly. This option provides the protein and fat our pets need, reduces the amount of grain they eat, and is affordable by most people.
Feed your animal a meat and vegetable based diet, the best choice for almost every animal.”
Origin, Behavior & Evolution, Scribner, 2001. 59 – 78.
2. Case: Cary, and Hirakawa, Canine and Feline Nutrition, Mosby, 1995. 93.
3. Morris, Mark, Lewis, Lone and Hand, Michael, Small Animal Clinical Nutrition III, Mark Morris associates, 1990. 1-11.
4. Burger, I., Ed. The Waltham Book of Companion Animal Nutrition, Pergamon 1995. 26-27: 10
Steve definitely seems to be against grain in general and tends to favor vegetables instead. Certainly an acceptable opinion in my mind and as he also documents with the references he refers to. Additionally Steve too, just as Dr. Wysong and Dr. Harvey, makes clearly his point about whole vs. highly processed grains. What I do find kind of amusing is the reference where he quotes the scientists representing Iams and the founder of Science. I am somewhat confused: According to these gentlemen we (and they/their companies) know that our companion animals require very little or no dietary carbohydrates. But this is “immaterial” or “of “little importance” because (their companies’) food includes them anyway? Am I missing something here? If the animals don’t need it why to we give it to them? That to me says we have done wrong since the introduction of kibble. I can see that, and we have made this point numerous times before. But what actually justifies wrong doing by simply ignoring Mother Nature’s rules? Or is it ok just because your name is Iams and Science and you are overwhelmingly represented in the market? So much indeed that one could say there is sort of a dependency of pet owners on your products. I am sue glad that we still have choices and that well educated pet owners take advantage of that opportunity.