Monday, December 16, 2013

Grain-ger Danger | Guest Post by Kathryn Primm, DVM

Grain-free pet food is a hot topic right now. I've heard a lot of controversy regarding the subject and am always interested in hearing different points of view on it. Today's post is written by a veterinarian - Dr. Kathryn Primm. Regardless of where you stand with this particular topic, I think the message is critical. Veterinary care is important! Always talk with your veterinarian when it comes to your pet's health.


Do pets need a grain free diet?
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The following was written by Kathryn Primm, DVM.

You can find sensational and frightening headlines everywhere. Self proclaimed consumer advocates dedicate lots of time on a myriad of causes ranging from how you should not live near power lines to what chemicals are creeping into your food when you microwave it. The scariest stories catch the most attention and they are the ones that go “viral”. If you watch social media, you can kill fleas with baking soda mixtures and cure cancers with a colon cleanse. We all know that if it were that easy, our world would be a very different place. These people prey on our hopes and desires to find a “quick fix”.

How do you know which ones have merit? I cannot tell you whether or not you should be afraid of many things, but I can tell you if I think your pet needs to be on a grain free diet. Your veterinarian can help you with this issue.  I will not use my psychic powers or my crystal ball to tell you though, because there is no shortcut.  I will employ my other "magic powers" in the form of diagnostic equipment and medical training.  If a breeder or a self proclaimed nutrition expert tells you that your pet requires a grain free diet, you need to ask to see the results of the food trial and diagnostic testing.  You also need to know the name of the veterinary professional that made the diagnosis for future reference because if your pet is truly allergic to grains, it will be a lifelong challenge. I am not sure why it is such a "hot topic" and I know how convincing these headlines are, but I am telling you that you can spend A LOT of money and time searching for special diets that your pet will eat and you may be burning your money and your time. Spend your money on premium pet food. 

I am certainly a believer in "you are what you eat" so high quality diets are vital to good health, but it is much harder to have a nutritionally complete diet when certain ingredients have to be avoided. Spend your time reading labels and talking with your veterinarian. Being "grain free" is difficult and expensive.  Just make sure that this is the place that you really need to pour your time and money.  I searched the web and my medical charts to find out how many pets are truly grain allergic and I found several internet sites (not posted by veterinarians) that all say "many". I do not know exactly the number they mean, but "many" is not accurate. They cite no medical sources. In my experience during 16 years of clinical small animal practice and 2 month medical externship specifically with a veterinary allergist, it is a rare diagnosis and a very common misconception based on anecdotal evidence.


Does your pet need a grain free diet?
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The greatest "consumer advocate" is your vet.  He or she KNOWS your pet and knows you. With a few publicized exceptions, veterinarians are like other animal lovers...good people with big hearts. We will always try to help you wade through all the free advice out there and choose what is right for you and your pet.

Kathryn Primm is a veterinarian and owner of Applebrook Animal Hospital. She’s also the author of Tennessee Tails: Pets and their People as well as a pet owner of two cats and Dora, a rescued Great Dane, Dr. Primm knows the challenges of keeping fur-friends happy and healthy. Helping pets and people is her passion and her mission, loving the job is an extra bonus! You can follow Dr. Primm on Twitter.

24 comments:

  1. You have been nominated for the Blog of the Year Award. Pawkisses :)

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    1. Thank you!!!! I was placed on a gluten free diet once and thankfully found that it was not my issue. I was really glad because I found it very hard to be nutrition conscious and exclude gluten. The same is true for pets. Please feel free to contact me with questions anytime. Wags :)

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    2. Thank you Binky, I'll stop by later this evening.

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  3. So true Ann! I'm a vet in Australia and I think the trend towards grain free is following the trend in humans to want to eat gluten free. We see lots of people who believe there is some sort of pet food conspiracy, and sure, pet food manufacturers are out to make money, they are a business after all. But they also do have lots of research and safety behind their foods and they are nutritionally balanced. I've certainly seen far too many dogs with stomach upsets due to poor diets. I also think there is a common misconception that dogs are carnivores, not omnivores, so sometimes when people aim to avoid mainstream pet foods, they end up feeding a diet that is very meat heavy, with very little fibre. I'm a big fan of feeding raw bones (we see lots of little white fluffies with bad teeth at my practice!), but dogs do also need variety, and it is difficult to mimic this with a home cooked diet that is the same each day. At least if they are getting a good premium dog food as a base, you know all those micronutrients are there also.

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    1. Thank you Eloise for leaving your feedback on this topic! I suppose I hadn't heard the gluten free diet being similar to the grain-free diet for dogs yet. In terms of it may not be necessary anyways. Very interesting to hear your thoughts on this topic as well.

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  4. Grain free, gluten free is a fad for humans and pets right now. It reminds Mom of the carbophobia fad a few years ago. She still eats carbs and has no issues. We talked to our vet about grain free and e talked to some food reps and came to the conclusion that if we eat a high quality food with some grain, it is not a big deal and we should stick with it, so that is what we are doing. Everyone has to do what is right for them. All my baking posts are with regular flour too. We are fortunate to not have allergies and other food issues. It is hard to not go grain free with everyone saying it is the way to go, but we have our paws firmly planted on our current chow :) Nice post.

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    1. I also remember the carb thing, but I love my carbohydrates too much to give them up! So glad to hear your thoughts on this Emma. Sounds like you guys are doing just fine with your diet.

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  5. I think you put it so correctly the best advice is certainly from ones vet who knows our animals better than anyone else except us.
    Have a marvellous Monday.
    Best wishes Molly

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    1. Thank you. As an animal lover since...well, always, I hate to see people follow fads and waste time and money, when all they have to do is ask!

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  6. I eat grain free dog food on my vet's recommendation after he diagnosed me with food allergies. He said eliminate all the grains first and I have been very healthy since! I did learn that grain-free foods are higher in fat which gave me problems so be sure and read the labels they aren't the same! Love Dolly

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    1. Good advice, Dolly! It is very wise to maintain a healthy body condition.

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  7. My dogs eat grain free and are doing very well on it. My small dog who is older has had the best outcome from switching.

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  8. Thank you for this timely information on a subject very much in discussion at the moment. The best advice for your pet is from your vet...

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  9. Thanks so much for the info. Can you tell us the right amount of protein we should be looking for?

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    1. Unfortunately, there is not a good and simple answer to your question. The quality of the protein is as important as the amount because even a high % protein that your pet cannot digest is useless. For years, we have quoted percentages of different nutrients as ideal, but really, this is oversimplified and pet food labels can be hard to decipher. If your pet has been diagnosed with certain diseases, like kidney disease, the dietary protein can play a role in the management of the disease also. There are amino acids present in commercial pet food that are difficult to find in our human foods, so be sure that your pet has access to a premium commercial diet. I personally choose diets that publish their R&D for me to look at. In my opinion, mainstream grocery store type food is not premium because more focus is put on quantity sold than quality so their budgets may go more to advertising than research.
      Rather than the percent of protein, focus on the protein source. I like to see lean meats (and in dogs' case vegetables too) with minimal additives, colorants and processing. If I see that the kibbles come in a variety of colors, I am less apt to choose it. I supplement my pets with whole foods and I never feed raw diets to my pets. I know that there are those that do this and are happy with it, but I don't eat raw food and I don't expect my pets to either.
      I hope this helps. For more info, I publish a regular blog on www.applebrookanimal.com and will be a columnist for Boomeon.com after its launch in January. Feel free to contact me on Social Media as well. Hug your fur friends.

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  10. Very interesting post on what I call a "hot topic." Fortunately, I do trust our vet, so usually rely on what she says.

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    1. Definitely a hot topic Mario. I think it's good you listen to what your vet has to say!

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  11. I feed what I would consider a premium food (kibble) that is grain freed but I chose it for the higher fat and protein content as I have super active dogs. I have had good results with it but still feel a little concerned that maybe I am not feeding them a fully balanced diet...also since I by the same flavor, that in am not giving them a balance of protein sources regularly

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    1. If it's a premium food, the diet should be balanced. You can always ask your veterinarian what they think too!

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  12. Thanks for this post. I'm always unsure and I need hours to read all the packages in the store.

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  13. We feed a grain free food because our active dogs do better on it. But of they get some grains in treats, that isn't an issue either. We do stay away from corn.

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  14. I agree - great information. Plus recently we have found that dogs have genes to digest starches (that come from grains) that wolves do not have. This shows us that dogs at least partly adapted to eating humans grains as a way to thrive.

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