There is so much conflict and confusion about grain free dog food & why going grain-free is thought to be better. It is important to clear up what grains are, how they can negatively impact your dog and why it’s a great idea to choose a grain free dog food.
A summary about grain free dog food from Rowan, our Chief Nutritional Officer
德国赛车Table of Contents
Why choose grain free dog food?
Eliminating grains from your dog’s diet can dramatically improve your dog’s physical & mental health. Simply put, grain free dog food is easier to digest. Choosing a grain free dog food can result in less bloating & odorous wind from your dog, it will reduce the likelihood of leaky gut too – never heard of leaky gut? read about it here.
A grain free dog food generally contains fewer carbohydrates. This means less inflammation. Inflammation associated with bloating, intolerances, sensitivities & behavioural issues. Leading vets also associate grain-based diet with elevated cases of pancreatitis in dogs.
The best diet you can feed your dog is one which avoids grains completely. A dog food packed with ingredients your dog was designed to eat will allow your dog to thrive.
What are grains?
Grains are a small hard seed crop that is used as either feed for animals or humans or both. Typically they are seeds of grasses although there are a couple of outliers from multi-leaf plants.
When people refer to grains, more often than not they are referring to cereals which is one of the several families of grains.
Grains can be split into the following families:
- Cereals (including both warm & cool season cereals)
Examples of warm season cereals include millet, corn, sorghum
Examples of cool season cereals include wheat, barley, oats, rice
- Pseudocereal grains including amaranth, buckwheat, quino, chia.
- Pulses or legumes members of the pea family which includes soy, lentils, peas, chickpeas, peanuts.
- Oilseed grains including safflower, sunflower, rapeseed, hemp and flax.
This is where the grain / grain free description on dog food packets is rife with irony & confusion. Always check your dog’s food and treats for these ingredients, especially when the food is labelled grain free!
You will not find any of the above in our grain free dog food, find out how our food can help
Which grains are used in dog food & why?
Most traditional dog foods that are often called “kibbles” require high levels (at least 35%) of carbohydrate for them to be formed into a stable biscuit, one that doesn’t crumble on impact.
An easy, cheap and readily available source of these carbohydrates has traditionally been wheat. (traditionally is deliberately in italics as dog biscuits are a relatively new invention in the dog food world. Considering that dogs evolved as carnivores over millions of years. It’s only in the last 70 years that we decided their new traditional food should be cereal biscuits).
Wheat has been associated with numerous health issues in humans and dogs over the last decade. More research confirms these conclusions every week.
The more progressive dog foods identify wheat as a potential allergen and promote themselves as “hypoallergenic”德国赛车. Unfortunately, wheat is often replaced with either soy or corn, or both. Both of these substitutes are also grains. These are also relatively high in carbohydrate content. This means they are composed of lots of sugars linked together. If you think that sugar is dangerous for humans, what do you think it is to carnivores who are ill-adapted to digest it?
What is grain free dog food?
In those brands marketed as grain free, wheat, soy and corn are typically replaced with lentils, peas or chickpeas. All three of which are also grains from the legume family. The common denominator in all of these, grain, grain free, hypoallergenic foods is that they contain grain. Confused?
德国赛车To summarise this first part: when they label a food as grain free dog food, most manufacturers are confusing cereals (a family of grains) with grains. They are simply replacing one with another to avoid using….grains. Whichever grains you use, they all bring similar problems and dangers to our dogs’ health.
What problems can grains cause dogs?
Let’s look at the common characteristics of grains, the problems they present to dogs and why not all grains are created equally.
Dogs cannot fully digest grains
德国赛车As already touched on, to create a biscuit or kibble requires a minimum amount (at least 35%) of carbohydrate. This is where the first problem arises. Dogs are carnivorous animals, they evolved eating meat, bone, organs, fur, feathers, tissue, sinew, cartilage but now as we know from recent studies, the stomach contents of their prey (although this last part is a bone of contention amongst some experts right now).
德国赛车Biologically dogs are ill-adapted to digest relatively high amounts of carbohydrates. They do produce some amylase (the enzyme required to break down carbohydrates) but, and this is a really important point, not in sufficient amounts to fully digest, absorb and assimilate their processed grain-filled food without suffering ill effects.
Why? This leads to maldigested foodstuffs entering the colon, bulkier stools, and as recent research shows, provides the perfect environment for sugar-loving pathogenic bacteria to thrive. This is called gut dysbiosis.
德国赛车Dogs evolved as expert scavengers and as such can often happily wolf down pretty much anything. Socks, cow dung, childrens’ toys. We may not see the effects of these ultra processed, grain based foods immediately but the symptoms are simmering below the surface.
People often mistake a dog’s ability to eat a certain food with it implying it brings health benefits or even the dog enjoying this food. This is simply not the case. Dogs as scavengers are hard wired to bolt down food not knowing when their next meal will be. Resolving this now by feeding grain free dog food means you can avoid symptoms in the future.
High levels of carbohydrates & sugar
Let’s look at the glycemic index德国赛车 of these difficult to digest grains. The ultimate building blocks of grains are simple sugar molecules. Those elements present in the ultra-processed carbohydrate-rich biscuits that are digested raise the dog’s blood sugar levels in an unnatural and dangerous way. This then puts stressful loads on the pancreas. Your dog struggles to produce enough insulin to bring blood sugar levels back to normal safer and healthier levels.
德国赛车At a recent Vet conference in the UK, all of the three highly experienced vets participating in a Pancreatitis round table discussion agreed that attributed a high carbohydrate load as one of the leading causes of pancreatic stress and inflammation.
Most importantly, the lectins found in grains are linked with Intestinal Permeability, AKA Leaky Gut. When leaky gut occurs it leads to bacteria crossing through the gut wall into the blood stream. Whether these bacteria are considered good bad or indifferent is now irrelevant.
德国赛车Why? These bacteria belong in the gut where one of their roles is to play an active role in the dog’s immune system, producing certain vitamins (Vitamins B & K for example) and acting as an additional layer to the gut. They are guardians and gatekeepers outside of the dogs gut wall. Some even produce mucous to trap viruses and prevent them entering your dog’s bloodstream.
When accidentally let into a dog’s bloodstream via “leaky gut” these bacteria create rampant inflammation德国赛车. They have an LPS coating (Lipopolysaccharide) which is their equivalent of armour plating. Think of them as errant knights that need to protect the dog outside of the castle wall. Inside they are unwelcome, marauders creating mayhem and chaos. As they travel around the dog’s blood they bounce into artery walls creating damage and inflammation, they cross the blood-brain barrier and create more damage and inflammation…
德国赛车Let’s look at how the above manifests in your dog. What are the symptoms?
德国赛车One of the most common side effects of dogs consuming grains is “bloat”. Bloat is when a dog’s stomach can be uncomfortably distended or swollen which occurs after eating grain.
德国赛车This is a combination of elements. Sugar loving bacteria consume the partially digested wheat, barley and other carbohydrate-rich foods and then produce bi-products like methane. Exactly as if they were passing wind inside your dog. This fills your dog with uncomfortable gas which can lead to those predictable comedy moments around the family dinner table.
德国赛车The other element with grain consumption and bloat is that the wheat itself can create irritation and inflammation inside your dog, which also causes swelling. We can avoid this bloating issue by feeding natural, grain free dog food.
How do grains affect your dog’s behaviour?
德国赛车An often overlooked side effect of grain consumption in dogs is how it affects your dog’s behaviour. This happens in two principal ways.
Firstly, the grain creates leaky gut in your dog which allows the bacteria in the intestines to cross into the bloodstream and travel to the brain where it creates inflammation. This is highly disruptive to mood, focus and ability to learn.
德国赛车Secondly, the glycemic load within the grain dramatically raises blood sugar and stimulation to the brain. Sugar is a super stimulatory energy source which is unnatural to canines. This is linked to hyperactive behaviour. (another component of this is the hydrolysed proteins within the processed food)
德国赛车This leads on to the next part which is how energy levels can be affected when consuming grains.
Low energy levels
德国赛车What goes up must come down. So the dramatic rise in blood sugar, hyperactivity and lack of focus is swiftly followed by a slump and lethargy. In summary, energy levels within dogs who consume grains are a notorious rollercoaster closely linked to their blood sugar. A dog fed natural, truly grain free dog food will experience much more balanced energy levels.
Intolerances & food sensitivities
A brief explanation of the differences in these is as follows. An intolerance is an inability to digest something due to its texture, composition or a lack of enzymes to break it down, or both. A sensitivity is different to an intolerance. It is when the immune system mistakes a particular food protein as an invader (bacteria or virus) and starts to attack it. This is called an immune response. Head here to understand this in more detail
德国赛车For those questioning how dog food containing grains is linked with either intolerances or sensitivities in dogs, the answer is, it is believed there is a strong correlation to both. Grains are difficult to digest, require a large amount of the starch breaking down enzyme amylase and also create inflammation. This is, therefore, a common cause of food intolerance in dogs.
德国赛车Food sensitivities are also linked to grains because of the leaky gut grains can create. A permeable gut barrier allows undigested proteins to pass intact into the bloodstream. The dog’s immune system mistakenly identifies these as invaders and launches a defence against them.
This, in turn, leads to yet more inflammation, more permeability and is linked to other symptoms such as itchy skin. If you want to understand more on the misuse of grains in dog food then tune to Pet Fooled on smart tv for a comprehensive and revealing dive into this subject –
There is much discussion about food intolerances, sensitivities and allergies around grains, please see this article for clarification.德国赛车 Regardless of whether your dog has any of these symptoms, nearly all grains carry a high lectin load. Lectins are a type of plant protein originally developed by plants as a kind of insect deterrent. For insects, they are highly effective. For larger successful carnivorous scavengers the effect is much more chronic than acute and may not immediately be visible.
At Bella & Duke we want to ensure our dogs are fed grain free dog food which helps them thrive.
- Intolerances, allergies and sensitivities explained
- What is Raw Dog Food?
- How to successfully switch your dog to a raw food diet
- The ultimate guide to dog health, diet and nutrition
- The raw dog food feeding guide for puppies
- Leaky gut, causes, symptoms & cures
- Naturally reducing inflammation in your dog with diet
- Why choose grain free dog food