Are grains unhealthy for dogs and cats?

Answer:

  • No, whole grains contribute valuable nutrients including minerals, essential fatty acids, vitamins, and fiber to pet food.1
  • Grains help to keep calories and fat at lower levels in pet foods.
  • Most dogs and cats are efficient at digesting and utilizing nutrients from grains.
  • Some dogs are allergic to specific grains, but these allergies are not any more common than allergies to animal proteins (i.e. beef, dairy).2,3

More supporting facts:

  • “Grain-free” diets are an example of some manufacturers’ marketing strategy. According to Tufts University Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine: “Many ‘grain-free’ diets will substitute highly refined starches (i.e. potatoes, cassava) in place of grains. These ingredients often provide fewer nutrients and less fiber than whole grains, while costing more.”4
  • Grains provide a good source of fiber, which promotes normal bowel function, maintains the health of the GI tract, and helps in the management of certain diseases.
The Science Behind our Recommendations
1. Crane SW et al. Commercial Pet Foods. In: Hand MS, Thatcher CD, Remillard RL, Roudebush P, Novotny BJ, eds. Small Animal Clinical Nutrition 5th ed. Topeka, KS: Mark Morris Institute; 2010: 173. 2. Walker JA, Harmon DL, Gross KL et al. Evaluation of nutrient utilization in the canine using the ileal cannulation technique. J Nutr. 1994; 124: 2672S-2676S. 3. Roudebush P. Ingredients associated with adverse food reactions in dogs and cats. Adv Sm Anim Med Surg. 2002;15(9): 1-3. 4. Frequently Asked Questions About General Pet Nutrition. Tufts University Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine Website. http://vet.tufts.edu/nutrition/faq/general_pet_nutrition.html#4. Accessed April 26, 2013.