The Chew on Grain-Free Pet Food

Things are a-changin’ in the pet food world. Now, more than ever, options abound. Grain-free formulas continue to be a very popular choice, but many pet parents still have questions.

Why grain free? How will my pet benefit? Are these diets really healthy?

Consider this: cats are carnivores, and thrive on meat-filled diets. And although dogs’ digestive systems have evolved a bit more than cats’ (dogs can handle more grain) their ancestor is still the wolf. Wolves consume a high-protein, low-carbohydrate diet every day. Your pup will flourish on foods with limited grain and more protein as well. I know, it’s difficult to think of your 6 lb. Maltese in the same light as a wolf in the wild, but it’s true, it’s in their DNA.

Grain-free diets, if fed correctly and coupled with proper amounts of exercise, can contribute to: elimination of grain based allergies, less fat and leaner muscle, weight management, firmer stools, and increased energy. Many grain-free formulas have a low-glycemic rating as well, making them a big win for diabetic pets!

When feeding a grain-free diet, you’ll probably need to feed less. This is especially true for high-protein foods such as EVO Turkey & Chicken formula. A 50 lb. dog only needs to eat approximately two cups each day to meet his nutritional requirements.

Grain-free formulas have evolved over the years. Brands such as Orijen’s Adult dog food are available with a guaranteed analysis of 38% crude protein, and are perfect for many active pets. You can also find grain-free foods with more modest amounts of protein and fat on the market. California Natural’s Grain Free Venison offers a guaranteed analysis of 21% protein and 11% fat, making it more appropriate for inactive or overweight dogs.

A quick note on guaranteed analysis: this is the minimum guaranteed nutrient content in a food. Pet food manufacturers work to meet or exceed these minimums.

Please consult your vet if your pet has a medical condition requiring a low-protein diet. In such cases, grain free may not be the way to go.

When I lovingly look back on the dogs in my life, I am amazed (and appalled) by what I actually fed them. Before I knew anything about pet nutrition, my dogs ate the most affordable grocery store food I could find, usually filled with corn, wheat, soy, and glutens. As if that wasn’t bad enough, they also consumed the richest table scraps known to man. Really. My family is Sicilian. We define the word “foodie”. It’s no wonder that Snickers, my Dachshund, looked like a stuffed sausage with legs.

Abe, my 65 lb. Lab mix, and Chico, my 16 lb. Chihuahua mix (yes, I know… one big Chihuahua) thrive on grain-free diets. Both of my distinguished gentlemen are eight-years-young, lead full lives, and eat like kings. They are lean, sweet, lovin’ machines.

So consider your pet’s needs, talk to your vet, and give your cat or dog the diet it deserves. You’ll be thanked for it, every time you fill the bowl.

Until next time, enjoy your pets!