The Truth About Grain
Everyone seems to be talking about grain-free these days. Whether its in relation to our own health or that of our beloved companion animals, everyone who is anyone has an opinion. So, what is the truth about grain-free diets for cats?
Is grain really bad for cats? What about carbohydrates and gluten? Lets not forget that cats are the quintessential obligate carnivore, so do any or all of these ingredients cause actual harm to our cats?
If we do decide to feed grain-free pet food to our cat, were still not out of the woods in terms of controversy. Conduct any internet search on the topic and youre besieged with queries such as: does grain-free food hurt cats?
Do grain-free cat diets cause heart disease? Is there a link to DCM? What about diarrhea and the amino acid taurine? To help you sift through all of these questions, lets go back to the basics.
Try Single Ingredient Foods
If you notice that your cat has several health problems and you want to make certain you are avoiding any filler ingredients, experts recommend you choose single-ingredient foods.
When food is advertised as being a single ingredient, AAFCO states that it must contain 95% of that ingredient, and the remaining five percent will be comprised of water, vitamins, and supplements.
For example, if a manufacturer is selling salmon as a single-ingredient food, then 95% of the food must consist of salmon, and the rest will consist of water, vitamins, and other supplements.
Grains Cause Food Allergies Or Gluten Intolerance False
True food allergies are uncommon in cats, and grain allergies are even more uncommon. Cats are more likely to be allergic to the protein in their diet vs. the grain. It is not uncommon for cats to have problems with their bowel digesting certain foods, but this is not a true allergy. And gluten intolerance has not been recognized in cats!
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Grain Problems Can Be Confused With Other Ingredient Intolerances
If your cat seems to have a sensitive stomach or is reacting badly to their food, your first thought may be to switch off grains or another food ingredient. But stomach sensitivity often isnt caused by food. When it is food-related, protein sources are much more likely to cause stomach discomfort than carbohydrate sources. That said, your cats veterinarian is the best source of information.
What About Diy Designer Pet Food
If you choose to prepare your cats food, make sure the recipe meets your cats nutritional needs. Follow directions carefully for preparation and storage. Home-made cat food doesnt contain preservatives and needs to be stored safely.
There are nutritional resources with sophisticated computer programs to help calculate the amounts of protein, fat, minerals, and vitamins in a recipe. Some programs take into account a cats age, health status, and activity level in formulating an appropriate diet. But it can still be tricky verifying that your DIY pet food is nutritionally balanced, i.e., the bioavailability and metabolism of taurine is different in a lamb vs chicken. Also, the absorption of nutrients may vary with the amount and type of fiber in the diet.
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Wellness Complete Health Pate Chicken Entre Grain
Most Popular Cat Food without Peas, Lentils, Legumes or Potatoes: If youre not sure what to feed your cat, you can always go with a popular brand like Wellness. This Complete Health Pate Chicken Entrée is a great option for cat food free from peas, lentils, legumes, and potatoes. It features fresh chicken, chicken liver, and fresh turkey as the top three ingredients, making it incredibly rich in real animal protein. The only carbohydrate ingredients are carrots, cranberries, and ground flaxseed, so the recipe is grain-free as well. This formula contains a fairly limited list of ingredients, making the risk of triggering food allergies fairly low, and it is complete and nutritionally balanced with minimal need for synthetic supplements.
Why Are You Talking About Dogs What About Cats
The FDA recently issued a frequently asked questions list about the investigation into the connection between diet and canine heart disease. Among the answers was this:
Prior to issuing our public notification on July 12, 2018, the FDA received sporadic reports involving 30 dogs and seven cats.
After the FDAs previous statement talked exclusively about dogs, they suddenly mention that over 20% of the reports they had received were about cats. Should families with cats worry?
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Myth One: Grain Free Cat Food Is Good For Weight Loss
If youre feeding your cat grain free food for weight loss or weight management, youre better off looking elsewhere.
A large grain free cat food study conducted by Tufts University Cummings Veterinary Medical Center sheds found that grain free cat food often contains the same calories and more carbs than traditional cat food.
Are All Grains Bad
Its not the lack of grains that are the problem here. The issue is the ingredients used in place of the grains. Instead of oats, barley, and rice, grain free cat food typically uses peas, beans, and vegetables like white potatoes and sweet potatoes.
Just as you could argue that cats dont eat oats and rice in the wild, the same can be said for potatoes, lentils, cranberries and other grain free staples.
These ingredients can wreak as much havoc on your kittys gastrointestinal tract as grains. Cats bodies arent built to digest high amounts of plant matter. They thrive on diets that mimic what theyd eat in the wild. Mainly meat and animal proteins.
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What Kind Of Food Should A Cat Be Eating
In general, when shopping for cat food, Dr. Kornreich advises that you look for several things, like ensuring youâre buying food for the right life stage and a statement on the productâs label that says it meets the American Association of Feed Control Officials guidelines for a nutritionally complete and balanced diet.
The most important thing is to check in with your veterinarian if youâre switching foods or have other concerns related to your catâs diet. Changing a catâs diet could have adverse effects on the gastrointestinal system, so the recommendation is to slowly introduce a new food over several weeks.
The Problem With Grain Free Cat Food
Some veterinarians argue grain free cat food is more problematic than conventional cat food. They point out that grain free food has become more of a designer cat food diet than anything. Pet food companies aggressively market grain free cat food with tactics like overpromising unregulated health benefits, banking on pet parents believing grains are all bad.
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Some Dog Breeds May Have A Very Rare Gluten Intolerance
Gluten intolerance in dogs is extremely rare, and it is not the primary reason that grain-free diets exist. However, certain breeds are susceptible to different kinds of gluten sensitivity.
To date, we only know of this affecting some bloodlines of setters, Soft-Coated Wheaten Terriers, and the Border Terrier. Suppose you have one of these breeds and suspect gluten sensitivity. In that case, it’s best to have a vet test your dog or to ask for DNA testing before deciding on a dietary solution.
Should You Choose A Grain
In specific circumstances, such as cats with documented food allergies, IBD, or other inflammatory conditions, grain-free diets can offer some benefit, as can any diet with ingredients tailored to a specific cats dietary sensitivities and needs.
But for the vast majority of cats, especially those that seem to be in perfect health, grain-free cat food diets are not necessary for your cat to be healthy.
Traditional diets such as kibble-based dry foods and canned foods are generally formulated based on nutritional studies that seek to answer the question: what can we feed cats that will minimize health issues and promote a long and happy life?
When it comes to high-quality pet foods, price does not correlate perfectly with quality, so you cant choose a cat food solely based on the price. Its best to talk to your veterinarian about the best food options for your particular cat based on their needs, age, and health conditions.
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Kibble Is Full Of Carbs
Most kibble is made through a process called extrusion.
Dried kibble goes through 3 extrusion processes and a coating process.
Carbs and starches are needed to hold the kibble shape.
Otherwise, the ingredients would fall apart and crumble.
A company called AFB International creates flavor enhancers for kibble.
Straight from AFB International: Pet food manufacturers blend animal fats and meals with soy and wheat grains and vitamins and minerals. This yields a cheap, nutritious pellet that no one wants to eat. Cats and dogs are not grain-eaters by choice. So, our task is to find ways to entice them to eat enough for it to be nutritionally sufficient.
One specific flavor enhancer is referred to by the company as cat crack.
Carbs are needed in kibble to hold its shape. Flavor enhancers are sprayed on kibble because cats dont naturally eat carbs.
What Is A Grain
A grain-free diet is a pet food marketing tool where all grains, both gluten and non-gluten-free, are removed. This includes corn, wheat, oats, barley, and rice. To replace the carbohydrate and starch sources in pet food, flours made from legumes, such as peas or lentils, or potatoes are used instead.
The trends in pet food tend to follow trends in human diets.
Demands for higher protein diets in the pet industry followed our own bandwagon of paleo diets. Grain-free quickly followed as any source of gluten became seen as an allergen or source of inflammation.
Furthermore, as we began to demand a greater variety of “boutique” or “exotic” foods in our animals’ diets, the pet industry was equally quick to cater to this. Unfortunately, this happened without enough research to tell exactly how this would impact our dogs and cats’ health.
While starch and carbohydrates are problematic in pet food, this is due mainly to the increasing body of evidence against highly processed dog food. Meanwhile, the marketing gimmick and dog food craze of “grain-free” may come with its own serious health problems.
But before we get into that, let’s look at whether there are any benefits of grain-free pet food.
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Kibble Does Not Clean Teeth
Im sure youve heard that kibble cleans teeth because its crunchy.
What if your friend said this to you
I dont need to brush my teeth because I eat granola. Granola is crunchy and cleans my teeth.
Does that make sense?
Kibble doesnt clean cat teeth because its full of carbs.
- Cats lack the enzyme amylase in their saliva
- Amylase breaks down carbs
Cats barely chew their food anyway.
- The cats jaw moves up and down only
- Our jaw moves up and down and side to side
- The cats jaw is designed to chew flesh and bone into smaller pieces
- Those pieces are swallowed whole
- Our jaw is designed to grind food down into tiny pieces
- We dont swallow food whole
Dr. Lisa Pierson of catinfo.org focuses specifically on the health risks associated with dry food diets.
My favorite line on her site is, The idea that dry food promotes dental health makes about as much sense as the idea that crunchy cookies would promote dental health in a human.
Kibble does not clean cat teeth because it contains carbs. Cats cannot break down carbs in their mouth. This turns into plaque and tartar.
Local Veterinarians Warn About Grain
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Kiersten Miller wants nothing but the best for her 5-year-old dog Aurora. But when Aurora was 3 Kiersten noticed Aurora’s skin wasn’t right and her energy was off.
“She was bald in spots. Her whole back end had no fur. Her energy level went way down and she just wasn’t the dog she first was when I adopted her,” Miller said.
That’s when her veterinarian at the time suggested she switch dog foods and add grain to her diet.
“Now she is eating dog food that the first ingredient is whole grain chicken, it has corn and peas and brown rice and she is like a puppy again,” Miller said.
Local veterinarian Dr. Crystal Ramsey didn’t mince words about a grain-free diet and what she thinks it does to your animals.
“I think it all started because people were going gluten-free. I think it was a marketing ploy to say, let’s have our animals do it too,” Ramsey said.
Ramsey is the shelter vet at Tri-County Animal Rescue in Boca Raton.
“I do not recommend any grain-free food to be given to our animals here,” Ramsey said.
Dr. Katie Billmaier has followed the FDA updates and has seen patients in her practice with issues. She tells her clients the same thing.
“With an all-natural and grain-free type diet they are lacking an amino acid called taurine which essentially predisposes them to a heart condition called dilated cardiomyopathy,” Billmaier said.
WPBF 25 News reached out to the FDA about the investigation and they said in part:
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The Honest Kitchen Has Grain Free Foods That Cats And Owners Love
If you think a grain free diet could benefit your cat, dont choose any old brand off the shelf. Grain free canned food or kibble can still be made from low-quality ingredients or be high in fat or carbs.
The Honest Kitchen has human grade cat foods, including many grain free recipes, that both cats and their owners love. All our recipes were formulated with a certified vet nutritionist to ensure overall health and wellness for cats. These tasty foods are packed with thoughtfully sourced protein, natural ingredients and vitamins and minerals to help support your cats health.
Shop our line of grain free foods today to find the right fit.
Health Disclaimer: This post is educational in nature and doesnt constitute health advice. Please consult your pets veterinarian or other healthcare professionals for specific guidance on this topic.
Transcription Of Is Grain Free Cat Food Bad For Cats An Interview With Dr Jean Hofve Dvm
Jenny Dean:Hi, Floppycatters. Today, we have the pleasure of speaking with Dr. Jean Hofve, who is a longtime holistic cat veterinarian who lives in Colorado. She has a couple of books on Amazon, The Complete Guide to Holistic Cat Care as well as What Cats Should Eat. Dr. Jean is currently revising her What Cats Should Eat and I’m going to let her talk about that a little bit more. Dr. Jean, thank you for doing another interview with us.
Dr. Jean Hofve, DVM:My pleasure. Good to talk to you.
Jenny Dean:Before we started recording, you had mentioned to me that you are revising your What Cats Should Eat and I will include a link to your Little Big Cat website as well as your so that people can get notified of when that revision is up. But can you talk a little bit about what you’re revising it for?
Dr. Jean Hofve, DVM:The big thing is the research that’s come out in the last little while about phosphorus levels in cat food and turns out that even healthy cats will show kidney damage eating high phosphorus foods. Now, meat is the primary source of phosphorus but what they do, they add extra phosphorus because cats like the taste of phosphate and it turns out that some of the phosphorus levels in cat foods are incredibly high.
Jenny Dean:Okay. That is only going to be available in a digital format, correct?
Dr. Jean Hofve, DVM:Cats are a little different but the principles are the same.
Jenny Dean:Yes, somebody mentioned that.
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Pros And Cons Of Grain Free Diet For Cats
Youve probably noticed that the feline world also has an abundance of fad diets. It can be confusing to decide which of these diets is best suited for our cat. Since no two cats are the same, their dietary requirements may also vary according to their specific needs.
One of the current diets circulating in the cat world is the idea of a grain-free diet. Now, Ill cut to the chase: a grain-free diet is probably not necessary for your cat unless she has specific health issues that require her to stay away from grains, such as allergies.
However, in addition to grain allergies being quite rare in cats, removing grains from a cats diet may also deny her some of the healthy benefits of grains. Nevertheless, many pet parents swear by a grain-free diet! So, whos right?
Anyone confused about grain-free diets can relax. Below youll find everything you need to know about grain-free cat food, including what grain-free entails, the pros and cons of keeping grains in your cats diet, and the ideal amount of grain intake for your cat.
Ive also included a carefully selected list of five grain-free dry cat foods that are high in protein, low in carbs, and have nutritious whole food ingredients. If you decide going grain-free is the right move for your kitty, these five options are a great starting point in your search.
So Is Grain Free Food Bad For Cats
Ultimately, the jury is still out when it comes to taurine and its link to DCM in cats, as most of the focus to date has centred on dogs.
Furthermore, for the vast majority of dogs diagnosed with diet-associated DCM we still dont know the exact cause.
It is an issue that is undergoing active research both by the FDA and independent veterinary nutritionists and research institutions, so hopefully, well be able to provide more information soon.
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