Pet food diets are often an area of confusion for many people. There are so many different brands and types to choose from that it is a difficult to make a decision. In the end we all want to feed our furry family members what is nutritionally best for them. According to the media that means a grain free, corn free, all organic diet. But is this statement true? Are inexpensive diets less nutritious? Is the solution to food allergies a grain free diet?
Many owners of pets diagnosed with allergies switch their pets to a diet that doesn’t contain grains. But the truth is that less than 1% of dogs are truly allergic to grains. The most common food allergies are caused by the proteins in the diet, such as beef or dairy. The fact is that grains provide an excellent source of nutrition. Grains are considered carbohydrates, which provide an important source of energy for our pets. They also contain fiber, which decreases the total fat and calories in the diet so our pets maintain a healthy weight. Another important role of fiber from grains is to help keep the gastrointestinal system healthy. Grains contain essential fatty acids which help maintain a healthy skin and coat. Also corn gluten meal, which is a protein source from grain is a highly digestible source of essential amino acids.
Most pet owners think that corn is a filler and that there is no nutritional value for it in pet foods. The truth is corn is an important source of many nutrients, such as essential fatty acids, protein, and carbohydrates. Corn can come in many forms, such as corn gluten meal and corn meal, which are all easily digested by our pets. Corn gluten meal contains protein and provides a source of essential amino acids. Corn meal provides energy for our pets in the form of carbohydrates. Linoleic acid, a required essential fatty acid for both cats and dogs, is also found in corn. Corn contains a large amount of antioxidants, such as beta-carotene and vitamin E. Finally and most important, corn is not a common cause of food allergies in cats or dogs. The most common food allergies as mentioned earlier is beef and dairy products.
Another common misconception is that owners must feed their pet an expensive, organic or holistic food. An organic or holistic diet does not necessarily guarantee better nutrition for your pet. The term holistic on pet foods is not regulated, meaning that any food can have that description and it doesn’t necessarily mean that the food is natural or organic. The term natural for pet food is regulated by the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) and it means an ingredient that is derived from plant or animal sources that has not been produced by a chemically synthetic process. However, this does not include vitamins, minerals, and other trace nutrients that can be chemically synthesized.
Also, not all diets labeled organic truly only contain organic ingredients. Only pet foods with the USDA organic seal contain 95% to 100% organic ingredients. The term organic is regulated by the USDA and it means that crops must be grown on land without pesticides for three years and livestock is fed organic feed, has access to outdoors, and is not given hormones or antibiotics. However, some pet foods can be labeled organic and contain less than 70% organic ingredients. If feeding an organic food is important to you and your pet than look for the USDA organic seal. The most important thing to remember is that the USDA makes no claims that food produced organically is more nutritious or safer than conventionally processed food.
The bottom line is that pet owners should not feel that they have to feed their pet a natural or organic diet that does not contain grain or corn. These diets are not necessarily healthier and do not guarantee better nutrition for your pet. When deciding which food is best for your pet, consider diets that have been researched and tested to ensure the food contains all the nutrition your pet needs for its lifestyle. These foods will all contain the AAFCO statement on the bag. If you have any questions or need help choosing your pet’s diet, please contact us at the clinic.
Reference: Nutrition Myths and Facts, www.purinaveterinarydiets.com