The Heartbreaking Truth About Grain-Free Diets

While it’s great that pet owners are putting so much thought into their pet’s diets, the truth is that grain-free pet food may not be the healthiest choice for your pet.

Because of aggressive marketing, pet owners may assume that grains are just “fillers”, but the fact is that grains provide necessary vitamins, minerals and fatty acids. One of the most important is taurine, an essential amino acid for heart health. Veterinary cardiac specialists are seeing an increase in pets with life-threatening heart disease due to low levels of taurine, and there appears to be an association with grain-free foods high in peas, beans, and other legumes.

Low levels of taurine can lead to cardiomyopathy—a fatal heart condition in dogs and cats. While this condition can be reversible with a change in diet, pet owners often don’t realize there’s a problem until it is too late.

Pet owners should know that there are no scientific studies to show that grain-free diets are healthier, and actual grain allergies are very rare. If a pet has a food allergy, it’s most likely triggered by animal proteins like chicken, beef, fish or dairy.

Boutique and small-batch pet food as well as raw and home-cooked diets are most likely to be deficient in needed vitamins and nutrients because post-production nutritional testing of pet food is not required by law. However, larger pet food companies and corporations do this testing to ensure their products are nutritionally sound and balanced, so it is best to source your pet’s food from these established providers.

Don’t let fancy marketing campaigns guilt you into thinking grains are automatically bad for your pets! A good diet is based on nutrient content, and many foods with grains are great options. Your pet’s diet is important, and if you need assistance selecting one, consult your East Padden Animal Hospital veterinarian.