Walk down any pet food aisle and there are countless brands touting grain-free diets. They claim to be easier for your pet to digest (less upset stomachs) and claim to help reduce food allergy/intolerance symptoms such as obsessive paw licking, diarrhea, and dry skin, which the brands attribute to grains and gluten. But, are these claims true? Is your pet really better off eating a grain-free diet?
At this time, there is no credible evidence to support grain-free diets are better for pets. Grain-free diets are merely the marketing strategy of a select group of manufacturers that have jumped on the gluten-free bandwagon of so many food brands and products sold to humans. The misinformation and misperceptions about grain that are continually perpetuated by the growing grain-free pet food market and plague the Internet, lead many pet parents to make nutritional decisions that provide little to no benefit for their pet.
Time to set the record straight on grain. Whole grains contribute valuable nutrients including minerals, essential fatty acids, vitamins, and fiber to pet food. Grains help keep calories and fat at lower levels in pet foods. Most dogs and cats have no issues digesting and utilizing nutrients from grains. Grain allergies are rare and for those few pets that are allergic, these allergies are not any more common than pets who have allergies to animal proteins (i.e. beef, chicken). Gluten intolerance is extremely rare in dogs and nonexistent in cats.