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5 Reasons Not To Feed Your Dog Grains

By Michele Welton, Dog Trainer, Breed Selection Consultant, Author of 15 Dog Books

Rice really shouldn't be in dog food

Grain means rice, wheat, corn, soy, barley, millet, rye, quinoa, oats, pasta, bread, and so on.

Wheat, corn, soybean, barley, rice, oats, sorghum.... why is there so much grain in dog food? Common sense says dogs aren't livestock, right?

Ah, good questions. Follow the money.

Did you know that bagged and canned dog food didn't even exist until the past hundred years or so? That's when entrepreneurs with dollar signs in their eyes foresaw an industry in which pet owners would pay  them for the convenience of ready-made bagged and canned diets for their pets.

All these entrepreneurs needed was.... ingredients.

Obviously dogs were meat-eaters, so meat needed to be in the recipe. But it couldn't be too much  meat. Too expensive! Would "eat up" all their profits. So to speak.

Wait, what about all the crops being produced across the vast Midwest and Central Plains of the US? The farm belt was producing huge quantities of grains and cereals, some of which wasn't fit for human consumption because of mold or other contaminants.

Could cheap grain unfit for human consumption be used to replace much of the meat in pet food? Would pet owners complain? Would they even notice?

The answers are yes, no, and no.

Oh, a few people complained, but were shouted down by the burgeoning pet food industry. "Dogs do just great eating grain," said the pet food company shills... oops! I mean pet food scientists,  not shills. My bad.

Marketing firms spent a fortune training both pet owners and veterinarians that grains were great for dogs. And it worked. For decades.

But recently....

Dog owners (and some vets) began noticing all the health problems.

  • Grain is hard for a dog to digest, because his digestive tract is not designed for eating it. A dog's digestive tract is short and straight – perfect for digesting meat – but grain requires a longer, more winding digestive tract.

    Many dogs end up excreting grain only partially digested. Often you see soft and/or copious stools. Most owners aren't even aware that their dog is producing much more waste than he would be if he were actually digesting more of his food.

  • Dogs who eat food with grain need to consume a larger quantity of food in order to obtain the nutrients they need. Obviously consuming more food predisposes them to weight gain. dog scratching
  • A significant number of dogs develop allergic symptoms such as itching, scratching, chewing on their front paws, or rubbing their face against the carpet. Many vets simply put the dog on repeated courses of steroids rather than looking at the dog's diet as the potential cause. To understand why vets do this, read Two Shocking Reasons Vets Recommend Kibble and Canned Dog Food.
  • Grains can be made up of complex  carbohydrates or simple  carbohydrates. Simple carbohydrates get converted into sugar very quickly, which causes your dog's blood sugar to spike, predisposing him to a condition called insulin resistance  or diabetes.
  • Carbohydrates have one purpose only: energy. When not needed for energy (and a typical family dog doesn't expend a lot of energy), carbohydrates are quickly stored in the body as fat, making them the leading dietary cause of overweight dogs.

On the plus side, there's really only one thing: cost.

  • People on a tight budget who are struggling to feed their dog might need to substitute some grain for the far better, but more expensive, meat.

If you must feed some grain, I recommend only quinoa or oatmeal, which are less likely to cause allergies or blood sugar spikes.

Be careful not to accept legumes in place of grain! Dog food companies have discovered, to their dismay, that an increasing number of dog owners have wised up and are avoiding foods with grain. Unfortunately, instead of doing the responsible thing and replacing that grain with MEAT, those manufacturers have simply replaced the grain with a different  cheap protein: legumes (peas, lentils, beans...).

Like grains and cereals, legumes are NOT the kind of protein that's well-digested by dogs. Legumes can cause intestinal discomfort and flatulence. And they're high in unneeded carbs.

Even more ominously, there is suspicion/concern that feeding too many legumes – as meat substitutes – might be triggering a specific form of heart disease in some dogs.

Michele Welton with BuffyAbout the author: Michele Welton has over 40 years of experience as a Dog Trainer, Dog Breed Consultant, and founder of three Dog Training Centers. An expert researcher and author of 15 books about dogs, she loves helping people choose, train, and care for their dogs.

My best-selling books – now available  FREE  on my website

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