Emery-n-Denise's Golden PuppiesTM Blog:

Everything Golden Retrievers - Catch up on the latest news, reviews, and thoughts from Emery-n-Denise.

* Thank you for spending some of your valuable time with us today...

Grain-Free Dog Food: What's the Scoop

Dog Food for Golden Retrievers   /   Aug 13th, 2018   /   0 COMMENTS   /  A+ | a-
Grain-free dog foods have become more and more popular here in the U.S. for the past 4 decades. In its early days, the philosophy behind grain-free dog food resulted in a cost that was three to five times higher than most of the popular consumer brands. The reason for the increased cost was simply driven by the philosophy behind it:
  • The philosophy of excluding grains from the ingredients in dog food stemmed from the opinion that the genus canine (of which the dog species belong to) are primarily carnivores or meat eaters and therefore need a diet that consists primarily of meats and fat from meats. The result? A higher level of protein in the dog food.
Meat obviously costs more than the grains used in dog foods, so when the latter is replaced by the former, the cost goes up substantially. In its early days of marketing, grain-free dog food seemed to be afforded only by those with significantly larger household incomes. Four decades ago, most consumers in general did not seem to have as much concern about the quality of the dog food they were feeding their pets. But things began to change…

In the last two to three decades, grain-free dog foods started appearing on the market more and were being produced mainly by the smaller dog food companies.  Most of the dog food manufacturing giants were still avoiding the idea. Still, a quality grain-free dog food with a higher content of meat and meat products was cost prohibitive for most pet owners. But several more things began to change…

First, many consumer’s opinions about healthy diets and trying to fight off the chances of cancer and other diseases begin to escalate. Consumer’s opinions about their dogs also began to evolve, considering their beloved pet as a family member whose diet needed as much attention as the rest of the family in order to maintain better health. Dog lovers started becoming label readers who looked at the ingredients and made their choices based on an informed opinion. Consumers began to recognize things like wheat, corn, soy, and glutens as very undesirable, and grain-free dog foods became more and more appealing. Still, many families just couldn’t afford grain-free dog food. But that was about to change.

An old marketing ploy that has been long-played on the consumer by big business entered the picture. And trust me on this one, major dog food manufactures have been using their marketing tricks and strategies on consumers for a long time. Strategies such as:

  • The use of creative and colorful packaging that misrepresents the contents of the dog food by showing human grade steak, prime rib or gourmet meals on the front of the packaging; and
  • Finding loop holes in FDA regulations that allow the manufacturers to change the order of the ingredients so that meat can appear as the number one ingredient in front of grains and other contents. In reality, meat is actually much further down on the list of ingredients in the finished product (all of course in compliance with FDA regulations for product labeling).
But the most current marketing ploy in the last one to two decades has been to produce a grain-free dog food at a lower price point and ride the wave of the consumer’s increasing desire to buy grain-free products. And here is where the deception comes in:[1] As previously mentioned, consumers expect a grain-free dog food product will have a higher level of protein in the guaranteed analysis, because that is what more meat equates to. But to keep the price down, the amount of meat must be limited. Therefore, ingredients that replace the grains must also be high in protein. So, almost every dog food manufacturer of grain-free products have caught on to this concept as a way of selling their “more affordable product.” So, what have the manufacturers started using in place of grains?
  • Peas, white potatoes, broccoli, chickpeas, and other legumes and lentils are high in protein and cost substantially less than meat. By replacing the grain content with the above mentioned ingredients, dog food manufacturers can give the distinct impression to consumers that their grain-free product contains a very high percentage of meat since the protein levels are high.
In addition, starchy foods such as peas, legumes, lentils, tapioca, chickpeas, and white potatoes have the benefit of being an excellent kibble binder to prevent the kibbles from easily breaking apart during packaging, storage, and shipment. I mention this because as we shall soon see, these ingredients may be worse than the grains they’re intended to replace.

Today, nearly every major dog food manufacturer produces grain-free dog food products using the above strategies and formulations. Smaller companies have jumped on the band wagon as well. This has allowed moderate income families to afford these products under the guise of healthy nutrition for our pets. So what's the catch?

Enter the research from veterinary studies and animal nutrition specialists:

On July 12, 2018, the FDA released a news report entitled, “FDA Investigating Potential Connection Between Diet and Cases of Canine Heart Disease.”[2] The report mentions DCM, canine dilated cardiomyopathy, which is where the heart muscle is weakened due to enlargement and thinning of the heart walls, usually on one side.[3] DCM has been found primarily in large and giant breed dogs, but notably in some reported cases of Golden Retrievers.[4] The symptoms reported included decreased energy, coughing, difficulty breathing, and episodes of collapse. The FDA news report specifically stated, “Medical records for four atypical DCM cases, three Golden Retrievers and one Labrador Retriever, show that these dogs had low whole blood levels of the amino acid taurine. Taurine deficiency is well-documented as potentially leading to DCM.” [5]

So now you’re probably asking, “What has that got to do with grain-free dog food?” And here is the pinch: The protein in meats such as chicken and many wild fish contain substantial levels of taurine, whereas the protein in Peas, white potatoes, broccoli, chickpeas, and other legumes and lentils contain virtually no taurine. In 90 percent of all of the grain-free dog foods available on the market today, those ingredients are commonly found in the first five listed. That means their content is high. The amino acid, taurine, is essential for dogs to have in their diet to maintain health in muscular organs. Some dogs (possibly Golden Retrievers), evidently cannot produce taurine on their own and require supplementation from dietary intake. It should also be noted tha meats such as lamb, beef, venison, and rabbit are much lower in taurine than poultry and fish.[6]

Some reports have “raised a red flag because DCM is occurring more frequently in breeds that are not considered genetically predisposed to developing the disease, including Golden Retrievers, [and several other breeds]. In the cases reported to the FDA, the dogs were being fed diets that commonly listed potatoes or multiple legumes as well as their protein, starch, and fiber sources early in the ingredient list [of dog foods], indicating that those were the main ingredients. High levels of legumes or potatoes are found often in products labeled as “grain-free.”[7][8]

This raises some very important questions (or should at least). What should responsible and concerned pet owners be doing in light of all this stir on "grain-free", "taurine", and "starchy ingredients"? Here are our opinions, and keep in mind that these are just our opinions:

Q1: Should we be avoiding grain-free dog foods?

A1: Not necessarily, because there may be other benefits that you are providing with a grain-free diet, especially in the case of dogs that have allergies or intolerances to certain grains. However, try to find one which derives its protein content primarily from meats with less than 25% derived from plants and legumes. Also, avoid the grain-free dog foods that are laiden with starchey foods in the first six to eight ingredients.

Q2: What grain-free dog food would you recommend?

A2: We have not scoured the market to find all the best ones, but some of the ones we have found include Wysong, Orijen and Acana. There are definitely others, and we expect the dog food market to change its practices as consumers become more and more aware of what researchers are finding and what we tend to agree with.

Q3: Do ingredients such as peas, white potatoes, broccoli, chickpeas, and other legumes and lentils which are found in the first six ingredients of almost every grain-free dog food on the market cause DCM?

A3: No, but if these ingredients are in the first six listed, be aware that none of these contain a very essential amino acid called, taurine. Although these ingredients do raise the protein level, they give the false impression that the dog food contains mostly meat since the protein is high as a result of using them. We do believe dog food should consist primarily of meats. But in reality, no taurine is being supplied by these protein rich ingredients, and taurine is a necessary nutrient to help maintain healthy muscle organs such as the heart.

Q4: What do peas, white potatoes, tapioca, chickpeas, and other legumes and lentils have in common?

A4: They're all starches. Starch (which is a complex sugar) increase the susceptibility to toxicity because when non-grain starches are used in place grain starches, the beneficial probiotics are decreased, and at the same time this increases the pathogenic bacteria. A leading manufacture, who pioneered grain-free dog food products before all the hype and deception flooded the market, has documented that starches are detrimental to pets if given long-term in their daily food diets.[9]

Q5: Can I give my puppy or dog a traditional dog food that contains grains in its ingredients without affecting their long-term health?

A5: The short answer is Yes. But here are some things you want to keep in mind: (1) look for mostly meat products in the first six to eight ingredients; (2) pick a formula based on chicken or wild fish such as salmon in the first three ingredients; (3) avoid formulas that contain a lot of starches such as peas, white potatoes, tapioca, chickpeas, and other legumes and lentils in the first six to eight ingredients; (4) look for taurine in the ingredients, and higher up in the list if not a chicken or fish based formula; (5) check to see if the manufacturer’s labeling shows the source of the protein by percentage. For example, do they indicate the amount of proteins derived from the meat contents as well as the amount that comes from plants and grains? You want to see at least 70%-75% of the protein source from meats; and (6) try to avoid exotic formulas based primarily on meats from kangaroo, alligator, venison, buffalo or bison; not because these types of meat are inherently bad for your pet, but because the processing plants of these meats are not as well controlled or inspected as they are in the processing industries for cows, poultry, and fish. So you can’t be sure where the meat came from or how it was slaughtered.

We hope this article has not stepped on too many toes or offended anyone. We can’t really speak for the suitability of the article to dog breeds other than Golden Retrievers since this is the only breed that we have focused on over the years. We have had a lot of success in maintaining the health of our Goldens and we think it has a lot to do with diet among other things. Please keep in mind that we are not medical professionals, and we do not have advanced training or licensing in any of the areas of this topic, but we are a professional dog breeder who tries to thoroughly research our information before putting it out there. So please be courteous if you choose to comment and take opposition to our opinions. And as always,

Thank you for considering Emery-n-Denise’s Golden PuppiesTM.

We are exclusively a Golden Retriever Breeder of AKC pure bred Golden Retrievers and we have Golden Retriever Puppies for sale in Colorado and Connecticut.
[1] Although not nearly as bad as the deception that has plagued consumers by the tobacco industry, it is in the same vein of strategy: a blatant disregard for health in favor of selling a product.
[2] Issued by: FDA, Center for Veterinary Medicine, 7500 Standish Place, HFV-1, Rockville, MD 20855, July 18, 2018.
[4] Issued by: FDA, Center for Veterinary Medicine, 7500 Standish Place, HFV-1, Rockville, MD 20855, July 18, 2018.
[5] Issued by: FDA, Center for Veterinary Medicine, 7500 Standish Place, HFV-1, Rockville, MD 20855, July 18, 2018.
[6]The Importance of Taurine for Dogs and Cats”, Dr. J Hofve, Holistic Veterinary Advisor.
No comments posted...

Leave a Comment

Play CAPTCHA Audio
Refresh Image

Text Msg Us:

(417) 559-3305

Email Us: