Is Grain Free or Raw Dog Food Really Good for My Pet?

January 22, 2019

Pet parents are barraged by marketing messages from the pet food industry advocating grain free or raw dog food. The messages are compelling, but the science behind such diets reveals the trend may actually be harmful to some dogs. Let’s talk about the potential dangers of feeding grain free and raw diets and why dogs and wolves have different nutritional needs.

Marketing Versus Reality

The grain-free movement is largely marketing-driven.  The suggestion is that such grains drive food allergies in pets, resulting in itchy, stinky, shedding animals. In fact, food allergies in a dog or cat are very rare, and less than 20 percent of diagnosed food allergies are attributed to grains. If your pet is having skin or GI issues, he or she should be seen by a veterinarian because there are many other issues that are far more likely than food allergies. 

Recently, researchers identified a potential link between grain-free diets and Dilated Cardiomyopathy (DCM). DCM is a potentially deadly heart disease in which the heart chambers dilate, and can lead to heart failure. Although more research is needed, there was enough of a concern for the Food and Drug Administration to issue a warning report in 2018

What about Raw Diets for Dogs?

Some people suggest that because dogs are descended from wolves, a raw diet is the best option for their pet. It is true that domestic dogs (Canis lupis familiaris) are closely related to wolves and are, in fact, a subspecies of wolves (Canis lupis). Domestic dogs diverged from wolves about 27,000 years ago (although this number is debated). This is thought to have occurred as a result of early ancestors of the modern dog approaching humans, drawn in by the waste (including food scraps) dumped at the edge of human settlements. 

The Difference Between Domestic Dogs and Wolves

But while both domestic dogs and wolves are considered omnivores, a wolf’s diet consists of mainly meat. This is not true of a domestic dog. In fact, some of the distinguishing genetic characteristic that make dogs different from wolves include 10 genomic regions that play roles in starch digestion and fat metabolism that allow modern dogs to thrive on a diet rich in starch compared to the diet of a wolf. 

Also, feeding your pets a raw diet can be dangerous to you and your pet. The main concerns are infectious agents like Salmonella and Listeria, as you may accidentally ingest the bacteria as a result of preparing and handling the raw food or after handling a contaminated utensil. If you choose to feed a raw diet, be sure to thoroughly wash your hands and all utensils after handling raw food.

So which brands are best?

There are many new brands of food on the market, but the dog food brands that I trust the most are Hill’s, Purina’s ProPlan line, and Royal Canin. Let me know which brand you have questions about and I will be happy to investigate each and give my opinion. 

Contact Us With Any Questions

If you have any pet health concerns, including what food to feed your pet, call/text us at 469-369-2456 or book an appointment at ReadiVet.com.

About ReadiVet

Based in Uptown Dallas, ReadiVet provides veterinary care in your home without charging more than a traditional clinic. After booking an appointment, ReadiVet will send one of its mobile veterinarians to you to provide wellness care like vaccines or sick care for your unwell pet.

Ben Clemmett, DVM
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