Do Dogs and Cats Need Grains?
By Steve Brown and Beth Taylor
Dogs and cats are designed by nature to be primarily meat eaters.
Dogs are scavengers. Their diet included almost any food that provided calories -- but rarely grain.
A major factor in the domestication of dogs was the food available at the human garbage dump. The
"tamer" wolves, those least afraid of humans, over a period of tens of thousands of years, became our
According to a recent study by biologists Ray and Lorna Coppinger, the natural diet of dogs included,
"Bones, pieces of carcass, rotten greens and fruit, fish guts, discarded seeds and grains, animal guts and
heads, some discarded human food and wastes."
However, cats are more selective about food by nature and anatomy. Their ancestral diet consisted
of small rodents. Their usefulness to humans had much to do with their eagerness to dispatch the
rodents so plentiful around human habitats.
Almost No Grains
The natural diet of both species includes high levels of protein, fats and water, and very little carbohydrates.
The "recommended" diet of dry foods, which is the diet of most cats and dogs, is the complete opposite
of this natural diet: High in carbohydrate, low in protein, fat, and with almost no water.
Dogs and cats do not need carbohydrates, and most veterinary textbooks agree:
Canine and Feline Nutrition "The fact that dogs and cats do not require carbohydrate is immaterial
because the nutrient content of most commercial foods include (carbohydrates).
Small Animal Clinical Nutrition III, written by the founder of Science Diet (Mark Morris Sr.) and his son
(Mark Morris Jr.): "Some question exists regarding the need of dogs and cats for dietary carbohydrate.
From a practical sense, the answer to this question is of little importance because there are
carbohydrates in most food ingredients used in commercially prepared dog foods."
The Waltham Book of Companion Animal Nutrition: "There is no known minimum dietary requirement
More Grains, More Insulin, More Inflammation
A highly processed, grain-based diet fed to an animal designed to thrive on a meat-based, fresh food diet
is very likely to produce symptoms of ill health over time. Diets to address disease most frequently deal
with the symptoms that are the result of a lifetime of inappropriate food, not the true cause of
their symptoms. The optimum diet for a dog or a cat should closely resemble their natural diet.
A diet balanced heavily toward grain promotes insulin production and the production of inflammatory
chemicals. Over-production of insulin makes it hard for the body to maintain its correct weight, and
can lead to diabetes and other problems. An overabundance of inflammatory chemicals means more
aches and pains.
Improve the balance of your dog's diet by reducing grain, and you may not need the dangerous
non-steroidal and steroid drugs so commonly prescribed for dogs. Readers who follow the website
cwiechert.com will agree eating fewer grains means less inflammation! Toxic drugs certainly make
animals more comfortable, but will shorten their lives too.
A word of caution: Diabetic animals or any other medical condition making a switch to a more
protein-based diet should be under the close supervision of a veterinarian.
Making the Switch to Meat
We believe the best diet for a dog or cat is a fresh, raw meat, bone and vegetable diet. Still, we may
not always follow that advice due to financial constraints. Understanding that every step helps, we
hope these suggestions will help you to move toward that goal.
Add meat to promote your pet's health: As you add meat to your pet's diet, at the same time, reduce
the grain content of your pet's diet.
Add up to 15 percent fresh meat, raw or cooked: This increases the protein and reduces the
carbohydrate content of the pet's food, but will not unbalance the levels of any essential nutrient in
your animal's diet.
Also, ensure the meat scraps you're adding are mostly meat! Your dogie bag is likely to have much
more fat in it than meat. Fat is a very important nutrient but one that needs to be kept in balance.
Every fat gram provides double the calories of a gram of protein or carbohydrate.
Avoid senior, lite and diet foods: These varieties usually have fewer calories per cup because
manufacturers have increased the fiber and carbohydrates and reduced protein and fat, compared
to adult maintenance diets. This is the opposite of what they really need, and has no scientific foundation.
Older and overweight pets need meat, not grains.
Add canned food: Good canned food has no grains, and has more protein and fat than dry pet foods.
For cats, we highly recommend switching all the way. Cats should not eat dry foods. Urinary tract
problems and kidney failure in cats have been closely related to dietary water, which has a different
effect on their bodies than the "real" water an animal drinks. It's much better for the cat to eat her food
with the water in it.
Add a commercially prepared frozen raw diet: As with canned foods, if these are "complete," they can
replace all other food fed to your animals.
Research proper homemade meat, bone and vegetable diets and supplement with good dry food to
cut cost: Homemade foods can be nutritious and affordable, but must be made correctly.
(We'll write more about this in a future article.) This option provides the protein and fat our pets need,
reduces the amount of grain they eat, and is affordable by most people.
Feeding your pet a meat-and vegetable-based diet is clearly the best choice to protect and optimize
their health. By following these simple recommendations, you will radically reduce the deadly toxins
your dog encounters.
There is indeed a special relationship that exists between pets and their owners that goes far beyond
the sharing of a home together. Our happy-go-lucky, four-legged friends also provide us with constant
unconditional love, devotion, friendship and something else that might not be at the forefront of most
people's minds -- health benefits.
Conversely, as owners, we should be just as mindful that our pets depend on us to look out constantly
for their safety and good health, especially when choosing their pet foods.
Pet health and nutrition experts Beth Taylor and Steve Brown remind us that you can help your cat or
dog live a long and healthy life by ridding their daily diets of grains, and artificial preservatives.
The first ingredient in a good kibble mix should be meat, if it's a grain like corn, rice or wheat, throw it out
and find one that will keep your pet healthy.
For a kibble I like Orijen and for wet food Wellness Core
If you can afford it, my all time favorite dog food is Stella & Chewy's Freeze Dried foods,
and this is what my dog Max gets.
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