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Grain Free – What’s the hype about?

So you’ve probably seen the advertisements for grain-free dog food.  They say things such as…

-Feed your dog the best; feed your dog a grain free diet!
-feed your dog his ancestral diet: grain free!
-Corn is bad for your dog and can aggravate his stomach.
-For a happy and healthy dog, feed your dog a grain free diet.

We spoke with a veterinary nutritional specialist to find out more about “grain free.” Here’s what we found out…   First let’s take a look at what most companies mean by grain free.   “Grain free” does not mean “carbohydrate free” or even “low carb.”   It simply means that the carbohydrates come from potatoes or a source other than cereal grains (ie, grass).  Since there are many different sources of carbohydrates from “grain-free” sources, every “grain-free” diet has to be evaluated individually.

  • Generally speaking, we believe the most important aspect of feeding your pet is choosing a HIGH QUALITY food from a trusted brand, grain free or not.  The brands we recommend here at My Zoo Animal Hospital are Science Diet, Iams, and Eukanuba.  These brands have a history of using high quality nutrients in their foods.
  • When you are selecting a dog food, look for the AAFCO nutritional adequacy statement, what life stage the food is intended for, and the complete manufacturer’s contact information.  AAFCO or the Association of America Feed control officials is an agency that evaluates feeds for their nutrition value.  To be considered “complete and balanced” pet foods must comply with AAFCO guidelines for nutrient content or must have a food trial.  Other information included on a label such as “organic” or “natural” or even “grain-free” may just be marketing strategies.
  • After you have selected a reputable brand, you should select a line of pet food within that brand that is appropriate for your pet’s life stage.  For example, a large breed puppy should be fed a large breed puppy food as the puppy’s nutritional needs are different from an adults or even a small breed puppy.
  • If your dog does well on the food (skin, fur should be sleek and shiny, weight appropriate for the animal, stools solid, minimal flatulence, etc.) then stick with that food.
  • Remember to transition your pet slowly between foods as a sudden change in diet can upset their stomach!

If you have questions about your pet’s nutrition, feel free to call us.   Here are some websites with additional information on pet nutrition:

Stay tuned for “Dogs and their Dinner” our next blog entry.   There we will be “interviewing” the clinic animals and staff’s animals regarding what they eat.

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