Nutrition Bytes by Dr. Dolores Newman
It's getting closer to summertime. I know, I know it's only the end of March but summer is my most favorite time of the year. One of the things I like the best is a good juicy ear of corn slathered in butter and sprinkled with salt and pepper. I eat it almost daily while it's in season. Yummy. Did you know there is a lot of talk about how this almost sinfully delicious vegetable is terribly bad for dogs and cats? Can you imagine never getting to eat popcorn? Well that is the more recent fad in animal nutrition these days. I'd like to clear up some of these misconceptions.
Grains are probably the most misunderstood of all the ingredients in food. Think of food as a source of energy. The combination of proteins, carbohydrates and fats are combined to deliver the complete nutrition our pets need. Carbohydrates are the part of the diet that provides a good amount of energy. These can come from grains such as corn, rice and wheat or potatoes and other vegetables. Grains and starchy vegetables provide the most carbohydrates. The body breaks these foods down into individual nutrients. The body doesn't care if it ate a juicy, buttery ear of corn or a hot baked potato. It would break it down into the basic nutrients it needs and get rid of the rest. Actually the cells of our body run on glucose which is a basic sugar molecule used for energy. All foods are broken down into glucose and the excess is reformulated into other nutrients like protein and fats. Even if your pet eats a high protein food, most of that protein is converted to glucose and the rest is excreted into the urine or bowel movement. The body is pretty efficient in that way.
So are those grains bad? Here are some concerns people have and why these concerns are not necessarily true.
Grains are not the cause of food allergies like most people believe. Food allergies are caused by an intolerance to proteins. Most of these are due to beef and dairy products. Also, food allergies are not very common. Therefore feeding a grain free diet will most likely not cure your pet's itchy skin.
Grains are not just filler. They are packed with energy, vitamins and fiber which are essential to intestinal health.
Dogs in particular are not obligate carnivores. Their digestive systems are quite capable of digesting grains. Dog and cat foods have grains that are processed. In other words they are ground into usable forms to more easily digest the nutrients contained within them. This is not a bad thing. In fact it's a very good thing. It means those good nutrients are more available for the body to use.
I guess what is most important is that you are not afraid to feed your pet a diet with grains. Do not feel that you will hurt your pet by feeding it a diet that has grains in it. A large majority of dogs and cats live very long, healthy lives being fed foods with corn, wheat and rice. In fact their food is a whole lot more balanced than the foods we routinely eat. It's all about balance.
So next time you are in that long pet food aisle at your favorite store, don't panic thinking you need to buy the most expensive food there. Feed what your pet does well with. Shiny coats and normal formed bowel movements are what you are looking for. If you need further help or advise choosing a food right for your pet just ask us!