Grain free dog food has skyrocketed in popularity throughout the pet food industry. However, many consumers spending top dollar for grain free pet foods don't have valid reasons for doing so.
"Dogs are descendants of wolves and therefore don't need carbs in their diet"
Fact: While technically this is true, carbohydrates can be an efficient source of glucose for dogs. Carbs provide energy and produce body heat when metabolized. Wolves and Coyotes who are the basis of the "grain free diet" were actually scavengers whose diets consisted of fruits, vegetables, and tubers as well as meat and fish.
"Dogs have a shorter GI tract and are therefore unable to properly digest Carbs"
Fact: Decades of research have proven that dogs actually digest grains and carbs quite well. Much like humans, dogs produce pancreatic amylase and enzymes to digest carbs.
"Grains and carbs cause food allergies in dogs"
Fact: Dogs can become allergic to any food if they are genetically predisposed. A compilation of multiple studies found the 6 most common food allergies among dogs to be beef, dairy, wheat, egg, chicken, and lamb. 5 out of the top 6 are not a form of carbohydrate.
Benefits of a Low Carb Diet
- According to this study, low carb diets are great for weight loss without leaving your dog hungry.
- A low carb diet is typically the most comparable to that of the ancestral wolf or coyote.
- A low percentage of carbs is typically more cost effective than a 100% protein based diet.
Types of Carbs Found in Pet Food
- Grains (Corn, Wheat & Rice): Many pet food companies utilize grains in their food because they are cheap and cost effective. However, they are not typical of the dog's diet and therefore can be hard for dogs to digest.
- Potatoes: Although starchy, potatoes are actually easily digested by most dogs. They closely echo the diet of the ancestral wolf or coyote digging for tubers as part of their diet. Additionally, yams and sweet potatoes can be a great source of vitamins and minerals essential to a dog's health.
- Tapioca Starch: A fairly common ingredient for many pet food companies. While easy for a dog to digest, Tapioca Starch doesn't offer much in terms of nutritional value.
- Alfalfa meal: While easily sourced and cost effective for many pet food companies, Alfalfa meal is better suited for cows and horses than our canine friends.
What You Should Buy
The healthiest source of carbs are fruits and vegetables such as pumpkins, spinach, apples, tomatoes, and cranberries. Additionally, carbs derived from fruits and vegetables are the primary source of fiber and can help keep your dog regular.