Grain free vs. high quality grain dog food

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Grain free vs. high quality grain dog food

Post  Riverdog on Fri Jun 27, 2008 10:14 am

Since Silva bought it up, I thought this would make a good first debate for the forum. Very Happy
*Please be aware that my opinions do not express those of JAH*

When I got my new Lab puppy two years ago I thought about switching to a grain free diet. I have to admit that the biggest reason I didn't switch was my long track record with large breed dogs living a long healthy life. My last dog Rooney died 3 weeks shy of his 15th birthday. I never had a large breed dog that didn't live at least until 14 years of age. So I figured I'd follow the old saying "If it's not broke, don't fix it". Still, I did a little research. I figured it is kinda like a person deciding to become a vegetarian but not educating themselves on what their body needs to replace nutrients. After doing a little digging this is what I have discovered:

The grain free dry diets, due to manufacturing necessity, must contain a “binder” ingredient - one that allows the kibbled food to hold together through the extrusion/baking process. The most commonly used binder ingredients in the grain free dry foods are potatoes, green peas, and tapioca as they provide adequate starch to facilitate binding.

There are pros & cons to much of the grain debate but I really found this article useful:

According to Greg Aldrich, PhD, in his article “Potatoes-Common or Novel Carb?, “In vitro nutrition studies suggest that the starch granule of potato differs from that of grain flours in the uncooked state (Bednar, et al., 2001); that under mild extrusion conditions the starch composition in potato may be more readily altered (Murray, et al., 2001). However, in a study with dogs, potato flour was reported to have a similar starch digestibility (>99%), and resulted in similar stool scores as cereal grains although other nutrients (e.g., protein) were slightly less digestible (Murray, et al., 1999).” In other words, potatoes and grains performed similarly in the areas of digestion and waste production after extrusion/baking, with potatoes actually negatively effected absorption of other protein sources contained in the diet (this due to the concentration of protease inhibitors and glycoalkaloids which occur in all members of the Nightshade family).

Green peas and tapioca are relative new comers to the pet food industry as, as such, have not enjoyed the study that potatoes have had. This being said, presented to the 10th Congress of the European Society of Veterinary and Comparative Nutrition held in Nantes, France, October 5–7, 2006, “Effects of Carbohydrate Sources on Dog Diet Digestibility and Post-Prandial Glucose and Insulin Response,” (A. C. Carciofi, et.al) stated that tapioca (cassava root) was equal to brewer’s rice in digestibility while peas were the least digestible although all were greater than 98%. As tapioca is 88.5% carbohydrate, 3.25% sugars and correspondingly high in calories, it is no surprise that this study found a higher immediate glucose/insulin response than with the peas at 14% carbohydrate and 4.5% sugars. It is also interesting to note that the response was equal to that of corn.

Given the fact that grain free dry dog foods provide none of the perceived benefits of a raw food diet and are, in fact, more akin to their dry grain containing counterparts, it would seem that, in absence of allergy or sensitivity, a less costly grain containing dry food or a raw food diet should be the choice of consumers.


I would like to say that I do not agree with a raw (meat) food diet. Way too many health concerns! I'm guessing Dr. Aldrich used that as an example by comparison.

I think the grain free food is great for dogs with allergies or sensitivity to grains but I don't see any benefit for a health dog as long as the grain food you are using is of high quality.

Grain free really has a lot a protein and too much protein can cause kidney problems by making the dogs system too acidic (it lowers their pH) over time if a dogs system is kept too acidic oxalate crystals will form and the only way to get rid of them is to take the protein out of the diet all together (which has it's own dangers) or surgery. How much protein your dog needs depends on age, breed, activity level.

Potatoes can make arthritis worse and cause other issues especially in large breed dogs. Sugar is made of glucose and fructose molecules (both simple sugars) hooked together. In the digestion process, these two molecules are broken apart and enter into the blood stream. Potatoes are starch, which is made up of a whole bunch of these simple sugars hooked together. During the digestion process, all of these simple sugars are broken apart and enter into the blood stream. So whether it is sugar or potatoes, they both enter into the blood stream looking pretty much the same. In humans potatoes are not as recommended as rice, oatmeal, or even corn for their nutritional content. So why are potatoes better for our dogs?

Tapioca, from the root of the cassava plant, is grain-free and gluten-free. There are no known allergies to tapioca, and many veterinary teaching hospitals incorporate tapioca into their hypoallergenic, homemade recipes for food allergies and Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD). I don't see a problem with tapioca but unless your dog has allergies I don't feel it justifies the need for a grain free food.

Too much grain and low quality grains are a bad thing. But then too much potato and protein is just as bad, maybe worse depending on the breed and age of your dog.

After weighing the pros and cons and my track record with senior pets I decided to stick with a high quality (high quantity meat) grain food. Smile The quality of the food still makes a difference! I would go grain free before I would buy a low quality grain dog food. If you knew what they put in some of the low quality food it would make your hair curl. Sick

My dogs have always eaten our leftovers too. My rule of thumb is if you won't eat it then don't feed it to your dog! In other words, that fat you cut off your steak shouldn't go in your dogs mouth.
*Shhh. Don't tell JAH* Laugh

I would love to hear from anyone that is using a grain-free food and the reasons why you prefer grain free over grain. The one obvious reason I can think of is the dog food scare and the wheat gluten from China that killed so many beloved pets.
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Re: Grain free vs. high quality grain dog food

Post  silvaheyes on Sat Jul 12, 2008 1:22 am

Riverdog wrote:
*Please be aware that my opinions do not express those of JAH*


Ditto.


Riverdog wrote:I would like to say that I do not agree with a raw (meat) food diet. Way too many health concerns! I'm guessing Dr. Aldrich used that as an example by comparison.

And what are these health concerns? I have yet to find any health concern linked to a RAW diet that is done CORRECTLY. You cannot just feed a dog a slab a meat and expect it to be a BALANCED diet. A lot of people are misinformed about RAW diets thus people thinking it's not a good source of nutrition for your dog. I personally think it's one of the best, You know where the meat comes from and you can supplement with what your dog needs at the time more so than with kibble. You also don't have to worry about fillers which are basically what cheaper dog foods are made of besides a little meat here or there.

Riverdog wrote:I think the grain free food is great for dogs with allergies or sensitivity to grains but I don't see any benefit for a health dog as long as the grain food you are using is of high quality.

Grain free really has a lot a protein and too much protein can cause kidney problems by making the dogs system too acidic (it lowers their pH) over time if a dogs system is kept too acidic oxalate crystals will form and the only way to get rid of them is to take the protein out of the diet all together (which has it's own dangers) or surgery. How much protein your dog needs depends on age, breed, activity level.

Most grainless foods are only suggested for allergies because of the protein levels within them.. They're also suggested for older dogs that are through with growing as it can cause problems in puppies because of the high levels in the food. Smile


Riverdog wrote:Too much grain and low quality grains are a bad thing. But then too much potato and protein is just as bad, maybe worse depending on the breed and age of your dog.

I couldn't agree more but with anything, Moderation is key. Every single thing can be bad if not given in the right dosages. Very Happy

Riverdog wrote:After weighing the pros and cons and my track record with senior pets I decided to stick with a high quality (high quantity meat) grain food. Smile The quality of the food still makes a difference! I would go grain free before I would buy a low quality grain dog food. If you knew what they put in some of the low quality food it would make your hair curl. Sick

Once again, I agree.. We feed a high quality human grade food at the moment and I couldn't ask for better results. I will NEVER feed my dog a food that is filled with fillers and lacks a good amount of meat within the product.

What really rubs me the wrong way is poor quality dog foods that most supermarkets sale that are filled with allergens and fillers.
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Re: Grain free vs. high quality grain dog food

Post  Riverdog on Wed Jul 30, 2008 12:59 am

I agree with almost everything. Rolling Eyes But don't you have a fear of Salmonella & E. coli?
I do know of cases of both Salmonella & E. coli. Dogs are not the carnivores they once were and their resistance to bacteria has changed over the years. I supplement with meat but I make sure it is cooked. I do know dogs can carry Salmonella and pass it to humans without falling ill themselves.

If the meat is farm raised without hormones & additives I would feel more comfortable. Chicken would be my biggest concern although they say that one minute in the microwave kills the Salmonella present on the surface of all chickens. I'm not sure how true this is.

I guess what I'm trying to say is, the bacteria we have today is a strain of the bacteria from days gone by but is not the same as it was years ago. There are too many variables in our world today. Sometimes I even worry about cooked meat in our lives. Look at our children. Children today reach puberty much earlier in what scientist think is caused by so many hormones in out diet. It's kinda scary.

I don't know that much about e.coli but I do know it can make a dog severely ill and can lead to death. A fairly new strain of necrotoxic E. coli. can cause severe internal organ infections. Here is a case of a 7 month old puppy with necrotoxic E. coli. but I don't think this case was attributed to raw meat. This dog was found weak and ataxic, with vomiting and diarrhea and was euthanized. It was reported to be eating and drinking and to have had normal feces the day before. Ovariohysterectomy had been performed on this animal 10 days prior to euthanasia.

I've heard of some pretty bad cases and I'm afraid to risk feeding raw meat. Shrug One case wasn't from the feeding of raw meat directly but from the dog picking up e.coli at a kennel boarded with dogs that were being fed raw meat. (A friend helping watch another friends dog when they went on vacation)

Reference: Vaccine 2002 Feb 22;20(11-12):1618-23 Immunogenicity of chi4127 phoP- Salmonella enterica serovar Typhimurium in dogs. McVey DS, Chengappa MM, Mosier DE, Stone GG, Oberst RD, Sylte MJ, Gabbert NM, Kelly-Aehle SM, Curtiss R. "Salmonellae are commonly isolated from dogs. The number of dogs infected with Salmonella spp. is surprisingly high and greater than the incidence of clinical disease would suggest. Salmonellosis is common in greyhound kennels. Morbidity can approach 100% in puppies and the mortality ranges to nearly 40%."
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