Can cats eat oat bars?

Grains in dog food

Grain in the dog bowl? No problem from a medical point of view. © iStockphoto.com/ Sadeugra

Dog nutrition

Many unsettled customers ask us whether they should feed their dog grain-free. One hears and reads again and again that the grain in dog food is not appropriate to the species and is harmful. However, veterinary findings do not confirm this.

What is grain made of?

Grains like wheat or rice contain mainly carbohydrates, mainly in the form of Strength. Many dog ​​foods marketed as "grain-free" contain no grain, but do contain potatoes and various other vegetables, fruits or nuts. Its main component is: also starch, because all plants store energy in the form of starch.

Regardless of the source it comes from: The digestion of starch in the dog's intestine is always the same (see below).

Does cereal cause allergies?

It is often said that grains cause allergies in dogs. The terms "allergy" and "gluten intolerance" are sometimes mixed up with one another. At a Gluten intolerance, which we know from human nutrition as "celiac disease", the intestine reacts with an inflammatory reaction to the so-called wheat gluten, i.e. gluten. The inflammation resembles an allergy in some respects and an autoimmune disease in others. Hereditary gluten intolerance in Irish setter families has been described in the specialist literature, but is now considered to have been erased. Otherwise, according to the current state of research, gluten intolerance in dogs does not play a role.

A allergy against grain protein is also possible in dogs. However, grain protein is not per se more allergenic than other proteins and real feed allergies are less common than is commonly assumed. Since allergies are usually directed against proteins, dogs are mostly allergic to protein-rich and frequently used food components such as different types of meat, eggs or cow's milk. In a scientific study in 2009, for example, gluten was far behind beef as the reason for allergic reactions. It would therefore occur to no one to discourage meat feeding in general.

If you have the feeling that your dog suffers from food allergies or intolerances, a veterinary allergy diet is recommended:

 

Can dogs tolerate carbohydrates?

As already mentioned, the main component of cereals is the carbohydrate starch. It is digested when the pancreas releases the enzyme amylase. It breaks up starch into sugar molecules that are absorbed into the bloodstream as a source of energy. Accordingly, grain is not only a "cheap filler" that would be worthless for the dog, but a good source of energy.

Interestingly, dogs, unlike cats, can boost their amylase production when they are fed a starchy diet. So you can adapt to a starch-rich diet so well that up to two thirds of the energy in the diet can come from carbohydrates. If dogs did not eat carbohydrates naturally, this adaptation mechanism would be pointless.

If a dog food contains more than 60% carbohydrates, dogs who eat it get diarrhea because undigested starch has an osmotic effect and draws water. As a pet owner, you will notice this immediately and would no longer feed such food. A manufacturer can therefore have no interest in mixing more starch into dog food than a dog can handle.

Are grains unnatural in dog food?

Dogs are considered "carnivores", which is often used as an argument to feed them exclusively or almost exclusively on meat. But taken literally, the term carnivore is misleading.

Feeding dogs only meat is not appropriate to the species and leads to malnutrition, because, like wolves, dogs need the nutrients that the bones, blood and gastrointestinal contents of their prey provide. Especially the intestinal contents as a food source for wolves are often forgotten. Dogs and wolves are, however, dependent on the carbohydrates which the intestinal contents of their prey naturally supply: the soluble - such as starch - and the insoluble carbohydrates - such as cellulose made from vegetable fibers, which is also decried as a cheap filler. Insoluble carbohydrates do not provide the dog with energy, but they are important for the intestinal flora and the intestinal motor skills. That's why dogs like wolves like to eat grass, berries or roots. They would by no means spurn the carbohydrate-rich stomach contents of a wild boar that eats grain and nuts in large quantities.

The latest findings, which were published in the renowned journal "Nature" at the beginning of 2013, also show a clear difference between the nutritional needs of dogs and wolves: In the course of domestication, dogs have managed to adapt to human nutrition. With the advent of agriculture (around 10,000 years ago), humans as well as our dogs developed the ability to digest large amounts of starch and use it as a source of energy. Further evidence of the long history of humans and dogs together (you can find literature sources on the subject on our blog Shall I feed my dog ​​like a wolf?).

Geneticist Robert Wayne sums up the findings of the genome comparison of wolves and dogs as follows: "Every day I get an email from a dog owner who wants to know if he should feed his dog like a wolf. I think this study answers the question: No! "

You have to be careful with high-starch feedstuffs such as cereals with diabetics, because they cause the blood sugar level to rise relatively quickly. However, like humans, dogs develop a metabolic disorder called "ketosis" and insulin resistance, i.e. type 2 diabetes, on a carbohydrate-free diet.

How high in grain is the dog food really?

The composition list on the dog food packaging is sorted by weight. The ingredient with the highest weight percentage is at the front, the others follow in descending order. However, this does not automatically mean that a feed with meat in the first place contains more protein and fewer carbohydrates than one with grain at the top. How can that be?

The trick is simple: fresh meat weighs more than dried meat or meat meal, as around two thirds of it consists of water. With recognized premium manufacturers such as Royal Canin and Hills, one type of grain, e.g. rice, often comes first in the declaration, followed by meat meal (not to be confused with "animal meal"), which provides meat protein in a concentrated form.

In order to be able to estimate which food really contains more meat protein, a look at the amount of the ingredients helps. A high protein content indicates a lot of meat in the feed, while a high carbohydrate content indicates a lot of grain or vegetables (mostly potatoes).

As mentioned, the carbohydrate content should not exceed 60%. An average dry food contains around 28% protein, a canned food around 45%. This means that the protein requirement of adult dogs is usually met or significantly exceeded.

Many dog ​​owners switch to grain-free food because their dog has a sensitive digestion. Recommended complete food for sensitive dogs are, for example:

 

Conclusion

Many of the disadvantages attributed to wheat are actually the result of an over-supply of energy. If we forego wheat ourselves, this usually also means that we are consuming fewer calories and thus also fighting the consequences of obesity - cardiovascular diseases and diabetes. When worrying about the well-being of our four-legged friends, it is easy to forget that our health and lifestyle problems cannot be transferred 1: 1 to the dog.

For example, reduced-calorie, healthy dog ​​food is: