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  • Writer's pictureKnollwood Hospital for Pets

Does grain-free dry food kill pets?

Freakin' out over the recent "grain-free kibbled dog food causes heart disease & death" news?

Not to worry, unless you're feeding a dirt-cheap brand with very little meat protein and lots of bean and pea protein. Rest assured, if you are feeding a good quality grain-free diet with mostly meat protein, or (even better) a fresh raw meat-based diet, or even are supplementing a kibbled diet every 2-3 days with fresh meat, your dog or cat will NOT develop heart disease!

FACT #1: Pet food is regulated by the same industry that makes it - exactly like the fox guarding the chicken coop. AAFCO, the Association of American Feed Control Officials can & does set its own standards for what is acceptable in pet foods, regardless of whether their decisions stand up to scientific scrutiny. Despite National Research Council data (based on independent scientific data) showing how much protein dogs & cats need in their diets & which amino acids can be found in which foods, AAFCO allows pet food manufacturers to replace meat protein - a natural protein source for dogs & cats - with vegetable-based proteins, which can be deficient in amino acids such as taurine that our pets need to have on a regular basis. Taurine levels in such foods are typically much lower than needed by both dogs and cats.

FACT #2: Until cats started dying in droves from the heart disease Cardiomyopathy many years ago after Hills began heavily promoting prescription diet c/d for cats with urinary issues, the pet food industry neither knew nor cared that the amino acid taurine, found in abundance in fresh raw meat, was an amino acid that cats needed. Taurine deficiency killed many cats, until Hills finally started adding taurine to prescription cat food.

FACT #3 Removing inexpensive grains from pet food used to make a pet food more expensive - until pet food companies discovered that beans and peas allowed a food to be produced as a kibble just as well as did grains, AND to also serve as a plant-based protein. Plant-based proteins are much cheaper than real meat. So, companies wanting to produce a cheap grain free diet could and did start reducing real meat in their pet food & loading up on plant-based proteins in their foods. Taurine levels in such foods were typically much lower than needed by both dogs and cats.

More to follow....Dr. M's eyes are still a bit wonky after her cataract surgery. We'll continue to tell you what you need to know about how to feed your pet. because as our hospital motto says: we want you to have a healthy pet, for life!

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