Another health problem emerges from the latest of the “Food Fads” for pets – Grain Free Food.
First Grain Free dog and Cat foods have both excesses and deficiencies of amino acids. A heart problem that is caused by an amino acid deficiency, have been proven to be associated with feeding any grain free commercial diets in dogs. I’ll go into more detail later. This only the latest of problems with grain free foods.
I am calling it a fad here intentionally, which may dismay some of my readers. After all, this is an Alternative Veterinary Medicine blog. Well, I was reserved but open to the concept, as I am to many new ideas, and I evaluated the diets carefully. I compared the diets (the components & the companies dietary research) to over the over 80 years of veterinary nutritional research about canine and feline nutrition and digestive research up to now.
Here are the steps I go through to evaluate a food or supplement company.
- Claims of research. Look for listed research study on their website. Take the title and authors copy into the pubmed search. This a link into the big library of science studies worldwide. If the study is not listed here it was not published in a recognized scientific publication. The facts they quote are not facts, just company talking points.
- Did they use at minimum 30 or more animals in each test group. Did they not reuse the same animals in a “wash-out” study. So if comparing one diets to another the barest of minimum is 30, 100-200 is better. A common practice among feed companies is to design the feed trial to make sure that one diet is no different than the another diet.
- Done by Design: a. each group has less than 10-12 dogs, b. the total feeding trial lasts just weeks to 3-4 months (not from birth through maturation, 3-5 years old, males & females -through puppy rearing). Most feeding trials are 6-16 weeks or less with adult. Puppies/kittens feeding trials are completed before 6 months of age, especially related to bone and cartilage growth because the diet effects can’t be detected until after 2+ years of life. c. was the research done at a university in Central or South America. At present it is difficult to have quality over-site is some countries so unfavorable results are never published, not a practice done in major US universities. d. only one study for their idea that can’t be repeated, confirmed by other researchers.
- I have seen allot of “so called great ideas” come and go over 40 years in practice. I remember the very same sales pitch in the mid 1970’s for adding soybean protein meal to milk powder for baby calves & pigs. To increase their growth and save a little money on cost of milk. What happened? Baby calves & pigs drinking the milk powder that had more than 2.5-3% soy protein would die suddenly at 10-12 days of age from bleeding stomach ulcers. The research had been done in older animals with more mature GI systems, the babies unable to digest the soy protein which clotted in their stomach. Bacteria from the intestines migrated up into the clotted food mass and infected the stomachs causing ulcers and septic shock because of their young age. When farmer were careful to buy milk powder with less 2% soy the baby calves and pig were fine.
- Note: At less than 12 weeks of age calves and pig can’t digest food ingredients that are not from milk. As they mature with age their GI gradually turns into Omnivore and herbivore, capable of digesting soy with no problem.
- A lesson that has to be repeated in dogs, cats and people too. Feeding the wrong type of any food or nutrient will cause problems over time. An example, short term a dog can eat anything, but long term too much fibrous, root vegetables like sweet potatoes, carrots, yams, even potatoes, cause serious irritation to the gut and will mimic symptoms of irritable bowel disease. So if your dog have soft stools, that stink and tend to be sticky, stop the popular sweet potato diets.