Welcome to “Debarking Pet Myths,” a monthly series dedicated to addressing common myths, misconceptions and old wives’ tales about dogs and cats.
Grain-free pet foods are very popular among U.S. pet owners. One of the largest-growing segments of the pet food market, grain-free dog and cat food now accounts for more than one-third of all pet food sales, according to data on pet food sales from market research company GfK. One of the reasons given by some pet owners for feeding a grain-free food to their furry family member is the focus of this month’s post.
Grain-free pet food is a low- or no-carbohydrate food
“Grain-free” and “low-carb” or “carb-free” don’t go hand-in-hand. When pet food companies replace grains in their pet food formulas, they often use other sources of carbohydrates such as sweet potatoes, peas, garbanzo beans (aka chickpeas), potatoes, lentils and tapioca (aka cassava). All of these ingredients provide carbohydrates that dogs and cats can use for energy — just like rice, brown rice, corn, wheat and barley.
While some grain-free pet foods provide fewer carbohydrates than those made with grains, other grain-free pet foods contain carbohydrate levels similar to or even higher than diets containing grains. Or some of the carbohydrates may be replaced with higher levels of fat and/or protein. That’s why it’s important that you don’t assume that the grain-free diet you’re feeding your dog is a low-carbohydrate one. When comparing Diamond Naturals and Diamond Naturals Grain-Free adult dog food formulas, the carbohydrate content of each formula is similar, regardless of the ingredients used to make the kibble.
The important thing to keep in mind when choosing a food for your pet is that different dogs can have different nutritional needs, and the same holds true for cats. Whether you choose to feed a grain-free pet food or not, you still must choose a food that provides complete and balanced nutrition for your furry friend. Yes, choose a food made with ingredients that you, as a pet owner, can be comfortable with. But remember: From the perspective of your pet’s body, it’s the nutrient profile of the food that’s important, not the individual ingredients in that food.