Why Grain Free Dog Food Isn't the Final Solution
The science of dog food has improved in at least the last 10 years to recognize that feeding dogs cheap grains isn’t very beneficial for carnivorous animals, as there was growing evidence that some dogs were actively having allergic reactions to this food.
The result was the emergence of more expensive lines of “grain-free” dog food. On the surface, this seemed the solution: remove the grains, and you have the best possible dog food. Except, it turns out, in order to achieve shelf-stable dry kibble, much of what makes kibble an inferior food product is still there—taking a list of desired minerals and nutrients from extracts and compiling them, rather than using whole foods.
A new study links grain-free dog foods to canine heart disease, mostly occurring with larger breeds such as Golden Retrievers. The surprise was the disease links to 16 supposedly healthier and more expensive brands such as Blue Buffalo and Taste of the Wild.
We can take this news with a little grain of salt though, when you consider how the health news of eggs has see-sawed over the years. Still, I expect this will not be the last finding that dry kibble simply minus the grains isn’t the end-all to better canine health.
My experience, as that of many other raw feeder testimonies found online, is that feeding pets nutritionally balanced real food results in a long list of benefits, including very few vet visits. Dogs who are introduced to raw food after a diet of kibble often show dramatic results, and usually within weeks. The one I hear a lot is that dogs who had always seemed either hard to please or listless eaters, were suddenly very interested in their meals, eating it all at once, not nibbling.
The other often-cited benefit is energy level. My dog has always had an abundance of energy—he has always eaten raw food, so I don’t know any difference. But friends and family I have introduced to raw food report a noticeable increase in energy, and playfulness.
Also in my experience, once on a steady raw food diet, dogs who get hold of kibble again experience digestive duress, which is unfortunately noticed by the pet owner as terrible gas and runny stools.
As noted on another blog post, dogs can live a surprisingly long time of a diet of dry kibble that is basically smashed together nutrients. But the evidence is that dogs will live a longer, healthier life when fed simple, raw, and real food.