Following a rise in gluten and dairy free dieting trends for humans, grain free dog foods have entered the market as well, and there are commonly believed to be better for canine health. However, many pet owners are unaware of the potential health risks that grain-free food may present to their dogs. First, it’s important to outline the difference between grain free and traditional dog foods, and then we’ll explain how a grain free diet may increase your dog’s risk for heart disease.
Grain free vs. regular dog food
Grain free dog food does not contain products that many regular pet foods carry, such as rice, corn, barley, sorghum and wheat. Instead, these grains are replaced by other ingredients, like lentils, peas, potatoes, and tapioca flour. Grain free options have been presented as a better choice for dogs, and many pet owners justify their reasoning for feeding their dog grain free foods because they contain less carbohydrates. While this has some validity, grain free dog foods still have carbs, and there is no correlation between carbohydrates and negative health effects in canines. It’s true that dogs don’t really require a high intake of carbs to function, but this is not necessarily a good reason to switch your dog’s food.
The problem with grain-free dog food
According to the FDA, they have sent out a warning to dog owners and veterinarians that unusual reports of canine dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) were found among dogs that were fed “pet foods containing peas, lentils, other legume seeds, or potatoes as main ingredients.” Essentially, this refers to grain free dog foods that contain these ingredients, and links these foods to heart disease among dog breeds where it is not typically seen. Grain free diets are suitable for dogs that may have allergies to corn or other grains, but it’s probably best to use traditional dog foods to avoid DCM if your dog has no apparent allergic reactions to regular food products.
How to strengthen your dog’s heart health
Even if you aren’t feeding your dog grain free food, it’s still a good idea to preemptively protect his or her heart health. Feeding your dog a quality protein or meat based diet, as well as reducing sodium intake, can help decrease his chance of developing heart disease. Also incorporating a dietary supplement, such as a hemp seed oil, can improve heart health. This oil provides a good source of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, and it’s naturally made by cold pressing hemp seeds. Many vets believe that this is a healthier alternative to fish oil, which may contain toxins or environmental pollutants. It’s especially necessary to take extra steps to defend against DCM if you own a dog breed that is typically affected by DCM, like Great Danes, Boxers, or Doberman Pinschers.