How Grain-Free Pet Food Can Help Our Cats & Dogs
According to many pet nutritionists, switching to grain-free could help your pet live a longer, healthier and happier life. Although high-quality dog and cat food brands offer optimum nutrition, some animals benefit from the increased level of meat, fish and protein offered by grain-free options. Plus, this food source can often help pets who suffer from food allergies and digestive problems.
Interested in knowing more? Read on to discover the advantages of a grain-free pet food diet…
Dogs and cats aren’t built for grains
Basically, dogs and cats are carnivores, which means their bodies aren’t designed to eat grain — unlike animals such as pigs, horses and chickens. Studies have shown that these pets lack enough of an enzyme called ‘amylase’ in their saliva to fully break down grain, so if we feed them grain, it can cause problems as they try and digest it.
Amylase is most prevalent in herbivores and omnivores, and helps to break down starch into simple sugars before it passes into the stomach. However, dogs and cats still produce amylase in the small intestine, so this is not to say that your pet will become ill after eating grain — many don’t. But, since their bodies cannot break it down, they also can’t extract its nutritional value. Essentially, this means your pet gets little health benefits from grain.
Just like us, animals can have intolerances to certain ingredients — such as wheat, grain and corn. If you’re worried that your pet may have trouble with certain foods, many pet nutritionists believe that you should feed them a diet that mimics what their ancestors would have eaten.
According to Dr. Ian Billinghurst, a pet nutritionist, our dogs should eat 60% meat and 40% vegetables/other foods. This method is called the BARF diet (biologically appropriate raw food) and includes eating ingredients such as peas, carrots and apples, which are sources of digestible fibre. However, decent grain-free dog foods will contain nutrients contained in these foods anyway, if you wanted to save time cooking for your pet. Similarly, cats benefit from roughage, like veg, in their diets, and this is even believed to improve their immune systems and reduce ageing! So, swapping to a grain-free cat food choice could help keep them fitter for longer.
Worried about your pet? Here are some signs that your dog or cat might be suffering from a grain-intolerance allergy:
• Skin irritation (itchy or dry).
• Ear infection.
• Inflamed paws.
• Fur loss.
Oils and nutrients are essential to ensuring dogs and cats have healthy skin and glossy coats. However, grains aren’t necessarily the best source of this. Typically, grain-free dog and cat food is high in protein, which means your pet likely receives a better helping of omega-3 fatty acids — the nutrient that gives coats that thick and shiny appearance. Another bonus is that omega-3 often strengthens your pets fur, which means less shedding around the house!
According to The Kennel Club, the government suggests that our dogs get a 30-minute walk every day, while PetMD suggests that you should engage your cat in activity (e.g. with cat toys) for about 15 minutes in the same time frame. So, having pets with plenty of energy to carry out this level of exercise is key to their wellbeing.
As we mentioned, grain-free pet food typically offers your animals a lot more protein than other choices, and since protein is a canine’s and feline’s main source of energy, this means they will have a lot more of it to burn off calories and get the workout they need to stay fit! Just think about people who want to build strength and push themselves at the gym, who usually switch to a protein-packed diet to give them that extra push.
According to an information guide by The Kennel Club, between 30% and 60% of dogs are overweight, and the health issue is a fast-growing one in the UK. However, the problem doesn’t stop with canines. When reading a report by the People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals, we discovered that overweight cats and dogs will likely outnumber healthy-weight pets by 2019. Since obesity can lead to heart problems, breathing complications, hormonal diseases, joint complaints and a short life; it’s essential that you work towards helping your pet maintain a healthy diet today.
Like humans, too many carbs and not enough exercise equals weight gain. Since grains often contain more carbohydrates than other foods — such as meat — it’s worth considering switching to grain-free if you’re concerned about keeping your dog or cat trim and fit. Grain-free pet foods substitute grain for meat, fish, vegetables, and ‘good’ carbs, which means they’re typically more nutritionally beneficial and keep your pet fuller for longer — less begging for treats!
Of course, there’s no definitive weight for a dog or cat, as they all come in different shapes and sizes. But watch out for these tell-tale signs that they might be carrying too much weight:
• Rounder face than usual.
• Fatty neck.
• Ribs not easily felt.
• Problems walking and gets out of breath quickly.
• Unwillingness to walk.
Clearly, there are many benefits to grain-free pet food, and it’s certainly worth considering if you’re concerned for their diet, exercise levels and general wellbeing. But before you change their diets, make sure you check with their vet.