Best approach – Article – Why Grain Free may NOT be the best for your pet

Whole Dog Journal – NOT grain free

Choosing Dog Foods After the Grain-Free Scare

Posted at 10:10AM – Comments: (49)

Whether you feed your dog grain-free food or not, a balanced diet is best for your dog.

A warning from the FDA about a recently reported spike in the number of dogs developing dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) (linked here again) and a possible connection between DCM and the inclusion of peas, lentils, legumes, and potatoes in the diets of a majority (not all) of the dogs means we are going to be talking about diet a lot for a while.

I read the comments on both my blog from last week and Whole Dog Journal’s Facebook page (where a link to the blog is posted), and I have also been reading messages and emails sent directly to me, and one thing jumps out: So many people have been feeding grain-free diets with absolutely no reason or justification for their decision. Some people have gone so far as to accuse WDJ of promoting these diets over diets that contain grain – oh, no you don’t! That is just flat untrue.

The Popularity (Overpopularity?) of Grain-Free Dog Food

When the first few grain-free dry foods began appearing on the market about 10 years ago, we were happy to see products that could be fed to dogs who were allergic to or intolerant of grains. Mind you, these dogs are in the minority. Nevertheless, the fact that some commercial foods were available meant that more people who suspected that their dogs might have an allergy to or intolerance of some grain or another could try one of these foods and see for themselves: Did their dogs improve? Get worse? Or did it make no difference whatsoever? The commercial availability meant they could do a feeding trial that didn’t take a lot of time to research or money (for a home-prepared diet trial).

Lots of people tried grain-free foods and some of them noticed that their dogs’ allergy symptoms or digestive problems went away. When you have been dealing with a chronically itchy dog, or one with persistent diarrhea or gas, and these symptoms cease – well, it’s almost like a religious conversion. These folks often go out and preach.

Between the feeding success of these foods in some dogs, the enthusiasm of the owners of the success-story dogs, and the relentless hype coming from the “bones and raw food” / “biologically appropriate raw food” / “evolutionary diet” people (many of whom have strong anti-grain sentiments), grain-free just took off. I complained in a blog post over a year ago that it has gotten to the point where I was having a difficult time finding a food that did contain grain in pet specialty stores.

It came home again about a month ago, when three different people who were adopting the puppies that I had been fostering for my local shelter each asked about food recommendations and each said, “Should I get a grain-free food?” In each case, I asked them, “Why do you ask?” And not one person had a real answer. “I heard grain-free was better!” seemed to be the consensus. (My answer to that: It’s better for dogs who have problems with grain!)

If pressed about my misgivings about grain-free dry dog foods for any or all dogs, I say this: There is a far shorter history of dogs eating the carbohydrates that are being used in these diets than there was of dogs eating grains. I don’t like putting my dogs on the front wave of anything, whether it is the latest/greatest heartworm prevention medication (when ivermectin works just fine, and has been for decades), or flea treatments, or diets. I tend to want to hold back and see whether an inordinate number of adverse experiences are reported as these things hit the market.

Dogs Need Balance Over Time in Their Diets

But, perhaps more importantly, feeding ANY type of food every day, all year, for years and years, goes against my longest-standing food recommendation. We have always encouraged owners to switch foods frequently – at least several times a year – and switch manufacturers, too. Many food makers use the same vitamin/mineral premix in all their products, making us worry that any nutrient excess, deficiency, or imbalance would become essentially entrenched in the body of a dog fed an exclusive diet of that company’s foods.

Home-prepared diet advocates talk about “balance over time.” The concept is this: If you change the ingredients and recipe of your dog’s diet – exactly as most of us feed ourselves and our human families – as long as you include everything that a dog needs over the span of any, say, week’s worth of meals, the dog will be fine. In other words, every single meal doesn’t have to be “complete and balanced” – you can accomplish this over the course of several meals.

I look at the feeding of commercial diets the same way; I think you can similarly achieve balance over time by feeding different commercial products from different manufacturers, and, in this way, hedge your dog’s nutritional bets, rather than going “all in” on any one manufacturer or set of ingredients.

Whole Dog Journal’s General Dog Food Recommendations

When I am asked to make diet recommendations, these are the things I say:

1. Feed a variety of products, rotating both among and between several manufacturers of products, for nutritional balance over time, and to avoid problems caused by long-term exposure to any formulation problems or nutritional imbalances/excesses/inadequacies in your dog’s diet.

2. Feed the best food you can afford and that your dog does well on. This doesn’t mean spend the most that’s possible; if your dog does great on mid-range foods, great! But super cheap food should be avoided. The difference in the ingredients of cheap foods versus mid-range foods is staggering.

3. DO READ ingredient labels. You should recognize most of the foods in the food; if things are weird, and only sound sort of food-like, they are likely highly processed food fractions. You don’t want to see a lot of those. If the front of the label says the food is “chicken and rice” you had better see chicken and rice high up on the ingredient label, not buried four ingredients back below chicken by-product meal, corn, wheat, and pea protein.

4.  Feed grain-free foods only for good reason (dog intolerant of/allergic to multiple grains). Feed limited-ingredient foods only for good reason (dog intolerant of/allergic to multiple ingredients). Feed exotic protein sources only for good reason (as a part of a formal food allergy trial, or to a dog intolerant of/allergic to multiple “common” protein sources).

5. Above all: Trust. Your. Dog! If it works for him, it’s okay. If it doesn’t work for him, change!

I want to feed my dog/cat just one protein…. but, that doesn’t really work for them!!

Regarding both cats & dogs ~ because every animal is different (just like people), there is no once size fits all regarding the amount to feed or the protein to feed.  There are guidelines provided by commercial pet food companies (but there are a ton of ingredients in that bag that your animal will never benefit from, and there is little to no quality nutrition to absorb), but you will most definitely want to pay attention to each individual animal.  If you have two cats,  one of your cats likes beef and the other likes chicken, I would not deprive the cat that likes beef from beef and the other from chicken just because feeding only one protein is more convenient.  Different proteins offer different nutrients, and each animal knows what nutrients suite them best.  Trust what your animals are telling you!   Feeding a variety of proteins (because again all proteins are all different and offer different nutrition), offers your animals the best opportunity at a wide range of nutrients.  Animals that eat only one protein are deprived of essential nutrients offered by the other proteins they are not getting.  … eventually, their tastes may change, and you should watch for that, because that is an indication that they are searching for a different nutrient (protein).  Hence, trying to get to ONLY one protein because that would make it convenient (for you), doesn’t really work for them.
The commercial pet food industry USED to tell you to feed only one protein (because they wanted you to return and purchase their product only) wants you to think there is some sort of magical formula for feeding a cat, dog, pig, whatever – do you follow a set prescription for yourself?  Your children?   Carnivores eat meat.  There is no mystery to it.  It is not a chemistry experiment to feed a carnivore.  When an animal is satisfied with the nutrient content, they’ll stop eating, won’t be over weight, won’t have rotten teeth or bad breath, won’t poop volumes, and will most certainly let you know when they would like to be fed again.  When feeding a high quality diet, you don’t need the volume that is suggested on the package of commercial pet food.  You MUST pay attention to your animals size, energy, coat, and interest in the food.

The Skinny on FAT for Dogs (their energy source)

A HUGE amount of healthy, fresh fat is required as part of the nutritional requirement for dogs.   25-30% of a dog’s calorie intake should be from fresh trim.  Dogs LOVE fresh trim.  It’s highly palatable to them.  You won’t find this in dry kibble, no matter how much top dry brand costs.  Trim fat has a very short shelf life and is difficult to preserve without adding tons of chemicals.  Fresh trim helps keep your dog lean – Here’s why:

Unlike humans, dogs use fresh healthy fat as their energy source.  Healthy fats are essential for every aspect of your animal’s health.  @ Pack10 we use mostly fresh trim fat (animal – from local organic farms in Colorado), as well as Non-GMO olive and safflower oils that are nutrient rich in omegas..  It is the high-sugar carbohydrate component in foods, not the fat content, that causes obesity in pets, and is the leading cause of diabetes, & dental decay/bad breath in dogs & cats.

Pack10’s Commitment to sustainability – Packaging!

By the year 2020 there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish :-(.  This fact makes us incredibly sad!

Every aspect of our cat food packaging is compostable.. .all the way down to the 2oz containers, which are made from corn.

In 2017 we switched our K-9 Meals from vac-seal (non-biodegradable, non-recyclable) bags to compostable tubs with recyclable lids.  

Pack10’s Production Facility in Golden, Colorado.

Pack10’s production facility in Golden, Colorado.

@ Pack10 we make hand crafted meals & snacks for dogs and cats – using only USDA Certified Ingredients.

The Pack’s Efforts on Sustainability and Social Responsibility

Achieving sustainability goals at Pack10. Did you know that 77% of the protein we source comes from farmers who have a paramount interest in chemical free, grass fed, socially responsible husbandry and agriculture? After all, when it comes down to what we do to feed our pets, we are sacrificing the life of one animal to feed another. Being socially and morally responsible for the lives of all creatures is first and foremost in our recipe book! Every ingredient that comprises our recipes is all, or almost all of these: is always a whole ingredient, is organic, is non-GMO, and is always USDA certified quality. Our products are gently cooked, and never treated with chemicals.
We also have an ongoing quest for packaging sustainability. We use paper products when packing out our shipments (no Styrofoam). Our cat food meals are packaged in compostable (made from corn) 2 oz. containers. We are still being challenged by our K-9 packaging, but continue to look for better alternatives to leak proof, frustration free packaging. We are committed to responsible, low or no footprint, positive social and environmental impact.

American Grassfed Certified Lamb, Pork, Beef!

At Pack10 it is important for us to use local, sustainable, ethically raised and treated animal protein.

The American Grassfed Association defines grassfed products from ruminants, including cattle, bison, goats and sheep, as those food products from animals that have eaten nothing but their mother’s milk and fresh grass or grass-type hay from birth to harvest – all their lives.  They are also raised with no confinement and no antibiotics or hormones, and must be born and raised in the USA

.american grassfed

Longmont – TheBuckner family has set the standard for truly free range 100% grass-fed beef that is extraordinarily lean and flavorful but more than that they raise all of their animals so thoughtfully that they have achieved AWA Certification, which is the most rigorous humane certification out there.

 

Comparing Pack10’s Protein, Fat & Fiber content.

The trickery in Pet Food Labeling… Dry vs. Moist Food Nutrition Information:
Protein, Fat, Fiber, etc. typically appear to be greater in dry pet foods vs. that of moist pet food. In reality – it’s the other way around. Moist food converted to dry typically yields a higher protein, fat, fiber, etc. content than dry. Using a calculation to eliminate the water, here’s how our Moist food converts:
Pack10’s K-9 Organic Ground Beef Recipe contains (required labeling for moist food):
 
Protein 8.1
Moisture 78.1
Fat 5
Fiber 1.1
 
If we Converted our product to dry, our labeling content would look like this:
 
Protein 36.99%
Moisture 4.5%
Fat 22.83%
Fiber 5.02%
 
So, if you’re comparing Dry to Wet, especially protein – you need to convert to a common denominator by removing the moisture content.
Two VERY IMPORTANT elements to keep in mind when considering Protein and Fat.
1.  The QUALITY of the protein used and how it’s processed (in our case to retain it’s nutrition).  Cats and dogs, being the carnivores that they are, require good quality protein & fat to be healthy.  There is no substitute.  Plant based proteins do not provide the same benefit, and cannot be a substitute.
2. Our K-9 Meals Protein to Fat Ratio varies and there is a reason for that.  Some dogs are sensitive to higher fat content.  Eg. Our K-9 Turkey meals are super lean, as are our K-9 Elk Meals.  Dogs who are susceptible to pancreatitis look for those types of meals for their dogs and we have customers who have success with the low fat content of these meals.
Furthermore – Pack10 designs recipes that more closely resemble their ancestral diet.

Picky eater or won’t eat? There’s a reason your dog knows more than you do!

A dog’s sense of smell is said to be a thousand times more sensitive than that of humans. In fact, a dog has more than 220 million olfactory receptors in its nose, while humans have only 5 million. Because of this keen sense of smell, dogs are able to locate everything from forensic cadaver material to disaster survivors. Taking facts into account – when your dog stops eating, or doesn’t like the food you’ve presented at meal time, why wouldn’t you trust that highly specialized instinct? Consider it a form of communication between you and your best pal. Rely on your dog to tell you what’s in it and whether or not it is suitable for him or her to eat. Trust him as much as he trusts you!

Pack10 Replaces Commercial Ground Beef with USDA Certified Organic Ground Beef!

In our commitment to provide Chemical-Free meals & snacks for dogs & cats, beginning April 1, 2016, Pack10 has replaced the Commercial Ground Beef K-9 meals with USDA Certified Organic Ground Beef K-9 meals for the same price as the commercial product (without the hormones, antibiotics, or chemicals). Yippee!!!