Is Grain in Dog or Cat Food Species-Appropriate?

Grains in dog or cat food? This seems strange at first glance and unsettles many dog and cat owners. Cereals, such as wheat, are an important and well-tolerated source of energy for our pets.

Some pet owners consider grains in dog or cat food to be a cheap meat substitute that contradicts their four-legged friend’s nutritional needs. After all, according to the opinion that is often shared, dogs and cats are carnivores that do not eat any grain in the “wild”.

A nutritional myth that is widespread – but still wrong. It is true that the dog descended from the carnivorous wolf. However, the eating habits of our domestic dogs today are no longer “wolfish”. Dogs have lived closely with humans for more than 10,000 years and have adapted to their eating habits: Dogs were original “leftovers” and ate everything that humans eat – or whatever just falls off their table: meat, but also vegetables and Cereals in the form of bread, rice or pasta.

As a result of domestication, the diet of the dog has changed compared to the wolf, which has even led to demonstrable changes in the dog’s genes. For example, dogs can use starch better than wolves. “Therefore, there is nothing to be said against the use of grain as an important source of energy for dogs – provided the grain starch is well broken down,” emphasizes Dr. Claudia Rade, a veterinarian specializing in animal nutrition and dietetics. With cats, the case is somewhat different. They are stricter carnivores than dogs and require more animal components in their diet. In principle, dogs and cats do not necessarily need carbohydrates in their food, but they can make excellent use of them if they are made available in the food well broken down.

In ready-made pet food, grain starch is well broken down by heating, so that dogs and cats can optimally utilize and digest this vegetable component. High-quality wheat protein (gluten) achieves a digestibility of well over 90% and is, therefore, better digestible for dogs and cats than some animal protein sources. High-quality pet food, therefore, uses grain products as nutritionally important ingredients of high digestibility and constant quality and, last but not least, as a perfect supplement to animal protein. Because the cereal grain is full of valuable nutrients: It offers easily digestible proteins, high-quality fats, and vitamins, fibers as roughage, essential minerals, and carbohydrates as energy suppliers in the form of starch.

Allergies to grain proteins are no more common than to animal proteins

Despite all of these benefits, some pet owners worry that their cat or dog may be allergic to grains in their food. In individual cases, there may be an intolerance to a specific protein. But you have to know: allergies to cereal proteins are no more common than to animal proteins.

In general, food allergies in pets are rather rare. In cats and dogs, food is only the third most common cause of allergies after fleas and environmental allergies. And the gluten intolerance (celiac disease) that some people suffer from is almost unknown in dogs and cats.

If you still suspect that your pet has a food intolerance, you should take your four-legged friend to a veterinarian. If the investigation confirms the suspicion, an eight-week elimination diet can be used to determine whether a food allergy is present and which protein is the trigger.

Grain as a sustainable raw material of the future

Grain is a renewable resource and requires only a fraction of the resources needed to produce meat. Water consumption, for example, is significantly lower, and grain production also produces fewer greenhouse gases than meat production. In order to ensure the consistently high quality of dog and cat food, many manufacturers are already relying on raw materials that will continue to be available in sufficient quantities and excellent quality in the future. Wheat is one such raw material and will probably play an increasingly important role in the future as a supplier of energy and proteins.

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