WhatsApp Grain-free. These two words are the focus of a recent media storm creating trouble for pet food. Alarmed from media reports, clients feeding grain-free foods to their pets might have serious questions. What does grain-free mean? The grain-free label implies that the food contains no grains simply. The term itself does not define anything important about a pet food really. Why did grain-free foods become popular in the first place?
As veterinarians, the majority of us were taught that grains are an acceptable, significant part of the canine diet. However, large quantities of grains in dog food were a good idea never. The formulas themselves and the real way the food was produced and processed have been sources of concern. The market responded to these questions by replacing grains with other inappropriate ingredients simply, and a huge market for grain-free food was born.
This strategy assumed that the only complaint about kibble foods was the inclusion of grain, and that by removing the grain, the diet would be healthier.heat-processed
High, damaged nutritionally, industrially sourced pet food too high in carbohydrates and too low in quality proteins and healthy fats is still an unhealthy diet, of the grain-free label on the bag regardless. Why are grain-free foods being linked to heart disease in dogs? Because some protein is provided by them, these plant-based grain substitutes allow manufacturers to lower the amount of meat-based protein in their formulas.
But these plant-based proteins do not have a complete amino acid profile, most lacking in taurine notably, an amino acid required for cardiac health in dogs and cats found in animal-based foods The link between dietary taurine deficiency and heart disease is well described in the cat.
In contrast, dogs with the right building blocks can make it themselves. Therefore, taurine is not considered an essential amino acid for dogs. Department of Agriculture. We had not seen significant taurine-related canine heart problems in the past. Until recently, the majority of dog foods were formulated with enough meat-sourced proteins to provide the base amount of taurine needed for most dogs. Without minimum recommended levels of taurine for dog foods, companies making these foods have not been held accountable for conceived diets poorly.
Other factors also affect the bioavailability of the taurine that is present in the diet. Additional causes of dietary taurine deficiency Food Preparation Cooking meats degrades and drastically reduces the bioavailability of taurine in the food. If meats are cooked in water and the water is discarded, the majority of the taurine can be lost. Moisture removal to make a dry food depletes taurine in foods already deficient further.
Taurine amounts can be diminished somewhat when foods stay frozen for long periods of time as well, but not as much as the loss from cooking. If there is fresh meat enough, typically there will be enough taurine in a short-term frozen raw food. Bile Salt Conjugation Both dogs and cats lose taurine through bile salt conjugation constantly, particularly if bile salts are not recycled by the body because they are bound by starchy compounds like rice bran or beet pulp.
Both ingredients can be found in grained and grain-free foods. Dogs and cats shall have an increased need for taurine if they are eating foods with these components. Microbiome Microbiome deficiencies cause the physical body to absorb taurine and other essential nutrients inadequately. Many pet foods source ingredients from commercial farming where chemicals and antibiotics are used.
These shall be present in the pet food and affect the microbiome of the pet. Conscientious manufacturers of canned foods for cats typically double the amount of taurine in the food due to concerns that taurine availability may be affected by the canning process. What does this mean for our patients on grain-free diets?
Pet owners searching for better answers are swayed by marketing, catch phrases, convenience, fancy packaging and overwhelmed by the glut of good and bad information online perhaps. But we all have the same intention. We want to provide our patients and pets with a happy and healthy long life. The circulating news stories recommend that if we all revert to feeding our pets grains in their dry kibble foods, health shall return. Keep the basics in mind about diet. That is not the answer.
What is in the food matters certainly as much as what is kept out of it. Look for fresh, balanced, moisture-appropriate food for a carnivore. We can keep animals and their hearts healthy with the foods they are designed to feast upon.
Use a fresh, species-specific diet as a sensible starting spot to create health. Remember that taurine is non-existent in many plant-based proteins nearly. We must evaluate ingredients in both cat and dog diets for taurine, of the AAFCO standards regardless. Look for quality, organic, non-GMO meat sources of protein high on the pet food label. Add a fresh meat source to pet food – taurine is typically high in many animal-based proteins especially sardines, shrimp, clams, scallops, fresh uncooked dark meat poultry, and heart muscle.
Tuna is not a source of taurine. If a fresh diet is not possible fully, try to at least supplement with something fresh. Fresh healthy foods shall keep pets healthy!
It is interesting to note that cats who eat mice are not likely to have any taurine deficiency as mouse muscle and particularly a tiny mouse heart contains very high concentrations of taurine. Remember that variety too helps provide balance. It is an complete and useful tool unusually, in that it includes taurine as well as corrected USDA data on many other ingredients to help us find optimal levels for nutrients and keep up with these health concerns.the current research by Dr
Hopefully. Stern will add to our knowledge and understanding about these important micronutrients. What about supplementation? If an animal has a heart taurine and condition could be a factor, consider suggesting a taurine supplement to a diet. For cats the literature suggests about mg of taurine daily.
For dogs, the levels are extrapolated typically, but it is difficult to overdose it is excreted instead of kept in the body. Literature references about mg for a 30lb dog up to three times a day as a good spot to start. It can take several months to see cardiac improvement, but if a taurine deficiency was at the heart of the nagging problem, it may resolve with supplementation fully. Use organic and well-known sources. Certainly breeds predisposed to Dilated Cardiomyopathy DCM that can be more strongly affected by taurine deficiency might benefit from added taurine – either in foods or supplements.
Consider using freeze dried heart treats to help increase amino acids, including taurine. Dogs with urate or cystine stones should consider taurine supplementation since the body uses these as building blocks for taurine synthesis. Finally, we must remember that food is medicine. While a good diet cannot cure all ills, a poor diet will create problems. With proper nutrition, there is a strong tendency for health. Epub Jun J Anim Sci Technol.
Taurine deficiency in Newfoundlands fed commercially available complete and balanced diets. J Am Vet Med Assoc. Taurine deficiency in dogs with dilated cardiomyopathy: 12 cases Taurine status in normal dogs fed a commercial diet associated with taurine deficiency and dilated cardiomyopathy.
Taurine-deficient dilated cardiomyopathy in a family of Golden Retrievers. J Am Anim Hosp Assoc.