Are grains good for dogs?
Simple answer: no.
But let's dive into this "no" so you're armed with the information you need to be the best possible health advocate for your dog.
What are Grains?
Grains include corn, soy, wheat, barley, quinoa, oats, millet, rice, teff, buckwheat, farro, rye, etc. (you get the point).
The most common grains found in dry food are corn, soy, wheat, and potatoes. All GMO, filled with glyphosates and just waiting to be unleashed into your dog's body to cause her harm.
Why Grains Are So Bad:
The Immune System & The Gut:
Dogs are obligate carnivores. And when we bum-barred their system with these non-species appropriate foods, we risk harming their gut flora which directly impacts the immune system and nutrient absorption which causes obesity, diabetes, and cancer. Now I want to point out that cancer and the obesity epidemic are not all on grains. It's on our toxic world, meat meals, synthetic vitamins and minerals and a boatload of more modern-day problems. But grains are carbohydrates and carbohydrates + dogs do not equal a happy ending.
Carbs are a long chain of glucose, which is the main source of energy. Although glucose is a useful source of energy, it releases a hormone called insulin to move blood sugar into the cells to use as energy. Insulin is found in both dogs and humans, it is the only hormone that lowers blood sugars while there are 8 that raise blood sugar.
With the 20-70% of carbohydrates in kibble coming from grains we are drastically changing their insulin levels constantly which causes obesity, hyperthyroidism, heart disease, and even cancer.
How quickly the insulin spike occurs depends on how fast the carbs are digested which happens faster when they are cooked. BUT if a food is high in protein and fat the glucose is released slower. This raising and lowering of blood sugars by foods are based on the glycemic index. So when we do feeds carbs, we strive to feed low glycemic carbs like berries and dark leafy greens to add fresh phytonutrients into their bowls.
But... why does this matter? Foods with a higher glycemic index are the preferred food for unfriendly and pathogenic bacteria in the gut. So when Fido eats that kibble loaded with high glycemic grains you're really feeding all those nasty bacteria sitting in his gut. This imbalance of bad bacteria leads to a poor immune system and malnutrition.
Since beneficial bacteria manufacture vitamins and minerals, when they are taken over by pathogenic bacteria this creates a malnourished animal. As well as a depletion in health and nutrient absorption, the pathogenic bacteria also causes an inflamed gut lining which can lead to leaky gut!
Leaky gut is increased intestinal permeability which means that the gut lining has holes in it for toxins, undigested food particles, and bacteria to leak out of the small intestine into the bloodstream.
Phytic acid is one of the many anti-nutrients in grains. Anti-nutrients are natural compounds that interfere with the absorption of nutrients. Phytic acid is a phosphorus storage form in plant tissues. This means that the mineral phosphorus is packed into a molecule.
Although this molecule has phosphorus, it is not bio-available in the digestive tract because it grabs onto other important minerals, blocking nutrient absorption. Not only does this steal nutrients away from our dogs but it also blocks important enzymes needed to digest food.
Many studies on phytic acid have discovered that phytic acid blocks the absorption of calcium, zinc, magnesium, iron, and copper and interferes with the healthy gut flora which directly impacts the immune system. Since 70% of the immune system lies in the gut.
So a canine's diet high in grains (and phytic acid) will suffer from nutrient deficiencies, digestive issues and lack of appetite.
Modern agriculture is a crap show. There, I said it. It utilizes toxic herbicides, fertilizers and pesticides that are harmful to us and our pets. And since modern agriculture is so awful why wouldn't there be toxic mold which causes Aflatoxin which is a by-product of this mold that flourishes in dry conditions. So while that "hearty and balanced" bag of kibble is sitting on the shelves for years on end, this by-product is what you'll really be feeding your dog at dinner.
Molds like this contribute to mutagenic, carcinogenic, teratogenic, and immunosuppressive health effects. As well as acute hepatic toxicity to chronic diseases such as liver cancer, hemorrhages, edema, kidney and liver failure/damage, suppress the immune system and prevent nutrient absorption. Sounds scrumptious, doesn't it?
If you don't believe that this stuff is in YOUR dog's food let the statistics talk for themselves:
"98% of the samples were contaminated with one or more mycotoxins.
93% of the samples contained two or more mycotoxins.
39% of the samples contained more than five mycotoxins"
A Deeper Look:
Let's take a look at some popular kibble brands and take a look at their ingredients.
Hill's Science Diet Adult Large Breed:
Everything in yellow is a filler and used to reduce costs and is not beneficial to our dogs in any way. Chicken (listed as the #1 ingredient) is listed inaccurately. These ingredients are weighed when the chicken is still retaining its water weight, not after it is processed and extruded and extinct of all moisture. So, the chicken may actually be the 8th or 9th ingredient, not the first.
FROMM Beef Frittata Veg Recipe Dog Food :
As you can tell, this bag does not include any grains and is marketed as "grain-free". The grains are replaced by legumes. In order to cater to pet owners' needs, the kibble industry started creating "complete and balanced" grain-free diets. And instead of wheat and barley, they added potatoes and legumes. This caused a whole different problem... As well as hindering the microflora and suppressing nutrient absorption and the immune system, plant proteins are deficient in taurine.
Unless you've been hiding under a rock you've probably heard about the dilated cardio cardiomyopathy (DCM) problem surrounding legumes. DCM causes an enlarged heart and weakens the muscle which slows blood circulation and builds up fluid in the lungs.
Let's take a look inside the bag.
Taurine is an essential amino acid needed for many vital bodily functions such as eye, brain, and immune function. While taurine is not an essential amino acid for dogs (meaning they manufacture it on their own), it has been found that when dogs receive low protein and low-quality diets it decreases the production of taurine. Although this dry food has more high-quality ingredients, the legumes are still inflammatory and disturb the gut lining which again hinders proper digestion.
So as well as all the downsides of grains; "grain-free" has an added benefit of DCM... yummy.
Iams Proactive Health Adult MiniChunks:
Remember when I brought up that AAFCO's regulations for weight in ingredient listing are measured before the water weight is taken out? Well if not, when you see meat as the number one ingredient that may be the case before it was processed and heated causing all moisture to disappear. Creating little hard nuggets of dehydration and the #1 ingredient actually becomes more like the #9 ingredient by weight.
Notice how basically how every single ingredient is highlighted...
This food provides no amount of quality nutrients.
Rosemary extract was highlighted because it is a synthetic preservative. The extrusion process that the rosemary goes through pulls the nutrient makeup far away from the delicious herb we know.
Now that you're a subject matter expert (SME) in the grain column... go learn more! There is an abundance of knowledge to obtain and the learning train never stops! If you ever have any questions do not hesitate to reach out! You can contact me via the contact page, my email, Facebook page, and/or Instagram page.
As always, thank you so much for stopping by and Always Keep Exploring!