In the wild, dogs would not have access to grain except for the small amount found in the gut of the prey. As most commercial pet foods now contain grain as their main component, it is clear that this huge shift away from what nature intended may be the cause of many health problems in our pets.
Here are 5 reasons why grain based diets can cause health problems:
1) Cooked grain leaves a layer of residue on the teeth. As cats and dogs do not have the enzyme in their saliva to break down this residue, it leads to gum and teeth problems. (Wolfweb 2010)
Gingivitis is the result of long-term residue on the teeth. If left untreated, it can lead to a compromised immune system and problems with organs such as the heart, liver and kidneys. (Goldstein et al 2005) When teeth and gums are diseased, the bacteria easily spreads into the digestive tract and from there are absorbed into the blood and into the vital organs.
So many dog owners complain about their dog having bad breath. Rather than address the cause of the problem (usually bad quality food and as a result gum and teeth disease), pet shops conveniently sell poor quality chew bars that mask the smell of the disease and add more problems to the dogs’ health.
Brushing our pet’s teeth certainly helps but if they are on a raw diet with bones this isn’t necessary.
If we all made more of a conscious effort to address cause rather than symptoms the health of our loved ones would improve dramatically.
Before I started educating myself on good quality pet nutrition I thought it was normal for my pets to have yearly trips to the vets for their teeth to be cleaned due to tartar build up and red, sore, inflamed gums. I can honestly say that in the last 18 years of my cat’s life, not one Veterinarian has ever suggested changing the feeding program to prevent such a painful and health threatening disease. In my opinion, Australia is in serious need for well-trained holistic animal nutritionists. Unfortunately the Vets would have less business due to the reduction in pet diseases, however our animals would certainly be happier with a longer life span free of pharmaceutical drugs and disease.
2) Grains are mostly carbohydrates. The pH in the gut required for the breakdown of carbohydrates is around ph6-7 (pH 7 being neutral). If a dog or cat has been eating mainly a raw diet, the pH in their gut will be very low and highly acidic. Therefore feeding too many grains with raw animal produce will certainly lead to digestive problems. (Wolfweb 2010) The short length of the cat and dog digestive tract should also be strong evidence that these animals are not suited to a grain based diet.
3) Too many grains means an excess of carbohydrates which, when broken down in the gut results in a huge amount of sugar. This abundance of sugar is rapidly absorbed into the blood and the blood sugar (glucose) level spikes dramatically. The pancreas is required to supply an abundance of insulin in an attempt to store the excess sugar. This over works the pancreas, which may result in its slowing down or complete failure. Without adequate amounts of insulin in the blood to store excess sugar, the glucose overload causes problems around the body and can destroy the body’s filtering organs, the kidneys. (Goldstein et al 2005)
Unfortunately most Veterinarians will treat the symptoms of diabetes without addressing the cause, which is poor nutrition. Holistic animal practitioners however, would surely change the diet to fresh produce with very little grain and supplements to help a poor functioning body.
David Wolfe, producer of the movie ‘Simply Raw,’ took a group of very unhealthy, severely overweight, insulin dependant diabetic adults and reversed their disease within 30 days using a raw food diet accompanied with daily exercise. “With the correct diet and lifestyle, diabetes can be reversed.” (Simply Raw, ‘The Movie’ 2010)
Examples of the protein to carbohydrate (complex sugar) ratio content in some grains are:
- In 100 grams of cornmeal (found in cheap commercial pet food) there are 8 grams of protein and 70 grams of carbohydrate.
- In 100 grams of Amaranth (a high quality grain not found in commercial pet food) there are 14 grams of protein and a more acceptable 57 grams of carbohydrate.
- Rolled oats appear to be the best source of grain when trying to reduce sugar content as they have (per 100 grams), 17 grams of protein and 56 grams of carbohydrate. (ImmuneWeb 2007)
Even the best grains contain 4 times the amount of carbohydrate to protein ratio.
Excess sugar from too many poor quality grains may indeed be the major cause of diabetes in cats and dogs.
“Commercial pet foods contain up to (and in some cases in excess of 50 percent refined, poor quality carbohydrates, as contained in white flour and white rice.” (Goldstein et al 2005)
4) Cancer thrives on sugar. Too many grains in the diet provide the optimal conditions in which cancer cells can grow.
Commercial pet foods containing high amounts of poor quality grain-by-products are a contaminated source of protein for our animals. They totally lack ‘life force’ energy due to their being heated and processed before being packaged for months at a time before purchase and consumption.
Cancer is by definition, “An abnormal growth of cells which tend to proliferate in an uncontrolled way and, in some cases, to metastasize (spread).” (MedicineNet.com)
In the words of Dr Goldstein,
“cancer is a group of chronic degenerative diseases that are named for the cell type or tissue where the body allows it to grow. In its broadest sense, cancer is toxin overload in combination with an immune system that can no longer recognise abnormal cells when they arise and can no longer maintain healthy tissue.” (Goldstein et al 2005)
The question is why does a healthy cell suddenly loose its way and mutate into something life threatening? It could indeed be a combination of emotional, environmental and dietary insults such as:
- Grain based commercial pet food diets
- Yearly vaccinations,
- A lifetime of antibiotics,
- Systemic drugs such as worming and flea medications
- Exposure to environmental toxins such as flea bombs, flea collars, insecticides, chemical fertilizers around the family home
- Poor exercise, lack of companionship, neglect, cruelty
“Dietary changes make a remarkable difference in the course of the disease, and in the day to day quality of life for the animal.” (Goldstein et al 2005)
5) Cats and dogs raised on a grain based diet such as heavily processed, commercial pet food are more likely to have nutritional deficiencies. Over several years the heavy reliance on grains for all of the cat or dog’s nutritional needs, will slowly wear down the body’s defence system, the efficient functioning of organs and cause the deterioration of the connective tissue, which includes skin and the skeletal structure.
- Grains are deficient in lysine. Lysine is required for the absorption of calcium, to maintain the immune system and to assist in the,
“formation of collagen, which is the major protein in bone, cartilage and connective tissue, including the skin.” (Billinghurst 1993)
- Grains are also deficient in Vitamin C, which is essential for bone and other tissue generation. Vitamin C is known to prevent bladder stones and urinary tract infections, boost the immune system, acts as a powerful antioxidant against free radicals, a natural anti-inflammatory and supports cortisol production.
- Also deficient, are some minerals including calcium. As calcium is the main constituent of bones and teeth, aids in the metabolism of fats and is required for the proper contraction of the heart muscle, its shortage in the body, long term, would cause a variety of health problems.
- Most grains are also deficient in fats and essential fatty acids. As EFA’s are an essential component of the cell membrane and are necessary to create prostaglandins required for the regulation of basic body functions, the cat or dog has no opportunity of optimal health.