Thursday, 20 December 2012

Which grains should I add to my dog's diet?

Foods, which cause a rapid and high increase in blood sugar levels, are known to have a high ‘Glycemic Index.’  Rice is one of such foods. 

For those of us who are carbohydrate addicts and for all those unknowing cats and dogs being fed commercial diets which are high in carbohydrates, the blood sugar in the body is a roller coaster of highs and lows, especially when those carbohydrates are of a high Glycemic Index.

The glycemic index was developed as part of research into weight loss, diabetes and cardiovascular disease.  Foods with a high GI such as rice, pasta and many other complex carbohydrates, are rapidly digested, broken down into simple sugars and absorbed quickly into the blood.  The blood sugar dramatically increases which triggers the release of insulin from the pancreas.  The hormone chemical insulin, then carries out the task of storing the sugar as glycogen in the liver and muscles.  Excess sugar is synthesised into fat.

If meals mostly consist of high GI foods, which most grains (including rice) are, the blood sugar levels are continuously going up and down with the pancreas working overtime to deal with the abundance of sugar.

Low GI foods are carbohydrates that show a slower rate of digestion and absorption and therefore slower changes in blood glucose levels.  These types of carbohydrates are more beneficial to health as shown by diabetic patients (human) and those individuals on a weight reduction diet. (Glycemic Index Foundation)

Here are some examples of high and low GI grains which includes rice:

Grain/food type
Glycemic Index*
Brown rice
Wild rice
White rice
Basmati rice
Pearled barley
Cracked barley
Rolled oats
Sweet potatoes

The GI values in the above table are taken from the ‘Glycemic Index Foundation website,’ and are based on un-named brands of grain.  It appears that GI values can vary dramatically from one brand of grain to another, therefore the table is a guide only. 
Based on the information I found on this official website from The University of Sydney, I would avoid feeding my pets rice of all kinds.
I would, however add small amounts of organic grains such as pearled barley, rye and rolled oats.

Interestingly, legumes have a low GI (less than 40), with the exception of tinned legumes and broad beans.

Unfortunately, rice remains a very popular addition to homemade dog food.  Rice is very cheap, easy to prepare and easy to digest.  However it is almost pure starch, it is low in the essential amino acid Lysine, and given in regular high quantities, would certainly be a contributing factor of diabetes and pancreatitis. (Billinghurst 1993)

In support of a specific selection of grains being an important addition to the cat and dog diet is Dr Syme from ‘Pets All Natural, Australia.’
In Australia, Dr Syme has a very successful product range that is grain based.  The grain, bought as a dry cereal type mix is soaked in water overnight to ferment (rather than cooked) and then added to fresh raw meat. 

Grains are ok, “as long as they are unprocessed, cracked or crushed, pre-fermented, and make up a much smaller portion of the diet than the meat content.  It may be true that some dogs and cats may fare better on a diet with little or no carbohydrate, but on the whole they are a valuable source of nutrition.” (Dr Syme 2010)

The grain based product called’ ‘Complete Mix,’ includes uncooked rolled oats, cracked barley, flax seed meal, whole oats, dried vegetables, garlic, parsley, barley grass, calcium, yeast, kelp, lecithin and vitamin C.   

For those cat and dog owners that are pushed for time to make high quality pet food, this method is quick and really simple.  In my own experience, when accompanied with a raw meaty bone diet, it improved my dog’s energy levels, vigour for life and she actually lost weight, probably due to the extra activity and the end of poor quality commercial pet food.
*Just one important note on adding grains such as rolled oats to the diet, be sure to soak them in water for 12 hours at room temperature before adding to animal produce.

Grains contain a compound called ‘phytates.’  Phytates or phytic acid combine with minerals and prevents their absorption in the intestinal tract.  Minerals, which are affected this way by phytic acid are calcium, magnesium, zinc, copper, iron, chromium and selenium. (Billinghurst 1993)

When grains are fermented, the phytic acid is neutralised and the nutrients are released.  Fermenting also destroys enzyme inhibitors found in whole grains.  The enzyme inhibitors along with the phytates, if left intact, will prevent the absorption of the grain’s vitamins and minerals. 

Grains can be easily fermented, by adding a spoonful of yogurt, lemon juice or vinegar to the water in which they are soaking.  The acidic environment is what neutralises the phytic acid. (High on health 2009)

Rolled oats already have their enzyme inhibitors destroyed, however they should still be soaked in water.  An exception to the preparation of grains are sprouted fresh grain which do not require soaking or cooking before eating.  (Billinghurst 1993)

Allegretti, J. & Sommers, K D.V.M. 2003, ‘The Complete Holistic Dog Book, Home Health Care for our Canine Companions.’ Celestial Arts, USA
Billinghurst, I 1993, ‘Give your dog a bone,’ Warrigal Publishing, Australia.
Goldstein, R.S. V.M.D. & Goldstein, S.J. 2005, ‘The Goldstein’s Wellness & Longevity Program Natural Care for Cats and Dogs.’ TFH Publications USA.
Brown, A 2006, ‘The Whole Pet Diet, Eight weeks to a Great Health for Dogs and Cats. Celestial Arts, USA.
Martin, A. 2008, ‘Food Pets Die For, Shocking Facts about Pet Food.’ NewSage Press, USA.
Martin, A. 2001, ‘Protect your Pet, More Shocking Facts.  NewSage Press, USA.
Pitcairn, R. H. & Pitcairn, S. H, 2005, ‘Dr. Pitcairn’s guide to Natural Health for Dogs and Cats.’ Rodale Inc, USA.
Schultze, K.R. 1998, ‘Natural Nutrition for Cats and Dogs, The Ultimate Diet.’ Hay House, USA.

Internet websites: Barf and the Question of Grain. Lower your Grains and Lower Your Insulin Levels.
Glycemic Index Foundation.  Making Healthy Choices.
High on Health website.  Article on, ‘Soaking grains, Seeds, Nuts and Legumes for Better Health and Digestion.’ January 2009
Immune Web. Article on the ‘Nutritional Value of Grains and Flours.’  Last updated 2007, Last updated 28th September 2010, ‘Nutritional Value of Quinoa.’, Med Terms Dictionary.
Vets All Natural by Dr Bruce Syme 2010.  Article, ‘A grain of Truth.’  Article, ‘Grain Free Dog Food,’ by M. Eliasen Ph.D.

Wolfe, D. 2010, ‘Simply Raw, Reversing Diabetes in 30 Days.’ Movie trailer available on You Tube:

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