Pet Food Processing - June 2018 - 44
Grain MYTHS versus REALITY
Misconceptions surrounding the prevalence of grain
allergies in pets, as well as myths such as "grains are
fillers," only add to the confusion around the use of
grains in pet food. Purina acknowledges and respects
the fact that some pet owners choose to feed grainfree foods; however, knowledge is power. Knowing
the facts about grains and pets can help pet owners
make well-informed decisions.
MYTH: Dogs are carnivores
FACT: Dogs are omnivores
Dogs are omnivores, meaning they derive their nutrients from both plant and animal sources. Domestic
dogs evolved from early wolves, but despite sharing
a few physical traits, there are several significant differences between the two. Because wild canids and
cats do not consume grains, it is believed they cannot
digest grains. In reality, one of the primary genetic
differences between domestic dogs and wolves is the
domestic dog's ability to digest carbohydrates.
Research examining the DNA of dogs and wolves
demonstrates several genetic changes occurring over
the past 15,000 to 30,000 years. Compared to wolves,
modern dogs have more of the genes that code for
digestive enzymes, enabling them to better digest
starches like those found in grains. This evolution was
a crucial step in early dog domestication, allowing the
ancestors of modern dogs to thrive on discarded grain
products while living among early agricultural societies. Grains have been a staple of the human diet
for thousands of years, and as dogs have evolved
alongside humans, they, too, have utilized grains as a
source of energy.
MYTH: Cats are unable to digest carbohydrates
FACT: Cats use grains as a source of energy
The incorrect perception that cats are unable to digest carbohydrates, including those from grains,
stems from the facts that cats lack salivary amylase
and sweet taste receptors. Some studies show that
cats have less digestive enzyme activity for carbohydrate digestion compared to dogs, readily utilize
amino acids from protein to make glucose, and lack
the enzyme glucokinase that aids in glucose uptake
by cells. Although these facts demonstrate that cats
may differ from other species, as far as carbohydrate
metabolism goes, they certainly don't indicate cats'
PET FOOD PROCESSING | June 2018 | www.petfoodprocessing.net
inability to utilize dietary carbohydrates, such as
those found in grains or commercial pet foods.
Today's domestic cats are carnivores, just as their
wild ancestors were. They require certain nutrients that are only found naturally in animal tissue.
However, this doesn't mean they can only eat meat
or that they cannot consume grains. Cats, like other
living things, need glucose to fuel their cells. In the
absence of carbohydrates, the body will convert protein into the glucose it needs. The protein is broken
down into its amino acid building blocks, which are
metabolized to form glucose. However, this process
diverts valuable protein away from the muscles, coat,
immune system and other processes. Grains, therefore, are a "protein-saving" energy source for cats.
MYTH: Dogs and cats are allergic to grains
FACT: Grain allergies in dogs and cats are rare
Many people believe that dogs and cats are allergic
to grains, but, less than 1% of dogs are allergic. Most
allergies in pets are completely unrelated to food and
include allergies to fleas or other parasites, pollen or
mold. However, when food allergies do occur, they
are rarely due to grain. Beef, dairy and chicken are
the most likely causes of allergies in dogs, whereas
cats are more likely to have allergies related to beef,
fish or chicken.
Gluten is the protein component of grains. Wheat,
rye and barley gluten contain specific proteins called
gliadins which trigger the allergic response in people
with celiac disease. Increased awareness around celiac disease, non-celiac gluten sensitivities and wheat
allergies have given rise to the many grain-free food
options available to humans and has led to the misperception that wheat gluten and other grain glutens are
pro-allergenic. While a very specific family line of Irish
Setter dogs has been diagnosed with a gluten sensitivity, to date, celiac disease has not been identified in
dogs or cats.
Furthermore, not all glutens are the same. Gliadin
is not found in the gluten from rice and corn, making
those grains good choices for people with celiac disease and pets that may have wheat gluten sensitivities.
Purina makes products formulated without grain for
the less than 1% of dogs that may have sensitivity to
grain. For the other 99%, Purina believes the responsible thing to do is provide them with the best formulations for their needs, which include grains.