Some call it the ‘latest craze’ in pet food. To the big commercial dog food companies, now seemingly all scrambling to jump aboard the grain-free pet nutrition craze, perhaps that’s all it is - a ‘craze’ to be cashed in on before the fickle minds of pet owners latch on to the next new thing.
Well, I don’t know about you guys, but I’m no fickle minded pet owner. I can tell you that I was feeding a quality homemade grain-free diet to my dogs long before anything gluten, grain or filler free was available on retail shelves. I didn’t read about it online (back then ‘online’ wasn’t really the thing is today), or in a magazine, or on TV, and it certainly wasn’t recommended by my vet. I began feeding grain-free because it felt right - in my head and in my gut. Nearly 14 years later I still rate it as the singular best decision I’ve ever made for my dogs’ health.
Domesticated dogs still share 99% of their DNA with wolves and, biologically speaking, are what’s known as scavenging carnivores (not omnivores). A fact easily confirmed by simply taking a look in my own omnivorous mouth, with that solid offering of flat molars for pounding plant matter, and comparing with that of my dog, packing those magnificent pointy, shiny nashers right to the hilt. With their obvious lack of flat molars, not to mention a lack of opposable thumbs with which to competently build or operate grinding or milling tools, it’s safe to say that grains have never had a look-in on the dog’s biological shopping list.This fundamental biological truth endures regardless of the psychological and behavioural evolution of domesticated dogs.
Maybe you’ve already thought about the equation of grain based diets for dogs from a biologically appropriate perspective, or perhaps you’ve been inspired to try grain-free options as a means of helping a pet with sensitivities. For me the decision to go grain-free was a combination of the two, along with a healthy dose of scepticism when it came to the nutritional advice of ‘experts' whose training was more often that not either funded or unduly influenced by major commercial dog food manufacturers.
The bond we have with our pets is unique, and when that bond is strong it’s not hard to see and to intuit the difference between whether your dog is merely surviving on their current diet or thriving on it. When you have a dog with extreme food sensitivities, as I do, it’s impossible to ignore the symptoms. Similarly, the difference in a dog’s quality of life upon a shift to a grain-free, quality diet can be just as blatantly obvious and, for me personally, fundamentally inspiring. Even for those without extreme sensitivities, it’s important to realise that many of the things we thought were just normal pet foibles - stinky breath/skin/coat, itching, shedding flakey skin, hyperactivity or lethargy, gas and upset tummies - are more often than not either caused or exacerbated by a poor quality, processed grain and filler rich diet that your dog’s system is simply not built to handle.
It’s important to think about each and every thing you feed your pet, just as you would a child. Read ingredients lists and along with looking for ingredients you want to avoid, also remember that they’re listed in hierarchical order - the higher the percentage of the total content the higher it is on the list. Beware of ‘grain-free’ or ‘hypoallergenic’ options from the bigger commercial pet food brands, as many fail to understand that these are actually valuable nutritional concepts, and not just ‘buzz words’ that will sell more product. If they’ve removed the grain, the chances are it’s been replaced it another variety of filler (like soybean hulls, cottonseed hulls, peanut hulls, feather meal - I know… feather what?! Eww!), or bulked up the carb content (ie. potato or vegetable husks/byproducts) to minimise the production costs associated with quality meat ingredients.
If you’re here on at organicbone.com.au then you’re likely already weary of the ingredients lists served up by the big commercial dog food brands (incl. ‘prescription’ diets) and consciously thinking about what your furry friend truly needs to get the best out of life, live long and prosper. Some pet owners find joy and fulfilment in creating quality homemade meals and treats themselves, but for those who find there just aren’t enough hours in the day for a DIY doggy diet it doesn’t mean you have to compromise. There are some wonderful solutions for ethical, quality, biologically appropriate, grain-free and affordable diet options, right here at Organic Bone, that can provide you the peace mind that comes from knowing you’re honouring your pet’s biological requirements and enabling them to truly thrive. The best way to know whether a grain-free diet is right for your pet is to try it, commit to it for at least 6months to give your pets body time to eliminate any toxins from their old diet, and experience the difference for yourself.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Lix North - Artist, Illustrator, Photographer, founder of www.lulubully.com
Lix grew up on a farm in rural New Zealand, surrounded by animals. 20+ years spent studying holistic principles and gaining a basic understanding of metabolic, enzymatic and genetic processes empowered her to manage my own sensitivities, methylation and immune issues at a level that conventional medical science alone was unable to offer. So, as her bull terrier puppy Lulu’s sensitivities became apparent the most obvious solution seemed simply to apply the very same level of research and holistic care. The results speak for themselves through the healthy, energetic, cheeky, now 13 year old, Lulu Bully.