Dogs are mostly meat-eaters, otherwise known as carnivores, and biologically incapable of fully digesting grains such as corn, wheat and barley. This is because they don’t have enough of the enzyme called amylase, whereas plant-eating animals (herbivores) do.
Amylase is produced by herbivores and most omnivores, like human beings, in saliva. Amylase works to break down starchy carbohydrates, like grains, into simple sugars before they enter the stomach to be digested further.
Dogs do produce amylase but only in the small intestine. As a result, complicated carbohydrates like grains are more difficult for your dog to digest and never fully digest into their bodies in the same way other nutrients do.
What should pet foods contain instead of grains?
Many pet nutritionists believe that dog diets should mimic that of their wolf ancestors as their digestive systems have barely changed. From studying their diet it has become mostly agreed that dogs should eat a diet containing around 60% meat and 40% plant matter, such as vegetables, herbs and fruit.
For that reason, diets that are grain-free use vegetables, herbs and fruit in place of grains. For example:
Potatoes, peas, carrots, apples, spinach, seaweed, alfalfa, peppermint, thyme, lentils, pumpkins and berries.
These provide a good source of digestible fibre which strengthens their immune system, promotes all areas of health and enriches their diet with important vitamins and minerals.
Why can’t grain-free dry pet food be carbohydrate-free?
Dry pet foods cannot be made without carbohydrates as the process used for making kibble requires the carbohydrates to create a dough-like binder to hold everything together. As a result, grain-free dry pet foods usually contain other carbohydrates in place of grains.
Further, carbohydrates are not an ingredient they are a nutrient – one of the six key nutrients your pet needs to stay healthy. Even milk and fruit contain carbohydrates!
So, how can you find a quality grain-free pet food?
If any of the following are listed in the ingredients then the food is NOT grain-free:
Wheat, rice, oats, corn, barley, pasta and rye.
Tip: If any of these ingredients include the word ‘meal’ in the title, for example, oatmeal, then they still contain grains. They have simply been processed to remove the moisture.