It’s hard to believe, but that fur baby taking up half the bed is a descendant of the big, bad wolf. Once upon a time, when packaged kibble and canned wet food weren't on the dinner menu, carnivorous pets were on the prowl for raw, protein-rich prey—not wild rice and wheat.
Over time, pet food has evolved to include all kinds of rice, wheat, and other grains. But is that really an evolution, or should today's pets get back to their roots and ditch the grain?
While they no longer have to hunt for their next meal, dogs and cats still have primitive digestive systems. Like their wild ancestors, our four-footed friends don’t break down and metabolize complex carbohydrates and cereal grains. If consumed in high quantities, grain-rich foods could lead to bowel inflammation disorders, leaky gut, and obesity.
There's also the chance of grain infestation—especially in lower-quality brands. Once grain is harvested, it's stored for long periods of time in storage bins, which ups the chances of contamination by mold, insects, and mites (yep, this includes their droppings and carcasses, too). With these little critters could come a slew of big health problems: like skin allergies and—much worse—fatal toxins.
So, why on earth would grain be in our pets' food in the first place? Well, it’s a heated issue, but it pretty much boils down to this: Grain costs a whole lot less to manufacture than fresh protein.
Before you enroll in a crash course in hunting, consider this: Not all pet food is created equal. If you and your vet agree your pet should ditch the grain, there are plenty of options. Brands like I and Love and You offer the best of both worlds: grain-free, real meat without having “to go crossbow hunting in the woods for it.”
Less grain means more protein, which means more tail wags. With recipes like Red Meat Medley and Raw Raw Turk Boom Ba, your pets will be instant fans. In fact, the Colorado-based company even asks their own pets to sign off on the taste, so the food is always "fur tested; fur approved."
However you feel about the grain issue, let's all agree on this: Man’s best friend deserves the tastiest, most balanced nutrition out there. “The incredible bond between a human and a pet … is a two-way street with purrs and wags in between," says Steve Shaffer from I and Love You. "Pets give us undying devotion, and we give pets the best food, the best love—and the best goofy Halloween costumes.”
Photo credit: Paul Delmont