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Grain Free or Not Grain Free...choosing the right food for my Pooch...

Grain Free? Vegetarian? Novel Protein?

As someone who couldn't wait to be a dog owner and have always had at least one dog in my life since I was 20 I've really come to value feeding the right food.  The food we feed our dog has such a big impact on the quality of life they enjoy...and lets face it we want them around enjoying themselves for as long as possible!

I've always fed the best dry food that I can find and afford and have had pretty good results....but with Sloans Pets I wanted to make sure that we were offering the best options to our customers AND we decided that we want to support NZ Made and NZ Ingredients so not only were our dogs (and cats) enjoying great food that was good for them but we were supporting the NZ  growers, manufacturers and businesses that were in the supply chain to the product that ended up in our shop.

Grain Free OR Not Grain Free....

There is a lot of talk about Grain Free being good...but why is that??

It seems it is a mix of good intention...dog health and wellbeing....and not so good intention....marketing and novel selling points!

Well both of our suppliers have great information about "Grain Free"...you can find it on their websites  Genius and Addiction

Addiction is generally a Grain Free brand and when formulating their recipe 20 years go by holistic veterinarian Dr Ly who connected taurine deficiency and issues with heart function, they decided that diets that supported good heart health was a principle to embrace.  Addiction includes Taurine in all of their foods and produces them at a lower temperature that protects the integrity of the Taurine through manufacturing as it is destroyed by high heats.

Genius on the other hand incorporates Grain in a well researched balanced diet to ensure that the right levels of amino acids are present to support Dogs producing healthy levels of Taurine from their diet.

So you can be sure that both of our NZ Made and NZ Ingredient brands are great quality for your Dog and both formulate their food with the issues of Taurine front of mind....however, Taurine issues with Grain Free diets isn't the full story and the experts aren't quite sure what the full story is just yet....

What is Taurine?? It is an amino acid (a protein building block) that assists in dog's eye health and immune system functions.  It contains sulfur which is a key ingredient in bile that lowers cholesterol and blood pressure helping dogs and cats to maintain a healthy heart.  Dogs can make Taurine by eating foods with the amino acids methionine and cysteine.  These amino acids are found in high concentrations in meat, fish and eggs and are found in small quantities in plants....

And right there is the issue with "Grains" or in fact "Plant Proteins" (usually Peas in dog food), its not that grains or peas are bad for dogs it is that if they are the primary ingredient and for Peas if they are the primary protein then there is not enough methionine and cysteine for dogs to make the Taurine they need.

So What??  well a Taurine deficiency can cause a heart condition known as dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) and other serious health issues. 

  • DCM is a heart disease that makes a dogs heart muscle stretch significantly causing the heart to become enlarged and unable to pump blood properly...and sadly this condition is often fatal.
  • Retinal disease.  If your vet finds that your dog has retinal damage the blood-taurine concentration should be looked at.
  • Cystinuria.  A taurine deficiency may also cause cysteine stones and crystals in your dogs urine as they may have an issue metabolizing amino acids.

DCM in Dogs: Taurines role in the Canine Diet from Whole Dog Journal if you want to look at some scientific research on the issue!

Tufts Veterinary School has done some analysis and their view is that "for the vast majority of dogs, we do not yet know what is causing this disease (DCM).  There are definitely some dogs with DCM that have low taurine levels, many of which will improve with taurine supplementation and change of diet.  For dogs that have normal taurine levels and present with DCM other nutritional deficiencies may be present.
Experts from Tufts Veterinary School also note, “Some nutritional deficiencies can affect the heart’s normal function, so an insufficient amount of these nutrients (or reduced bioavailability) in the diet could cause heart disease. Diet-associated DCM could also be due to an ingredient in the food that is toxic to the heart. ”
The FDA and many other researchers are still actively studying this issue of Grain Free diets and risk of DCM so they can give pet parents and veterinarians a more definitive answer.

At the moment the research is suggesting that Grain Free diets are a common theme with dogs presenting with DCM, particularly those not pre-disposed to DCM (generally larger and giant breeds). Indiana based veterinarian Leslie Brooks was interviewed stating  “The research is linking the issue to something to do with peas, lentils, or other ingredients in the food and the concentration of them in the food and how the new combinations may be affecting the ability of a dog to absorb or metabolize certain nutrients that are important for heart function.”

So it is a little confusing as to whether it is the Grain Free that is a potential risk factor or it is the other ingredients such as legumes and the increased concentration of these in some Grain Free formulations that is a contributing factor.

The most sensible advice is that Dog Owners should research both the brand and the type of food they are planning to buy.  Buying from a company that has veterinary nutritionists on staff and that does active research on their food to make sure it doesn't cause harm and provides adequate nutrition is the best way to go.

And given the research Justine and looking at what we do know, Justine has concluded for her dogs that feeding a diet that contains sufficient levels of high-quality, animal-source protein, does not include plant-source proteins as primary protein sources, and does not contain high levels of dietary fiber is the best way to go.

And....remember Dogs ARE NOT Humans and should not be eating the same diet as humans.  So don't mistake what is healthy for you as being healthy for your canine companion!

So where did we land...we are happy to say that both our NZ Made and NZ Ingredient brands, Addiction (most foods are grain free) and Genius (includes grain) have animal proteins as their primary protein sources, meet the AFFCO standards, have veterinary staff and their recipes are developed with veterinary nutritionists and current research knowledge....

Sometimes Dog Owners go to Grain Free because of allergy concerns...however most food related allergies are connected to the protein source of the diet (usually the meat or legume that is providing the protein in the recipe) with only a tiny percentage linked to a grain allergy.  So 'Novel' protein sources are a better first option to consider if you are navigating an allergy issue.  A 'Novel' protein is one that your dog will not have come across often...chicken and beef are the most common animal proteins used so choosing a food focused on other protein sources can help...like Addiction Viva La Venison or Genius Ocean Fish diets.

And what we're doing....we often mix Genius Ocean Fish in with our Addiction options....and why?

Well Nes, she is a bit sensitive and gets itchy so I found the Addiction Venison was great for that, no more itching...and the Genius Ocean Fish on its own was a bit much for her tummy...so a mix of them has got the best of both worlds going on for sensitive Nes;

Heidi, she is 'elderly' and has issues with her teeth so she is largely still on her Hills Science Diet prescription Dental food.....if you need a prescription diet we can help with Hills Science Diet or Royal Canin foods following a consultation with our Vet, Hamish.  She does enjoy the Addiction Brushtail and Venison recipie treats!;

Sue, she is a pretty big dog but also a very 'good doer' so we are finding with her that Addiction Mega is working well with its focus on additional joint and heart health support for bigger dogs and its larger kibble size means she eats it more slowly.  She also enjoys the Le Lamb and Genius Ocean Fish, although Rachael needs to really watch her intake to match her activity level.

Both Addiction and Genius foods are made to meet the Association of Amercian Feed Control Officials standards for nutrient profiles and ingredients.

If you want to talk to us about your dogs dietary needs please  get in touch; we are happy to listen to what you have learnt about your dog, what your vet thinks and advises and if you need some additional advice we will go looking for you.  With suppliers including Addiction, Genius, Royal Canin, Hills Science Diet and Purina we can help you find what you and your dog need.

Happy Feeding!
Justine and Rachael


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