When I walk into an exam room and start collecting the history of the patient, one of the top questions I ask is what diet they are being fed. One of the top answers I get is “I feed my pet a grain-free food”. When asked why their pet needs a grain-free diet, I usually get a variety of answers, but the most popular is that their pet is allergic to grains. I’ll admit, I used to be one of those clients that thought their pet was allergic to grains, but when I was pushed to actually research food allergies in pets, I discovered grains are actually an unlikely cause of food allergy in a pet.
In one study published in the journal of Veterinary Dermatology, 278 dogs with food allergies were evaluated and the problem ingredient was clearly identified. Beef was the most common allergen, being responsible for 95 of the cases. Dairy caused 55 cases, making it the second most common cause. Corn was identified as the offender in only 7 cases. The situation is similar in cats: 56 cats with food allergies were evaluated in this study, of which 45 of the allergies we caused by beef, dairy, or fish. Corn was responsible for only 4 cases. No other grains were identified as food allergens in any patient.
While you may feel more comfortable feeding a grain-free diet, there is zero scientific evidence to support the belief that they are safer or healthier. There are some reputable companies that have formulated some of their diets around the grain-free market. These diets are well studied with excellent safe food production standards, and are completely balanced for your pet.
If you believe that your pet has a food allergy, it is worth the time to consult with your veterinarian and decide if a feeding trial is indicated.
-Lacie Foltz, RVT