Elizabeth Hodgkins, DVM, does not mince words about the connection between grains in cat food and feline diabetes. On her fabulous web site she states, “Feline diabetes is not the natural fate of hundreds of thousands of pet cats world-wide. It is, rather, a human-created disease that is reaching epidemic proportions because of the highly artificial foods that we have been feeding our feline companions for the past few decades. Without the constant feeding of highly processed, high carbohydrate dry foods better suited to cattle than cats, adult-onset feline diabetes would be a rare disease, if it occurred at all.”
A highly processed, grain-based diet fed to an animal designed to thrive on a meat-based, fresh food diet is very likely to produce symptoms of ill health over time. Diets to address disease most frequently deal with the symptoms that are the result of a lifetime of inappropriate food, not the true cause of their symptoms.
The optimum diet for a dog or a cat should closely resemble their natural diet.
A diet balanced heavily toward grain promotes insulin production and the production of inflammatory chemicals. Over-production of insulin makes it hard for the body to maintain its correct weight, and can lead to diabetes and other problems. An overabundance of inflammatory chemicals means more aches and pains. A link to Dr. Hodgkins’ web site can be accessed on the BCDN site.
What do farmers feed hogs and cattle to fatten them up for market? Carbohydrates!!! Grains and Corn. That is what most pet food consists of. Carbs just make you hungry because they all turn to sugar in our systems (and also in dogs and cats).
You’ve probably heard some veterinarian, pet food manufacturer or someone in conversation say that grains (rice, barley, oats, etc.) are very good ingredients in cat and dog foods, are easy to digest and will give your cats and dogs “energy & vitality”. I certainly have.
You also may have heard from those same sources that dogs are omnivores and not carnivores.
You’ll know different after reading on!
In the wild, the diet of a canine/feline consists of only meat. As pets, dogs may eat foods that contain some vegetables (cats should not) that are given to them by humans but not nearly enough to classify them as omnivores, and grains definitely have never been, are not now nor will they ever, ever be a part of a dog or cat`s natural diet. Humans are much more “omnivorous” than dogs will ever be.
Because cats are obligate carnivores, they shouldn’t eat anything but meat; no fruits, no vegetables and absolutely never, ever any grains!
Since the beginning of time, carnivores have eaten only meat.
You MUST ALWAYS keep in mind that to stay healthy and to live a long life (along with staying out of the vet’s office), carnivores (dogs) and obligate carnivores (cats) need to eat meat, meat and more meat!
Cats are members of the family “felidae”, the strictest carnivores (obligate carnivores) of the sixteen mammal families in the order Carnivora.
The dog family is a group of intelligent, carnivorous mammals that includes domestic dogs and their relatives which include coyotes, wolves, foxes, jackals, dholes, raccoon dogs and bush dogs.
They’re known scientifically as Canidae, are definitely carnivores and its members are commonly called canids and are members of the order Carnivora.
Herbivores like goats, sheep, cows and horses eat grains (but only in captivity).
However, horses, cows, pigs, goats and rabbits only eat grains when they are fed to them by humans, usually to fatten them up. Normally, they would eat grasses and leaves from pastures and other vegetables. There are NO mammals who eat a significant amount of grain as part of their natural diet, including humans.
GRAINS NOT GREAT FOR HUMANS EITHER
That includes humans up until the last ten thousand years or so (the advent of agriculture) and that quantity was still much, much lower than it was after the industrial revolution. It then grew progressively worse as low fat diets that suggested more grains were promoted by U.S. and other governments, right in line with “the obesity crisis” and Type II Diabetes!
According to a growing number of experts including Dr. Loren Cordain, a professor at Colorado State University and an expert on Paleolithic lifestyles, humans are NOT designed to eat grains, and doing so may actually be damaging to your gut. Dr. Cordain explains: “There’s no human requirement for grains. That’s the problem with the USDA recommendations. They think we’re hardwired as a species to eat grains. You can get by just fine and meet every single nutrient requirement that humans have without eating grains. And grains are absolutely poor sources of vitamins and minerals compared to fruits, vegetables, meat and fish.” You can link to Dr. Cordain’s comments on the BCDN web site.
THE ANATOMY OF EATING
Carnivore means ‘meat eater’ (Latin carne meaning ‘flesh’ and vorare meaning ‘to devour’) and classifies animals whose diets consist mainly of meat – such as dogs and cats.
As a faithful companion to humans for some 10,000 years, the trend to humanize our companion dogs comes as no surprise. Yet despite his long and close association with humans, the dog remains closest genetically to the Gray wolf, with whom he shares 99.8% of his mitochondrial DNA. The close genetic relationship between dog and wolf led the Smithsonian Institution to reclassify the dog from its previous separate species designation of Canis familiaris to Canis lupus familiaris.
In other words, the Timber wolf, the Tundra wolf and our beloved companion dog all fall under the genetic umbrella of the Gray wolf, Canis lupus.
Just like wolves, all dogs are evolved as carnivores, with anatomical features that clearly adapt them for meat-based diets. Understanding the anatomical differences between carnivores, omnivores and herbivores will help you understand why dogs are classified as carnivores and cats as obligate carnivores, and what foods best match their anatomy.
In addition, cats and dogs have certain defenses that enable them to handle bacteria in a different way than humans do. A shorter digestive track and a more acidic PH in their stomachs create a very, very powerful mechanism of defense against harmful bacteria.
Here’s three reasons why grains have no business being fed to cats (obligate carnivores) and dogs (carnivores) and are the diet of herbivores (cows, horses, sheep, rabbits and goats) in captivity:
1) SHARP TEETH designed for slicing meat, not for grinding grains or plants!
Going back tens of thousands of years to the sabre-toothed tiger to today, carnivores (dogs) and obligate carnivores (cats) still have elongated teeth designed for tearing and killing prey. Their molars are still triangular with jagged edges that function like serrated-edged blades that give a smooth cutting motion like the blades on a pair of shears. These teeth are totally useless for chewing grains and kibble but perfectly made for biting into, ripping and swallowing meat.
Cats and dogs don’t chew, they chop their food. Like all carnivores going back to the tyrannosaurus rex, the jaws of dogs and cats operate vertically (unlike herbivores and omnivores that grind their food by side to side chewing) to provide a smooth cutting motion, and open widely to swallow large chunks of meat. It’s the perfect combination for cutting meat into smaller chunks and the absolute worst for chewing grains.
Herbivores (cows) on the other hand chew widely from side-to-side. They have broad, flat back teeth that are ideal for grinding grains and plant material into finer particles. That’s why a cow “chews its cud”.
2) The digestive anatomy of carnivores are totally different than those of herbivores and omnivores.
Because meat is easily digested (relative to plants and grains) the small intestines of carnivores are very short. Carnivores have a very short gastrointestinal (GI) tract (around three times their body length), with food often staying in a cat for only five to seven hours and nine to eleven hours in a dog. So it’s very, very important to give them a high protein, calorie-dense diet because they absorb the nutrients so fast. High fiber, carbohydrate laden foods with grains ignore this fact, providing an unnatural burden on the GI tract that results in excessive system bulk and reduced nutrient absorption.
What’s more, carnivores exhibit a much higher concentration of stomach acid which allows for faster digestion of animal protein. The stronger acid kills the disease-causing bacteria abundant in decaying meat. A high concentration of stomach acid helps quickly break down proteins (carnivores have a stomach acidity of about pH 1, compared to humans at pH 4 to 5).
In addition to the acid, dogs and cats also naturally produce a tremendous amount of bile. Bile is both anti-parasitic and anti-pathogenic. So if something potentially harmful isn’t entirely neutralized by stomach acid, the bile is a secondary defense. And your pet’s powerful pancreatic enzymes also help break down and digest food.
Dogs and cats are built to handle bacterial loads from food that would cause significant illness in you or me. Your pet’s body is well equipped to deal with heavy doses of familiar and strange bacteria because nature built them to catch, kill and immediately consume their prey.
So the next time you hear some “expert” say raw meat is dangerous to give to your cat or dog, shake your head at their ignorance and quickly walk (run) away from them…..after all, carnivores have only been eating raw meat for the last 60 millions years or so!
Herbivores have a gastrointestinal tract that’s unusually long, sometimes exceeding twelve times the animal’s body length. Longer systems like this are needed for consuming a grain and plant-based diet. Cows, for example have three stomachs.
3) Last but not least, herbivores and omnivores have one very powerful digestive weapon that dogs and cats do NOT have…Salivary amylase.
Salivary amylase is a special enzyme that grain and plant-eating animals (and humans) produce in their saliva. Because grains are so hard to digest (contrary to what some “experts” say), it’s a most critical enzyme that catalyses the breakdown of starch into sugars. In the saliva, amylase begins the chemical process of digestion needed to initiate the break down of starchy carbohydrates before they enter the stomach.
Dogs and cats do produce some amylase, but the enzyme is produced much further down the digestive tract (in the small intestine where they use amylase produced in the pancreas) where the food is closer to coming “out” rather than going “in”).
Without salivary amylase, a carnivore’s (dog’s) and obligate carnivore’s (cat’s) digestion of grains is decidedly more difficult, if not somewhat impossible.
The biochemical/physiological basis for problems directly related to the ingestion of grains relates to blood insulin levels in response to blood sugar levels. The ultimate effects of high carbohydrate diets include swings in blood sugar and insulin, insulin resistance and high blood sugar. This in turn results in pathological alterations in eicosanoid production which in turn leads to obesity, hypertension, fluid retention, musculoskeltal, vascular, renal, hepatic, CNS and cardiac disease, and finally in many instances cancer and death. That is, the ingestion of grains and other starchy foods (including simple sugars of course) produces or helps in a major way to produce most if not all of the degenerative diseases that pet owners pay vets thousands of dollars to cure……when all they have to do is change the food to a raw meat or commercial food diet that resembles what cats and dogs would eat in the wild…!
Feline diabetes and CRF (Cronic Renal Failure) are two of the main causes of death in our pets yet they both do NOT exist in the wild……they are caused by humans feeding commercial pet foods containing grains and other ingredients that have never been, are not now and will NEVER, EVER be part of the natural diet of cats and dogs!
So much for those “easy to digest” whole grains in cat and dog foods that you hear about!
Grains have never been, are not now and will never, ever be part of a carnivore’s diet. Put a bowl of raw meat and a bowl of rice, barley or oats side by side and see which one your cat or dog devours.
In many cases, grains are highly indigestible for cats and dogs and they may be highly allergic to them. They may cause severe allergies, lack of energy, weight gain (or loss), dull coats, joint problems, arthritis, poor behavior, seizures and skin problems such as itching and excessive shedding and cause irritable bowel problems along with diarrhea or constipation and eye and ear infections.
Grains may cause preventable diseases such as Feline Diabetes, Chronic Renal Failure (CRF), Urinary Crystals, Cystitis (bladder inflammation), Bladder/Kidney Stones, Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD), Hepatic Lipidosis (Fatty Liver Disease), Diarrhea, Cancer, premature death and more.
Grains are SOLELY used as cheap fillers/ingredients to boost protein levels instead of using high quality, much more expensive, human grade meat.
Grains are carbohydrates and are useless to carnivores. Slick marketing ads and television commercials from pet food companies or from veterinarians who know absolutely nothing about animal nutrition will say that carbohydrates from “whole grains” are easy to digest, are good for your pets and give them “energy & vitality”.
Actually, carbohydrates do only one thing in cats and dogs: They only make your animal companions fat like they do in humans. But unlike humans, carnivores get their energy from proteins and fats, NOT from carbohydrates!
If grains are nutritionally useless to cats and dogs, then why are they in most pet foods? For one and only one reason – the huge profits for pet food companies and the veterinarians and retailers who sell these pet foods, because grains are so cheap compared to more expensive, human-grade meats!
Here’s another very, very important point to consider: If you think the grains and rice in pet foods are of the human-grade kind like “Uncle Ben’s”, think again! The feed values of these grains are similar to corn and are grown primarily as a feed grain for livestock, not for dogs and cats. Inexpensive feed-grade grains that used to go in landfills and are now in pet foods can include moldy grain or fungus which has caused death.
BARF (BIOLOGICALLY APPROPRIATE RAW FOOD) WORLD COMMENTS ON THE QUESTION OF GRAINS
It would now appear that the apparently innocuous starch, widely regarded as a supremely safe and cheap source of energy, is not the sweet innocent food ingredient it appears to be! It is the emerging information on the role of starch in producing poor health that has put the last nail in the coffin holding the grain. Our dogs and cats, like ourselves should only eat those foods on which they evolved if they are to gain and maintain maximum health.
The biochemical/physiological basis for problems directly related to the ingestion of grains relates to blood insulin levels in response to blood sugar levels. The ultimate effects of high carbohydrate diets include swings in blood sugar and insulin, insulin resistance and high blood sugar.
This in turn results in pathological alterations in eicosanoid production which in turn leads to obesity, hypertension, fluid retention, musculoskeltal, vascular, renal, hepatic, CNS and cardiac disease, and finally in many instances cancer. That is, the ingestion of grain and other starchy foods (including simple sugars of course) produces or helps in a major way to produce most if not all of the degenerative diseases.
There are other factors which are involved, particularly when it comes to feeding commercial pet food, including a lack of protective factors, abysmally poor protein quality, the presence of toxins in abundance, and the almost complete absence of healthy fats.
In an evolutionary sense, a wild dog’s and cat’s diet contain almost no grains. They never eat cooked grain. In eating the intestinal contents of their prey they will eat some grain which is usually immature and green. Most certainly they do not eat a totally grain based diet like the modern dog and cat, subjected to a lifetime of dried cat and dog food. Even if their prey had been eating mature seed heads, by the time the grain is consumed, it has been ground to a paste and soaked in the juices of the herbivores intestines. A totally different product to the masses of cooked and processed grains fed to cats and dogs today. You can link to these comments and more on the BARF diet on the BCDN web site.
WHAT THE EXPERTS HAVE TO SAY
Dr. Joe Demers, D.V.M – “A reason for overweight pets is what we feed our pet friends. Commercial pet food is anywhere between 45 percent to 65 percent carbohydrates (grains). Grains are the least expensive part of pet food and can fill the animal quickly. Dogs and cats are more carnivores than we humans are, and we are feeding them almost as much grain (or more) than we humans eat. I feel that this high-carbohydrate commercial pet food is the worst food we can feed our pet friends. Our pet friends need fresh meats, not dehydrated meat by-products.” You can link to Dr. Demers’ comments and get more great info on cat and dog nutrition by going to the BCDN web site.
Dr. T.J. Dunn D.V.M. – “The biggest and most common misconception of all…..the promotion of some low priced, grain-based foods as being a “Complete and Balanced” diet for dogs and cats! Having done physical exams on tens of thousands of dogs and cats and learning from their owners what these pets are being fed has taught me that dogs and cats look, feel, and perform better if they are fed a meat-based diet rather than if fed a corn, wheat, soy or rice-based diet.” You can read Dr. Dunn’s comments and get more great info on cat and dog nutrition on the BCDN web site.
Dr. Russell Swift, DVM says “they are NOT part of the natural diet of wild dogs and cats. In the true natural setting, grains hardly exist at all. Why have grains become so “ingrained” in pet feeding? To the best of my knowledge, grains were mainly introduced by the pet food industry. The high carbohydrate content provides CHEAP calories.” You can read more on Dr. Swift’s comments and get more great info on cat and dog nutrition on the BCDN web site.
STILL THINK GRAINS ARE GOOD FOR YOUR PET CARNIVORES???
ALWAYS buy grain-free food for your pets and make sure that ALL of the protein in the food is from human-grade MEAT!
Like children, our pets rely on us as their guardians, to make safe and healthy choices for them. If your cat/dog is currently eating unhealthy treats and living on a “junk food” and potentially dangerous grocery store or veterinarian brand diet containing grains, corn, soy, wheat, by-products and more, let BCDN help you find a much more safe, healthy and natural choice!