The Facts About Grain in Pet Food

Many pet owners believe that grain-free pet foods are easier to digest, provide pets with better nutrition and are less likely to cause allergies than pet foods containing grain.

The Facts

Properly processed grains are highly digestible.

  • While uncooked grains are poorly digested by cats and dogs, properly cooked grains in pet foods are highly digestible.
  • Cats and dogs can digest the carbohydrates from properly cooked grains with an efficiency of greater than 90%. 1,2

Diets containing grains provide excellent nutrition.3

  • Carbohydrates, like grains, supply a readily usable source of energy.
  • Grains provide fiber, which helps promote digestive health and dilutes the calories of the food (it decreases the calories in a diet).
  • The B vitamins found in grains play a key role in metabolism – they help the body release energy from proteins, fats, and carbohydrates.
  • Concentrated protein sources from ingredients like corn gluten meal can be highly digestible sources of many essential amino acids.

Grains are unlikely to cause allergies.

  • Less than 1% of dogs are truly sensitive to grains.
  • True food allergies are caused by immune reactions to proteins in the diet.
  • Allergies to proteins found in grains can occur, but are far less common than allergies to other protein sources, such as beef or dairy.4
  1. Carciofi AC, Takakura FS, de-Oliveira LD, et al. Effects of six carbohydrate sources on dog diet digestibility and postprandial glucose and insulin response. J Anim Physiol Anim Nutr. 2008;92:326–336.
    2. de-Oliveira LD, Carciofi AC, Oliveira MC, et al. Effects of six carbohydrate sources on diet digestibility and postprandial glucose and insulin responses in cats. J Anim Sci. 2008;86:2237–2246.
    3. Carbohydrates. In: Case LP, Carey DP, Hirakawa DA, eds. Canine and Feline Nutrition. St. Louis, MO: Mosby; 1995:17–20.
    4. Verlinden A, Hesta M, Millet S, Janssens GP. Food allergy in dogs and cats: a review. Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr. 2006;46:259–273.